Author Archives: C. Schmitt

Alewives in lakes

The return of alewives, native migratory fish, to Maine rivers and streams is an annual spring event and the focus of restoration efforts statewide. Lots of attention is paid to the migration route, as people clear obstructions and remove barriers and improve passage from streams into lakes, the alewife’s ultimate destination where they spawn and […]

seven ducks swim through water and ice

Goldeneye ducks on the Penobscot

April has turned to May, and the goldeneye ducks have left their winter home on the Penobscot River and headed north to Canada for the breeding season. They are a highlight of winter, and a curiosity in that they seem to like one particular reach of the river. I was watching and thinking about the […]

gloved hand holding stuffed downy woodpecker specimen

Searching for Spelman’s Birds

In the 1880s, a group of Harvard students known as the Champlain Society spent their summers on Mount Desert Island documenting flora and fauna, the first comprehensive surveys of the area’s natural history. Their Ornithology Department was led by Henry Spelman, a lifelong lover of birds. His story, and the search for the bird specimens […]

Three Nations Anthology

The essay “One Letter Away” is included in the Three Nations Anthology from Resolute Bear Press, edited by Valerie Lawson. This lyric piece joins other essays, stories, and poems by writers from First Nations, United States, and Canada. Lyric essays emphasize form, using structure, style, and systems to communicate their content. Scientists often say that […]

Why we love the ocean

The sand, smoothed by the tide, glitters with flecks of mica and quartz. The beach ends at an outcropping of rocks draped with seaweed and rough with barnacles. Tidal pools of seawater glisten with life: rusty splotches and pink-crusted algae, leaves of sea lettuce, baby fishes hiding in miniature caves. Beyond, the Atlantic Ocean roars. […]

Ice Age survivors: a tale of two land-locked fish

Maine lakes are home to two evolutionary wonders of the animal kingdom, Arctic char and landlocked salmon, related species of fish that exist in very few places. They descend from a common ancestor that lived millions of years ago. Evolution took them on diverging pathways during repeated ice ages. The char stayed farther north, swimming […]

Foxes in the henhouse: we’ve been here before (sort of)

The President’s Salmon is an environmental history of the Atlantic salmon and the Penobscot River in Maine. But it also tells a broader story of how American presidents, and their national policies on energy, trade, and the environment, have real impacts at the local level. Sometimes these effects outlast their presidents; other times, citizen action […]

Poem for a blizzard

Portland Press Herald photo   MAMMOTHS by Catherine Schmitt Snow plows thunder down the street like mammoths parading before the new ice sheet. Clashing tusks, crash of plow on pavement, stiff-legged stomp in the early dusk. What is bone, iron, brick wears the season in a shaggy coat of icicles. Cold, and snow keeps falling […]

Fish return to a restored Penobscot

Between the head of tide above Bangor to where it widens into the bay at Searsport, the Penobscot River shifts from a flowing freshwater waterway banked by cedar and pine to a brackish, wave-lapped marsh with a rocky shoreline. In this estuary, salt concentrations fluctuate as wind and tide push water and sediments back and […]

A New National Monument on the East Branch Penobscot River

On August 24, 2016, President Obama designated 87,500 acres of northern Maine as Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument. The new public land encompasses much of the East Branch Penobscot River. I visited the area in 2014 while researching Chapter 5 of The President’s Salmon. Here’s an excerpt. The East Branch Penobscot River begins at […]