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Top US fishing state considering ban on lead jigs and sinkers


Lawmakers in Minnesota, one of the most popular fishing states in the US, are considering legislation that would ban the use of small lead fishing jigs and sinkers.

The state’s legislature is also debating another bill that would lower the state’s walleye limit from six fish to four.

The proposed lead ban, which has been introduced several times in recent decades but has always failed to advance, addresses the controversial issue of the alleged poisoning of loons and other birds when lead tackle is ingested. It would ban the manufacture, sale and use of lead tackle of one ounce or lighter, or less than 2.5 inches long. If passed, manufacturers, shops and anglers would be given three years to make the transition to non-toxic materials like tungsten, brass or tin.

The ruling would not apply to sinkers, weights or jigs heavier than an ounce or to lead core fishing line and other tackle. With similar bans in place in other areas of the country, the industry is concerned that this may be the tip of an iceberg.

Critics of the proposed ban in Minnesota say the state’s loon population is not declining and that lead substitutes will cost anglers more money. The bills are sponsored by Republican Peter Fisher and Senator Charles Wiger.

A further bill, introduced by Republican Rob Ecklund, proposes to lower the state’s general walleye bag limit from six to four fish a day.

The move would affect waters where the current limit is six, but not those that already have their own walleye limits, such as Mille Lacs or Red Lake.

Supporters say increased angling pressure is resulting in too many walleyes being removed from the water. DNR Fisheries Section Manager, Brad Parsons, said the agency fully supports the bag limit reduction as much for social impact as biological impact. No neighbouring state has a six walleye limit and most of Minnesota’s most productive walleye lakes have already reduced limits. 

Those against lowering the limit argue that it will have no biological impact because so few anglers catch five or six walleye in a day. Surveys show the average number is generally less than three a day.

Minnesota lawmakers are in their long session, which started on January 4 and runs to may 17, with several hearings on each bill. Bills must pass both the Senate and House in the same form and then be signed into law by the governor.

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