Lead Tackle:Catch More Fish and Save Loon Lives

Lead Tackle:Catch More Fish and Save Loon Lives

Anglers have been using lead tackle since the invention of the sport. It’s the most popular metal in the fishing community for one singular reason: its price. It’s no secret that fishing is one of the most expensive hobbies a person can have and keeping your tackle box stocked without taking out a second mortgage is not always an easy task. Despite what you’ll hear from the guy at your local tackle shop; you do not need tournament quality gear to catch fish.

Finding ways to pinch a few pennies is the name of the game. However, when deciding what to cheap out on, what kind of metal you fish with should not be an option. I do not blame people for choosing a pack 20 lead weights over a pack of 3 tungsten weights sitting on the shelf for the same price. Completely disregarding the disastrous impact of lead on certain wildlife (which we’ll get in to), you will catch less fish using lead weights. Tungsten is one of the hardest materials to exist. Due to this, it will provide you with the best sensitivity possible. When you’re fishing with tungsten, you’re receiving all the details about what kind of bottom you’re fishing and kind of structure you are fishing around. This is especially important because bass always associate themselves with something “different”, and specifically group up on areas where there is variation on the bottom. In addition to that, if a fish so much as sniffs your bait, you’ll know with a tungsten weight. Lead is too soft for you to get these kind of details. Lead weights will make you miss bites and overlook key areas where fish are located. Think of your fishing line like a phone call between you and your bait. When you’re fishing with lead that call starts to cut out, you can’t really hear anything clearly, and it costs you fish.

In addition, the sound when your weight hits different structure as your fishing has a louder and more natural frequency with a tungsten weight. It resonates better with the fish allowing you to attract more attention to your lure, and it holds their attention because it’s a more familiar noise, similar to a molting craw or a flailing bluegill. Lead has a softer sound and it could alert some of the wiser bass of potential danger. Tungsten is also naturally heavier than lead. A 1/4 oz lead weight is going to be noticeably larger than a 1/4 oz tungsten weight. Tungsten gives your bait a smaller profile allowing you to navigate in and out of cover much easier than if you had a lead weight tied on. Bulky lead weights could cause you to snag under a lily pad or a wooden lay down. While you’re yanking and jerking your bait free, any fish in the area has been alerted of your presence and will cause them to lose their appetite.

If you are an experienced fisherman who doesn’t often lose your lures; invest in a set of tungsten weights. You will spend more money replacing your bent or scratched lead weights than if you had just upgraded your weights from the very beginning If you’re still not convinced that tungsten is a necessity, I understand your skepticism. If you can live with the possibility of a 10 pounder inhaling your bait and spitting it back out without you having a clue, keep cheaping out on your weight. Who needs trophy bass anyway?

The purpose of this blog is not to convince you to buy tungsten. There are also tin, brass, and steel alternatives that will get the job done perfectly fine that don’t break the bank like tungsten. This blog series is more a call to action for anglers to stop using lead weights. As fisherman, it’s in our best interest to be diligent conservationists. Regardless if you’re an environmentalist or not, we have a responsibility to preserve our fisheries. Lead is a toxic material that is proven to be harmful to all wildlife, and is solely responsible for diminishing animals populations to dangerous levels. Lead is specifically detrimental to loon populations in the Northeast. In New Hampshire the effect of lead tackle has been monitored for years. Lead fishing tackle makes up 44% of loon fatalities (see fig 1.).

Figure 1: Causes of Loon Mortality in New Hampshire, USA, 1989-2017, documented cause of death statewide (LPC 9).

New Hampshire Fish and Game teamed up with the Loon Preservation Committee, and numerous leading biologists to conduct a study that was so extensive and accurate that their data is scientifically regarded as a census for loons in NH. About 600 people participating in the study were spread out over all the lakes that have loon populations where they were sent out every 10 minutes on their boat to keep track of the loons. If you think that’s crazy, they also had teams of researchers to do the same thing on lakes that the loons don’t populate to make sure they didn’t move to a new home! Not only that, but they also included all of the data the LPC has ever recorded to add to their own, and collected data from Maine and Wisconsin. These people are absolute Loonheads. Their data was so bullet-proof it resulted in the strongest lead ban currently in the country for the state of NH. If that’s not a convincing enough of a picture for you give this one a look:

Timing of fishing activity on Squam Lake, New Hampshire, USA, 2010–2011, documented statewide lead fishing tackle mortality of common loons, and lead mortalities with non-lead associated tackle, 1989–2012 (Grade et.al 161)

Now, if you are really set in stone about using lead, no one is going to stop you. Not even NHFG. I reached out to one of their law enforcement officers and she told me there’s no way to test for lead without having it sent out to a lab and forensically tested. In 2 years of the law being active they haven’t found a way to actually enforce it. Imagine having your boat pulled over while you were minding your own business to have all your jigs and sinkers confiscated whether they have lead in them or not? Yeah, simply not an option It’s up to us fisherman to abide by the law and save loon lives. There’s not much of a price difference to just switch to brass or steel. Even if you can’t afford to replace your tackle right now just leave the lead in the box! You can catch em plenty of ways, it doesn’t have to cost a loon’s life.

Tight Lines


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