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CONCORD, N.H. - Several thousand ice fishermen know a lot more about the effects of lead sinkers on New Hampshire's loons, thanks to some work this weekend by New Hampshire Fish and Game staff and its partners.

Spreading the word during the busiest ice-fishing weekend of the year were staff and volunteers from Fish and Game's Aquatic Resources Education Program, the Loon Preservation Committee, and organizers of the Great Rotary Fishing Derby.

"Most of the New Hampshire anglers knew about the ban, but some of the out-of-state anglers weren't aware," said Laura Ryder, supervisor of the Aquatic Resources Education Program. "And lots of folks had questions about how lead can affect the loons."

Over the weekend, staff and volunteers fanned out across Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Waukewan, Newfound and Webster lakes to hand out free samples of lead-free sinkers and information about New Hampshire's ban. Helping their effort were two snowmobiles loaned by Meredith Harley Davidson.

Under state law that went into effect January 1, anglers shall not use lead sinkers weighing 1 ounce or less, and lead jigs less than 1 inch long in the state's lakes and ponds. The reason for the ban is to protect loons and other diving water birds, which can pick up lead sinkers and jigs from lake bottoms. The birds mistake the tackle for stones they use for grinding food in their gizzards. Once ingested, lead can kill the birds.

"Overall, anglers were very appreciative and very positive about the issue," Ryder said. "Once they understood it, they were satisfied that switching tackle is the right thing to do."

Lead-free sinkers and jigs are becoming increasingly available in the state's retail market. Some of the 9,000-plus anglers who participated in this weekend's fishing derby encountered local shortages of supplies, especially as the derby approached.

Over the coming months, Fish and Game and the Loon Preservation Committee will continue spreading the word about the lead ban at various events.

Meanwhile, anglers should safely dispose of their old lead sinkers and jigs at:

  • All Fish and Game regional offices (Concord, Durham, Keene, Lancaster, and New Hampton) and state fish hatcheries (for locations, call 271-3211).
  • Household Hazardous Waste Collections held throughout the state held from April through June. Call the Department of Environmental Services at (603) 271-3503, or visit:
  • The Loon Preservation Committee's visitor center on Lee's Mills Road in Moultonborough.
  • Recycling centers and transfer stations in more than 30 communities that belong to the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, (603) 225-6996.

For more information, call Fish and Game's Aquatic Resources Education Program at (603) 271-3212, or via email:

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