The role of olfaction in homing migrations of American eels (Anguilla rostrata) was examined in the Penobscot Estuary, Maine, U.S.A. Ultrasonic telemetry was used to track continuously (65 ?? 12 h) 16 yellow eels displaced from a capture site. Four eels were not treated, eight rendered anosmic, and four rendered partially anosmic. All normal, only three anosmic, and two partially anosmic eels homed. Normal eels expressed a singular behavioral pattern, selective tidal stream transport (STST). STST was also displayed by three anosmic eels and one partially anosmic eel. Three alternative behavioral patterns ('sporadic vertical excursions,' 'sloshing,' and 'directed swimming') were displayed by the remainder of the anosmic and partially anosmic eels. Eels that displayed STST used the water column differently (moving at depths shallower than the thermocline, halocline, and pycnocline) from those that displayed other behaviors. Olfaction seems to be important for discrimination of the appropriate tide for transport and location of a home site but is not the only orientational mechanism used in estuaries. Mechanisms used to detect rates of change of water mass characteristics are probably important for guidance of estuarine migrations.