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Do It Voluntarily

March 5th, 2012 · 1 Comment


Agencies and governments have been trying to ban lead for a long time now. We all know it’s some bad stuff – we’ve already taken lead out of gasoline, paint, birdshot and pipes. Even the common wheel weight is being banned in states. But, outdoorsmen fight hard to prevent banning of lead fishing tackle and ammo. I just have to wonder – why?

Now, I’m not a fan of “bans” in general. In my town we now have a plastic bag ban. I think this is ridiculous, and there are many other banned items that have been banned more for convenience sake than anything else. Plastic bags, in general, are not harmful things. How they’re used (or not) and then discarded (or not) is the biggest problem. We should be banning cigarettes in the same manor because people toss the butts all over the place.

But, we know lead is bad. For over 2000 years now, we’ve known that lead is toxic and can lead to renal, cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous system damage. So why do we use it? We’ve known for over 100 years that lead poisoning has been killing waterfowl and even birds of prey like the California Condor.

No animal has been found that requires lead to live, and no organism has been found that is not harmed by lead. Animals exposed to lead may face chronic effects, which can reduce their ability to survive or reproduce.

Ronald Eisler wrote a thorough review of lead hazards in fish, wildlife, and invertebrates for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He summarized his findings by stating:

“All credible evidence indicates that lead is neither essential nor beneficial to living organisms, and that all measured effects are adverse- including those on survival, growth, reproduction, development, behavior, learning and metabolism.”

Effects of lead toxicity in fish include spinal curvature, anemia, darkening of the dorsal tail region, degeneration of the caudal fin, reduced ability to swim against a current, muscular atrophy, paralysis, renal pathology, growth inhibition, reduced fertility, and death. There are some effects that are unique to fish, such as increased mucous over the gills, interfering with respiration and causing death.

Yet anglers are so eager to throw lead into our waters. The water we drink. The water that fuels are crops. The water that puts food on our tables.

That doesn’t seem right.

We owe it to ourselves, our children, and more to make a decision to take lead out of our tackle boxes. We owe it to the fish we try to entice to our hooks. If we don’t, we stand to lose it.

I have been trying to keep lead out of my gear for a couple years now. Sometimes it’s not possible – especially when you’re talking about weights and jigs over 4 ounces in size. They’re just not out there. But, when there is a lead-free option, I’ll buy it. More often than not, it costs more, but when that jig or weight is loss, I don’t worry that I’ve poisoned the water. (I also know my BioLine will biodegrade in the water in a few years)

Online retailer Green Tackle has been making this very easy for me. They have a variety of lead-free options that include tin-bismuth alloys, tungsten, steel, and even limestone! Green tackle has been meeting angler demand and making lead-free shad darts, football jigs, trolling sinkers and others that have, until now, only been available in lead form. I’ve also been tying up some steelhead jigs using their lead-free ball head jigs, and I’d say it’s safe to say that the fish aren’t going to know the difference.

What is there to know? The main thing is that most of these lead-free alternatives aren’t as dense as lead. The only exception to that is tungsten, but tungsten is also the most expensive lead alternative. Tin-bismuth alloys are lighter than lead, so if you’re running a jig-and-bobber setup, you can use a lighter weight bobber, or add an extra piece of lead-free split shot to the line.

If you want to know what else to do to help our waters, check out Recycled Fish. By promoting a lifestyle of stewardship both on and off the water, I’ve installed low-flow water faucets and shower head. Most of the lights in the house are compact fluorescent. I pick up other people’s trash. I wash my kayaks after I use them (usually at the car wash where the water is reclaimed). And I don’t have a problem doing it. Be sure to check out Recycled Fish and take the Stewardship Pledge!

Tags: Gear

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Ben // Mar 6, 2012 at 6:13 am

    Fantastic!!! I’ve been trying to say this locally. It’s no secret lead is bad stuff and it’s just another cause in ruining the places we fish. Two thumbs up!

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