This blog post will start my annual series of posts leading up to the Minnesota Fishing Opener beginning this Saturday on most of the state’s inland (non-border) waters. To many sportsmen living in the Upper Midwest, the walleye fishing opener (an event that’s also celebrated in several other states not necessarily on the same weekend) is a much heralded social event during the sportsman’s calendar year. In fact, in Minnesota, the “Fishing Opener” is celebrated by roughly twice as many sportsmen than choose to participate in the state’s deer opener during a typical November. Indeed, flocking to the lakes to catch ol’ glass eyes IS that big of a deal! Come along as we prep for this great annual event.
Let’s begin this series by taking a serious look at a growing health concern that involves fishing. Over the years safety experts have pushed the importance of getting the lead out of our household paint. They’ve taken the lead out of our gasoline (1986). Gone are the days when a plumber might come to your house and use a lead pipe or even a lead-based solder to secure the joints in your water system. Heck, purchase a new radio today and you will likely have a unit completely free of lead that wouldn’t have been that way 30, maybe even 20 years ago.
But times, they are a changin’, my friend. The existence of lead today is seeing fewer and fewer applications in our society. Fact is, there are often perfectly acceptable heavy-metal substitutes for lead that essentially means the material is no longer needed. And that holds true in the sportsman’s world, as well.
Imagine a day…let’s say 20 years from now…when you explain to some young child with fishing interests that we used to use lead to catch fish. Yup, that’s right…imagine the disbelief written on the young child’s face when you try to explain that we put poisonous metals into our lakes. In fact, many of our tackle boxes were full of it. Sound far-fetched? I don’t think so.
When you consider it only takes one little lead sinker ingested by a common loon to kill the bird that fact alone should wake us sportsmen up. After all, this weekend when I travel five hours north to my special fishing lake I’m not just hoping to see walleye from my boat seat. Nope, each year I get almost as excited to see and hear the loon as my boat bounces along the choppy waves.
Hey, that’s what headin’ up north is all about. It’s the total experience of seeing the lofty pines, smelling the fresh, clean air…and, of course, occasionally being entertained by the wildlife as you pass the time fishing in your boat.
Experts now tell us fishermen we have to begin cleaning up our act…and the time is now to do it. Consider this study conducted recently by the Minnesota DNR:
Using DNR survey data from 1983 to 2004, the study’s authors estimated that anglers left more than one million pieces of lead in Lake Mille Lacs alone. Over 20 years, that amounts to about nine tons of lead.
I know what you’re probably thinking. Losing one or two lead jigs in the lake isn’t much. Even if it amounts to a ton of lead over time in the whole scheme of things that’s a pittance to a big body of water. Maybe so, but as stewards of the outdoors we need to take a serious look at how we conduct our activities on the lake. I’m not suggesting that come Saturday I will be completely lead-free as I cast my line into the lake. No, but I am thinking about it more often and for the first time I did purchase some non-toxic sinkers for my tackle box recently at the sporting goods store.
If you need further convincing there are several great web sites that discuss the issue of fishermen getting the lead out. Check two of them out by linking here and here. There’s also a great article on the topic that establishes a good argument for why fishermen need to start thinking about what types of tackle they are using on the lakes and in the rivers.
It seems when most of the proposed legislation comes along attempting to ban lead fishing tackle fishermen in the past have largely rejected that notion asking for further study to legitimize the problem. Studies are fine…and they certainly should continue to be conducted…but are we really that stubborn to make a change when deep down most of us can logically reason that the change makes perfect sense?
As for the fishing tackle manufacturers…are you going to tell me that in almost every instance where lead is now being used there isn’t a suitable alternative? Okay, maybe the cost of the lures or the terminal tackle might be a bit more expensive…but what’s paying a few more pennies for a lead substitute when the cost of our fuel to get to the lake has doubled in the past three years? As an industry…the tackle manufacturers need to quit hiding behind their old habits and feeding us with those poor excuses.
So, what are your thoughts about using safer, more eco-friendly tackle while fishing? Don’t you agree it’s time fishermen start voluntarily getting the lead out before we are mandated to do so anyway? In a few states legislation has already been enacted. That day is coming for all of us…and it might be a whole lot easier to accept and to embrace the change if we all start doing it little by little beginning this fishing season.
2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.