Information Tacklebox

MinnAqua


Sinkers and Lead Safety

by Michelle Kelly

August 2008


Multiple types of fishing sinkers Anglers have multiple sinker options.

A sinker is a weight attached to your fishing line about 6 - 10 inches above the hook. It forces a hook with bait to sink and keeps your bait down near the lake or river bottom, where most fish swim. For most shore fishing, pinch on one or two small split-shot sinkers on your line. Use only enough to sink the bait. If the fish feels too much weight it will quickly drop the bait.

Traditionally, sinkers have been made of lead because it is inexpensive, easily molded and dense. When sinkers are lost through broken line or other means, birds can inadvertently eat them. Water birds like loons and swans often swallow lead sinkers when they scoop up pebbles from the bottom of a lake or river to help grind their food. Eagles ingest lead by eating fish which have themselves swallowed sinkers.

Lead has been proven to be toxic when ingested by humans, water fowl and other aquatic animals. Lead has adverse effects on the nervous and reproductive systems of animals. It takes only one lead sinker or jig to terminally poison a loon. 

split shot sinkerSplit-shot sinker.

There are inexpensive and safer alternatives to lead sinkers available at many fishing equipment stores made from other materials such as tin, bismuth, steel, ceramic and tungsten-nickel alloy. If your fishing tackle provider does not stock lead alternatives, request they do so.

There are inexpensive and safer alternatives to lead sinkers available at many fishing equipment stores made from other materials such as tin, bismuth, steel, ceramic and tungsten-nickel alloy. If your fishing tackle provider does not stock lead alternatives, request they do so.

To help anglers clean out their tackle boxes and make the switch to non-lead sinkers and jigs, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota DNR have partnered with retailers, lake associations, and conservation and outdoors groups to offer lead tackle exchanges across the state. For more information go to: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/projects/leadout.html 

To request a copy of the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program, “Loons & Lead Poisoning” poster, contact the MN DNR Information Center at