Brainerd Dispatch/Vince Meyer
They came from Brainerd, Baxter, Breezy Point and beyond bearing boxes and bags of lead.
Dead weight it was, its time over, its next destination the battery under the hood of your car.
Fishermen have been alerted to the environmental dangers of lead tackle. More each year are choosing to get the lead out. It's the right thing to do. Birds eat lead and die, according to the DNR.
To entice local fishermen to abandon their leaden ways, a tackle exchange took place July 23 at Paul Bunyan Nature Center.
"Depart with your lead and go shopping," Bill Henry, president of the nature center board called to fishermen who came with containers of lead tackle.
Among them were Don Metzger, Breezy Point, and Kerry Watkins, Outing. Metzger carried his lead in two coffee cans while Watkins had an old tackle box.
"Getting rid of lead is a good deal," Metzger said as he dumped the contents of his coffee cans into the collection box.
Brainerd Dispatch/Vince Meyer
"Over the years I've heard that lead poisons ducks, loons and eagles," Watkins said. He emptied his tackle and went to the table with the lead-free alternatives. "I tried some of this stuff in Boundary Waters a few years ago. The sinkers were a dollar apiece. They're starting to come down in price."
Lead alternatives include bismuth, tin, steel, pewter, glass and tungsten composite. Not all behave exactly like lead. Tungsten composite, for example, is heavier and sinks faster.
"The first lead-free jigs were terrible, they just didn't work," said Pam Perry, DNR nongame wildlife specialist in Brainerd. "Now the stuff works beautiful."
Her husband, Ken Perry, who teaches the First Cast program at Forestview Middle School, sat at a table tying flies. The Perrys were just days away from a trip to Florida, where they would surf cast along the Gulf Coast.
"This doesn't look like a very good fly," Perry said, holding up a specimen he had tied with lead-free wire. "But I put it in the water the other day and I can't wait to get it in the water down there."
Lead wire is the only substance fly tyers must exchange, Perry said. When students in his First Cast program bring lead wire to class he exchanges it for lead-free wire.
Since 2002 more than 2,000 pounds of lead tackle has been collected at 80 tackle exchanges statewide. Minnesota leads the nation in pounds of lead tackle collected.
"That shows our approach to problem solving," said Kevin McDonald, lead tackle program coordinator with the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance. "We do it through education and partnerships with manufacturers, retailers, angling groups and others. It's an ambitious effort."
Lead collected at the exchanges is processed at the Dakota County Eco-Center and then goes to Gopher Resources in Rosemount, where it's recycled for car batteries.
"It's been a huge success," McDonald said of the exchange program. "We've demonstrated to retailers there's an interest in getting rid of lead. And we've stimulate the manufacturers into making the stuff."
Northland Tackle, Water Gremlin, Glow Optics, Gravity Heikkala, and Doctor Drop are five Minnesota-based manufacturers that produce lead-free tackle. Most of it's sold at larger retail stores but McDonald said a push is being made to get it into smaller bait shops and Mom and Pop stores.
"Some of our best exchanges have been in small towns," McDonald said. "In Park Rapids we collected 60 pounds in four hours. There was a line of people waiting to exchange tackle."
At the Northwest Sportshow in March, people were asked if they had bought lead free tackle or were planning to buy it. Seventy-five percent of respondents said yes, McDonald said.
The next local lead tackle exchange is scheduled for Gander Mountain in Baxter on Aug. 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
VINCE MEYER can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5862
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