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Stay ahead of the game, start replacing your lead fishing tackle now

WORTHINGTON -- It started out about 20 years ago when the wildlife biologists determined that there was a significant number of waterfowl dying every year from lead poisoning.

This research was done in the field and the results were indisputable. Different waterfowl feed on the vegetation that grows on the bottoms of lakes and streams. If one of these feeding ducks accidentally swallowed a lead pellet or two it had a better than average chance of dying from this action. Thousands of ducks died annually as a result.

The lead pellets determined to have caused this poisoning were deposited in the water as a result of a hunter discharging of a shot gun with shells that contained lead pellets. In south west Minnesota, there are not high numbers of waterfowl hunters and few places where they can congregate in high numbers. These are the places that posed the greatest danger.

This is not the case in other states where literally tons of lead shot was being deposited in small areas as a result of many hunters in confined spaces. As a result of this research, the laws were altered to stop the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting across the United States.

The alternatives to lead shot are expensive, but necessary to protect our wildlife resources. This trend is now taken one step further with the move afoot to end the use of all lead tackle for fishing.

Almost all the assorted weights and jigs for fishing are made of lead. Lead tackle works great for getting you bait where you want it and poses no threat or at least minimal threat to waterfowl. There does seem to be emerging data to suggest that it does do some measurable damage to other types of birds though.

The data, whose source I can not readily identify, states shore birds and loons ingest the lead tackle in their feeding activities all across America.

As a result of this data, more and more manufacturs are coming out with lead alternatives for anglers to consider instead of lead. The problem with these lead alternatives is that normally the weight or jig needs to be substantially bigger to weigh the same amount as its lead counterpart.

Across the state of Minnesota, there are more and more opportunities for anglers to trade a small amount of their lead tackle for the non-toxic alternatives. They can't swap out a whole tackle box for free stuff, but the intent is to allow anglers to try the new tackle and to convince them that it is the way to go when making new purchases.

I have a small amount of the new jigs and weights and they work OK. This movement seems like a little overkill in our area lakes because loons don't inhabit our area, and I break off very seldom when fishing here.

It was a whole different story, though, when I was in Hayward, Wis. last weekend where it was common to break off 20-30 times in a day. This leaves a lot of lead in the water, and I can see where it can be a big problem.

There is no pending law to eliminate lead tackle, but I believe that it is only a matter of time before one passes in our state. I would suggest that anglers start stocking up on the new alternatives, so that when this happens you won't be in the same boat as the thousands of hunters who had cases and cases of lead shot gun shells that they could no longer use.

It's better to make this transition while it's easy than to have a tackle box full of stuff that is only good for taking up space on the shelf in your garage if and when it becomes law.

Because it is almost impossible to have special regulations for every part of the state, it is likely that the ban will be state wide, and it's easy to understand why.

I will convert my supply to non-toxic materials and do my part to help Minnesota's state bird along with the host of other shore birds that call Minnesota home.

It's just one more way that hunters and fisherman prove they are the leaders in promoting and preserving our natural resources. They are and continue to be the nation's best conservationists.

See you in the field or on the water somewhere.