Boating in the Great Lakes

By Patrick Farrell June 2, 2021

Boat Insurance Boating Ettiquette Boating Fun

Boating in the Great Lakes: A Guide from the Safety Experts 

It’s no secret that the Great Lakes live up to their name in terms of size, as they cover 94,000 sq miles and accommodate 210,000 recreational boats

These lakes are also home to over two hundred fish species, including 160 native species, and offer fishermen an ocean-like experience but with a different variety of fish to catch. If you are starting to plan a fun fishing trip with friends, even your furry ones, or a family boating adventure, there is no place like the “Boating Capital of the World,” otherwise known as the Great Lakes. From diving, fishing, swimming, and other watersports, to exploring historical sites, encountering unique wildlife, admiring the stunning scenery, or accessing urban areas by boat, there are endless opportunities for fun. Similar to the ocean, boating, surfing, paddle boarding, fishing, etc. should be enjoyed with caution, due to the vast size of the Great Lakes and their sometimes less than favorable wind waves.

Why Boating (and Fishing) on the Great Lakes is “Nothing but a Dream”


Lake Huron

With easy access from Detroit and Windsor, Lake Huron is often a hotspot for fishermen or boaters out for a cruise. Everyone can enjoy the scenic nature of the limestone peninsula, fishing islands, and Mackinac Island, home to one of the world’s largest suspension bridges. Fishermen flock to Lake Huron to take advantage of the marvelous whitefish population and experience the best bass fishing in North America.

Lake Michigan

Another popular spot that is often crowded with boaters and fishermen, is Lake Michigan. This hub for watersports is known as the windiest of the Great Lakes, making it ideal for windsurfing and parasailing. Underwater, divers can marvel at the abandoned ruins of wrecks and above water, you might enjoy catching a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.

Lake Erie

Among the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie proves to be one of the best for fishing. As its waters are warm and shallow, Lake Erie is home to the greatest variety of fish and is wonderful for swimming, boating, and watersports.

Lake Ontario

If you had to choose between boating or fishing on Lake Ontario, we recommend boating. Many have dubbed this lake a “playground” for recreational boating, although the coastline caters best to smaller watercraft. The large collection of marinas and easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and St. Lawrence Seaways makes Lake Ontario easy and convenient to cruise the day away with friends, family, or your fur-babies.

Lake Superior

As the largest and most northern of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior experiences a shorter boating season with a smaller variety of fish for fishermen. Although swimming and watersports are less popular in Lake Superior, with its deep waters and cool temperatures, “Graveyard of theGreat Lakes,” or “Shipwreck Coast” prove to have fascinating locations for divers in the summer months. Boaters cannot help but adore this lake’s pure beauty, and adventure can be found nearby at Isle Royale National Park, which is only accessible by boat.

Safety Tips for Boating on the Great Lakes

While the Great Lakes are a breathtaking destination for a family trip or fishing with your friends, safety is of extreme importance when it comes to these waters. High waves reaching over six feet, rip currents, and other dangerous conditions often occur in the Great Lakes, especially during the early spring. Ice storms and high winds are common this time of year, even as the region experiences increasingly warmer and sunnier days. If you do plan to venture to the Great Lakes this time of year, be extra cautious and keep a close eye on the weather and water conditions so you can be prepared. If you are unsure if it is a safe day for boating, it may be best to stay on land and enjoy another activity, like visiting a lakeside town or touring lighthouses.

When it comes to the types of boats that are allowed in the Great Lakes, you can find everything from large speed boats, fishing boats, sailboats, jet skis, and even small ski boats. As conditions among the Great Lakes vary, it is important to be aware of the unfavorable wind, wave, and weather patterns that are not suitable for your type of boat or watercraft. For example, small boats should always be cautious and steer clear of heavy winds and large waves, while large boats need to be prepared with extra fuel and shorelines with shallow waters. All boats on the Great Lakes, especially sailboats, need to be on the lookout for jet skis, water skiers, and wakeboarders as well as pay close attention to wind predictions. Remember to brush up on basic boating safety tips and supply appropriate life jackets to everyone on board.

How to Protect Your Boat on the Great Lakes with NBOA Boat Insurance

Although the Great Lakes are fresh bodies of water, it is imperative that you rinse and wash your vessel after pulling it ashore. Zebra mussels have been infesting and spreading among the lakes and can cause harm if not properly taken care of. Aside from maintaining the cleanliness of your boat, keeping your watercraft protected from the conditions of the Great Lakes also means having the best boat insurance in Michigan. Here at NBOA, we make it easy to both purchase and protect your boat, with marine financing and NBOA membership benefits. Between the wind waves, tides, currents, storms, and reefs, the Great Lakes should be treated like the ocean, taking preventative measures in the event of a rough day on the water.

Experiencing the Great Lakes is an unforgettable excursion that everyone should have the pleasure of enjoying. Even if you were to sail and cruise the Great Lakes for a lifetime, you still may never be able to see it all. If you go far enough on each lake, you can lose sight of the shoreline in any direction and truly feel like you are in the middle of the ocean. However, with its large size comes a larger threat of dangerous conditions. Always be wary of winds, waves, and other watercrafts to ensure everyone’s safety on the Great Lakes.

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