Sustainable Fishing Tips

Amanda Baribeau
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

One area where anglers can make a difference is in what they choose for tackle. Lead is a toxic metal that has adverse effects on the nervous and reproductive systems of mammals and birds. Found in most fishing jigs and sinkers, this metal is poisoning wildlife such as loons and eagles.

When lead fishing sinkers are lost through broken line or other means, birds can inadvertently eat them. Water birds like loons and swans often swallow lead when they scoop up pebbles from the bottom of a lake or river to help grind their food. Eating just one lead sinker can poison a loon. Eagles can often ingest lead by eating fish which have swallowed sinkers.

Tips for Anglers to help safeguard wildlife and human health:

  • Use non-lead fishing weights. Inexpensive and ecologically sound alternatives to lead fishing weights are available. Anglers should use sinkers and jigs made from non-hazardous materials such as steel, tin and bismuth.
  • Never throw old fishing gear into the water or on shore. Discard old lead sinkers and jigs properly. For example, you may want to bring them to your local household hazardous waste collection site during your next visit or look for a tackle exchange event.
  • Never put a lead sinker in your mouth or bite down on slip shot-use a pair of pliers instead.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling lead sinkers or cleaning out your tackle box.
  • Spread the word. Tell other anglers about the problem, and encourage them to switch to non-lead sinkers and jigs. Talk to your favorite retailers and ask them to stock non-lead fishing tackle.
  • Teach your tadpoles. Create a lead-free tackle box for your kids or grandkids. They are non-toxic and safer for youngsters to handle. Plus, it’s a great way to help instill a strong conservation ethic.

In a growing number of areas outside Minnesota, non-lead tackle isn’t just a good idea-it’s the law. Restrictions and bans of lead fishing sinkers and jigs are becoming more common in the United States and other countries.

Ask for lead-free tackle at your local sporting goods or bait and tackle store. Visit for more information and a list of Minnesota locations where lead-free tackle is available.

Sustainable Fishing

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