Sign of spring: Lake Michigan buoys back in the water

Ottawa County

PORT SHELDON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Lake Michigan buoys are back!

After months of waiting, the Port Sheldon and South Haven buoys returned to the water Wednesday for the upcoming season.

Each year, the buoys are pulled out for the winter so the ice won’t damage them, then redeployed each spring. The data they collect is used by researchers to help keep recreationalists safe. 

The buoys are very popular with boaters, beach-goers and fisherman. In fact, the Port Sheldon buoy’s website got 800,000 clicks last season alone.

Buoys kick out a steady stream of information on air temperature, water temperature, wind speed and wave height. They also have temperature sensors on the anchor line that stretch down from the surface of the water to the bottom of the lake, so fisherman can see how the water temperature changes with depth.

Buoy cameras grab video of the current conditions each hour so that anyone can see how rocky or tame the lake really looks. All of that data is located on the Great Lakes Observing System’s website.

Or, if you are away from a computer there is another feature called “text a buoy.” Smartphone users just send a text message to 866.218.9973 with the buoy ID number of 45029 and get a quick text response with the current conditions.

Both buoys are located about 3 miles offshore in Lake Michigan. The choice to have the buoys so close to the shore is intentional — there isn’t much information on how the lake is behaving close to the lakeshore, and these buoys are helping to fill that gap. 

LimnoTech maintains both buoys and has buoys throughout the Great Lakes. There is also a LimnoTech buoy in St. Joseph, although that buoy does not have a buoycam. 

The engineers that work on the buoys ask that people not get too close to the buoy when out visiting it on the water, and to not fish right by it as wrapped fishing lines can damage the equipment.

The Port Sheldon and South Haven buoys are funded purely by locals. Without West Michiganders pitching in, the buoys would remain grounded. To find out how you can donate, visit the LimnoTech website.

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