January 14, 2016
Ice formation on Lake Michigan has started later than usual due to unseasonably warm weather. Now ice ridges are forming along the sandy shores of West Michigan. Just how this happens I describe in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes.
Another phenomenon that is happening right now is pancake ice. Here is an excerpt from my book.
Pancake ice forms from sheets of ice that break off and then are like a broken plate glass window. When these pieces of ice continually knock together by the rolling action of waves, they become rounded and curled up at the edges like gigantic pancakes. Sometimes the pancake ice looks like bumper cars crashing into each other like a wild carnival ride.
January 7, 2016
We must do all we can to keep this fresh water clean. This year we have not had ice cover yet. Ice keeps the water from evaporating and protects shores from washing away. Global warming is created from burning fossil fuels. Alternative energy such as solar and wind farms and even more innovative ideas should help.
Here is my photo of Mackinac Bridge that connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. The water you see is the Straits of Mackinac An aging oil pipeline runs under it and it should be taken out of service since an oil spill could cause great damage to these freshwater seas.
In the mean time, do what you can. Turn of lights and electric appliances when not in use. Talk to your elected official and support alternative energy, but not nuclear power plants. They are dangerous.
January 5, 2016
A peregrine falcon hovers
Over rolling Lake Michigan waves
Waves that carry something
the falcon is interested in
as it hangs steady in the wind.
On the sandy shore two eagles
Pick up carrion—dead white fish with silver fins.
It’s good to see a peregrine and eagles
Along the lakeshore today.
I thank my good man
For making it that way.
Norm Spring won the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame Award for his work in banning DDT and thereby bringing back the American Bald Eagle and the peregrine falcon to the shore of the Great Lakes.
December 31, 2015
By Garret Ellison mlive
At some point in the next few years, it’s very likely an 875-square-mile section of Lake Michigan off Wisconsin will officially become the second freshwater national marine sanctuary in the country.
But, if a handful of communities scattered across the Great Lakes have any say in the matter, it won’t be the last.
Five groups in four states are preparing nominations for marine sanctuary designations that may result in a national sanctuary in each of the five Great Lakes.
There are more nominations under development in the Great Lakes than any other part of the country, said Ellen Brody, Great Lakes region coordinator at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) national marine sanctuary office.
Each community is in a different stage in the process, and there’s no ia points and must demonstrate “broad-based” public support in the 25-page application, which most commonly involves letters from local governments and stakeholder groups in the proposed area.
If NOAA accepts an application, it goes on a short list called an “inventory” of possible sites that might be designated protected sanctuaries, which, essentially, function like underwater national parks.
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron, established in 2000 and expanded from 448 square miles to 4,300 square miles in 2014, has become a tourism draw for Alpena, where the headquarters includes nautical displays, wreck tours and exhibits.
No guarantee any of the applications will be approved, but nominations are evaluated on 11 criteria.
Visit mlive for more about proposed freshwater sanctuaries on the Great Lakes.
November 27, 2015
White fish are running in the Great Lakes now. Fishermen brave the wind, snow, ice and wind after dark on the boardwalk and piers. They use a lure called the Swedish pimple and some are lucky enough to catch some whitefish.
November 24, 2015
click the link above.
November 19, 2015
Here are the Great Lakes at night as seen by astronaut Scott Kelly from space. The bright blazes of light show where population centers are.
November 2, 2015
The Tangled Food Web
To understand Great Lakes reefs, you first have to take a look at the recent history of fisheries and food webs on Lake Michigan.
Once, the lake teemed with lake trout, lake herring and lake whitefish, supporting viable commercial fisheries well into the mid-1900s. It all seemed inexhaustible – but, of course, that was an illusion.
Around 1960, the lake herring population crashed – the victim of the triple whammy of overfishing, habitat degradation and invasive species.
Lake herring were not just an important commercial species, they also fed lake trout. The lake trout switched to non-native alewives. It was a poor substitute, kind of like replacing your vegetable intake with potato chips.
Lake trout need thiamine to produce viable eggs. Alewives have an enzyme called thaiminase that causes thiamine to break down, so when lake trout eat alewives, their thiamine levels drop so low they can no longer produce viable eggs.
And so, as went the lake herring so went the lake trout. In fact, the lake trout have not had meaningful levels of reproduction in Lake Michigan since 1960.
Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stocks just under 3 million lake trout fingerlings annually.
In 1999, Randy Claramunt was a fisheries biologist for the Little Traverse Bay Bands, a tribal government. Tribal members wondered why lake trout weren’t spawning, and why eggs weren’t surviving. Claramunt spent three years trying to find out.
“During that time period, I feel like I spent more time underwater than I did above water,” says Claramunt, now a biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “We went to every conceivable spawning site we could find.”
This meant finding reefs – raised, rocky structures. That’s where the fish were. They found reefs where lake trout would spawn, reefs where whitefish would spawn, and some where everything would spawn.
“We started thinking: what if we could find degraded or marginal habitat, and restore it so that it is similar to the reefs that are best for spawning fish,” says Claramunt. “If we were successful, one small reef could produce as many or more fish than the state hatchery.”
When looking at reefs, one on Grand Traverse Bay near Traverse City, Michigan, stood out. Nearby was degraded habitat where a new reef could be constructed. It took years of research to figure out how to best restore a Great Lakes reef. Now it’s time to actually put rocks in the water.
I’m joining Herbert, Claramunt and Central Michigan University graduate student Eric Calabro to visit the site of the new reef.
Not Just Any Rocks
Dark clouds loom but the water is still eerily calm as I don a wetsuit and snorkel. The boat is anchored in Grand Traverse Bay; Claramunt is already in the water and he’s motioning for me to jump in.
No sooner am I in the crystal-clear water (invasive zebra mussels have given the water a Caribbean clarity), than Claramunt is motioning me to look down.
“You can see rocks everywhere, right?” he asks. “People know fish need rocks to spawn. So they’ll say, ‘There’s plenty of habitat here.’ Wrong.”
Fish need more than rocks. Claramunt starts swimming and motions for me to join him. Soon we come to a mound of rocks with a gentle slope: a reef. And no, it does not look like coral. But for the future of the Great Lakes, this modest-looking pile should probably have – pardon the pun – rock star status.
“From researching these reefs, we know the characteristics that make it awesome for fish,” says Claramunt. “You need rocks that are baseball to softball size. There needs to be some variation in size, of course. They need to be piled 6 to 10 feet high, with a recognizable slope. And you need currents that flow over the reefs to keep the eggs oxygenated.”
In September, a contractor delivered local rocks to create a reef with these exact characteristics, an effort led by the reef restoration team. The rocks were delivered to the bay in time for spawning fish to find them this fall.
It isn’t new habitat: fish have spawned here in the past, but in low number and with poor success. The fish will find much improved habitat when they begin showing up – perhaps as early as when you’re reading this.
Invasive alewife populations have recently crashed, so the reef construction could be ideal for restoring lake herring.
“Lake herring have held on for 50 years as a small remnant population,” says Herbert. “The conditions are right to build that population up and have them function as a meaningful part of the ecosystem. More herring means more lake trout and other top predators.”
But even with reefs, there are two big challenges that come in small packages. As is so often the case in the Great Lakes, these challenges are invasive species: the round goby and rusty crayfish.
Invasion of the Egg Eaters
The round goby, a small fish with a big head, and the rusty crayfish look quite different. But they have two things in common: they’re everywhere in Lake Michigan. And they eat fish eggs. Lots and lots of fish eggs. These are two highly effective invasive species.
The gobies are well camouflaged on rocks. But even so, as I swam around, I saw them frequently. Ten feet below me I could see 20 or 30 of them clustered around a rock.
For the reef construction to be successful, these invasives have to be addressed. But they’re not easy to control. Even seismic blasts that bring other fish to the surface barely perturb gobies. Within twenty minutes of being blasted, the gobies were back to eating.
To control them, conservationists have to understand them – and how they’re using the reef.
“We would study reefs and how these species behave, but we would just be observing how they act on the surface,” says Claramunt. “Gobies and crayfish don’t interact with a reef in two dimensions. They interact with it on three dimensions.”
As part of the reef construction, baskets were placed throughout the reef. These baskets were filled with rocks and function as part of the reef. Eric Calabro’s graduate research will involve pulling those baskets and identifying how gobies and crayfish utilize the lower layers of the reef. This in turn will help conservationists develop localized control strategies.
Lake Michigan’s food webs have been constantly changing for decades due to changes brought on by people, from overharvesting fish to introducing wave after wave of non-native species. A human-engineered reef coupled with substantial research holds the best promise for restoring native species. This change brings Lake Michigan closer to being a healthy ecosystem and one that also benefits both commercial and sport fisheries.
“Millions of dollars are spent annually to raise lake trout in hatcheries. And they have to keep doing that every year,” says Herbert. “If we can get to the point where lake trout are self-sustaining, that also frees up money that could be used for more habitat restoration, including restoring reefs. That’s an exciting possibility. We have not had lake trout reproducing here in more than 50 years. This reef we’re about to construct could be the first step in reversing that.”