This summer I asked Candee’s dad if we could dig some clams before I headed home to West Virginia. We set a “clamming date” for 9:30 Friday morning. Why that specific time? Well, he got out the tide chart and determined that would be the perfect time to go because it would be “dead low tide”, meaning low tide at its lowest point.

Can you see Candee and her dad? They are digging for quahogs.




Quahogs pronounced (KO-hogs) or hard-shell clams are found 3-4 inches below the sand in the water, hence it being easier to dig them at low tide. You can either use your feet to find them or you can use a special clamming rake. The rake has a long handle like a rake that you use in the garden but the tines are different–long and pointed with a slight curve on the end. (see the picture below).

Found one! The floating ring you see in the picture has a metal bucket attached to it. When they find a quahog they just drop it into the bucket, which is much easier than walking back to the dock each time!







If you use the “feet method” you move your feet around in the sand until you feel something round and smooth. It’s takes a little while to get the feeling of it, but before long you’ll become a quahog pro! Be careful though, because there are lots of sharp things in the sand like broken shells, rocks, and unfortunately sometimes broken glass. It’s a good idea to wear old sneakers or water sandals.

If you opt to use the rake, you pull the tines through the sand until you hear a distinctive “clink”, which is the sound of the rake hitting the quahog shell. After you get used to listening for the sound, you will easily be able to differentiate between the sound your rake makes when it hits a quahog or a rock.





Finished for the day!


Clamming is regulated by each particular town on the Cape and you have to have a license to dig. You also have to pay attention to the size regulations. You can’t keep a quahog that is too small. If the Harbor Master finds out that you are digging and keeping clams that are too small, he can give you a fine and/or take away your license.

There’s a little tool that you can buy that easily shows you when a clam is too small. It’s a flat piece of metal with a hole in it, so if the quahog slides through the opening, you know it’s too small and you have to toss it back. The smallest size you can take is slightly larger than the size of an double-stuffed oreo cookie.



Depending on their size, quahogs have many different names…

Little necks are the smallest size and many people eat these raw on the half-shell or steam them to use with pasta dishes.
Cherrystones are medium sized and are often used for stuffed-baked clams.
Chowder Quahogs are the largest and are used in soups and chowders.

Future Chowder!

We like to eat the little ones raw on the half-shell with a little bit of cocktail sauce, and Candee’s mother uses the larger ones to make delicious clam chowder. She also makes something called clam pie! No, it isn’t a dessert, but more along the lines of a quiche. It’s so good!


Steamers! Yum!





Earlier in the week we went out to eat at a restaurant called Capt Elmer’s. We ordered a big plate of soft-shelled clams which people often call steamers. They have a softer shell than quahogs.







Speaking of quahogs, this year Cape Codders and tourists alike celebrated the 2nd Annual Quahog Day on June 21st! This event ushered in summer with loads of fun for all including: music, food, a parade, and of course Doug–the prognosticating quahog, who predicted 13 weeks of sunny beach weather on the Cape for summer 2010! Mark your calendars for next year and be sure to spend the first day of the summer on Cape Cod!

8 people like this post.


4 Responses to “Digging for Quahogs on Cape Cod (Polly #3)”

  1. I was fortunate enough to go along on the clamming date, even though I didn’t participate in the actual clamming. I was there as the photographer, but I also got to sample the delicious clams that were available due to the efforts of Candee and her dad! Thanks for a delicious treat! I don’t think you can get clams that are much fresher than the ones we enjoyed!

  2. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  3. Jo Jo the Wonder Cat
    September 10th, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    I’ve eaten plenty of clams in my time, but never gave much thought about how much work it took to dig them up! I’m interested in the clam pie that you mentioned. I’ve never heard of it before, but I bet it’s good. Another good post Polly!

  4. I never knew how to pronounce quahog…and now I do! Thanks!