Scratching for Quahogs a Perfect Summer Pastime

Jul 12, 2013

Quahogs, hard shells, littlenecks, chowders... it's all the same clam, and they are delicious.
Credit drain / fickr

Hard clams, quahogs, cherrystones, littlenecks, chowders... call them what you will, these clams are delicious and not difficult to harvest. Here's a quick rundown of quahog pursuit.

Where?

Quahogs prefer a sandy bottom. Look for them in estuaries and inlets - they typically thrive where the water is not too salty, which explains why they don't usually populate ocean-facing beaches. Keep an eye out for other clammers, they're always a good tip-off of the presence of clams! Quahogs live just a few inches down in the sand - not nearly so deep as steamer clams, which can be 10 inches into the mud.

A quahog rake. This one is made by Ribb Rakes, a Cape Cod company, located in Harwich. They have a full line of clamming equipment.
Credit ribbrakes.com

How?  

Going for quahogs is straightforward. Andy Nebreski, of On The Water magazine, suggests you outfit yourself with a quahog rake. Drag it, tines down, through the sand with all your senses tuned for that distinctive "chink" of a struck quahog shell.

Feeling brave? You can go low-tech. Try ooching your bare toes through the sand. This can be very enjoyable while holding a cold beverage and chatting with a friend. Every now and then... voila! A quahog for your basket!

The Law

Recreational shellfishing requires a permit. Shellfish permits are almost always locally issued. Check with your town hall. With your permit you will get information about minimum sizes. It's very useful to have a quahog gauge - pick one up at your nearby tackle shop.    

Prepare for shucking

So you have yourself a basketful of hard clams... congratulations! Take them home and scrub them well under cold water. Quahogs (unlike steamers) are not usually sandy inside - if you're crunching on grit, it most likely came from the outside of the shell. Avoid that unpleasantness - go over them well with a scrubby sponge.

And try this shucking tip, courtesy of Andy Nebreski: before shucking, pop your quahogs in the freezer for 10 or 15 minutes. The cold will shock them, making them easier to pop open. Use a clam knife - it is the right tool, and your hands and other cutlery will thank you.

Quahogs will keep a long while (a week or more) in the refrigerator. Store them on damp paper towels. You'll know if they die - they'll open up. Don't eat any open clams...

Enjoy!

Audio of The Fishing News conversation with Steve Junker and Andy Nebreski discussing quahogs is posted above.