As of April 1 the use of lead fishing tackle will be restricted on three Vilas County research lakes.
The Department of Natural Resources made the announcement in a news release Thursday, March 6.
The three lakes – Escanaba, Pallette and Nebish – are part of the Northern Highlands Fishery Research Area, which also contains Spruce and Mystery lakes.
Lakes in the research area have special regulations, including being open year-round and, in most cases, no bag limits, though there are certain specific fishing restrictions on four of the five lakes.
The new regulation was put in place to protect loons and other water birds and increase awareness of the hazards associated with lead tackle.
Gregg Sass, a DNR fisheries scientist based at the research area, said these lakes are “an ideal study area” for this pilot project.
“In association with the compulsory creel census, these three lakes were good choices given our required interactions with anglers in order to administer our user survey in regards to non-lead tackle use, experiences, and perceptions,” he wrote in an email to The Lakeland Times.
Anglers fishing the lakes of the Northern Highlands Fishery Research Area must check in at the Escanaba Lake Station to obtain a free daily permit. After fishing, anglers must report their catch as well.
Anglers fishing Escanaba, Pallette and Nebish lakes will be asked to fill out a survey about their experience with non-lead tackle beginning April 1.
A limited supply of non-lead alternatives will be available free of charge at the station.
“Complimentary tackle includes jigs of various weights and split shot of various weights. The non-lead jigs are made from casting metal and the split shot are made of tin,” Sass said.
Alternatives to lead include materials such as tin, bismuth, steel, tungsten-nickel alloy, pewter, glass, ceramic and even densified plastic.
The new regulation on the three lakes will specifically restrict the use of lead-containing jig heads, split shot and weights less than one ounce, or any lead-containing items smaller than one inch in any dimension.
Lead tackle can be ingested by water birds along with small stones picked up on lake bottoms, or by any fish-eater, such as an eagle, that eats a fish that has swallowed lead tackle.
Northland College Loon Watch has information on lead and alternatives, including a list of suppliers of nontoxic tackle. Visit www.northland.edu/ and mouse over the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute link.
For more information on lead, visit dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/fishhealth/gettheleadout.html.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com.