Lead Fishing Tackle Bans by State
Anglers who fish with lead sinkers and jigs are not always aware of the regulations in their state and in certain federal wildlife refuges that prohibit the use of lead tackle under a certain size. This article explains where and why it is illegal to purchase, use, manufacture, and sell selected sizes of weights, sinkers, and other fishing tackle made of lead.
Why Lead Tackle is Prohibited
Lead is toxic and the lead tackle that is lost by anglers causes lead poisoning in wildlife, especially birds. Birds swallow small pebbles to help grind up the food they consume. Lead sinkers and jigs are mistaken for small pebbles and swallowed by the birds and held in their gizzards for a long time, which in many cases leads to their death. Hence the size restrictions. Lead also can contaminate soil and water, and then be taken up by plants and aquatic invertebrates.
Don’t throw unwanted lead tackle in the trash, and of course, don't leave it where you fish. Bring it to your local household hazardous waste collection site or a nearby metal recycling facility to ensure that no animals will be harmed.
Alternatives to Lead Tackle
There are several alternative materials for making fishing tackle - steel, brass, tin, tungsten, bismuth, and even stones. Unfortunately, these materials are missing the combination of properties that make lead such a popular choice for making weights and jigs. Lead has a low melting point, low cost, high ductility and malleability. But on a bright side - none of these alternative materials are toxic and harmful to the environment.
Some substitutions are comparably priced and some materials outperform lead. Perhaps the best substitution for lead is tungsten. Although this metal is more expensive, tungsten is heavier than lead which allows for smaller tackle profiles with better sensitivity.
States That Have Banned Lead Sinkers
New Hampshire prohibits the use of lead sinkers up to 1 ounce and lead jigs up to 1 inch in length in all waters.
Retail outlets are prohibited from selling lead sinkers and lead jigs.
Effective since: 2000
Maine prohibits the use of lead sinkers or jigs weighing 1 ounce or less.
Retail outlets are prohibited from selling lead sinkers or jigs weighing 1 ounce or less.
Effective since: 2002
New York prohibits the sale of lead sinkers 1/2 ounce or less.
Effective since: 2004
Vermont prohibits the use of lead fishing sinkers 1/2 ounce or less.
Retail outlets are prohibited from selling lead sinkers and lead jigs weighing 1/2 ounce or less.
Effective since: 2006
Massachusetts prohibits the use of lead fishing sinkers and jigs less than 1 ounce in all inland waters.
Effective since: 2012
Washington prohibits the use of lead fishing sinkers and lead jigs that measure 1 1/2 inch or less along the longest axis but only at 12 lakes in the state where loons breed and rear their young.
The regulations apply to the following waters: Ferry Lake, Swan Lake, Pierre Lake, Big Meadow Lake, Yocum Lake, South Skookum Lake, Lost Lake, Blue Lake, Bonaparte Lake, Calligan Lake, Hancock Lake, Lake Hozomeen, and Long Lake.
Effective since: 2011
If you know about other states that have recently banned lead tackle, please let us know via Facebook or Twitter.
Lead sinker use is also banned in Yellowstone National Park and in over two dozen national wildlife refuges.