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Another Good Reason to Go to Del Rio


As momentum builds for the Anglers for Access event Oct. 19 at Del Rio and Lake Amistad, a tragic twist has been added.

Jimmy Johnson, a B.A.S.S. tournament angler from Ganado, Texas, was murdered Sunday, Oct. 13, in Jackson, Miss., during an attempt to burglarize his boat.

“The event is moving forward as planned, on the assumption that no deal (to re-open portions of the federal government now closed) will be made,” said Tim Cook, one of the organizers for the event designed to help Del Rio businesses that are suffering because the National Park Service has closed access to Amistad.

But, he added, if politicians in Washington,D.C. do experience temporary sanity and reach an agreement, then participants in the rally will be invited to participate in a tournament to benefit Johnson’s family.

“We are working with the park service in that event so that we may have an event,” Cook said.

Additionally, Carl Wengenroth at The Angler’s Lodge is planning a Dec. 7 benefit tournament. Go here to learn more.

And Cook has set up an online contribution site.


A Look at Lead: Miracle Metal or Environmental Evil?

Is lead a miracle metal or an environmental evil?

It is neither. It is a naturally occurring element that anglers have used to make sinkers for thousands of years.

Today, it’s also the preferred material for jigheads and as ballast in hard lures and spinnerbaits. The sinker business alone is worth $100 million annually and jigheads $75 million, according to the American Sportfishing Institute.

But because of its toxic nature in some applications, such as paint and plumbing, lead also is a material demonized with hyperbole and distortion of facts by some environmentalists who want to ban its use by fishermen.

Ground zero for this assault is New England, where defenders of the loon claim that lead weights threaten survival of the iconic bird. Loons, they assert, ingest sinkers and then die of lead poisoning.

This does happen to a few birds annually. But studies and statistics don’t support their argument that populations are in any way threatened. Degradation of shoreline habitat for these reclusive birds poses a far greater danger.

Additionally, loons are ingesting tiny pieces of lead, not bullet weights or jigheads, which also are targeted in this emotion-driven propaganda effort in which misinformation is rampant.

Photo by Woody Hagge at

“The public hears about this anti-lead campaign and you’d be amazed at the phone calls I get,” said Gordon Robertson, ASA vice president.

“I get college students who think lead is like an aspirin. You drop it in the water, it dissolves, and the water becomes toxic.”

“We came by lead honestly,” he continued. “It’s cheap, easy to work with, and ubiquitous. And we don’t make lead, we move it around. But mistaken ideas like that make discussion difficult.”

In fact, lead does not dissolve in water. Yes, visualizing the accumulation of weights at the bottom of a lake or river is not aesthetically appealing, but that’s not the same as posing an environmental hazard. The soft, heavy metal is harmful only when ingested or inhaled (as dust from lead-based paint, for example).

“Lead is not a population problem for loons or any other bird,” Robertson said. “Yes, it kills a few individuals, but we manage for populations. Legislators don’t understand the management process. They don’t understand the realities.

“That’s why regulations about lead should come from fish and wildlife agencies, not legislatures. And bans should occur only where there are documented problems. Legislatures are much more likely to go for statewide bans.”

And while lead is not the environmental evil that its detractors claim it to be, it is more than a preferred material for sinkers and other fishing tackle; it is essential. Yes, some alternatives --- tungsten, steel, brass, tin, bismuth --- exist. But as with green energy options, much research will be necessary before they are commercially viable on a large scale.

“I like tungsten weights,” said Stephen Headrick, who makes Punisher jigs. “But I tried to go with tungsten (for jigheads) and it was too expensive. Also, most anything to do with tungsten is made in China. You buy tungsten and you are sending American jobs overseas.

“My jigheads are made in the U.S.”

T.J. Stallings of TTI-Blakemore echoed Headrick’s appraisal. “We looked at tungsten, but it’s cost prohibitive,” he said, adding that the higher melting points of tungsten, steel, and glass can destroy the temper of a hook.

“We’re working on a non-lead option so we will stop losing business in New England,” he added. “But fishermen are conservationists by default. The problem with lead is that we’re living in the age of misinformation and liars. That’s why we have this fear of lead.”

Alternatives for weights, meanwhile, are more practical than they are for jigheads, and that’s why Bullet Weights and other companies offer them. Still, tungsten, brass, steel, and tin make up only a fraction of the market.

“With tungsten, you are paying a higher price for performance, and it’s still only a small portion of our business,” said Joe Crumrine, president of the company. “Our Ultra Steel continues to grow in popularity, but we still sell more lead than anything.”

That includes split shot, the largest segment of the sinker market, but tin is making inroads, Crumrine said.

“No other material is soft enough,” he explained. “It costs twice as much as lead, but we sell a lot of it, even in areas where there are no lead bans.”

What’s most important, Robertson said, is that anglers themselves are able to choose whether they want to use lead or tin or tungsten. Among fishing advocates, the greatest fear is that lead bans will discourage participation, and that will mean the loss of critical revenue for state fish and wildlife agencies. That’s because they are funded primarily by anglers through license fees and excise taxes on fishing tackle, including lead sinkers.

“The more barriers that are put up, the more it hurts the industry and the resource,” he said. “And we’re not making lead. We’re simply using what exists.”


What’s the Alternative?

 As someone not afraid to call himself an environmental steward as well as an angler, Teeg Stouffer understands the practicality of lead use in the fishing industry.

“I don’t think that lead is the worst thing facing our waters and I don’t think we should ban it,” said the executive director of Recycled Fish, a conservation organization.

But he would like to see the industry move more aggressively toward development of  practical alternatives.

“We know that lead is a toxic substance, and nobody goes fishing with the intention to spread a toxic substance,” he said.

“If we have non-toxic alternatives available, why not use them? We don’t advocate for bans, but we do advocate for angler education. We believe that people want to do the right thing when they know what the right thing is, and most people don’t have information about alternatives. We want to help provide that information.”

Stouffer added that he’s caught hundreds of fish on lead-free jigheads, most of them made of tin-bismuth. He also owns some made of tungsten, which he admits are costly, and even some glass ones. “They’re really cool, but not super practical,” he said.

With the lead-free jigheads, he explained, “I have not experienced any issues with longevity or fishability, nor have I heard those objections from anyone else who is using lead-free products.”

What Stouffer wants to see is a consumer-driven switch from lead to alternatives.

“Would fishing tackle manufacturers be willing to spool up production to make a non-toxic  product to satisfy this market?” he asked. “Many manufacturers, both small and large, already are.”

(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Go to Amistad and Help Make a Difference


Empty parking lots are a familiar scene in Del Rio, where a government shutdown prevents anglers from fishing Lake Amistad.

If you can get to Del Rio Oct. 18 or 19, you can be part of what makes this country great--- people stepping up to help friends, and even strangers, in time of need.

And the more who go, the more likely it will be that national media cover this historic event in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bass anglers rally to help a local economy dependent  on fishing.

The government shutdown has forced closure of access to Lake Amistad, which is managed by the National Park Service. It’s one of the country’s best bass fisheries, and a magnet for tournaments, as well as anglers looking to catching bragging-size bass.

But with no fishing allowed, the hotels and restaurants are empty, and the citizens of Del Rio are suffering.

That tragedy has prompted Tim Cook and Grant Goldbeck, along with other activists, to plan an Anglers for Access rally Oct. 19.

“Lake Amistad and the community are very dear to me,” said Goldbeck. “The first time the Elite Series went there was at the start of my career on the (B.A.S.S.) Tour. I have been a lot of places since and still have not found a community that makes me feel as welcome every time I go there to fish.

“I have met so many people there that I now call friends and simply find it hard to swallow watching their economy suffer and how it affects each and every one of them. 

“This is happening all over the country to hard-working Americans and even soldiers who have fought for our country and their families have suffered. To know this and not do something about doesn't work for me anymore.”

Tackle shop at The Angler's Lodge is just one of many businesses in Dell Rio suffering because of the government shutdown. Photos by Carl Wegenroth

Goldbeck, Cook, and Carl Wengenroth of The Angler’s Lodge on Amistad emphasized that the event will be peaceful, and troublemakers are not welcome.

 “We want to make it a political media event, and not a confrontation,” Wengenroth said. “We want 500 to 1,000 boats lined up along the highway to be filmed and we want city officers and local businessmen to be interviewed by the media about the harm this is doing.”

Cook, conservation director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation, added, “We want to put heads in beds for two nights to help local businesses and we want to raise exposure about how this shutdown is hurting people. We’re asking people to come down and spend the weekend, just as if they were coming to fish a two-day tournament.” 

Cook also said that “our problem is with Congress and the President. The park superintendent has been very supportive of the angling community. He’s just doing what he is told to do.”

In addition to a 9 a.m. rally at the Plaza Del Sol Mall and then the drive to the Diablo East access at 11, some anglers with their boats also will participate in the annual Amistad Friendship Parade on Saturday, which commemorates the U.S./Mexico partnership for creation of Lake Amistad on the Rio Grande River.

Goldbeck has no idea how many will show up for the rally and drive, but he said that response so far has been “awesome.” The Facebook page, where updates are posted, already has more than 1,000 “likes.”

The pro angler noted that he received 380 e-mails in one day from people who said that they were going to attend. He also pointed out that Del Rio has plenty of hotels/motels to accommodate supporters, with a list posted on Facebook.

The eagerness with which people have responded, he added, is leading him to believe that maybe the Anglers for Access brand also can be used for other charitable causes. “We don’t know where this will go,” he said. “But we want people to know that they can make a difference.”


More Invasives Join Nutria in Destroying Louisiana Wetlands, Marshes

The nutria is one of Louisiana's most destructive invaders.

In Louisiana, the nutria, a rodent from South America, long has been the poster-child for the exotic species that are destroying that state’s wetlands and coastal marshes and threatening its native fish and wildlife.

But it is certainly not the only threat. Others include Asian carp, giant apple snail, tiger prawn, water hyacinth, and giant salvinia.

Learn more about the exotic species invasion of Louisiana in The Advocate newspaper. 


Florida Guides Rally to Demand Re-Opening of Fishing Waters

Agitated by the Washington budget impasse that has closed the waters of Everglades National Park, fishing guides in the Florida Keys spearheaded a rally Wednesday telling Federal officials to give them back their fishing grounds.

Participants aboard more than 100 boats, kayaks and paddleboards gathered near the park's eastern Florida Bay boundary, less than a mile off the Keys.

Although Keys state and offshore waters remain open to anglers, fall is a prime season for visitors to fish in the park's shallow waters for prized gamefish such as mangrove snapper, snook, tarpon, redfish and trout.

The park's land and water areas have been closed since Oct. 1. Fishing guides who depend on the resource for income have lost money and are frustrated with Washington leadership's bickering and inability to pass a budget to reopen all Federal resources. They add that, while they find no fault with officials based at the park, they are insisting that Department of Interior officials do something to provide reasonable access, especially if a budget solution is not reached.

"The park being closed means we can't go fishing, that means we can't make any money, and that means the days of fishing we are losing, we don't get back," said Randy Towe, a 35-year Florida Keys fishing guide who organized the protest. "Although we have offshore fishing, which is still good and that's all fine, but a lot of people come to specifically fish in the backcountry for its beauty for the different species of fish."

Towe said that more than 500 people participated in the rally to send a message to Washington.

"These are all people of the Keys, these are guides, these are bartenders, these are mates, they're captains, they're store owners, they're hotel owners, residents, so it's everybody getting together to stand up for what's going on because this really needs to get resolved before it gets any worse," he said.

From Florida Keys Newsroom.


Support Anglers for Access

If you are bass fisherman, you've invited to Anglers for Access Oct. 18 and 19 at Lake Amistad. Organizers Tim Cook and Grant Goldbeck would like to see 500 to 1,000 boats there for peaceful rally to support the Del Rio businesses whose livelihoods are threatened by the government shutdown.

"We want to make it a political media event, not a confrontation," said Carl Wengenroth, who estimates that he is losing $9,000 a weekend at The Angler's Lodge hotel and tackle shop, as well as $3,000  in just a single weekend morning at the cafe.

Check back here for more information, as well go to the Anglers for Access Facebook page.

Go here to read my article at about impact of the shutdown on fishing nationwide.