The Searsport Shellfish Management Committee's juvenile clam seeding project fared well this year with the average size increasing by more than four centimeters.

In late April the committee seeded 35,000 juvenile soft shell clams at five 13-by-13-foot sites on and around Sears Island. Each site had 7,000 clams seeded and covered with netting to protect the 1-centimeter-long hatchery clams from predation.

On Oct. 26 and 27 members of the committee visited each site to remove the netting for winter. A 1-by-3-foot test hole was dug at each site to determine the survival rate of the clams. There were 58 clams recovered from the test holes, though sites two and three yielded no hatchery clams. The average size of the clams was 5.5 centimeters — the largest measured 6.4 centimeters.

The hatchery clams could be distinguished from native clams from the white color around their hinge — remnant from their time as seedlings at the Downeast Insititute where the clams were first grown. The committee purchased the seed stock for $700.

Searsport High School and Troy Howard Middle School students helped seed two of the sites in the spring. The middle school students placed their seed clams in flower pots sunk into the sand with the bottoms cut off. Those showed the best results of any of the sites. Committee chair Bob Ramsdell said out of 14 flower pots the committee counted 139 clams.

"We did a lot better than I thought we would," Ramsdell said. "I think next season we'll put them all in flower pots; we seem to get better results that way."

Steve Tanguay, who worked with the students seeding the clams in the spring said he hopes to have the high school students develop their own small-scale clam hatchery. Tanguay explained that the students would first have to grow an algae culture, which would then be fed to the baby clams.

"I'd like the kids to get a little more ambitious," Tanguay said.

The Searsport Shellfish Management Committee will meet next in the Searsport Public Safety Building at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 21.