Getting the lead out: Anglers unhappy about new law governing gear

Union Leader Correspondent
May 26. 2016 10:08PM

A.J. Nute, owner of A.J.'s Bait and Tackle in Meredith, holds one of his new lead-free bass-fishing jigs at his store. (DAN SEUFERT)

LACONIA — Anglers will be required by law next week to stop using lead fishing “jigs,” which are linked to loon lead poisoning deaths.

A law passed in 2013 banning the sale and freshwater use of lead fishing sinkers and jigs weighing one ounce or less.

Loon preservationists, who have worked since 1975 to more than triple the numbers of the iconic bird on Granite State lakes, lobbied for several years to get the ban on lead-weighted hooks.

A.J. Nute, owner of A.J.’s Bait and Tackle in Meredith, said a few anglers have expressed dismay over having to change. He expects more complaints starting Wednesday, when the law goes into effect and anglers will be required to buy new tackle or face a fine up to $250 for breaking the law.

Nute is stocking his new jigs — which use a bismuth-tin combination rather than lead —and says they will cost at least two or three times as much as lead.

“I have to charge a lot more,” Nute said. “Lead is less than a dollar a pound and some of these other metals run $18 a pound or more.”

He added: “For a lot of people, the change is going to cost a lot of money.”

The New Hampshire Loon Preservation Committee cites a Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine study on dead adult common loons in the state showing that 48 percent of them had the remains of lead sinkers and jigs in their gizzards and had died from lead poisoning.

Opponents of the new law, including several state and national bass fishing groups, have said the statistics and studies have been overstated.

At the time of the debate over the lead banning legislation, Dick Smith of the New Hampshire Bass Federation said, “to us, the scientific studies show the loons are picking up smaller stuff that has lead in it, nothing near the size of a jig.”

The link between loon deaths and lead poisoning first emerged in the 1980s, when it was discovered that loons were ingesting lead fishing tackle.

“It seems likely that loons are eating fish that have tackle in or on them. As the acidic juices in the bird’s gizzard break down the food, the lead is also broken down and gets into the bloodstream of the bird,” said Emily Preston, a wildlife biologist with the Fish and Game department. “The good news is that using alternatives to lead tackle should provide immediate relief to the loon population.”

The 2014 loon census in New Hampshire recorded 297 pairs of loons.

A Fish and Game spokesman said the department is working to determine the most “fair and consistent” way for Fish and Game officers to determine if anglers are using lead jigs, adding, “the law is new to us as well.”

State GovernmentFishingOn the WaterLaconia

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