The "get the lead out" campaign from what we like to call the "do-gooders" that don't do too much research in a lot of the things they champion in their quest for a perfect environment seems to be gaining a lot of momentum. And we think that even though this movement is based on a lot of false pretenses, it seems to be fashionable to them to launch a big battle against the use of lead in both hunting and fishing.
There is no doubt that lead, if allowed to be broken down and is ingested and gets in a body's blood stream certainly doesn't do much good. Much of the impetus to outlaw the use of lead shot when waterfowl hunting was based on this premise, and for once, we believe that it has had a positive effect on waterfowl in general. So why not on other species?
It's a simple matter of how waterfowl process the food that they ingest. Because much of what waterfowl eat, Mother Nature designed a digestive system that breaks down solid materials and even has the ability to do that with lead, which is one of the softest of metals. This takes place in an organ called a gizzard, which is a very strong and large muscle that receives food that has been taken in and passed to the gizzard after being stored in the bird's crop. The waterfowl's gizzard has small stones and gravel that they have ingested and works something like a gem polishing machine and breaks down the hard food, including lead. Then it passes this processed food to the rest of the birds digestive system, which ultimately leads to lead finding its way into the bird's blood stream and other organs. Not a good thing.
Even though the so-called non-toxic shotgun pellets that have replaced, by law, the new non-toxic shot is not as effective as lead shot in causing a quick kill. But even with this knowledge, myself and a majority of waterfowlers have resigned to its use, especially after the non-toxic shot has been improved. And it may be hard for the do-gooders to conceive; waterfowlers adore the birds that are their quarry.
That's all and good. But the new impetus to remove all the lead fishing tackle seems to be a lot of overkill. Lead sinkers and lures with lead used as weight do not break down when ingested by fish as fish do not have a gizzard, nor do other species that are apt to pick up a lead object when foraging for food. Lead is inert when just simply laying on the bottom of a water body or when passed through the digestive system of an animal that doesn't have a gizzard.
We have to kind of honor those do-gooders for trying to help Mother Nature's flora and fauna. But their misuse of their power to make hundreds of million dollars worth of fishing tackle unusable and not legal is kind of a stretch. It would probably be a little more digestible (hope we're not over using that word) if they funded a buy-back program to pay for all that very expensive lead fishing tackle that they are trying to outlaw. There's been no move to do that that we are aware of.
Some of these people walk the walk as well as talk the talk. To those that do, let's be sensible about this misuse of political power. These are the people that purchase electric powered vehicles, recycle their waste materials, use compost bins, ride bikes or walk to work and have solar collectors on their roofs. But you know, many of the anglers that are tossing lead-head jigs at bass and using other lures that have lead also do the same.
The State of Maine has passed rules that eliminate the use of lead in fishing equipment and used the word "sinker" in their regulations. But it found out that an item called a "depth-finder," usually a lead sinker that is attached to a fishing line to measure depth was not included in its ban. So a quick agreement was made to allow these depth finders to be used if they were painted. This makes a lot of sense to me. And to me, it seems like the use of lead headed jigs, that are extremely popular, could also get this same exclusion when they are dipped in some of the new, non-destructible plastic coatings.
The do-gooders would do well to acknowledge that the anglers and hunters are the country's most effective conservationists. They contribute far more than any other group to the financial support for wild game and fish through their licensing and the federal excise tax on hunting and fishing gear, which has amounted to many hundreds of millions of dollars since inception.
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.