Four loons on New Hampshire lakes have died this year after swallowing lead fishing tackle and a fifth “faces an uncertain future,” wildlife officials said this past week.
New Hampshire Fish and Game say it appears some of the tackle is from current fishing activity, despite the fact that small lead sinkers and jigs have been outlawed for two years.
“It is early in the season to have this many lead-poisoned loons. July and August are historically the months when lead poisoned loons are most often found,” Fish and Game officials said this past week.
Loon pairs are in the midst of nesting and sitting on eggs, which usually hatch around the Fourth of July, which is on Wednesday.
“If the dead loons were part of a pair, that probably dooms those chicks as well. It takes two adults to incubate and hatch chicks and raise them,” said Harry Vogel, senior biologist and executive director of the Loon Preservation Committee. “It’s a full-time job, raising chicks.”
However, the report said, “At least three of the loons had associated tackle (hooks, line, etc.), indicating that ingested tackle was likely from current fishing activity and not from old tackle on the bottom.”
Lead fishing tackle weighing one ounce or less has been banned since June 1, 2016, on all freshwater sites in the state because of concerns about lead poisoning of loons and other wildlife.
In 2017, according to officials, eight loons were confirmed dead after ingesting lead sinkers and jigs weighing up to 1.3 ounces. They died on a half-dozen lakes or ponds throughout the state.
On average, a loon will die from lead poisoning two to four weeks after ingesting lead fishing tackle.
The Loon Preservation Committee and New Hampshire Fish & Game Department have teamed up with two local tackle shops to offer a lead tackle buy-back program. Through Labor Day, Sept. 3, or until the initial 200 certificates are claimed, anglers can exchange one ounce or more of banned tackle (jigs and sinkers) for a $10 gift certificate redeemable at the participating shops: AJ’s Tackle in Meredith, N.H., and The Tackle Shack in Newbury, N.H.
Only banned tackle is eligible for exchange as part of the buy-back program. One exchange is permitted per customer.
Fish Lead Free (www.fishleadfree.org), is an initiative dedicated to providing resources for anglers across New England to help them switch to safe alternatives to lead tackle, including that made of steel, tungsten, tin, bismuth and many other materials.
These alternatives tend to be more expensive than lead and because the metals are less dense than lead they are usually larger, making them less convenient to use.