Hook, line and lead sinker

This May, Carson Trout Lepine and Greenan Lakes Association (CTLG Lakes) will be supporting the Wolfe Lake Association’s (located north of Kingston) initiative, Let’s Get the Lead Out Campaign, to encourage local anglers to voluntarily bring in their lead fishing tackle and to consider fishing with more eco-friendly alternatives. This initiative began in the U.S. when it was reported in New Hampshire that the primary cause of common loon mortality was from lead ingestion. There were 172 documented adult loon deaths due to lead poisoning from fishing tackle in New Hampshire between 1989 and 2022. New Hampshire was the first state to ban the use of lead sinkers and jigs weighing less than 50 grams in all their inland freshwater lakes. In Canada, lead has been banned in our National Parks and Wildlife areas since the 1990’s, but why not elsewhere in the country? Above: photo Doug De La Matter. Fishleadfree logo.

How big is the problem?

Lead is cheap and lead sinkers are commonly used. But should cost be an acceptable reason knowing that lead, a heavy metal and neuro-toxin to all living creatures, including humans, can leave such a lethal impact on our wildlife? According to the Government of Canada, Canadian anglers can lose on average 11 to 15 jigs and sinkers per year from catching snags or from other reasons. It has been estimated that at least 460 tonnes of lead sinkers and jigs are lost to Canadian waterways each year. Death by lead ingestion exceeds death by trauma, disease, or line entanglement. Just one small lead sinker can kill an aquatic bird such as a loon causing them immense suffering. Death is inevitable in less than four weeks. Loons, a diving bird, are particularly vulnerable because they not only mistaken lost sinkers along the lake bed as pebbles to aid in their digestion but they have been also known to prey on fish which in turn may have swallowed a lead jig or  preyed on the jig bait and broke the fishing line.

Here in this x-ray the swallowed jigs are revealed:

Photo: Avian Haven

CTLG Lakes, along with other lake associations across the province, have joined the movement to educate on the hazards of lead fishing tackle and are appealing to all anglers to choose non-leaded alternatives such as tungsten, steel, tin, bismuth/tin, ceramic, stone, or glass. Tungsten apparently is a great alternative as it is denser and sinks quicker than lead and it is eco-friendly! So, it’s a win all around.

Anglers – drop off your lead tackle and win!

CTLG Lakes will be collecting lead fishing gear during Bay Day, just look for our booth. Anyone who drops off their lead will be eligible to enter to win one of two generously donated prizes.

  • FIRST PRIZE: The first prize will be a Mossy Oak Ugly Stik fishing rod and reel, Plano three tray tackle box, tungsten jigs, unleaded sinkers and recycled ocean plastic lures. (valued at more than $200)
  • SECOND PRIZE: The second prize will be a very large inflatable loon {$80 value)

CTLG Lakes will record the accumulated weight collected and be responsible for the safe lead disposal. To date, Wolfe Lake Association has collected 300 lbs. That’s 300 lbs. now out of their lake. What, I wonder, can we in the Valley do for the loons on our lakes? If you can’t make it to Bay Day, then please give CTLG Lakes a shout at contact@ctlglakes.com and we will be happy to arrange to collect and oversee that it gets safely disposed of.

Please help protect our loons, our beloved symbol of the Canadian Wilderness and choose lead-free! Thank you.

Follow these links for more details:

A special THANK YOU goes out to the sponsors of CTLG Lakes’s initiative: TD Wealth Management, Great Canadian Fishing Store, Mad Outdoors, Float-eh, and Recast Fishing.

About the author: Wendy Wolak is the President of the Carson Trout Lepine and Greenan Lakes Association. Her background is in environmental and earth sciences and she has been a seasonal resident of the Madawaska Valley for over forty years.

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