Nontoxic tackle: Get the lead out

Man holding a perch
Non-lead fishing tackle: Effective and safe for wildlife

Switching from lead weights and sinkers to those made from tin, steel, bismuth, and other materials protects our state bird, the common loon. Loons are poisoned when they inadvertantly swallow lost lead tackle while scooping up pebbles to help grind their food. Ingesting lead fishing tackle is the cause of death in up to 20% of loons turned in by private citizens. Learn more:

Look for weights, sinkers, and jigs made without lead

See the manufacturer's directory linked at right to find non-toxic fishing tackle.

Montage image with tackle, loons, a child holding a fish

The dangers of lead poisoning

A bird with lead poisoning will have physical and behavioral changes, including loss of balance, gasping, tremors, and impaired ability to fly. The weakened bird is more vulnerable to predators, or it may have trouble feeding, mating, nesting, and caring for its young. It becomes emaciated and often dies within two to three weeks after eating the lead.

More lead-protection tips for anglers

  • Never throw old fishing gear into the water or shore. Discard old lead sinkers and jigs at your local household hazardous waste collection site.
  • Never put a lead sinker in your mouth or bite down on slip shot — use a pair of pliers instead!
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling lead sinkers or cleaning out your tackle box.
  • Spread the word. Tell other anglers about the problem, and encourage them to switch to non-lead sinkers and jigs. Talk to your favorite retailers and ask them to stock non-lead fishing tackle.

See the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web site for more tips on fishing ethics and stewardship.

Get involved

Partner with the MPCA to do a tackle exchange in your neighborhood. Or invite us to a presentation at a school or community organization. Email leadout@state.mn.us for more information.

Look for the MPCA at sport shows around the state, where we're encouraging Minnesotans to use non-toxic tackle.

Project funding

MPCA’s Get the Lead Out! campaign is a Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment project. The work is being paid for with funds provided by BP as part of a 2016 settlement agreement with federal and state governments to compensate the public for injuries to natural resources and recreational use caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Gulf of Mexico is a primary wintering area for loons. The oil spill directly affected between 600 and 1,000 common loons and indirectly affected more loons in the years after the disaster. As a result, the MPCA was awarded $1.27 million to help restore the loon population to pre-spill numbers. Learn more about Minnesota's common loon on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web site.