Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on the Earth's surface, home to a fragile fishery, and delicate shoreline beaches and dunes. They are also central to northern Michigan tourism, economies and our way of life. 

Recently we reported how native fish are doing really well in one of the Great Lakes. The fish involved are not exactly well known species. But there is one that’s a household name in lakeshore communities and its success is sparking some scientific debate.

A fish with a cult following
Food and travel writers who visit The Cove seldom forget to mention the Chubby Mary. It’s a Bloody Mary with smoked chub in it. Mario Batali even put a photo of the cocktail on Bon Appetit’s website along with his endorsement.

It might surprise you to hear that some native fish are doing really well in one of the Great Lakes. For years now, we’ve heard bad news about the lakes. Most of it has to do with invasive species getting into the lakes and wrecking the food web. One writer memorably called it a slow-moving underwater wildfire.The recent swing in the other direction is so dramatic scientists are a bit puzzled and can’t explain what’s happening.

Regime shift?

Michigan Officials Compliment Underwater Explorers

Apr 5, 2013

Steve Libert has been in court with the State of Michigan pretty steadily since the Engler administration. The disputes involved shipwrecks and who has the right to claim them on the bottom of Lake Michigan and the most recent litgation was closed last year. That’s why he was excited to be recognized by Governor Snyder in a signed tribute to his group, Great Lakes Exploration. All the lawmakers from Northern Michigan signed it too.

Asian Carp Or Silverfin?

Mar 21, 2013

One of the strategies to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes is to eat the ones living in the Mississippi River. But finding a market for millions of pound of carp is not a simple matter. It will take more than a name change. We brought a few chefs together at The Great Lakes Culinary Institute to see what they could do with the fish. Hear about that and why harvesting an invasive species isn’t always a wise management strategy.

Lakes Michigan and Huron are at their lowest level in decades. And there is growing pressure to raise the water level with some kind of structure in the St. Clair River. The international commission that manages the Great Lakes is expected to respond to that pressure in February. A report submitted to the commission discourages the idea. This week on Points North we’ll hear about the debate over fixing the water level on Lakes Michigan and Huron.

The City of Waukesha, Wisconsin says it has nowhere else to go for water but to the Great Lakes. This week, it submitted an application to take 10 million gallons a day, on average, from Lake Michigan. But first it would have to meet a number of strict requirements that all eight Great Lakes states have agreed to.

Exception to Ban

The states hammered out a ban on water diversions over several years and the governors signed it and the Congress ratified it five years ago.

Some household toilet water in Grand Traverse County may not be reaching the county septage treatment plant, according to some data unearthed by local officials. Already some recording errors are apparent, but the data makes some officials wonder if a few waterfront homeowners may be pouring sewage into nearby lakes and rivers. If intentional, that would likely be criminal.

Great Lakes Drownings Top 100 in 2012

Jan 7, 2013

More than 100 people drown in the Great Lakes last year and half of them were in Lake Michigan. That’s according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Spokesman Dave Benjamin says one explanation for so many deaths in Lake Michigan is the lake is so long, 320 miles. Most of the wind comes out of the north or the south.

Protecting Mackinac Island's History

Jan 4, 2013

A public hearing is set for next week on Mackinac Island. After that, there will be nothing left but for the city council to decide whether old buildings in the 200 year-old city need protection. Brad Aspey talks with IPR News Director Peter Payette. 

The same company responsible for the worst inland oil spill ever wants to increase the amount of oil going through its pipeline under the Straits of Mackinaw.

Enbridge Energy says it has increased safety inspections since the disaster at the Kalamazoo River a couple of years ago. And the company says the pipeline that runs underwater west of the Mackinaw Bridge is perfectly safe.

But a Great Lakes environmental group isn’t convinced and is trying to stop the plan.

Search For The Wreck Of The Griffon Resumes

Oct 8, 2012

The search for the oldest shipwreck in the Great Lakes resumed this month. The team that says it might have found the wreck, Great Lakes Exploration, is moving ahead after closing a legal dispute with the State of Michigan. They're trying to prove that what they've found in northern Lake Michigan could be a French ship that disappeared in 1679. And they're near the end of what they can do without digging into the bottom of the lake.

Lifetime search

Salmon Struggling To Pass Betsie Bay

Sep 14, 2012

Michigan Natural Resources officials are trying to avoid a mass salmon die-off on Betsie Bay near the mouth of the Betsie River. Extremely low water levels are making it difficult for the fish to enter the river and to spawn.

But Fisheries Biologist Mark Tonello says if people stay away from the area there is enough room for the fish to swim up river.

Meaning Of Test Results For Asian Carp Disputed

Sep 7, 2012

Last week officials in Ohio and Michigan announced they found more evidence of Asian carp in Lake Erie. They didn’t find a carp but numerous water samples tested positive for what’s known as environmental DNA. That suggests Asian carp were in Sandusky Bay this summer. If the exotic fish get into the Great Lakes its expected they’ll further upset the current ecosystem.

For most of us summer winds down this holiday weekend but not if you're a surfer. The surfing season is just starting up. The Dairyland Surf Classic is in Sheboygan, Wisconsin this weekend. It claims to be the largest freshwater surfing contest in the world.

New research this fall will try to find a better way to predict dangerous currents in the Great Lakes. The number of deaths attributed to rip currents has been rising each of the last few summers.

Using Doppler
The experiment will see if Doppler radar can predict rip currents. That’s the same technology that can look at how the air moves inside fast developing storms.

Plans For Lamprey Barrier In UP Move Forward

Aug 13, 2012

Michigan will take ownership of a dam on the Manistique River in the Upper Peninsula. That will allow the federal government to build a new barrier there to keep sea lampreys from breeding in the river. Managers of the fishery expect that will bring the lamprey problem under control in Lake Michigan.

It was a deadly weekend on the Great Lakes. Seven people drowned, including three in Lake Michigan.

Kevin Schlake, 40, of Cincinnati, died Sunday after swimming at Peterson Beach, toward the southern end of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Schlake was caught in a rip current. The family says he was trying to rescue a 12-year-old nephew. Schlake’s brother-in-law was able to make it to shore after a struggle in strong surf.

Also this weekend, a Chicago doctor drowned at St. Joseph beach while trying to rescue two children.

Shipwreck Lawsuit Closed

Jul 20, 2012

A legal battle over what might be the most historic shipwreck in the Great Lakes is over, for now. That means further exploration of a site in Lake Michigan could pick up again.

About a decade ago, a shipwreck hunter working out of the Garden Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula found what he says might be the Griffin. The ship owned by French explorer Robert de La Salle disappeared in 1679, but a legal battle involving the State of Michigan and the French government ensued that has slowed attempts to identify whatever he found. 

The number of sea lampreys remains high in Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie, according to a new report to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The eel-like fish was one of the first invasive species to arrive in the lake. It frequently kills lake trout and can also harm white fish and salmon.

According to the report, the number of lampreys in Lakes Michigan and Huron is just above the goal, but the problem with sea lamprey is most serious in Lake Erie. There are believed to be more lampreys in Erie now then there were when control programs began there.

State fishery biologists have to answer a critical question about Lake Michigan this year. How many salmon can it support? Everyone involved in the salmon fishery is worried about its future and now some sport fishing groups say drastic action might be required. They want the state to stop putting more fish into the lake.

State fishery biologists have to answer a critical question about Lake Michigan this year. How many salmon can it support? Everyone involved in the salmon fishery is worried about its future and now some sport fishing groups say drastic action might be required. They want the state to stop putting more fish into the lake.

It's getting harder and more hazardous to navigate the Great Lakes. A lack of funding for dredging has left many shallow harbors even shallower and some are closing. Chuck May has been working on this problem since he saw a yacht run aground trying to get into Portage Lake from a storm.

Salmon Stocking Could Be Cut In Lake Michigan

Apr 9, 2012

Managers of Lake Michigan want to cut the number of Chinook salmon being put into the lake by as much as 50 percent next year. They say changes in the lake’s food web make it possible the entire salmon fishery could collapse. Cutting the number of fish stocked should reduce that risk. There’s a meeting this weekend in Benton Harbor to discuss the proposals.

Dan Thomas, President of the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council, says most people who pay attention to what’s happening in Lake Michigan see the danger. Thomas says there’s not much food for salmon in the lake these days.

Managers of salmon in Lake Michigan must soon decide how many fish to put into the lake each year. The salmon fishery is a man-made industry in the Great Lakes, produced by planting millions and millions of fish in the lakes. Keeping the salmon population in balance with the food supply is a challenge these days. Some scientists are raising new questions about the salmon's demise in Lake Huron and whether it can be stopped in Lake Michigan.

Sturgeon Heyday

Mar 9, 2012

Lake sturgeon is not a fish you hear much about these days but it was once part of the everyday vernacular around the Great Lakes. The story of its demise is an unusual one. For Americans moving into the region in the 1800s the fish was at first considered worthless but suddenly became a prized food. Laura Bien writes about the history of the sturgeon in her most recent article for The Ann Arbor Chronicle.