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Getting the Lead Out Not Necessary, But Still a Good Idea

Since the mid 1990s, the environmental community has been trying to convince the federal government to ban the manufacture, sale, and use of lead fishing tackle, including weights and jigheads. With the latest rejection of their petition by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, three groups now are suing, in hopes of forcing a ban.

The main argument for the ban is that loons and other waterfowl ingest the weights and die of lead poisoning. Additionally, eagles that eat those birds also can suffer the same fate.

The problem with their argument is that studies do not show that these deaths harm the overall populations of these species. In fact, loon populations are increasing in some locales, and eagles are thriving. The main threat to loons is lakeshore development, which destroys nesting areas.

That being said, anglers voluntarily should do more to get the lead out. Why?

1. It's a poisonous metal and we shouldn't continue to litter the bottoms of our lakes, rivers, and oceans with it when we don't have to.

2. The fishing industry has come up with some great alternatives, especially for weights.

My favorite is tungsten. It's denser and harder than lead and thus weights are smaller and more sensitive. You feel the bottom, the brush, and the bite better with tungsten than with lead. It's also a bit more expensive. But improved performance makes it worth the cost.

Teeg Stouffer, executive director of Recycled Fish, says that getting the lead out is a "no brainer for anglers and for the fishing industry."



It's not a Carp Problem; It's a Government Problem


President Obama has just signed into law a ban on the importation of bighead carp into the United States. Isn't that nice?

When Congress passed the bill in late November, Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, said this: 

  “Along with other invasive Asian carp species, the bighead carp poses an immediate and significant threat to the nation’s freshwater fisheries, especially the Great Lakes. While normally we would list an injurious species under administrative rulemaking, the urgency of the situation called for swift action by Congress so that we can prevent this voracious fish from spreading to new areas and overwhelming recreational and commercial fisheries by effectively starving native fish.”

And, under the Lacey Act, silver carp were likewise banned in 2007.

The problem is that both species have been firmly entrenched in U.S. waters since the 1980s. And by the late 1990s, they were crowding out native species throughout the Mississippi River drainage. 

Today, they've either moved into the Great Lakes, or are about to. If they don't destroy the billion-dollar sport fishery there, it won't be because of any meaningful action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the rest of the federal government, electric barrier notwithstanding. It will be because  Asian carp did not find the Great Lakes to their liking.

As with so much many other "actions" the government takes on our behalf, this ban on bighead carp is more about appearance than it is reality. The same goes for the appointment of a "carp czar" by the President.

Along with all of the other invasive carp species --- silver, grass, common, and black --- bighead are here to stay. They will crowd our waters, they will out-compete native fishes for food, and they will alter our ecosystems in ways that, right now, we can't even imagine.


The Ghosts of Salmon Past


The recently failed Omnibus Bill that Senator Harry Reid and his cronies tried to bully through Congress contained an $80 million earmark for Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery. Nevada, Reid's home state, was included among those states eligible to receive grants from that pot of pork.

At, one of my favorite sites, much was made about the fact that Nevada is landlocked, far away from coastal waters. Many commenters viewed that state's inclusion as an example of either extreme ignorance on the part of politicians or blatant corruption, since salmon couldn't possibly be native to Nevada.

Actually, those commenters are the ignorant ones, sad to say. Salmon once did migrate all the way from the Pacific Ocean into rivers of northern Nevada to spawn. Dams and  other alterations to the waterways put an end to that, as they did throughout much of the West. 

What has enabled us to thrive as a species is that we harvest nature's bounty and we alter habitat through dams, irrigation, mining, introduction of exotic plants and animals, and other means. Well into the 20th century, we little realized or even considered how our actions affected other species. Brook trout, Atlantic salmon,  buffalo, elk, grizzly bears, passenger pigeons, and many other species suffered the consequences of our ignorance, along with Pacific salmon.

Today we know better. 

Knowing the environmental devastation that is possible, we don't have to mine in and around Alaska's Bristol Bay, threatening one of the world's greatest remaining salmon fisheries. Knowing that Asian carp outcompete native spcecies, we don't have to allow them into the Great Lakes, where they could destroy a billion-dollar sport fishery.

The big question now is whether we, as a species, have the character to make the tough decisions to protect our aquatic resources when ignorance is no longer an excuse.


Help Keep America Fishing

Hey, make a $30 donation to Keep America Fishing --- your friend and mine --- and you will receive a free Rapala Pro Bass Fishing game for Nintendo Wii bundled with a rod and reel adapter for your Wii controller. That's a $49.99 value.

Your donation will help preserve our right to fish.


Why anglers aren't environmentalists





I’m for a stronger Clean Water Act. I want to preserve old-growth forests. I think that it’s a disgrace that our federal government hasn’t acted more decisively to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes. I believe that we need stiffer regulations to protect our streams from strip mining, our groundwater from herbicides, and our estuaries from the runoff pollution of urban sprawl and farm fields.

But, alas, I’m also an angler, and anglers aren’t environmentalists. It’s not that anglers don’t want to protect the environment. They do. It’s that they don’t want to be called “environmentalists.” They associate that term with agenda-driven campaigns for preservation policies that often are not backed by scientific evidence.

For anglers, “conservationist” is the term of choice. Conservationists believe in both protection and sustainable use of our lands, waters, and other natural resources. They follow an ethical code of behavior and embrace a stewardship philosophy in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt.

So we have two factions, conservationists and environmentalists, sharing many of the same values, but more often viewing each other as enemies than allies.

Perhaps the most climactic moment of that divide now is occurring as environmentalists embrace a strategy to use Marine Protected Areas and other designations by governments at all levels to deny recreational anglers access to public waters. In doing so, they are shamefully insulting and dismissing a constituency that does more to protect those waters than any other.





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