Registered Maine Guide Lou Tirado, who co-hosts the fishing podcast “Hooked In New England,” often enjoys fishing for stripers with his daughter, Ellie Tirado, of South Portland. Photo courtesy of Lou Tirado

The popularity of podcasts has surged in the past decade, including three podcasts produced in Maine about the outdoors. Those podcasts are attracting strong audiences after just a few years, and the producers of all three aim to appeal to a broad spectrum of people regardless of outdoors experience.

“I personally feel a big reason podcasts are so popular lately is because our lives are so tied to screens that we have to scroll through and stare at all day,” said Hazel Stark, co-producer of the podcast and Downeast radio program, “The Nature of Phenology.” “Having a podcast allows you to listen – and that provides a sense of peace that screen-time takes away from us.”

Here is a closer look at three popular outdoors podcasts from Maine:

FUN FISHING FACTS

Registered Maine Guide Mike Faulkingham is a South Portland realtor who previously recorded and produced radio ads for Bang Media and Communications, a media company he owned for five years, so Faulkingham brings a lot of sound-recording expertise to the fishing podcast that he co-hosts with fellow Maine guide, Lou Tirado, a South Portland fire fighter. “Hooked in New England” even features Faulkingham’s original music.

On the show that launched in March, 2019, the two Maine guides make fun of each other, just as fishermen often do. But the underlying aim is to highlight the conservation needed in Maine’s fisheries, and to introduce people working on that.

“We wanted to have fun, cool, interesting people as guests and present it in a way that a 10-year-old or 80-year-old would have fun listening to,” Faulkingham said. “Hopefully, it has a positive impact, it’s entertaining, and leaves people a little more informed about fishing and conservation.”

Most episodes feature hour-long interviews with fishing industry experts, expert fishing guides, or passionate recreational fishermen – all discussing the state of New England’s fisheries and how to study and enjoy them. Many guests are from outside Maine, but Tirado said every episode ends with a discussion of how the topic relates to Maine.

There also are 10-minute episodes called “Short Strikes,” in which the guides offer tips for catching certain game fish. The two guides have produced 49 episodes total and had 28,000 downloads.

“I should have been a sociologist,” Faulkingham said. “I’m interested in people’s stories. But when I was thinking of a podcast as a possibility, I knew my weaknesses. I didn’t have that super-depth of knowledge or fishing experience. Lou has no ego. But it’s shocking the depth of his knowledge about fishing. Lou is the one who will be out there at 4 a.m. When he wants to fish a piece of water, he figures it out.”

GAME CHANGERS

When the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife hired Katie Yates two years ago to work as a public outreach specialist charged with recruiting more hunters and fishermen, she thought a podcast of IFW’s work would be a good tool. She’s since created the “Fish + Game Changers” podcast, and more than 30 episodes later, it’s been downloaded 33,000 times. Episodes are generally between 15 and 20 minutes long.

Maine Biologist Jen Vashon is featured in an episode about black bears in the podcast “Fish + Game Changers,” because who doesn’t like stories about baby bears? Tory Johnson photo

With no radio experience, but plenty as an interpretive specialist at National Parks, Yates took a recording class at Portland’s Salt Institute to hone her new craft. Since February, she’s created 26 episodes about IFW’s work protecting Maine’s natural resources, and people that care – from novice hunters to microbreweries that benefit from clean water. A common theme is how much IFW ‘s staff value the outdoors.

“We all love to hunt and fish, snowshoe and hike,” said Liz Thorndike, a fisheries biologist featured in the first episode. “I’m surprised at the kind of broad reach it’s had, people who already knew me have commented on it, like fishermen from out of state. But also the nurse who works in my child’s doctor’s office said she listened to it. Some of these people don’t fish or hunt, but they’re interested.”

WHAT’S IN A WORD?

Hazel Stark and Joe Horn, co-founders of the Milbridge-based Maine Outdoors School, started a podcast in January 2018, after the radio station WERU asked them to fill a 5-minute slot. The outdoor educators decided to focus on the study of the life cycles of living organisms, which helps to better understand climate change. They then created a website to feature the podcast called “The Nature of Phenology.”

They’ve produced 150 episodes. Each focuses on a single, specific topic – such as poisonous mushrooms, daddy longlegs spiders, or how toads burrow before winter. Each begins with a story that leads into facts or myths about the species and its life cycle. Every episode ends with suggestions on things to look for in nature.

WERU, which is in the middle of rebuilding its website, said at the moment it’s unknown how many times “The Nature of Phenology” has been downloaded. But the podcast has been played in elementary school classrooms and at Christmas Bird Counts. Horn said that’s because everyone can enjoy phenology.

“When I first moved to this area I was talking to an old-timer about the smelt runs. I’m not one for staying up late, so I wanted to time it right,” he said. “The old-timer said it happens when the wood frogs start singing. Phenology is just that. And when you observe these episodes in nature, you can track climate change over time.”


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