Lead in the river

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by LD, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. Under neutral pH conditions, inorganic lead (the stuff in sinkers and pyramid anchors) is pretty biologically inert and pretty tough. Under acidic conditions (mine tailings that are acidic or the digestive system of a foraging bird), it ionizes and can be absorbed. Under those conditions, it damages the nervous system and can lead to paralysis and death. Birds swallow hard materials, like stones, to grind their food in their muscular gizzard (duckbill dinosaurs and their relatives appeared to do the same thing). If the hard materials were lead shot, the physical abrasion and the acidity in the gizzard would be a deadly combination (see http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/animals.cfm). Large chunks of lead, too large to be swallowed, are not a significant biological threat, but split shot would appear to be in the right size to be swallowed. Those who pour their own lead sinkers, jig heads, etc. are also at risk because of the fumes from the molten lead (see http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/humans.cfm). This article also covers the issue quite well, especially in comparing the contributions of hunting vs. fishing to the accumulation of lead: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2188/do-lead-fishing-sinkers-threaten-the-environment.

  2. The first sentence of the last paragraph sums it up. Why is there a need to use lead anchors when suitable alternatives are available - is it the cost? Once I discovered an alternative, the lead anchor made less and less sense.

    "The fact is, lead is harmful to an enormous variety of wildlife, and lead fishing sinkers and other lead tackle contribute significantly to the risk."

  3. No, the reason is density. Ask waterfowlers if they still wish they could use the density of lead vs. steel shot Lead is 44% heavier per unit volume than steel. When you show me the loon or duck or goose that can eat a 10 pound lead anchor, then we should be concerned.

  4. Good for a chuckle, Steve - but the reality is it's not one bird eating a 10 pound piece of lead, it's millions eating much smaller pieces - the size that comes off as a 35 pound pyramid finishes the season at 27 pounds.

    8 pounds of lead. Where does it go?

  5. Actually, that's not always true. I use the hell out of my anchors. Made a point to weigh them after those steel ones came out. Mine are very rounded. But lead is a soft metal. My 20# is 19.5 (and I never weighed it originally). My 30# is still just under 30#. They have gouges and rounded edges. But even my old Eastsides anchor (original) still weighs in roughly the same. I'm sure there are rivers were some anchors are being ripped up pretty bad. But think there needs some more studies on that one though. Especially since my Dad's can anchor (had to save that one) still weighs in at 45#'s for being older then a lot of us on the board (probably 50 years old and well used). Now, maybe guides who are on those jagged bottom rivers all the time probably kill more anchors, and rightly so. But most of the glacial rivers I fish harder then hell for then to grab thanks to the sand and smooth rock bottoms. Let alone rip anchors apart.

    Now the drift lead. I'm sure most rivers have PLENTY of it. Plus most river have plenty of car bodies (seems every river has a car body hole), tires, etc etc etc. Not that it's an excuse, but it's there.
  6. It is tough to tell from the presentation how much fishing lead they have and how much "other stuff" is in the bucket. It is not clear what the "other stuff" is.....maybe it is lead maybe it is rocks...it should be investigated to clarify what we are seeing. If it is truly lead, they should give up gold mining and start selling lead, they probably netted $280.....
  7. I was fishing the fly bar a few years back and got so mad at a fellow. He would motor up to the top of the run, throw out his anchor, and drag his anchor through the middle of the river all the down; that yahoo! It made me mad enough that he was, in my opinion, ruining any chance at a fish, but I was thinking about the lead and the river bottom and that made me so mad. You could hear it quite dragging quite loud over the rocks. Does anyone know if its legal to drag an anchor like that?
  8. No doubt there was slot of lead in the bucket but if it was all lead there is no way that dude lifts the 5 gallon bucket up by the handle without it breaking off. Just my opinion

    Derek Young and Old Man like this.
  9. Way to change the subject from 'lead may be harming our favorite places', to 'that's probably not even lead in the bucket'. Funny stuff.
    But I think what Derek may be getting at is that a chunk of lead like a lost anchor sitting at the bottom of the river subjected to erosive forces 24 hours a day for years throughout all seasons including the ones that don't get fished. Think about the little pebbles that are constantly pinging off it, I would think they'd be harder than the lead. You want proof that a soft chunk of lead can be eroded by a river, look no further than the canyon through which the river flows.
  10. What risk?
  11. Thanks Cabezon and Kerry S and a couple of others for proving that there are still a few folks on this site who can exhibit common sense.
    Patrick Allen likes this.
  12. I think you will find that lead is not soluble in water.

    The lost lead sinkers are not a significant water quality issue. If lead were even marginable soluble in freshwater the spend lead shot found in various ponds and lakes for waterfowl hunting with lead shot would have dissolved years ago rather than persisting as a problem for various waterfowl. They have issues with the lead shot in that they ingest the shot to provide the gist for the gizzards. As they is ground down it enters their blood streams which often leads to death.

    Here in Washington lead sinkers can be a problem for loons feeding on local waters; however here again the problem is not the lead in the water. The majority of the time the loons dying of lead poisoning get the lead from stealing fish from anglers and as they break the anglers line the bird ingests the fish, hook, and sinker leading to the problem. That problem got of just as easily been solved by requiring anglers on those key waters to use free sliding sinkers that had no obstacle between the swivels and the rod tip. Then when the loon breaks the anglers line to get the fish the sinker would fall harmlessly to the bottom as a ban on the use of those sinkers.

    If as anglers you are concern about fishing related impacts on the environment I suggest that you focus on our leaders - both monofilament and fluro. A dual fold impact from the material left in the environment and the manufacture of the material.

  13. So many armchair scientists, so few experts...opinions abound and facts are adrift in the currents.
    scottr likes this.
  14. Once again, whose anchor is weighing 4,5 or 8 pounds lighter? I have one that has been used for over 12 years and is still the same weight it was when purchased. I'm not buying into the hype.
  15. I don't think there is anything illegal about dragging anchor while fishing although it likely isn't the smartest thing to do in waters that are used for spawning. Most guys I see using this technique will use a portion of an inner tube about two feet long. They will tie the ends off with wire and fill it with sand and small rocks from a river bar. This results in an 'anchor' that is banana shaped and drags the bottom with out hanging up much. The desired affect is to slow the drift without using oars or a kicker.
  16. yes drift fishermen litter the hell out of rivers. but lead anchors? come on. perhaps some of you should take up a less destructive hobby like ballet or chess, this California mentality its getting old. oh yeah the lead is still on the anchor smart guy, no really it is a soft metal its just a different shape now. buy a prius, and eat only food you grow, and return to silk lines. my guess is most of the compensator rigs i see some of you drive pollute far more than my anchor, so sell that diesel Ford and get a bike
  17. I would venture a guess that the suction dredging is doing far more damage than the lost lead on the river bottom.​
  18. Hmmm...so, as long as it's the birds dying from the lead, by eating the fish - there's not a problem that the fish have lead in them?

    "The majority of the time the loons dying of lead poisoning get the lead from stealing fish from anglers and as they break the anglers line the bird ingests the fish, hook, and sinker leading to the problem."

    Talk about common sense.
  19. Derek -
    Is there any evidence that the fish are getting lead from those sinkers? I don't think so.

    The waterfowl because of the way they digest their food - they use their gizzards to grind their food and for that process to work they ingest some grit to aid in the grinding of that food. In the process to getting that grit they in some areas also ingest small shotgun pellets found in the same areas as their grit. The later grinding process reduces the lead so that it enters their blood stream resulting in death. I do not believe any of the fish here in the PNW are ingesting rocks as a regular part of their diet thus avoiding the sinkers. Further in those cases were incidental rocks (sinkers) are ingested they are not subject to the grinding process and if small enough readily pass through the fish's digestive system.

    In the case of the loons they are not getting lead poisoning from the fish themselves but rather from the associated sinkers that comes along with the fish when they steal them from the anglers. The free swimming fish (except those that have broken loose from anglers and still have line and sinker attached to them) are not carrying lead poisoning from those sinkers.

    Now there may well be a number of contaminates in the fish associated with a number other pollution sources (including lead) but that is a whole different story and issue.


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