ExplainMaine from Maine Public is a new series all about the things that make Maine unique, special or interesting. We're looking for your questions. What have you always wondered about Maine? Or what do you think people should know about our state's history, culture or politics? Whether you're a lifetime Mainer or new to the area, tell us what you'd like explained by clicking here to use our form.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press File

If you’ve ever read a story in the news about elver fishing season, you’ve probably seen some variation of this line: “Maine’s the only state in the U.S. with a significant fishery for elvers.”

Maybe you thought that’s because elvers don’t exist in large numbers outside of Maine — that would be a reasonable assumption. But the real reason is somewhat more complicated.

In Explain Maine, an occasional series, we look at some of the things that are unique, interesting and quirky about our great state, and we hope to solve some mysteries as well.


In the thick of Vacationland’s summer season, many of us plan to spend some serious time sitting outside our local sandwich shops, enjoying the sun while eating an Italian sandwich.

Barry Wom / Wikimedia Commons

The big, furry, doglike Maine coon cat enjoys a rich history in our state, and is in fact the state cat of Maine. But is it from here originally, or is the breed from away?

Rebecca Conley / MPBN

Laura, Lewiston: When I first moved to Maine, I thought all the redemption centers were churches! I get now that they’re not, but why does Maine have so many redemption centers?

Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers collection

Toll roads are funny, especially if you moved to Maine from one of the (almost half of) states that doesn’t have them.

Christina Napoli, all rights reserved, used with permission

Dave in Portland asks: "Why are so many towns in Maine named after foreign countries and cities? There's Norway, Paris, Denmark, Rome, Sweden, Belfast, China — the list goes on! How come?"

File photo

One of the things that's surprising about Maine, coming from away, is how different politics are here.