As the fishing season kicks into gear, now is the time to take advantage of Pemaquid Watershed Association’s Lead Tackle Exchange Program at their office at 15 Courtyard Street in Damariscotta. Anglers can, by appointment with PWA, exchange lead sinkers and jigs for non-lead alternatives for free.
Lead poisoning is the number one cause of death of adult loons in New England and was positively linked to the death of a loon on Pemaquid Pond in 2012. Any water bird, even eagles, can die from swallowing just one lead sinker or jig. Symptoms may be severe and swift. They include swimming unevenly and in circles, disorientation, lethargy, and tremors making diving and flying difficult. Once weakened by the effects of lead, birds are more vulnerable to predators and have trouble feeding, mating, nesting, and caring for young. There is no way to cure a loon who has ingested lead, and it ultimately leads to death in a short time. Loons can ingest lead sinkers or tackle when eating fish which have tackle attached or if the fish have swallowed sinkers themselves, or when lost sinkers are ingested along with rocks from the lake bottom.
Sinkers and jigs do not have to be made out of lead. Inexpensive, effective, and safe alternatives have been developed from non-toxic materials like tin, bismuth, steel, and ceramic. They work just as well as lead.
The sale of lead fishing sinkers weighing 1/2 ounce or less has been banned in Maine since 2002. In June 2013, LD 730 was passed by both the Maine House and Senate. The law bans the sale and use of lead fishing sinkers one ounce or less, as well as bare lead-headed jigs 2-1/2” long or less. Safe lead-free tackle is now available in many retail stores. These alternatives are safer for water birds and anglers alike.
Since 1966, the Pemaquid Watershed Association has been a member-supported, volunteer-driven non-profit organization. PWA’s mission is to conserve the natural resources of the Pemaquid Peninsula through land and water stewardship and education. PWA’s Lead Tackle Exchange Program is made possible through partnership with the Maine Audubon Society and the Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District. Call ahead to PWA for an appointment for tackle exchange at 207.563.2196. For more information, visit https://www.pemaquidwatershed.org/education/lead-tackle-exchange/