The last day Tylar Michaud went out to haul and set his lobster traps near Petit Manan Point, a thick fog hugged the coast of Down East Maine.

Tylar Michaud on his lobster boat, F/V Top Gun. Photo courtesy of Valerie Kennedy

The routine was familiar for the 18-year-old fisherman from the small fishing village of Steuben. He grew up on the water learning how to catch lobster alongside his stepfather Bryant Kennedy, a fourth-generation lobsterman.

But on July 21, something went wrong.

That evening, Michaud’s boat, F/V Top Gun, was found still in gear, moving in a slow arc with no one aboard.

An intense search began.

Nearly two weeks later, it continues even as his family, friends and others in the close-knit fishing community acknowledge that he did not survive and start to celebrate the young man who made an impression on everyone he met.


“He was bigger than life,” Bryant Kennedy said.

The Maine Marine Patrol is searching for Michaud with assistance from private pilots, local lobstermen and Air National Guard members. A Maine Marine Patrol pilot has logged more than 50 hours in the search. Family and friends have been joined by others from the community – including people who never met Michaud – as they walk the shore and search for him by boat.

Last weekend, marine patrol vessels searched from Dyer Bay in Steuben to Tom Leighton Point in Milbridge. Personnel from the Marine Patrol and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a 4-mile shoreside search on Bois Bubert Island.

The search will continue in the coming weeks, the marine patrol said.

“I’m grateful for the unprecedented ongoing efforts of all who have joined together in this difficult search,” said Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources.



Michaud moved to Steuben after his mother, Valerie, met Bryant Kennedy 13 years ago. He often visited his father, Ron Michaud, in Pittsfield and talked regularly to his older brothers Zach La Fave, of Old Town, and Nathan La Fave, who lives in California. When his paternal grandparents were too far away to come to his baseball games, Michaud would call them afterward to give them the play-by-play.

Michaud fit right into the Kennedy family. Bryant Kennedy’s grandchildren, Lexi and Lance Kennedy, were about the same age, and the trio became inseparable. He loved meeting and talking to people – he would talk to a rock, his stepfather said – and had many close friends. Everyone felt like he was part of their family.

Tylar Michaud, right, at his June graduation with friend Alex Thompson. Photo courtesy of Valerie Kennedy

Alex Thompson, 19, met Michaud a few years ago through mutual friends and they quickly became close. They saw each other nearly every day and could talk for hours. Michaud had “jokes for days,” Thompson said.

“He was a really nice, genuine person, someone you could trust,” Thompson said. “He was always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone.”

Always cautious but eager to learn, Michaud had a deep passion for the outdoors. He loved fly-fishing and hunting with his father and friends, and swam like a fish, his family said.

“Give him a fishing rod, he’d sit there all day. Give him a rifle, he’d sit on the tree stand all day,” Bryant Kennedy said. “He just loved being outdoors.”


Michaud got his student lobster fishing license when he was 8 and went on to complete the apprenticeship program. After fulfilling all of the state requirements, including completing a survival course, he received his Class II license at 17.

Michaud often worked alongside others fishing in the area. It wasn’t uncommon for him to get a call at 2:30 a.m. from someone asking him to fill in as a sternman for the day, his parents said. Sometimes, after hauling his own traps, he’d head back out to help an older lobsterman haul.

“Everyone who had him on the boat said he was accomplished,” Bryant Kennedy said. “He paid attention and he made sure that he did absolutely what he was supposed to do.”

He spent countless hours on the water with Lexi and Lance Kennedy, sometimes on the same boat.

“When they weren’t fishing, they were fishing,” his mother said.

“They were always talking about working on traps, strategizing where they were going to move their traps to,” Valerie Kennedy said. “It was a strategic game for them. You find the lobsters, you get the money.”


Michaud had just transformed his 30-foot boat with the help of his parents, and he was proud of how it had turned out.

He had 300 traps in the water and was determined to earn enough money to cover his truck payments and to attend Maine Maritime Academy this fall. But more than anything, he enjoyed being on the water and having the freedom to do what he loved.

“He loved fishing,” his mother said.


On July 21, Bryant Kennedy was heading back in after hauling his traps with his grandson when he tried to call Michaud on the radio. When Michaud didn’t answer, he tried his cellphone, but the call went right to voicemail. It was already 3:30 p.m. and Michaud was supposed to be done fishing for the day because he had plans to meet up with Thompson.

Kennedy dropped off his catch and headed back out to the area where Michaud had his traps. The fog had lifted a bit as he tried again and again to reach Michaud. Within an hour, 25 to 30 boats had come out of all the nearby bays to help look for him.


“I got that wicked feeling in my gut and my heart started racing,” he said. “I said, ‘This ain’t good.’ ”

Thompson, who had headed to the wharf when Michaud didn’t answer his calls, went out on a boat with Lance Kennedy and two others to join the search. Around 7 p.m., a fisherman from Corea found Michaud’s unmanned boat near Jonesport.

Tylar Michaud out on the water. Photo courtesy of Valerie Kennedy

“That’s when the nightmare began, and it’s still going on,” Bryant Kennedy said.

As the Coast Guard, Maine Marine Patrol and other agencies scoured the water and land near where the boat was found, countless others joined the search. Valerie Kennedy said she later talked to teenagers who had spent hours searching beaches and islands.

“They would come back all muddy because they had gone where they thought he might be,” she said. “I said to my husband, ‘So many times when things like that happen, people are torn apart. People have just pulled together.’ ”

After 24 hours passed, the family knew survival was unlikely. They know they may never have answers about exactly what happened, but suspect it could have involved the breakaway lines lobstermen are required to use to guard against whale entanglements.


Bryant Kennedy said the breakaway lines can catch in the hauler, forcing fishermen to rush to grab buoys to make sure they’re not tangled up. But as they rush to set things right, they can get caught on a line and pulled overboard. Thousands of pounds of pressure are pulling the traps into the water and “no man on the planet is strong enough to hold them,” he said.

“In my heart, I know that’s part of why our son is gone,” Bryant Kennedy said. “The possibility is great that had something to do with it, (rather) than just Tylar making a mistake and stepping in the rope or something like that. He knew when he was alone that you pay more attention. He was given all the skills and the mindset. It was just a terrible accident.”

The family is planning several celebrations of Michaud’s life. One will be held in a local gymnasium because so many people want to attend.

Tylar Michaud standing on a dock in Steuben, Maine in 2023. Photo courtesy of Ronald Michaud

They’re also planning a huge fireworks display, something they say Michaud would have loved. Later this month, they will gather on their boats to follow the tradition of throwing a wreath into the water while they’re circled by dozens of other boats.

As they mourn their son and celebrate his life, the Kennedys have found comfort in the stories others have shared about him. On Facebook, friends describe the time they spent together. In stores, neighbors stop them to share how impressed they were by the friendly teen who loved talking to everyone. Even strangers have said things that touched them deeply.

A woman who never met Michaud told his mother that she’d heard from co-workers that “if you were not smiling when he walked up, you were smiling when he walked away.”

“It’s strengthened my belief in humanity. It’s just so heartwarming,” Bryant Kennedy said. “It doesn’t diminish the loss that Valerie and I have, but it gives you some hope that people do have hearts.”

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