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Great Lakes Article:

In hot(ter) water
By Dominic Adams
The Bay City Times (MI)
Published August 11, 2005


Nicole Chartier looked out across Lake Huron as she lounged in the sun at the Caseville County Park beach.

It was her 17th birthday, and the lake's temperature was just right.

"It's perfect," said Chartier, a Bay City Western High School student. "I hate it when the water is really cold."

But is the water too warm?

Surface temperatures of the Great Lakes are measured by Coastwatch - a program that records environmental data and real-time observation of the Great Lakes. It is a combined effort by the Michigan Sea Grant Network and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The current temperature for Lake Huron is around 71.6, according to Coastwatch. The temperature at this time last summer was 65.8 degrees.

In Caseville, the water was nearly 79 degrees Tuesday.

Amanda Wise pulled her chair into the water in order to stay cool while getting her tan at Caseville's county beach.

"(The water) is a lot warmer than usual," said Wise, 18, of Gagetown, as waves bobbed over her shoulders and torso. "Usually the water's chillier, but the weather isn't any different."

Observers fear that increasing temperatures in both the air and the water this summer could lead to an even more intense algae bloom on Lake Huron.

"We almost always get an algae bloom in late August, and certainly high temperatures are a factor in that," said Rochelle Sturtevant, extension educator at the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network in Ann Arbor. "The late August blooms are usually a type of blue-green algae."

Sturtevant said the Bay City area usually sees microcystis, a liver toxin that can lead to sickness if large volumes are consumed. She said it is easily identified.

"It looks like someone took a green paintbrush across the top of the water," Sturtevant said.

But while she warned beach-goers to stay away from any water with visible algae, she also said it would likely cause only a skin irritation - a swimmer's itch-like rash.

It isn't just researchers who've noticed the high water temperatures.

Capt. Dan Manyen, of Walleye Express Charters in Essexville, said he can tell the water is warmer. But it isn't necessarily changing his fishing techniques.

Manyen said there are other factors that come into play when stalking walleye - like the presence of bait fish and the water's oxygen level.

"To really put your finger on what catches fish, you have to stay flexible," he said. "I've been in the hot ponds when it's been 90 degrees and caught one walleye after another. Walleye will tolerate any kind of heat as long as there's food."

But Manyen said the ideal surface water temperature for netting a trophy catch is 73 degrees.

Sturtevant said everything in the lake is tied together.

"All of biology is temperature-sensitive," she said. "Higher temperatures are going to increase bacteria growth, they are going to increase metabolic rates for anything living in the lakes.

"It also affects where there are going to be fish, so they are going to be seeking out cooler waters."

But any algae bloom won't keep Penny Bastian on the shore. Bastian drove from Kingston on her day off to play in the sand at Caseville with her 1-year-old daughter, Kali.

It was the first time this summer that the pharmacy technician was able to get away.

"I'd probably wade through it to the clean water," she laughed.

- Dominic Adams is a staff writer for The Times. He can be reached at 894-9647 or by e-mail at dadams@bc-times.com.

 

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