What to look for while freshwater snorkeling | Great Lakes Guide
David Clow (Flickr: Link)
  • Environment and Education


    What to look for while freshwater snorkeling

The underwater world of the Great Lakes

When you think of snorkeling, you might picture a beach somewhere in the Caribbean. But did you know that the Great Lakes are also filled with amazing underwater views? The reality is that as long as you have the proper snorkeling equipment, you can have a one-of-a-kind snorkeling adventure just about anywhere.

It’s time for you to get out there and try freshwater snorkeling in the Great Lakes. Here’s what you might see when you look beneath the waves…

The Great Lakes are quite different from each other, which means that different fish and aquatic life can be found in each Great Lake. But no matter what lake, river, or stream you dip into, you are sure to discover a new world teeming with life.

What species to look for

The underwater life is just as diverse in freshwater as it is in saltwater, albeit slightly less colourful. If you are snorkelling in shallow waters, you will likely see some small minnows and rock bass peeking out from between the rocks.

Rock bass have slender, deep bodies with rows of spots lining their sides. They have spiked fins, two on their back (dorsal) and one on their belly (anal). They are usually found on their own, and don’t often school together. Rock bass spend most of their time in one small area and are very active in the summer months.

Minnows, on the other hand, are almost always found in schools. They group together, often with many different minnow species in one school. Minnows have one dorsal (back) fin and are very small.

Along with the fishes, you might see other aquatic or semi-aquatic species while snorkeling, including bullfrogs, crayfish, tiger salamanders, and various turtle species. Remember, no matter what amazing creatures you come across, look but don’t touch. You are in their home.

What to do if you spot invasive species

You might even spot some invasive species while diving beneath the waves. You can contact an invasive species hotline if you spot something and are looking for more information.

If you are new to snorkeling, make sure to read A beginner’s guide to freshwater snorkeling to prepare for your next adventure.

Long story short, snorkeling is always an adventure. You never know what you’re going to see. My dad once found a penny buried in clay from the year 1881 while he was snorkeling in 1981! And when I was young, I used to spend my summers chasing tadpoles and pollywogs around underwater rocks.

The Great Lakes are just bursting with life. Keep your eyes open so you don’t miss a thing, and have fun exploring a whole new world.