Get the Lead Out

Despite a howling northwest wind and sub-zero temperatures across the Quetico Superior wilderness, many people are dreaming of warmer days and are making their summertime recreational plans. Fishing in the clear lakes of northeast Minnesota and adjacent Ontario, is for many, near the top of their dream list. Sorting through tackle boxes is one way to help build exciting anticipation for the upcoming season. It is also an excellent opportunity to dispose of a deadly poison lurking among the hooks and bobbers. Lead sinkers and lead jig heads lost in the pursuit of fish and lying on the bottoms of lakes and streams are real killers. Inadvertently swallowed by loons and other waterfowl lead will cause agonizing deaths. This is no small problem. Studies in New England indicate that as much as 24% of adult loon mortality is the result of lead poisoning from ingested fishing tackle. A study conducted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency concluded that lead poisoning accounted for 12% adult loon deaths. But in some studies as many as 70% of loon deaths are attributed to lead poisoning. Anglers can use sinkers and jigs made from non-poisonous materials such as tin, bismuth, steel, and tungsten-nickel alloy with no danger of poisoning birds. It’s a minimal cost to replace lead with non-toxic alternatives. To some of our most treasured birds it is a matter of life and death. Some thrifty anglers may think, “I’ll just use up the lead sinkers I have and then purchase non-toxic alternatives.” If you take that approach will you be able to enjoy the antics and yodels of loons on your fishing trip next summer? In Minnesota, all state licensed hazardous waste drop-off sites accept lead.

Common Loon on Lake of the Woods. Photo courtesy of Sue Plankis.

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