N.H. tightens law on use of lead in fishing tackle

  • A lead sinker. Courtesy photo—

  • To help avoid lead poisoning of loons and other waterbirds, a law will go into effect June 1 limiting the use of lead in lures and jigs for New Hampshire fishing enthusiasts. JIM COLE / AP file

Monitor staff
Published: 5/27/2016 11:59:04 PM

With warm weather finally here, fishing season is getting under way – but this year, without so much lead.

As of June 1, the state will expand its ban on using lead, a highly toxic metal, in sinkers and jigs, the weights that keep lures and hooks at the right depth. No fishing tackle weighing one ounce or less can now contain lead, which covers the large majority of these weights.

The ban is designed to protect loons and other waterbirds that sometimes swallow jigs that have been lost during fishing.

The ban goes into effect just before Free Fishing Day, a popular annual event that draws many newcomers to try out the sport. The event is June 4. During that day, anybody can fish in New Hampshire without a license, which costs at least $10 for a one-day freshwater license. All other fishing regulations are still in effect, including limits on amounts and types of fishing that can take place at different bodies of water. For details, check FishNH.com.

In 1998, New Hampshire became the first state to ban the use of lead in some jigs, which are attached to hooks, or sinkers connected to fishing lines. The move was spurred by evidence that loons were being poisoned when they accidentally swallow lead, probably by eating fish that have lead-based fishing tackle inside them or hooked onto them.

That ban applied to jigs that are one-inch long or less, the theory being that bigger ones don’t get eaten by loons, but activists have argued that too many of the iconic waterbirds were still being poisoned.

The new law, passed in 2013, covers all jigs less than one ounce in weight. This covered most jigs used by people who fish for bass or “pan fish” in rivers and lakes, and even some saltwater fishing for stripers and bluefish.

Lead is the perfect material for fishing lures, because it is cheap, easy to work with and heavy, but it’s also toxic, which is why it has been removed from paint, gasoline, and many other products.

A number of alternatives exist, including tin, bismuth and ceramics, but they cost several times as much as lead. This led to opposition to the expanded ban from some fishing groups, who argue that evidence for the poisoning of loons isn’t as strong as advocates say.

People caught using illegal jigs or sinks face a fine of up to $250.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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