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Lead Fishing Tackle Buyback Program Continues & Expands for 2020

Although Loon mortalities from lead sinkers has decreased since the 2016 ban took effect, the fact that there are any deaths at all indicates that lead sinkers are still in use in New Hampshire.

According to Harry Vogel, Senior Biologist and Executive Director of the Loon Preservation Committee, seven adult loons passed away in 2019 from lead poisoning. He did note, however, that since many deceased loons are never found, this number could be higher. Vogel also stated that other loons were found with lead objects in their stomachs that were "too eroded to identify.” These loons were not counted in those seven deaths because of the inability to positively verify the actual cause of their passing.

A diet of fish predisposes loons to ingesting lead sinkers. When fishing line breaks, and the sinker remains in the fish. The loon eats the fish and digests all but the fishing equipment. In the Spring newsletter from NH Lakes, Vogel points out that “Yearly peaks of loon deaths from ingested tackle coincide with the peak of fishing activity on New Hampshire’s lakes. This and other evidence indicates that illegal lead tackle remains in active use.”

The Lead Tackle Buyback Program was started in 2018 by the Loon Preservation Committee (LPC), and New Hampshire Fish and Game. Participating stores will exchange one ounce or more of old lead fishing tackle for a $10 voucher. In 2018 two stores participated, and in 2019 the number went to nine. Despite economic concerns from the shutdowns related to COVID-19, it is hoped the number of participating stores will increase for the 2020 season.

To date, the buyback program has been successful, but the need to expand is clear. Each year, as more and more sporting goods stores participate, fewer lead sinkers will be in our lakes and rivers. The list of participating shops will be published when it is finalized in late May or early June. Visit the LPC Loon Safe website: for updated information.

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