News and views, and history and humor, about the lake I love.

"I can hear my granddad's stories of the storms out on Lake Erie, where vessels and cargos and fortunes, and sailors' lives were lost." ~ James Taylor, Millworker

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fishing with Gulls

Juvenile Herring Gull

When you fish in Lake Erie, even when you're by yourself, you're never along. Sea gulls are your constant companions, and they want the same thing you want: fish.

I went fishing Tuesday morning. There was a break in this raining, dreary weather we've been having and the morning broke with the sun in the east and a stiff southwest breeze, but nothing too serious. So my brother-in-law fired up the Lyman and we headed north about two or three miles, dropping anchor in close proximity to the green can buoy off the west side of Catawba.

We got off to a slow start. In fact, nothing was biting, but I noticed the anchor was dragging bottom, meaning we were on a rocky bottom. We starting getting the "junk" fish, namely sheepshead and also some white bass until, finally, the perch started hitting. Then I caught a good sized catfish that was a real fighter. A few of the perch were pretty nice -- in the 9-10 inch range -- but most were on the small side. Before long, of course, they started showing up. Think of them as uninvited guests for dinner.

I'm talking about sea gulls. At the first sign of a fish they seem to come out of nowhere. It's always the same. The first one arrives and moves into position near the boat, but usually at a respectful distance. Then two or three more show up and they start yacking -- vying for position, establishing who is going to be the dominant one and demand the best position, who is going to end up slinking around the fringes, and everyone in between. They scream and threaten. They posture. They are really like humans that way.

We paid little notice to the gulls. We were there to catch fish. After a while, though, I began to notice an unusually aggressive juvenile Herring gull in the crowd. The "juve's" are easily distinguished from the fully mature adults by their mottled brown feathers and black bill. Anyway, this guy I noticed was moving impatiently from one side of the boat to the other. At one point, as he passed over the anchor rope he suddenly out at the rope, pecking angrily at it. I thought to myself, Huh?

Then he started getting pretty closer to the boat. Now, a gull will often get close to the boat but won't actually attack your line or pole. But this guy was different. He started rushing at my brother-in-law's line every time it cleared the surface with a fish, or even with just a minnow on his hook. Then my B-I-L reeled in again and as soon as his hook cleared the water that gull grabbed the line and paddled away in a hurry, the hook set firmly in his bill.

My fishing partner did the only thing he could do -- he reeled him in and tried to get the hook out. The gull was quite a fighter, flapping like crazy and stabbing with his bill. I was finally able to get my hands around his wings and hold him still long enough for my B-I-L to get the hook out. Other than his bill bleeding a bit he seemed none the worse for wear. He swam away and kept ducking his head in the water. Finally he flew away. The other gulls had already taken off and were nowhere to be seen.

It was a good ten minutes before we had a new batch show up. I doubt that he'll be that aggressive in the future. We ended up with an okay catch of 32, including the catfish. We probably threw back twice that number, not counting the sea gull.

Once we were back on shore, it started to rain.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Toledo Lighthouse tours this weekend

Last month I reported that for the first time in over 50 years the public was being given an opportunity to tour the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse. That was during the Toledo Antique & Classic Boat Show. Unfortunately due to weather conditions the tour boat was able to land at the lighthouse on only one of the two days, so the Toledo Lighthouse Society let everyone know that they would be announcing future tour dates.

The upcoming tours are scheduled for Saturday, October 1 and Sunday October 2 between 10 & 4. The tours are weather dependent. There must be little to no wind for the tour boat to tie up at the lighthouse. If trips are canceled they will be posted on the Toledo Lighthouse Society website.  there is limited availability, so making a reservation in advance is required.

To tour the lighthouse, you have to be able to climb a rung ladder - about six rungs to the lighthouse deck - and sign a waiver of liability form. Flip-flops are not allowed and you must be physically able to climb the 76 steps to the top: three stories in the homelike part and three stories in the tower. Tours will be in groups of six, leaving from the marina at Maumee Bay State Park. The cost is $40 per person. The trip includes the boat ride to the lighthouse and the tour, which will last about one hour. In addition, all those touring are provided a ninety day membership to the Toledo Lighthouse Society.

To reserve a tour on October 1st or 2nd, send an email to including your name, address, phone number and your preferred time of 10am, 12pm, or 2pm. You will be given a time on the half hour in the two hour block. You will be called to provide a credit card number to hold the reservation.

If your would like to be notified of future tours send an email to Dan Hall at providing your name, phone and email. 

States seek solutions to feared Asian Carp invasion

Lake Erie border states Ohio and Pennsylvania are among five states pressing a federal lawsuit demanding the physically separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi systems in a move to try to  prevent invasive species such as Asian carp from migrating between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. And a coalition of attorneys general from 16 states want to push Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite a plan for severing the connection between the two giant drainage basins that engineers constructed a century ago in Chicago rivers and canals.

The Army Corps is working on a long-range study of methods for cutting off potential avenues for species to transfer between the two basins, including separating them by installing dams or other structures. But they say the study won't be completed until 2015, and carrying out whatever the agency recommends could take many more years. Environmental activists, state and local officials, Indian tribes and others across most of the Great Lakes region are pleading with the Corps to move faster. Five states -- Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- are suing to make them.

Many of the states have suffered ill effects of invasions by species such as zebra and quagga mussels, which hitched rides from central Europe to the Great Lakes in the ballast tanks of oceangoing freight ships. After they had colonized the Great Lakes, they moved into the Mississippi basin and have infested waterways as far south as the Arkansas River and west to Lake Mead, which supplies water for drinking and irrigation to much of southern Nevada, southern California and Arizona.

The Corps operates an electric barrier designed to prevent fish from swimming between the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins. Although the agency says it is working well, scientists have detected Asian carp DNA in water samples beyond the barrier, prompting fears that the barrier has failed.

Meanwhile, New York State is poised to begin enforcement of tough new ballast rules next year, but industry groups, members of congress and some Federal officials are pushing back hard, arguing that the regulations set standards that can't be met by existing technology. The want New York's rules scrapped. And they're lobbying the EPA to create national ballast water guidelines that are far less strict.

Many scientists, environmentalists and politicians say that it's only a matter of time before carp eat their way northward into the ultimate Great Lakes bulls-eye: warm, shallow and fish-rich Lake Erie.

Let's look on the bright side. Maybe when the carp get here they'll chow down on all the zebra mussels and goby, and then chase it with a nice helping of algae.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The green stuff is still out there

In case you've been wondering if all the green stuff is still out there on the lake, read on. According to the latest Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Bulletin, issued by NOAA on Thursday, a Microcystis bloom persists in Western Lake Erie. Analysis indicates that winds have transported the bloom up the Michigan Coast. The high winds likely mixed and stressed the bloom. It is expected there is additional biomass within the western basin that would likely resurface with low wind stress. Water temperatures remain high enough to allow continued maintenance of the bloom.

Translation: the green still is going to be with us a while longer, at least until the water cools down a bit more. Here you can view the latest HAB Bulletin in its entirety.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Statue of young fisherman graces downtown Port Clinton

I've been wanting to post a pic of the new statue at the corner of North Madison and Perry streets in Port Clinton depicting a small boy proudly displaying a fish he'd just caught. The boy stands on a two-tier pedestal that bears a plaque reading, "Kiwanis Club of Port Clinton, Est. 1920."

Bravo to the Kiwanis Club for coughing up about $11,000 for the project, which was mostly donated by club members, although some non-members also chipped in. Mayor Debbie Hymore-Tester unveiled the statue earlier this month.

Joan Bryden, the president of the Kiwanis Club, told the Port Clinton News-Herald the idea of a child fishing came to her one day while she sat on her porch and some 12- or 13-year-old boys walked by her, ready to go fishing.

I like it. It reminds me of my own youth and all the fishing I did; all those perch I caught. There's something timeless about it. And it's a lot better than having another walleye in town.

There will be a naming contest for the boy soon. Bryden said the name will be announced at this year's Walleye Drop.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

DOE grants to measure wind potential of lake and lower costs, but is it too little, too late?

Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Energy announced the awarding of $43 Million in grants to "speed technical innovations, lower costs, and shorten the timeline for deploying offshore wind energy systems." Lake Erie will play a significant part in research resulting from these grants.

A $700,000 grant to Indiana University is to fund a project that "will integrate wind data from remote sensing, aerial and satellite measurements, and meteorological towers to produce a high resolution wind characterization for Lake Erie." IU's Rebecca Barthelmie will oversee a consortium that includes scientists from six institutions and companies in the U.S. and Europe. The study will measure offshore wind and turbulence in the lake. The team will use remote sensing technologies, including an unmanned aerial vehicle, to produce a three-dimensional analysis of Lake Erie's offshore winds.

Another grant award of $500,000 will go toward Northeast Ohio’s offshore wind energy development in Lake Erie geared toward long-term cost reductions. The lead grant recipient is Freshwater Wind, a private Cleveland-based developer selected by Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) for the initial 20-30 megawatt offshore wind project.

The Freshwater Wind grant will comprehensively assess offshore wind systems to optimize performance in shallow water environments generally found throughout the Great Lakes. “This award from the DOE validates the work done thus far by LEEDCo and Freshwater Wind and confirms the Lake Erie project is the farthest advanced project in the Great Lakes. Our next step is to gain policy backing from Ohio that will ensure Ohio remains in a leadership position,” said Chris Wissemann, Managing Director at Freshwater Wind in a press release.

LEEDCo's press release about the grant played up the job creation aspect of wind energy. “This grant is a seed toward starting a new industry. While we understand that a core challenge is lowering costs, it can be done. All things considered, our learning curve will be much smaller compared to that seen in Europe – an industry now employing more than 40,000,” said Dr. Lorry Wagner, LEEDCo President.

The $43 million grant package is part of the DOE’s recent push to speed technical innovations, lower costs, and shorten the timelines for deployment. While offshore wind costs are currently higher than those of conventional energy sources and onshore wind energy, the DOE has a goal of 20% wind power by 2030 and at a cost similar to other energy generation systems by 2020. There are currently no offshore wind projects in the U.S.

At about the time DOE was announcing the grants, Cleveland’s utility, Cleveland Public Power, agreed to purchase 20% of the renewable energy produced by the five-turbine, 20 megawatt pilot wind farm five to ten miles offshore of Cleveland, being developed by LEEDCo. Construction on the initial phase is tentatively scheduled to commence in late 2012. This announcement by Cleveland Public Power was seen as an effort to encourage other utilities to jump on the wind energy bandwagon.

Then, just five days ago, an ambitious plan for as many as 150 large turbines in Lake Erie off Buffalo's shoreline was halted, according to a New York state lawmaker with firsthand knowledge. Interestingly, both the Buffalo and Cleveland wind farms claimed to be the nation's "first" freshwater wind farm.

It seems that wind power on Lake Erie is off to a rocky start, even as the federal government appears committed to developing this technology. Clearly we have to do something. The reality is that our lawmakers saw the end of oil coming decades ago, saw the security issues involved, and chose to do nothing. They took bushel baskets full of campaign contributions from big oil while scoffing at renewables. And we allowed them to do it. We put all of our energy eggs in one big barrel of Middle East crude and now we are fighting wars, and spending obscene amounts of money, as a result. Shame on them, and shame on us.

Within a few years we may see huge propellers spinning out over the lake, when what we really need is a giant gust of common sense propelling us back to reality.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Property owners claim victory in Supreme Court case

Ohio property owners who live along the shore of Lake Erie are rejoicing over last week's ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that the lake's "natural shoreline" is a boundary that separates private property from public recreation.

The court ruled for the plaintiff - the property rights advocacy group calling itself Ohio Lakefront Group - overturning a 2009 appellate court ruling that said property lines along the shoreline change with the water level and that the land beneath the water is open to the public and land above the waterline belongs to property owners.

The case originates with former Republican Gov. Bob Taft, who ordered the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to charge lakefront owners a leasing fee to place docks in Lake Erie. The owners sued in 2004, arguing they owned the land under their docks. The policy requiring leases was suspended when Gov. Ted Strickland took office.

Defendants in the case, the state and the Ohio Environmental Council, argued that land extending inward from the lake to a "high-water mark" established in 1985 by the Army Corps of Engineers falls under the state's public trust authority, keeping portions of the shoreline public.

Property owners countered that the high-water mark is an unreasonable benchmark that in some cases reaches into back yards. They argued that the natural boundary is either the water's edge or even a few feet inside the lake to a "low-water mark." Property owners argued that their deeds recognize their property line as the lake, and they pay property taxes accordingly. But ODNR officials insisted they have exercised authority over dry land close to the water for more than 100 years.
It was not necessarily a clean sweep for property owners. The Supreme Court's ruling made clear, for instance, that shoreline property owners could not extend their property with "artificial fill," such as sand or a lakefront development. Some parts of the ruling are open to interpretation.
And despite the property owner's claim of victory, the Ohio Environmental Law Center sees it differently, stating on its website that "the practical effect of the court’s rationale is to establish the line as the ordinary high water mark."
But State Senator Tim Grendell probably summed it up best in his statement following the ruling: "This decision makes it clear that property owners are not required to share their backyards."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lake Sturgeon: Sad tale of an endangered species

From the author's collection
Said the Sturgeon to the Eel
Just imagine how I feel*
If you want to point to a fish that has been a bellwether of what we have done to Lake Erie's fishery, look no further than the Lake Sturgeon. These monster bottom fish use to be plentiful in the lake, particular the islands area here in the west end. Now they are an endangered species. How they got that way is a sad story.

An indigenous species, the Lake Sturgeon is an evolutionarily ancient bottom feeder that dates back to the last ice age. They flourished for centuries in Lake Erie's shallow, warm waters.  The largest of Great Lakes fish, these magnificent fish can reach eight feet in length, attain weights exceeding 300 pounds, and live to be 100 years of age. The largest recorded Great Lakes sturgeon was 310 pounds and almost 8 feet long, caught in Batchawana Bay in Lake Superior in 1922.

Despite the presence of an exceedingly profitable Great Lakes commercial fishing industry during the 19th century, prior to the 1860s fishermen considered sturgeon a nuisance fish, becoming entangled in nets and ripping them to pieces. Even worse, they were like vacuum cleaners, sucking up the eggs of the "valuable species" -- like whitefish -- by the gallon. In the words of one Lake Erie fisherman, quoted in 1894, "A sturgeon is like a hog in a hen roost. They go around and suck up all the spawn there is...."

They were dealt with accordingly: wounded and thrown back to scare other sturgeon away from fishing grounds; killed and stacked on shore like cordwood; fed to pigs; used as fertilizer; or simply left to rot. Fishermen rationalized this waste as a way to make good money and ensure the longevity of commercial species.

Then in 1865 the brothers Siemon and John Schacht began a commercial fishing business in Sandusky, Ohio, harvesting Lake Sturgeon for caviar, smoked sturgeon, and oil (to be used as fuel in steamboat boilers and lamps). They had previously harvested sturgeon on the Delaware River. Seeing their success, other firms soon joined in, and suddenly sturgeon became a commercially viable species.

To give some sense of how plentiful these large fish were, in 1871 a 1872 a government biologist made a special report on the Great Lakes fishery in which he noted a catch off Sandusky of 14,000 sturgeon, taken with eighty-five pound nets, that weighed in at 700,000 pounds. This catch was larger than any other on the Great Lakes except Green Bay, Wisconsin.

What happened next was all too familiar. Over-harvesting in the latter half of the 19th century took a terrible toll on the sturgeon. By 1893-94 they had "declined disastrously" in the face of aggressive commercial harvesting, a situation that only worsened into the next century, so that by the 1920s their numbers had been decimated. But despite subsequent conservation efforts, their numbers never recovered in the lake, although there are robust populations on Lake St. Clair and the Niagara River.

One reason for their failure to recover in Lake Erie seems to be loss of habitat. Chuck Murray with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission explains:
Historically, there were open lake spawning populations, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. The most notable spawning populations are in the rivers, like the Niagara and the Huron-Erie corridor. We have the shoals and other areas where there's the wave action they like for spawning, but is the habitat enough for a viable population? I think that's doubtful, but it's one of the things the sturgeon work group may look into.
I could find no reliable estimate of current sturgeon numbers in Lake Erie. In 2009 the catching of a few sturgeon by perch fishermen near Erie created some excitement but no one is expecting a sudden resurgence of these large bottom feeders.

They will likely remain an endangered species into the foreseeable future.

*From Fishing the Great Lakes: An Environmental History, 1783-1933, by Margaret Beattie Bogue (University of Wisconsin Press, 2000). This book is recommended reading for anyone interested in the history of commercial fishing on the Great Lakes.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vermilion waterfront mansion on the market for $19.5 million

For a mere $19.5 million you can pick up 160 acres of lakefront property. As reported by The Plain Dealer, the Vermilion mansion was home to inventor Donald Brown and his wife, Shirley, who died in a plane crash last year. Brown was best known for inventing the drop ceiling. Ironically, Waterwood Estate, as it is called, has only one drop ceiling. Perhaps a case of being sick of seeing your own creation.

Waterwood Estate features several rotating floors, two indoor pools, a private marina and a helicopter landing pad - helicopter sold separately, of course.

This beauty won't last long, I'm guessing. There's a billionaire out there somewhere right now telling his aide to get on the phone with the realtor and start negotiating. After all, it is a buyers market.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Algae Bloom: There's Good News and Bad News

MERIS image from the European Space Agency. Imagery shows the spectral shape at 681 nm from September 14, where colored pixels indicate the likelihood of the last known position of the Microcystis spp. bloom (with red being the highest concentration). Microcystis spp. abundance data from shown as white squares (very high), circles (high), diamonds (medium), triangles (low) , + (very low) and X (not present).
The latest Algal Bloom Bulletin from NOAA states that, while the Microcystis is still blooming in Western Lake Erie, "The concentrations, particularly on the surface have been greatly reduced since last week." This is most likely because of the increased wind stress of the last few days, which mixes up the surface mass. 

That's the good news. The bad news is: "Forecast wind stress is low and water temperatures are still warm, therefore, the bloom biomass is expected to resurface over the weekend." Because much of the biomass is subsurface, it's not visible to the satellite. The forecast is for westward transport, however it is likely that any westward transport will be overwhelmed by resurfacing cells.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another Splendid Sunset

When I saw the sky this evening I had to grab the camera and run outside to film it. Enjoy!

Commemorating the 198th Anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie

On Saturday I posted a pic of the wreath ceremony held out in Lake Erie to commemorate the 198th anniversary of Oliver Hazard Perry's famous victory, and promised to post some more, so here they are.

There was a light rain Saturday morning as I headed to the Miller Boat Line dock at the end of Catawba Island to catch the ferry to Put-in-Bay, so I feared the worst. In the end, though, it was a near-perfect day for what we had to do, the heat of the sun kept at bay by a cloud cover, and after some light drizzle the rain did not return.

Once on South Bass Island (where the town of Put-in-Bay is located), I caught the bus into town and walked the short distance to the Jet Express dock. There the Perry Group had a table set up to check off the invited attendees as they arrived. I was given a name tag and told to go on board the Neah Bay. This is a large U.S. Coast Guard Cutter and a beautiful ship. A large group of us was soon assembled, several dozen at least, and we were herded on board.

On the aft deck a petty officer briefed us on where we could and could not go on board. I finally met Dave Savagno who is the driving force behind the Perry Group's ambitious effort to coordinate a D-Day-sized Bicentennial worthy of the hero of Lake Erie himself. The wreath-lay ceremony seemed to be a dry run, of sorts, for the much elaborate series of events slated to take place two years from now. Aside from garnering the cooperation of the Coast Guard, Dave brought on board representatives of the National Park Service, leaders from the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce, and even a bona fide member of the Patawatame Tribe in Michigan.

We chugged slowly out of the bay and into the open waters of Lake Erie where we picked up steam. Once we were well under way, two guys with the National Park Service on Put-in-Bay, dressed in period costume as U.S. Marines, talked about the Battle of Lake Erie. (above photo) Their talks were informative and put everyone in the mood for the ceremony to follow. Many people are not aware that, with a shortage of sailors (this was true of both sides), Perry took whomever he could get. Among the more then 500 manning his ships were native Americans, militiamen, Army soldiers, and U.S. Marines.

About ten miles out we idled to a stop and the ceremony began with the Coast Guard Commander reading the names of some of the men who died 198 years ago out on the lake. Then native American from Michigan came out and explained what he was about to do. He had fashioned his own wreath to place in the water, a design based on the traditional 'medicine wheel.' (photo below)

After reciting a blessing in English, he sang a traditional native song. The crowd of people on that ship found it very moving. (photo below)

When he had finished, Dave Savagno and another member of the Perry Group brought out their wreath and after another brief blessing, tossed it over the rear of the ship into the lake. (photo below) As a final tribute, everyone present was asked to toss a flower into the lake after the wreath. The head of the Park Service contingent on Put-in-Bay handed out the white flowers and a line formed at the rear of the ship.

It was a moving ceremony and has come to be an annual event for the last several years now. In the coming weeks I will provide details of the proposed plans for the Bicentennial celebration, which promises to be one of the biggest single event (actually, series of events) the north shore has ever seen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Island Splendor

I had the opportunity to head out to to South Bass Island this past weekend and was able to snap some nice shots. I'll share a few with you in this post. On Saturday I climbed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay as we headed out about ten miles out for a ceremony commemorating those who died in the Battle of Lake Erie. I posted briefly on that and will have more for you later this week. But for now, enjoy these pics.

If you follow my blog you know that I reported on and posted photos of a blue Amphicar I spotted at the boat show in Huron earlier this summer. This red one, from what I was told, is owned by someone who resides at Put-in-Bay. On Saturday they were tooling around the harbor. Last I saw it the car was driving ashore on Gibraltar Island.
The South Bass Island Light sits majestically on the west side of South Bass Island, looking out over the waters of Lake Erie, with a Miller Boat Line ferry and a small boat nearby.
A bright red buoy bounces gently in the lake with uninhabited Green Island in the background.
The imposing granite edifice of the Perry's Monument and International Peace Memorial displays scaffolding, announcing to the world it's still being renovated. Park Service officials hope to see the observation deck open to visitors by summer.
Many took advantage of OSU's open house of its research facility at Gibraltar Island. Two boats carried a regular stream of visitors to the island. Here one of them cruises past a trimaran.
The high cliffs that are a feature of the north side of Gibraltar Island are apparent in this photo.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Honoring the Fallen

One hundred and ninety eight years ago a furious battle raged in Lake Erie somewhere off West Sister Island between two squadrons of ships, one American and one British, for control of Lake Erie.

Today another squadron, consisting of citizens determined to honor the fallen from that battle, put to sea aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay and, at a spot somewhere near the original battle, placed a wreath, fashioned from red, white, and blue flowers, into the water.

The Battle of Lake Erie was one of the epic battles from the War of 1812. Its outcome firmly established the Americans as in control of Lake Erie, and the Northwest Territory. The solemn ceremony held today was a continuing remembrance of those who fought and died in that epic battle. Those present were also mindful that in two years we will be celebrating the battle's bicentennial, which will, in itself, be an epic event for this region.

I will provide more photos and commentary from this event soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Antidote for yucky weather

The weather this week has been windy, rainy, and downright gloomy, so let's look at some classic boats from the recent show in Toledo, shall we?

Herreshoff America, a 'modern' fiberglass catboat but with the classic lines that harken back to an earlier time

Latest HAB Bulletin shows a "massive" bloom persists

MERIS image from the European Space Agency. Imagery shows the spectral shape at 681 nm from September 03, where colored pixels indicate the likelihood of the last known position of the Microcystis spp. bloom (with red being the highest concentration). Microcystis spp. abundance data from shown as white squares (very high), circles (high), diamonds (medium), triangles (low) , + (very low) and X (not present). (Courtesy NOAA)
Nowcast position of Microcystis spp. bloom for September 08 using GLCFS modeled currents to move the bloom from the September 03 image, above. (courtesy NOAA)
According to a Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Bulletin issued September 8th, a massive Microcystis bloom persists throughout most of Lake Erie's Western Basin. 

Here's the NOAA Analysis, as taken from the HAB Bulletin: As indicated in satellite imagery from Saturday (9/3/2011), an enormous Microcystis bloom was present in western Lake Erie. The southern extent of the bloom was remotely observed along the coast of Ohio from Maumee Bay to Catawba Island. The northern extent of the bloom was observed to be consistent along the Michigan coast from Northern Maumee Bay to the mouth of the Detroit River. The eastern-most portion of the bloom was observed past Point Pelee and to the northeast up in to Rondeau Provincial Park.

At the mouth of the Detroit River, a five day nowcast shows a southward suppression of the western-most portions of the bloom. However, the bloom is likely to still persist in much of the Western Basin. The nowcast also suggest the bloom has spread to the east of Sandusky and into the Cleveland area. (Note: Due to a lack of clear imagery the bloom has not been remotely observed in the Cleveland area.) A three day forecast also suggests that the bloom will persist to the north of Cleveland through the weekend. Water temperatures remain above 20 degrees Celsius and are forecast to decrease into the weekend; however, conditions remain favorable for bloom growth.

You can download a PDF of the HAB Bulletin here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lake Erie Living Photo Contest

2010 First Place winner, 'Marblehead Lighthouse,' taken by Thomas Liskai of Helena, Ohio
If you fancy yourself a photographer,  you could have a chance to win a $500 gift certificate and other prizes by entering the Lake Erie Living Photography Contest. The contest is open to amateur photographers who are at least 18 years old. People who derive more than half their annual income from photography and employees of Great Lakes Publishing are not eligible to enter. One grand prize winner will be selected as well as first place winners in each of the three categories: nature and wildlife, architecture and the man-made environment, and people. Winning photos will be featured in the March/April issue of Lake Erie Living magazine.

Amateur photographers may submit up to three previously unpublished color or black-and-white images, taken in the last three years and captured somewhere within a 30-mile radius of Lake Erie (both the U.S. and the Canadian sides of the lake). Photos must be at least 300 dpi resolution.

Photographers can submit up to three previously unpublished color or black-and-white images, taken in the last three years, and captured somewhere within a 30-mile radius of Lake Erie (both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the lake). The three contest categories are drawn from those subjects of special interest to Lake Erie Living magazine. Photos submitted via mail will not be returned.

Copyright of the image remains the property of the photographer. Entry into the contest constitutes consent to use, reproduce, print, publish, transmit, distribute, sell, adapt, enhance or display submissions for any purpose, in any media, by Lake Erie Living's publisher, for no other consideration beyond photographer credit.

All entrants must hold all rights to a photograph. For a photo in which a person is recognizable, the entrant must acknowledge they have sufficient written permission of anyone appearing in the image to grant Lake Erie Living the right to publish their photo. Photographs previously published or pending publication, or photos that violate or infringe upon another person's copyright, are not eligible.

Lake Erie Living will not accept digitally or otherwise enhanced or altered photos. Minor adjustments, including spotting, dodging, and burning, contrast and slight color adjustments or the digital equivalents, are okay. If the judges see that a photographer has obviously altered a photo, they reserve the right to disqualify it.
You can enter either via email or snail mail. If you are using email, send your submission to along with your name, phone number, address and a brief description of the photo, including where it was taken. If submitting via regular mail, entries should be unmounted prints made from the original negative, slide or digital file. Prints should be at least 5x7, and no larger than 8x12. Images will not be returned. Please include your name, phone number, address and a brief description of the photo, including where it was taken. Send photos to:

2011 Lake Erie Living Photo Contest
Lake Erie Living Magazine
1422 Euclid Ave., Ste. 730
Cleveland, Ohio 44115

Deadline for the contest is Oct. 3, 2011. For more information and complete contest rules, go to the Lake Erie Living Photography Contest page.

Finger pointing over cause of phosphorus won't heal a dying lake

Sewage from municipal plants in Detroit, Toledo and other cities along Lake Erie contribute just as much phosphorus to the lake as manure and fertilizer runoff from farms,  according to a U.S. Geological Survey study. Phosphorus, a byproduct of sewage, fertilizers and manure, is responsible for the toxic blue-green algae that excrete liver and nerve toxins which can sicken people and kill fish and wildlife.

The study's finding that cities are just as much to blame as farms for toxic algae polluting Lake Erie comes as a surprise to Ohio's scientists, who previously thought that farm runoff was responsible for as much as 60 percent of phosphorus in Lake Erie, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

I have reported extensively on the algae issue and pass along Harmful Algal Bloom Bulletins as soon as I receive them. The algae threaten Lake Erie's $10 billion-a-year fishing and tourism industry. Algae cause "dead zones" in parts of Lake Erie and other bodies of water where no oxygen exists, making them uninhabitable.

The current bloom of algae in Lake Erie has caused public beaches at Maumee Bay and Kelley's Island to issue health warnings.

Peter Richards, a water-quality researcher at Heidelberg University's National Center for Water Quality Research, told the Columbus Dispatch that there is some discrepancy in the data; however, Geological Survey research hydrologist Dale Robertson said he stands by his computer modeling, which shows that sewage plant cleanup ordered by the government in the 1980s didn't cut enough phosphorous.

Maumee River is the leading supplier of phosphorous into Lake Erie, with 82.6 percent of it coming from farms, according to Heidelberg.  The second largest source of phosphorus is the Detroit River, with nearly 75 percent coming from sewage-treatment plants.

According to the study, here is how it breaks down: 42.1 percent of Lake Erie's phosphorous comes from sewage, 43.6 coming from farms, while the remaining nearly 15% comes from decaying plant matter in forests and lawn fertilizer that gets washed into storm sewers.

Sandy Bihn of Lake Erie Waterkeeper said officials should order further phosphorous cuts at Detroit's sewage treatment plant. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio's largest farm trade group, was quick to concur. The federation has been saying that farms are not solely to blame for algae in Ohio's lakes and ponds.

It looks like farms and sewage are about equally responsible here, with farms having a slight edge. But the larger point, I think, is that we know what's causing the explosion of phosphorus in the lake, so rather than fight over who's more at fault, or point fingers, we need to take action NOW. For the sake of the lake, the health of our families, and out very future.

To really understand and appreciate the problem, read Lake Erie Death Watch by Barry Yeoman.

Here's what I don't understand: Millions of people like myself enjoy all that Lake Erie has to offer and appreciate its large significance as a source of sustainable fresh water for ourselves and future generations, as well as an engine of economic health for the many millions of people who live near its shores. Erie has more consumable fish than all the other Great Lakes combined, provides drinking water for 11 million people, and is a major recreational and tourist attraction. It's of one of Ohio’s top economic engines, providing thousands of jobs and nearly a billion dollars in economic activity to the state.

So why are we treating it like a sewer?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Huron Boat Show Pics

Here's a few more pics from the Huron All Classics Boat Show. I've got tons. Pics 2 through 4 are of an impeccable classic Meteor, which won Best in Show and I'm told is a perennial winner. That seems to irritate my brother-in-law to no end. Pics 1 and 5 are Chris Craft, of course. In pic 6 my brother-in-law lounges with his a friend on the latter's 31-foot Chris.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Algae bloom persists in Western Lake Erie

MERIS image from the European Space Agency. Imagery shows the spectral shape at 681 nm from August 28, where colored pixels indicate the likelihood of the last known position of the Microcystis spp. bloom (with red being the highest concentration). Microcystis spp. abundance data from shown as white squares (very high), circles (high), diamonds (medium), triangles (low) , + (very low) and X (not present). Please note: Colored pixels in Sandusky Bay are due to a mixed bloom dominated by Planktothrix spp. (Image caption from the HAB Bulletin - Courtesy NOAA)
The latest HAB Bulletin, issued yesterday based on imagery acquired on August 28th, states that a large Microcystis bloom continues in Western Lake Erie. Due to a large cloud present the models do not show the protential full extent of the bloom. Wind conditions and high temperatures are conducive for bloom intensification. View a PDF of the bulletin, with imagery, here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Awesome pics from the storm

A friend provided these awesome pics that his brother-in-law took during the storm here in the Lake Erie Islands area a few weeks ago and he was kind enough to allow me to share them with you. They were shot from Put-in-Bay. I find them beautiful, haunting...and scary!