Lake Michigan Hunting

    The following is a letter that I received by e-mail and my answer contains information that I have covered before in this newsletter. I pray that the information will be helpful to each of you water hunters.

"Hello Al:

I was given your contact info by Bob in response to a request on the Find's Metal Detecting Forum. I hunt the surf around Bermuda with a Minelab Excalibur 1000, and I was hoping to get your advice on good areas to hunt in Lake Michigan around Grand Haven and Saugatuck. I will be there next week 15th to 22nd and would like to get a little hunting in while I'm there.

Thanks for any and all advice.

Hi Treasure Hunter;

    You caught me on one of those really busy weeks where I am really pushed for time. That is why this is going to be short and to the point.

    The most productive beaches are always the busiest beaches, and Grand Haven is one of them. I must warn you that at the large beach at Saugatuck, the Oval Beach, there is a fee, and it is no place for a family, because of uncontrolled open and on-display homosexual activity! It pains me to think we have sunken this far in our society!

    The busiest beach of all on this side of Lake Michigan is Warren Dunes to the south. But you just never know what you will find, or where you will find it. There is very little difference in water hunting here then much anywhere else, but I can think of two tips for you.

    The Excalibur is one of the best underwater detectors on the market today, but not the best machine for the western side of Lake Michigan because of all the buried iron junk. During the 1800's, and up to the mid 1900's, Lake Michigan was a maritime traffic jam! You had schooners, barges, and steam ships of every description. All of this activity meant thousands of shipwrecks! Even if this wreckage was located near the western shoreline, eventually anything that could float would end up on Michigan beaches!

    To make a nasty task more enjoyable, this wreckage was gathered up by the locals in huge piles and allowed to dry. Then, at a pre-determined time, every available body, young and old, would get together for a huge bonfire and party! Mingled with this wooden wreckage were countless nails, bolts, iron washers, metal roofing material and other metal scrap. After the big fire, the remaining cleanup was left to the wind and shifting sands.

    The problem that this creates for you is that you have to reject the iron or you will go nuts! The Excalibur has a very slow recovery speed. To explain this, the way that all motion discriminators reject junk is that they read the target signature, then if it is supposed to reject something, the machine shuts itself down. After that it automatically reboots or restarts itself. You will know when this happens because your 'threshold-hum' disappears for a time, then it returns. Because your detector is multi- frequency and was designed around an older processor, the recovery time is very slow. What I am trying to say is that when your threshold is gone, you are not detecting, because your machine is off!

    If you scatter a few nails around inside a 4 square-foot area, and mix in a couple of coins and a gold ring, chances are you will not be able to get any good signal, no matter how hard you try. This problem is even more exaggerated with the larger coil that you have. The best you can do is work at a very slow pace and pause when the threshold disappears. If you are moving along quickly when this happens, slowly turn around and work back in the direction of that piece of junk that you rejected to see what you may have missed. That is why, in many areas of Lake Michigan, the Fisher 1280-X and CZ-20 work best. It is because they have a lightning fast recovery speed. They drop out for a piece of junk, then they are back up instantly.

    Not all of the Lake Michigan shoreline is bad, but there are many areas which really are! I know of some areas where, if you are in iron reject setting, the Excalibur is nearly worthless or "off". Usually, the worst areas are at the port cities like Grand Haven, because of the increased shipping activity. ( I have never detected there, so I am not sure)

    Also, Lake Michigan is like an underwater desert where the sand is always moving around! Divers have told me that in some areas they can mark the location of a fully exposed shipwreck and return a month later and not be able to see it! That's because of the ever moving and shifting sand. For Lake Michigan, we have a saying about water hunting, "Work the troughs." On one day, you can walk into the lake and, at about 25 feet out from shore, you are in chest deep water. Then, you may walk up onto a sand bar where it is only waist or knee deep. It is tempting to detect that sand bar because it is soft sand, easy to dig, and just plain comfortable! The only problem is, there is nothing there! The good stuff is under the sand bar, down with the rocks and that trash! On one day the sand bar may be out at 25 feet and one day later you will find it only 10 feet out. Sometimes the changes are very slow and may take a month! But at other times, it can change in less than one hour!

    It is when the sandbar is close to shore when the real trouble strikes! We have an extremely dangerous condition at times called an "undertow" or "rip currents." That is where you have currents under the water surface that are moving in a different direction than the surface water, and these conditions really can move the sand! In those conditions, the sand under your feet seems to disappear and the best of swimmers have been killed! They say if you are caught off shore in this condition, the best thing to do is to not swim toward shore, but swim parallel to the shore until you escape the rip current. It is serious business on our side of Lake Michigan!

    If they have the undertow signs up, it is best to detect on shore! On July 4th, 2005, rip currents killed 7 people at Warren Dunes, all within the same hour!

    Although the sand bar will support your weight in the 'non-undertow' conditions, it will not support a gold ring at all! We tied a fine fishing line to a gold ring and to the other end we tied to a small piece of driftwood. We tossed it in the shallow water and checked on it after a couple of hours. In that amount of time, the ring had sunk a couple of feet! So now you know why we say, "Work the troughs."

RIP CURRENTS are formed along the shore of Lake Michigan when :

1. The winds cause waves to break on the shallow underwater sandbar near the beach.

2. The water is pushed over the submerged sandbar, but cannot easily return lakeward. Excess water is held on the beach slightly above the normal lake level by the addition of water from the on-coming waves.

3. Eventually, the excess water starts to flow back into the lake through low areas in the sandbar.

4. Water rushing back into the lake "rips" an opening in the sandbar, much like pulling the plug in a bathtub. Lake Michigan swimmers and beach users often describe a mysterious force that "sucks" or "tows" swimmers under the water. This force is sometimes called an "undertow."

    The force that most waders feel pulling at their legs in shallow water is the "BACK WASH" from a wave that has washed up on the beach. This force can cause a person to lose his balance and even fall down in the surf. Small children are particularly at risk from this force. Swimmers and waders near an opening in the sand bar may become caught in the strong flow of the ' RIP CURRENT' and be carried beyond the sandbar into deep water.

    If you are caught in a RIP CURRENT, do not panic. The RIP CURRENT will not pull you under. Try to float on your back, call or wave for assistance or swim parallel to shore with the LONG SHORE current

until you are out of the RIP CURRENT and then swim directly towards the shore.

Most often a RIP CURRENT can be identified by a mushroom- shaped plume of dirty water extending from near-shore outward beyond the waves. If you cannot swim an overhand stroke for 15 minutes, you should not be swimming in the lake if there are waves breaking. Take swimming lessons.