News and Events

A Great Time to Fish for Gar

When other fish won’t bite, try something different and tie on a lure with no hooks

By Dan O’Keefe

Late summer can be a bummer for Michigan anglers. The “dog days” heat tends to put bass, pike, and walleye into a slump in many inland lakes. The same heat that drives other fish to sulk in the depths has the opposite effect on another under-appreciated sport fish – the longnose gar.

Hot, calm summer days are perfect for gar fishing for a couple of reasons. First, gar tend to feed most actively on small open-water forage fish like young-of-the year gizzard shad at this time of year. The other reason is a bit surprising. Gar breathe air, and since hot water is low in oxygen gar tend to rise to the surface and gulp air into their swim bladder more frequently during late summer.

Gar being displayed by fisherman in kayak.

Where to look

Longnose gar (not to be confused with alligator gar) often congregate in deep river holes or deep water in inland lakes, but they typically suspend five to ten feet below the surface. If you see one gar surface to gulp air there is a good chance that more are suspended nearby. Longnose gar are most abundant in nutrient-rich inland lakes, large rivers, and Great Lakes waters. The western basin of Lake Erie, Muskegon Lake, the lower Grand River, the Maple River, and inland lakes including Wabasis Lake and Kent Lake are all known for producing Master Angler-sized gar.

No hooks needed

The head and mouth of a longnose gar are extremely bony. There is virtually no place to set a hook, although occasionally a small and extremely sharp treble hook will catch in the side of the mouth. Because of this, gar can easily steal bait intended for other fish. I have gone through dozens of minnows before finally managing to properly set the hook on a gar.

The best way to land a gar involves using nylon rope or twine to tangle in a gar’s teeth. How do you know if your rope will work?  Run a comb through it. If the teeth of the comb catch in the unraveled nylon fibers then so will the teeth of a gar.

Once you find a rope that works, the possibilities for lure design are endless. These can be as simple as hookless flies consisting of no more than the rope itself. Rope can also be used to replace the hook of an in-line spinner, the skirt of a spinnerbait, or the bucktail of a jig.

Slow and steady

Even when gar are actively feeding, they are not as explosive or maneuverable as bass or other gamefish. Gar are primitive fish covered with heavy scales that give them a rigid style of swimming. If a lure (or preyfish) passes by quickly or headed in the opposite direction, a gar will typically ignore it.

The best retrieve when fishing for gar is very slow – just turn the crank of the reel fast enough to keep the lure moving. Twitches and quick darting actions with the rod tip may be great for triggering other species, but gar can’t usually keep up with anything too erratic. Instead, pause the retrieve and let the lure free fall slowly for five or ten feet if you can’t trigger a strike with a straight retrieve.

When a gar does take the lure it is important not to jerk the rod in attempts to set the hook. After all, there is no hook to set!  Instead, set the drag loose and let the gar run. As the gar swims away and shakes its head the rope will sometimes become more tangled in its teeth. Even this is no sure-fire way to land a gar, though. For every one gar landed, expect that several others will get away.

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To avoid getting poked, prop a gar’s mouth open with one pair of pliers and use a second pair to tease the rope out from between the teeth. Photo credit: Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant

Why fish for gar, anyway?

Longnose gar are a real challenge to land. Only a handful of anglers have mastered the specialized techniques needed to bring them to the boat with any regularity. On light tackle (think 6-8 pound test) they put up a great fight complete with drag-screeching runs and impressive jumps. The sight of a four-foot gar jumping head-high at boat side is always a thrill!

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“Crude Move” webinar series discusses crude oil transport

By Mark Breederland

Crude oil moves through MichigCrude_Movean and the Great Lakes watershed 24/7 in a variety of ways. A series of four recently recorded webinars entitled “Crude Move” discusses many of the issues, risks, interests, and options for the transportation of crude oil.

The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, which includes programs in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana, put the series together. With the strong interest in the Line 5 pipeline which crosses the Straits of Mackinac, presentations from academic and other experts can help inform and educate many on the interconnectivity and demands from oil as a key commodity impacting our social, economic and environmental well-being.

Potential spills anywhere in the Great Lakes basin watershed can pose risks to the world’s freshwater seas and our communities. Crude oil is moved by pipeline, rail, ship or barge, and truck. Hazardous cargo such as crude oil heightens the need to understand relative risks and this webinar series features information on crude oil characteristics, transportation options, and hazard evaluation while framing this discussion in the “triple bottom-line” of social, economic, and environmental values.

The first presentation is Crude Oil Movement in the Great Lakes Basin: Properties and Pathways presented by Dr. Bradley Hull from John Carroll University. Dr. Hull has an extensive background in movement of crude oil and he discusses uses of crude, logistics of movements from pipeline & rail, and potential issues of possibly restricting oil movement along any one route, perhaps causing oil to flow by other less desirable routes. See this fact sheet on Properties and Pathways.

The second presentation, Understanding the Nature of Hazards & Risks: Health, Safety, Economic and Environmental Impacts, is from Dale Bergeron from Minnesota Sea Grant and Michèle Leduc-Lapierre from the Great Lakes Commission.

Third in the series is Spill Response Requirements and Regional Capacity: Regulations and Resources. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator Ralph Dollhopf describes his extensive experience with regulations and spill response as he served as incident commander for the Kalamazoo River pipeline 6b release spill during 2010. Also, Tom Festa, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, discusses the inland geographic response plans primarily from rail transport.

The final presentation is Regulatory Activity and Environmental Requirements: Tools for Addressing Multiple Objectives. Speakers were Dr. James Winebrake, Rochester Institute of Technology who has developed a multi-objective/multi-modal modeling approach with GIS for examining risks of crude oil movement through the Great Lakes basin. Also, research counsel Catherine Janasie from the National Sea Grant Law Center presented Crude Oil Legal Framework and Current Legal Issues.

Be sure to access some of the tremendous information contained in the Crude Move webinar series as you seek to understand some of the complexities of crude oil movement through the Great Lakes.

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What, exactly, is an alligator gar?

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This pregnant female alligator gar served as broodstock at Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery in Tupelo, Miss. Photo credit: Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant

By Dan O’Keefe

On May 31, 2016, the Illinois Senate voted unanimously to adopt a resolution urging the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to expedite the reintroduction of alligator gar and develop protections for four native gar species. The Illinois House of Representatives had unanimously passed the same resolution three weeks earlier.

No one paid much attention, unfortunately.

On July 29, 2016, an Associated Press story was published entitled “Huge, once hated fish now seen as a weapon against Asian carp.”  All of a sudden gar were in the spotlight, and the press was all positive. Alligator gar were once demonized and subjected to extermination efforts, but for more than a decade state and federal agencies have been working to restore alligator gar in certain areas.

From the beginning, these efforts were seen as a way to bring a fascinating and valuable fish back to places they had disappeared from. Unregulated commercial fishing, rod-and-reel fishing, bowfishing, and targeted removal have probably taken a toll on some populations but destruction of natural large river habitat was a bigger factor in the disappearance of alligator gar from the northern part of their range in the Mississippi River basin from Tennessee north to central Illinois.

Building of dams and levees along the Mississippi River allowed for commercial navigation and protected valuable farmland from floods, but it also blocked alligator gar and other native fish from moving freely between feeding and spawning habitats. In some places, including The Nature Conservancy’s Spunky Bottoms Preserve in Illinois, alligator gar reintroduction was specifically targeted to areas where habitat restoration projects have reconnected floodplain wetlands with main channel river habitats.

As an educator with Michigan State University Extension, I have had the opportunity to talk gar a lot over the past few weeks. Answers to some of the most common questions are below, and more detail can be found in the Science Around Michigan podcast.

Will alligator gar control Asian carp?

Alligator gar are large, non-selective predators. In other words, they tend to eat whatever is most abundant. In parts of the Mississippi River, and in the Illinois River in particular, Asian carp are super-abundant. It stands to reason that alligator gar will take advantage of this and prey on troublesome silver carp, bighead carp and grass carp (the three Asian carp species found in the Illinois River).

After all, other species of gar have already been documented feeding on young-of-the-year silver carp, along with six other native predators. Unfortunately, these other native fish that are already found in the Illinois River do not control the Asian carp where carp are super-abundant, and neither do commercial fishers that currently target primarily the larger bighead carp.

The reality is that alligator gar will be one more predator taking advantage of Asian carp, but it will not be the “silver bullet” that wins the war against carp.

Do alligator gar pose a threat to people?

There has never been a confirmed case of an alligator gar attacking a person in the water. If you bring an alligator gar (or any other large toothy fish) into the boat there is always the risk of injury if you are not careful, but gar are not aggressive toward people. Their eggs are poisonous and should not be eaten.

Do alligator gar pose a threat to gamefish?

Generally no. Alligator gar typically eat whatever appropriately-sized fish (over eight inches long) are available, and in many river and reservoir habitats this means plankton-eating fish like shad. In weedy habitats where bass and panfish are most common, gar will eat them. Even so, predators like gar do not necessarily damage populations of their prey species and can even be helpful when prey species are overabundant and slow-growing (see article on stunted panfish). Alligator gar will also scavenge on dead fish and occasionally eat waterfowl.

Should alligator gar be stocked in the Great Lakes?

No. The alligator gar is not native to the Great Lakes basin. It is native to large river systems that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

What about other gars in Michigan?

Two species are native to Michigan waters: longnose gar and spotted gar.

The longnose gar is most common and is sometimes (incorrectly) referred to as alligator gar or garpike. Longnose gar can grow to over four feet long in Michigan, but never reach the massive proportions of alligator gar, which can weigh over 300 pounds and measure over eight feet long.

Spotted gar are only found in the southwest portion of the Lower Peninsula and are listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need by Michigan Natural Features Inventory.

 Is there a need to protect gars in Michigan?

Unfortunately we do not know much of anything regarding the dynamics of spotted gar and longnose gar populations in Michigan. In Illinois, the Ancient Sport Fish Project (see video) is currently working to sample gar and bowfin populations and use fisheries science to gain a better understanding of whether management tools such as size limits or bag limits might be needed. In Michigan, no such effort is underway.

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Northeast Michigan group wins place-based education award

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The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI), which serves students and teachers in eight northern Lake Huron counties, is one of the five winners in the second annual Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Innovative Education Award program. The organization will receive a grant of $25,000.

Focusing on communities with some of the highest unemployment rates in Michigan, NEMIGLSI provides local teachers and students with Great Lakes-based natural resource stewardship projects. These activities emphasize hands-on student leadership and social entrepreneurship in place-based learning settings. Moving out of the classroom, students have a chance to learn and research in some of Michigan’s most significant natural environmental areas.

Part of the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, NEMIGLSI is one of nine hubs in Michigan’s Great Lakes Stewardship Network (GLSI). Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Brandon Schroeder serves on the NEMGLSI leadership team and has been heavily involved in several of its place-based education projects.

Through NEMIGLISI, northern Michigan students have undertaken projects such as:

  • Mapping endangered Pitcher’s Thistle populations on Charity Island
  • Building remote-operated underwater cameras to monitor invasive species in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • Pioneering water quality sampling efforts in the Trout River

“We were impressed by how this Michigan initiative encourages youth to present the source of the problem and implications of the problem to various audiences and how they enabled youth to advocate for feasible solutions,” Cara Gizzi, UL Director of Public Safety Education and Outreach says. “The judges noted that this year’s winning programs demonstrated the lasting returns on investing in sustained contact with the learners over months as well as years. NEMIGLSI and the other winners are the ideal ‘deep learning’ programs that offer effective, meaningful, and measurable engagement in STEM learning that can be readily tracked over time.”

UL is a global independent safety science company that uses research and standards to advance the safety needs of businesses, retailers, manufacturers, trade associations and international regulatory authorities. The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAEE) is a membership organization that promotes environmental literacy and civic engagement through the power of education.

Developed in collaboration with NAAEE, the UL Innovative Education Award was open to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada that help students engage with environmental science and research. Representatives from all five 2016 award-winning teams will meet in North Carolina in August for a celebration and leadership summit.

For more information, contact Brandon Schroeder (schroe45@msu.edu) or Rhett Register (rregist@umich.edu).

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Michigan Sea Grant seeks Program Coordinator

Michigan Sea Grant is seeking a motivated, organized, and outgoing individual with an understanding of Great Lakes and coastal issues to serve as a Program Coordinator. This position reports to the Michigan Sea Grant Program Manager/Fiscal Officer. The right candidate will have a passion for sharing science-based information and be highly collaborative in their work. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant promotes knowledge of the Great Lakes through research, outreach, and education. Michigan sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs in coastal areas around the country.

Note: This is a one-year term limited appointment with the possibility of renewal contingent on funding.

For detailed information or to apply for the position, click here to view the listing on the University of Michigan careers site or visit umjobs.org and search for Job ID 129747. The listing will be available 8/10/2016 – 8/17/2016.

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Webinar: Industry Strategies for Preventing AIS

Event Date: 8/17/2016

The baitfish and aquaculture industries have worked proactively to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept represents an effective industry tool for further reducing the risk of spreading AIS through baitfish and aquaculture. The HACCP system deals effectively with a diverse constituent base and represents a positive partnership between industry and government regulators. In this webinar, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Ron Kinnunen further explores the advantages of the HACCP approach for reducing the risk of AIS introduction.

Sea Grant 50th Anniversary: Celebrating the work of our Extension educators

Katy Hintzen is excited about projects and partnerships developing in the Saginaw Bay area.

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator Katy Hintzen works with youth at the Saginaw Bay Fishing Camp.

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator Katy Hintzen works with youth at the Saginaw Bay Fishing Camp. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

In 2016, the National Sea Grant College Program celebrates 50 years of putting science to work for America’s coastal communities.

Our Michigan Sea Grant Extension educators live and work in coastal communities around Michigan. We celebrate their hard work and take this opportunity to introduce each of them during this anniversary year.

Katy Hintzen, housed in Bay City and serving Arenac, Bay, Tuscola, Huron and Sanilac counties, has been an extension educator for one year. Before joining Sea Grant, she worked in policy and communications with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador, working with cattle ranchers to reduce deforestation in the Amazon watershed. Katy has a master’s degree from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment with a focus on environmental policy and environmental justice. She received her bachelor’s degree in history from McGill University with an emphasis in environmental history.

When she’s not working Katy loves camping, kayaking, and trail running her way through Michigan’s amazing nature. She grew up a mile from Lake Michigan and always feels a little claustrophobic in landlocked places.

What made you decide to be an extension educator?

I’m really interested in how local communities can play a more active role in natural resource conservation and research projects. Sea Grant is incredibly effective at this. Because Sea Grant works with universities, government agencies, and community stakeholders we are uniquely positioned to foster partnerships based on common conservation goals. Working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Great Lakes I saw a lot of Sea Grant’s work first hand so when an opening came up to join with the Extension program I jumped on it.

How has Michigan Sea Grant made a difference in the Saginaw Bay area?

Two big areas that Michigan Sea Grant has made an impact on in the Saginaw Bay region are environmental education and community resiliency. We support innovative environmental education initiatives such as a recent project with 150 students from across six different schools and youth groups to reduce runoff pollution by bringing rain barrels to their schools and the Saginaw Bay Fishing Camp, which educates young anglers about the science, skills, and ethics behind good fisheries stewardship. In addressing community resiliency, Sea Grant led an effort to survey close to 300 decision makers across the watershed gathering information on community preparedness for extreme storm events.

What challenges does your area of the state face as you look to the future?

The Saginaw Bay watershed is the largest watershed in Michigan covering more than 8,700 square miles. That means a land area larger than the state of Connecticut drains into one relatively shallow warm bay. Like Western Lake Erie or Green Bay in Wisconsin this results on some water quality challenges. Runoff from both urban and agricultural areas all ends up in the bay and brings with it a variety of contaminants including excess nutrients, bacteria, sediment, and heavy metals.

Habitat conservation is another major issue. The counties around Saginaw Bay have seen some of the largest rates of historic wetlands loss anywhere in the state. Despite that, the region still contains the largest contiguous freshwater coastal wetland system in the country. Saginaw Bay wetlands support a world class walleye fishery and a host of diverse bird species.

Finally community resiliency in the face of both natural and economic stressors is an important concern. The Saginaw Bay region is home to a diverse mix of urban and rural communities. These communities share a common vulnerability to natural stressors such as extreme storms and lake level fluctuations and economic stressors such as population loss and unemployment.

Portrait of Katy HintzenHow will you and Michigan Sea Grant help?

Michigan Sea Grant is involved in some exciting projects related to all of these issues. In water quality we are working as part of the outreach team to develop a new runoff risk forecasting tool for manure application. We are also partnering with the East Michigan Council of Governments to bring stormwater management and green infrastructure workshops to the region.

Sea Grant is developing partnerships with a variety of communities and economic development leaders across Michigan to advance sustainable natural resource based tourism such as kayaking and birding tails. This will help conserve valuable habitat while also bringing new economic opportunities to struggling coastal economies.

We are also continuing work on our Saginaw Bay watershed extreme storms project using feedback gained from our survey of decision makers to inform new outreach and education projects aimed at improving community resiliency to extreme storms.

Do you have any advice for students who might want to pursue a career with an environmental focus?

What I love most about the environmental field is how interdisciplinary it is. Science skillsets like ecology, biology, geology, or hydrology are incredibly important but we also need economists, lawyers, anthropologists, and communications specialists. Take every opportunity you can to partner with diverse teams from across different specialties.

If you could get people to follow just one piece of conservation advice what would it be?

Get engaged in the decision-making process. It’s one of the most impactful conservation actions you can take. A small number of people make the majority of decisions about how our Great Lakes and coastal resources are used. The Great Lakes are one of our nation’s most valuable resources. They belong to the public and we have a responsibility to make sure that while we are benefiting from and utilizing Great Lakes resources we are also preserving them for future generations.

Join a local watershed council or citizen’s advisory group, research and comment on proposed regulations, attend public meetings in your area, contact your elected officials and tell them what conservation issues are important to you. There are lots of options to get involved.

Sea Grant is a federal-state partnership that turns research into action by supporting science-based, environmentally sustainable practices that ensure coastal communities remain engines of economic growth in a rapidly changing world. There are 33 programs across the country working to help build and grow innovative businesses along America’s oceans and Great Lakes, protect against environmental destruction and natural disasters, and train the next generation of leaders.

Established in 1969, Michigan Sea Grant, is a collaboration between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. We offer research, education and community outreach on topics such as aquatic invasive species, coastal development, commercial and sports fishing, and environmental stewardship for youth.

Bay County Rain Barrel Display

Event Date: 8/9/2016
End Date: 9/2/2016

Rain barrel art project teaches lessons in water conservation

Bay County youth help beautify their schools, reduce runoff pollution.

Bay County students paint rain barrels as part of an environmental art project

Bay County students paint rain barrels as part of an environmental art project. The barrels will be on display at various locations in Bay County during August. Photo: Katy Hintzen | Michigan Sea Grant

Bay County youth are taking a creative approach to improving water quality and increasing the visibility of green infrastructure in their community. More than 150 youth and 30 educators from five different schools and youth organizations participated in a rain barrel art project organized by Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant and 4-H. The project was funded through a Community Action Grant from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network with matching contributions from The Andersons, Inc. and Bay County Farm Bureau.

Youth from Washington Elementary, Hampton Elementary, Bay County 4-H, the Bay County 4-H Tech Wizards Mentoring Program and MacGregor Elementary learned about the impacts of stormwater and runoff pollution on water quality and painted rain barrels to be used at their schools and local public buildings. The youth also researched and designed educational signs to explain how rain barrels help reduce runoff pollution and conserve water.

The rain barrels and signs will be featured in a public art display showcased at several locations around Bay City throughout August 2016. Through the art display, Bay County youth will share their knowledge of green infrastructure and encourage others to take their own actions to decrease stormwater runoff and improve water quality in local waterways.

The art display will open 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 9, 2016, at the Bay County Board of Commissioners meeting, 515 Center Ave., Bay City. After the barrels have been on display at various locations they will be installed for use at Bay City schools and public buildings.

The barrels will also be on display:

  • Aug. 11-13, 2016: Bay County Fair, 800 Livingston, Bay City, Mich.
  • Aug. 15-21, 2016: Bay City State Recreation Area, 3582 State Park Drive, Bay City, Mich.
  • Aug. 22-28, 2016: Alice and Jack Wirt Library, 500 Center Ave., Bay City, Mich.
  • Aug. 29-Sept. 2, 2016: Bay County Building, 515 Center Ave., Bay City, Mich.

Read more on rain barrels:

State releases Part 2 of its official Water Strategy

Protecting, promoting state’s freshwater resources are key goals.

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The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of the Great Lakes has just released Part 2 of its Water Strategy, which was developed after an extensive public engagement process during 2014-2016. The state released Part one on June 10, 2016. Two additional sections are expected to be released by the end of the summer.

During the press event on July 27, 2016, at Duck Lake’s Interlochen State Park beach in Grand Traverse County, state Office of the Great Lakes Director Jon Allan and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson, manager of the Michigan Waterways Commission, spoke of the strong state interest in making and keeping water at our front porch; of being universally accessible to all; and the wonderful system of harbors of refuge along the Great Lakes. In addition, an adaptive paddling demonstration was held with participants from the Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center in Grand Traverse County.

Michigan Sea Grant has been involved for the past few years with one of the state’s Water Strategy priority areas: Support investments in commercial and recreational harbors. Through the work of the Small Harbor Sustainability integrated assessment project (2014-ongoing), coastal communities have been looking at placemaking, waterfront access and long-term sustainability. Currently, the City of St. Ignace and the City of Rogers Cityare providing feedback to a draft sustainability toolkit and will be doing waterfront visioning during fall 2016 in each of their respective cities.

Michigan Sea Grant also has been involved with several other Water Strategy priority areas including developing and implementing a water trails system and preventing the introduction of new aquatic invasive species and controlling established populations.

As Gov. Snyder states in his forward to the Water Strategy “Michigan has an unparalleled system of thousands of lakes, streams, wetlands, beaches and groundwater resources. This vast water network – combined with our unique position within the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater system – provides us exceptional opportunities. But, it also means we have a great responsibility to ensure the healthiest water system in the world.”

Michigan Sea Grant can help with research and also with programs to help foster stewardship of our Great Lakes and coastal waters and we look forward to partnering with the state and others in a number of initiatives with this new Water Strategy.

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Marquette Water Safety and Recreation Expo

Event Date: 8/11/2016

Learn about dangerous currents and how to be safe in the water.

The 2016 Marquette Water Safety and Recreation Expo will offer information on dangerous currents and how to stay safe while in the water. Photo: Ron Kinnunen | Michigan Sea Grant

The 2016 Marquette Water Safety and Recreation Expo will offer information on dangerous currents and how to stay safe while in the water. Photo: Ron Kinnunen

Marquette beaches have several types of dangerous currents that can pose a threat to swimmers. Beachgoers will have an opportunity to learn about these dangerous currents during the Marquette Water Safety and Recreation Expo. The expo will be held 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 11, 2016, at McCarty’s Cove. It is sponsored by the National Weather Service, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant, the City of Marquette, U.S. Coast Guard, Northern Michigan University, and the YMCA of Marquette County.

The City of Marquette has numerous beaches that pose different types of hazards. Earlier this year two drownings occurred at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Little Presque Isle Recreation Area north of Marquette, which is an isolated beach area known for its channel currents. Several years ago two swimmers lost their lives at Middle Bay Beach at Presque Isle Park due to rip currents. Two other swimmers during that same summer lost their lives at Picnic Rocks due to channel currents. At Picnic Rocks fifteen drownings have occurred since 1963 and seven these have occurred since 1996.

Because of the dangerous currents that exist along the Marquette coastline the Marquette Waterfront Safety Task Force was formed to develop specific education and safety information for both residents and visitors to the area. The Task Force established a uniform beachfront signage and mapping program. Over the last couple of years Michigan Sea Grant through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Storms Program grant was able to provide the City of Marquette with water rescue equipment and loaner youth life jackets. Through this same program Michigan Sea Grant provided rescue equipment for three new rescue stations at Little Presque Isle Recreation Area where two recent drowning occurred. Since this equipment was deployed at Little Presque Isle Recreation Area one life has been saved. In addition, one person was saved this past winter that fell through the ice off Marquette with rescuers utilizing the deployed rescue equipment.

The Marquette Water Safety and Recreation Expo will be an opportunity to learn about how to save yourself or someone else if trapped in a dangerous current. It will also provide an opportunity to learn about dangerous current forecasts to help prevent getting into a life-threatening situation in the first place.

The National Weather Service and Michigan Sea Grant will supply information on Great Lakes rip currents and channel currents, the science behind rip currents and channel currents, and also on forecasts offered to advise people of rip current risk and dangerous lake conditions. The City of Marquette will provide maps of the Marquette beaches and the YMCA will have information on swimming and water recreation classes. In case of rain, the event will be held on Aug. 12, 2016, in the same location.