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Entries in loons (11)

Monday
Feb172014

Reality Versus the Anti-Fishing Movement

Anti-fishing groups are experts at using labels and implication to drive their agendas. Mistaken assumptions by the public because of that tactic are just fine with them as long as they further the cause.

For example, they talk about “overfishing” with no regard for the vast difference between recreational and commercial tactics and harvest. As a consequence, by implication, one is the same as the other.

Also, they cite statistics without putting them into context. For example, if two dead loons have been found at Lake X during the past decade and one of them was revealed to have died of lead poisoning, they will say “Half of loon mortality at Lake X is attributable to lead fishing tackle.”

That is true, of course, but misleading in its importance. Almost certainly the loon population during that decade was harmed much more by habitat loss and predation.

When the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act was passed, its authors--- intentionally or otherwise--- did much the same thing. The act defined any stock of fish that is not at a high enough level to produce the maximum sustainable yield as being “overfished.” Yes, some stocks are overfished. But depletion could be attributable to other factors, including disease and weather.

Because of that wording, though, the act has been used to penalize both recreational and commercial fishing.

A blog at FISHupdate.com explains it this way:

“This law is without question the most important piece of legislation that deals with U.S. domestic fisheries management. Thus, equating ‘not enough fish’ with ‘overfished’ contributes to a blame-it-all-on-fishing mindset and a gift to the anti-fishing activists.”

A proposed amendment would change “overfished” to “depleted” throughout the act.

That amendment is contained in draft Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.

“The draft legislation aims to alleviate a number of concerns that recreational and commercial fishermen and the businesses that depend on them have had, since the original intent of the Magnuson Act has been severely distorted by a number of agenda-driven organizations,” said FISHupdate, which cited a previous blog about this at Fishosophy.

Wednesday
Oct162013

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 www.learner.org

“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.)

Thursday
Jun272013

Anglers Forsake Angling to Support N.H. Lead Ban

In New Hampshire, passage of a bill to ban lead jigs and sinkers of one ounce or less is disappointing, but not surprising. The loonies did a bang up job of making lead synonymous with “toxic” and loons synonymous with “threatened.” Facts and common sense were irrelevant to the debate, as was opposition to the bill by New Hampshire Fish and Game.

The legislation is largely toothless, meaning anglers will just buy more of their jigs and sinkers online and most violators will not be ticketed.

Still, this triumph of emotion over science in the management of fish and wildlife is an ominous sign for anglers and hunters. It’s one more victory for the feel-good, animal rights, preservationist crowd. And one more defeat for conservation and the North American model of fish and wildlife management based on science, which has served us so well.

Even more troubling, though, is the fact that an angler organization--- New Hampshire Trout Unlimited--- supported the ban. The decision did not sit well with Brian Emerson, a licensed guide in the state. In a blistering letter to the organization he said, among other things:

I am ashamed, as a trout fisherman, to think that anglers placed their trust in you to oversee their interests only to be sold down the river. I will do everything in my power to let as many sportsmen as possible know what you have done and urge them to no longer support your organization.”

And B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Noreen Clough noted a disturbing parallel. “Clearly all of the angling ‘elitists’ are no longer in the Pacific Northwest, but demonstrated that they are alive and well and willing to split freshwater anglers into factions in New Hampshire,” she said.

“They do so at their own peril.”

In the Northwest, preservationists and native-species advocates have waged war against non-native bass for decades, blaming the popular sport fish for the demise of salmon and trout. Of course, the reality is that dams damaged native species, while creating prime conditions for bass. Likewise, lakeshore development in New England has caused the most harm to loon populations, not lead fishing tackle.

But anglers are easy targets. While loonies and other preservationists organize, raise funds, and storm state capitals, we’ve shown a remarkable resistance to uniting on behalf of the sport we profess to love. Instead, we make excuses for not getting involved, and, even worse, fragment, making it even easier for anti-fishing zealots to roll over us.

For example, trout anglers in New Hampshire now have alienated bass anglers. What’s going to happen when the loonies decide that they also want to ban lead-weighted flies, flies with lead eyes and lead-core line? Who will stand with the trout fishermen?

The need for angler unity and activism is not just in the Northwest and New England either. In Minnesota, fisheries managers decided to sacrifice the Mille Lacs smallmouth fishery through liberal harvest as a way to rebuild the walleye population. In doing so, they largely ignored investigation into how netting by Native Tribes is impacting the latter.

Writing for the Star-Tribune newspaper, Dennis Anderson said, “When the bizarre becomes routine, people accept it as normal. Which might explain the quiet acquiescence among Mille Lacs anglers since the Department of Natural Resources recently announced its two-fish walleye limits for the lake beginning May 11.”

And he closed with this: “Fundamentally, what bedevils the lake and its walleyes hides in plain sight every spring, and will reveal itself again soon--- routine now as ice-out, but nonetheless bizarre.  It’s the nets.”

But the 500-pound gorilla in the room for anglers everywhere is the threat to access. Right now, the focus mainly is on salt water, as typified by the National Park Service’s recent proposal to set up non-combustion zones in 1/3 of Florida Bay, a part of Everglades National Park. In effect, many popular fishing areas would become virtually inaccessible.

Previously, the NPS went far beyond what was necessary to protect threatened bird species, denying access to massive areas of shoreline for surf anglers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

And the National Ocean Council will prove to be just as fervently anti-fishing, as it “zones” how our waters will be used. Yes, it will start with blue water and coastal areas. But it won’t stop there.

“It’s only a matter of time before they restrict access to fishing in freshwater,” said Clough.

It doesn’t have to happen. But if freshwater anglers follow the example of trout fishermen in New Hampshire, it surely will.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
May242013

Angry Guide Calls Out N.H. Trout Unlimited for Supporting Lead Ban

I am not the only one enraged by the New Hampshire’s legislature decision to ban lead jigheads and sinkers of 1 ounce or less. (See post below this one.) Angling advocates nationwide are shaking their heads in disbelief at the state’s disregard for science and common sense.

And they are not going to go away and quietly accept the state’s lead ban--- or forget those who supported the ban.

Here’s a letter to Trout Unlimited from Brian Emerson, a licensed fishing guide in New Hampshire:

As a lifetime angler and licensed guide for all species of fish in New Hampshire, as well as a former supporter and donor to NHTU, I have to tell you that I am totally disgusted with Trout Unlimited "selling-out" the fishing fraternity by supporting SB89. Eventually I'm sure it will come out as to what TU received in exchange for their support of this unfounded and unnecessary ban on bass fishing tackle. Perhaps your goal was to drive a wedge between trout and bass fisherman. If so, you don't begin to know how you have succeeded.

This bill was not endorsed by the NH F&G Commission for many good reasons. Why you would elect to support a bill contrary to their wishes certainly escapes me.

I have read your letter of support that was sent to the legislative committee and it sickens me to see that you would suggest that the NH loons are threatened (FACT: They most definitely are not!!!!) And the notion that the targeted bass jigs are having a significant negative impact on the loon population is obviously the statement of an uneducated person. Trout tackle continues to be the number one cause of lead toxicosis in loons, years after it has been banned.

Like I said, I fish for all species of fish and I expect that TU will feel the backlash from this to an extent they couldn't have imagined. You now have hundreds, and most likely thousands, of irate fishermen that will be on a mission to destroy TU in this state. Your only hope for salvation will be to support the repeal of SB89.

I can assure you the bass community will be submitting a bill to do just that in the future. I'm sure that lead-weighted flies, flies with lead eyes, lead-core line and any other trout tackle containing lead will be attacked as well (most likely by the very group that you sided with on this bill!).

I am ashamed, as a trout fisherman, to think that anglers placed their trust in you to oversee their interests only to be sold down the river. I will do everything in my power to let as many sportsmen as possible know what you have done and urge them to no longer support your organization.

If you want to send your own letter to the New Hampshire Trout Unlimited, here’s the address: nhtroutunlimited@gmail.com

Friday
May242013

New Hampshire Defies Common Sense and Science in Banning Lead Tackle

The anti-fishing loon-atics have had their way in New Hampshire, as the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill to outlaw the use of lead jigheads and sinkers of 1 ounce or less. The bill previously passed without opposition in the Senate and now awaits the governor’s signature to be made law.

The bill’s intended purpose is to protect loons from dying of lead poisoning by ingesting the jigs and sinkers. But a law wasn’t needed for that. It rarely occurs anyway.

“There is no substantial evidence to suggest that lead fishing tackle has detrimental impacts on loon, or other migratory waterfowl populations,” the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation said in a letter opposing the bill. “In fact, studies by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have found loon populations are either stable or increasing across the nation.”

What the bill will do, however, is discourage recreational fishing in New Hampshire, especially by those from out-of-state. Resident anglers will mostly continue to use lead jigs and sinkers, since no punitive measures are attached to the new law.

But out-of-state anglers won’t want the potential hassle and so will go elsewhere to fish. That means their money will go with them.

That translates into fewer tourist dollars to benefit the state’s economy and less revenue for management of the state’s fish and wildlife resources, since fishing license fees are a primary source of revenue.

Additionally, over time, the measure is likely to depress the number of resident anglers as well. That will mean less funding not only from loss of licenses but from the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) program. State apportionments from the latter are tied to license sales; the more who fish the waters of a state, the more money that state gets.

Whether money comes from license sales or WSFR, it benefits fish and wildlife in general as it is used to restore and enhance habitat. In other words, when anglers buy licenses and spend money on their sport, they actually benefit loons, not harm them.

Congratulations New Hampshire loon-atics for your stupidity and short-sightedness.