Coastal Conversations 5/27/22: Rainbow Smelt

Producer/Host: Natalie Springuel

Coastal Conversations: Conversations with people who live, work, and play on the Maine coast, hosted by the University of Maine Sea Grant Program.

This episode:
Many people in Maine have heard of Atlantic Salmon and Alewives, but do you know about Rainbow Smelt? These migratory sea-run fish may be swimming up your backyard streams right now! And historically, these fish have all featured in the lives of Maine residents for sustenance, income, and recreation.

Smelt and tomcod populations are believed to have declined in recent decades. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the restoration of salmon and alewife habitat benefits all members of the sea-run fish family.

Our show today features a compendium of smelt stories plus a few about tomcod and other sea-run fish, from interviews conducted over the course of the last year in an effort to document the traditional ecological knowledge of people who harvest, interact with, and observe sea-run fish.
So make a note to tune in Friday afternoon, May 27, 2022, from 4-5 OM, when this month’s Coastal Conversation features stories and voices talking about seasons of change for Maine’s sea-run fish. Only on WERU community radio, 89.9 FM in Blue Hill and online at

Key Discussion Points:
-The seasonality of migrating fish
-Stories and memories from people who have fished and observed smelt, tom cod and other searun fish since the 1970’s.
-The ecology and biology of changing fisheries in Maine’s rivers, streams and estuaries


Chris Johnson, ecology manager with the Passamaquoddy Tribe Sipayak Environmental Department
Danielle Frechette, a marine resource scientist with Maine Department of Marine Resource’s bureau of sea-run fisheries and habitat
Sean Beauregard, a student at the University of Maine and Smelt interview project intern
John Melquist Sr., smelt fisherman, South Thomaston
Kurt Soneson, a retired Marine Patrol Officer
Sharon Morrill, wildlife watcher from Damariscotta Mills
Dick and Max Grimm, a father and son fishermen from Yarmouth
Lawrence Moffet, retired commercial lobsterman and recreational tomcod fisherman

Special appreciation for support in producing this show goes to: Sean Beauregard, University of Maine student and intern; Justin Stevens, Maine Sea Grant sea-run fish ecosystem project coordinator; and Danielle Frechette, marine resource scientist with Maine Department of Marine Resources bureau of sea-run fisheries and habitat.

About the host:
Natalie Springuel has hosted Coastal Conversation’s since 2015, with support from the University of Maine Sea Grant where she has served as a marine extension associate for 20 years. In 2019, Springuel received an award for Public Affairs programming from the Maine Association of Broadcasters for the Coastal Conversations show called “Portland’s Working Waterfront.” Springuel is passionate about translating science, sharing stories, and offering a platform for multiple voices to weigh in on complex coastal and ocean issues. She has recently enrolled in audio production training at Maine Media Workshop to dive deeper into making great community radio.