Namakagon Lake Association to host TOXIC TACKLE SWAPS as part of a cooperative effort to study the feasibility of a switch from lead to lead-free sinkers and jigs on Wisconsin Lakes. The NLA has partnered with BCLF, DNR, LoonWatch, Northwest Waters and others to make this possible. All anglers are encouraged to use only non-toxic sinkers and jigs on Namakagon, Garden and Jackson Lakes and to help provide data on the success of this voluntary wildlife protection effort. Watch local media and for the dates of the swap events [BELOW] where anglers will be able to trade in lead tackle for non-toxics to protect water birds and other wildlife. Our loons, herons and eagles will thank you!


Lakes Forum announces Toxic Tackle Swaps on Lake Namakagon

To protect Wisconsin’s water birds, raptors, and other wildlife from lead poisoning, the Bayfield County Lakes Forum (BCLF) announced today that, in partnership with others, it will implement a 3-point plan to study public response to the proposed switch from toxic fishing tackle to safe substitutes. The plan calls for a voluntary program that will offer anglers an opportunity to trade in small lead sinkers and jigs at a series of Toxic Tackle Swaps at or near Lake Namakagon beginning in late April or May and ending in October.

Partners in this effort include the Bayfield County Lakes Forum (BCLF), Namakagon Lake Association (NLA), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Natural Resources Board (NRB), Northland College’s LoonWatch, Wisconsin Lakes (WL, formerly WAL), the Northwest Wisconsin Waters Consortium (NWWC), the Cable Natural History Museum (CNHM) and the Cable Lake Association. There are many supporting organizations including the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, resorts and others.

Part 1 of the 3-point plan is to distribute, to anglers, information regarding the impact of toxic lead sinkers and jigs on our water birds, raptors, reptiles, fish, mammals and other wildlife. Part 2 is to determine public response to a proposed switch from toxic to safe sinkers and jigs. This will be done through a survey offered to anglers that will seek their opinions regarding such a switch. Part 3 of the plan is to hold free Toxic Tackle Swaps at and near Lake Namakagon. At these events, information will be available and anglers will be invited to trade in their toxic lead sinkers and jigs for non-toxic substitutes and fill out a brief questionnaire.

It is anticipated that the information offered in the educational aspect of the program will result in many anglers joining with other sportsmen who already use only non-toxic sinkers and jigs. The results of the survey will help with future decisions regarding the use of small lead tackle in Wisconsin lakes. Finally, it is hoped that, by giving anglers the opportunity to trade their toxic tackle for safe tackle, sportsmen will come to understand that the non-toxic tackle works as well as lead while giving the added benefit of protecting wildlife.

“This study is designed to gauge the willingness of anglers to use safe sinkers and jigs instead of the poisonous lead tackle some are accustomed to using. Many who fish are not yet aware that just one small sinker can and will kill a twelve-pound loon or a fifty-year-old Great Blue Heron,” said Jim Brakken, BCLF President. “Some anglers argue that lead is not a poison and does not affect our wildlife. But the debate on this is over. Numerous scientific studies clearly show that, yes, when ingested, lead kills birds and, in some cases, fish, reptiles and mammals. The data is clear. There is no doubt. Lead means dead. This brings up the question, Are we sportsmen willing to use non-toxic substitutes that will spare wildlife from lead poisoning, or will we continue holding on to traditional practices that we now know are deadly to wildlife? This survey and free swap program will help us learn how anglers will answer this question.

“The Lakes Forum is also recommending that every lake association in northwestern Wisconsin budget a minimum of $200 for non-toxic sinkers and jigs and offer their own similar toxic tackle swaps at their annual meetings, community events or at their landings. BCLF hopes this will help anglers transition to safe fishing tackle voluntarily,” Brakken said. “Wisconsin Lakes has partnered in this effort and will call on all Wisconsin lake associations and lake districts to support the reduction of toxic lead in our lakes in any way possible.”

Lake Namakagon was chosen by the NRB as the host lake for this pilot program due to its popularity as a tourist destination; variety of fish species and fishing opportunities; variety of water birds, raptors and other wildlife; and the interest from the BCLF and NLA in supporting this program. BCLF will coordinate the project and NLA volunteers plan to oversee the tackle exchanges at the lake. Other lake volunteers will oversee other toxic tackle swap opportunities. The NLA represents over 400 waterfront owners and other members and was formed in 1995 for the purpose of preserving and protecting Lake Namakagon and its environs. The Bayfield County Lakes Forum is a non-profit volunteer lake advocacy organization and not affiliated with the Bayfield County government.


The effort to protect wildlife by reducing the use of toxic fishing tackle has been the focus of Northland College’s LoonWatch program through the last decade. In 2007 the Bayfield County Lakes Forum drafted a resolution calling attention to the problem of poisoning of our wildlife from lead tackle. The Douglas County Association of Lakes and Streams presented the BCLF resolution at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearings where it won approval. In 2010 it appeared in the Spring Hearings Booklet as a proposal for a phase-out of toxic fishing tackle less than one-inch and less than one-half ounce. It won statewide approval from the Conservation Congress delegates in May, 2010 and was subsequently accepted by the Natural Resources Board. To better understand public response to the proposed phase-out of small, toxic fishing tackle, the NRB chose to work with the BCLF to conduct the education effort, survey and toxic tackle swaps on Lake Namakagon.

Volunteering opportunities

Those interested in volunteering at the BCLF and NLA toxic tackle swap tables are asked e-mail More information on the 3-point program, the toxicity of lead fishing tackle and its effect on Wisconsin wildlife can be found on the Bayfield County Lakes Forum’s website,


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The free Toxic Tackle Swap events will begin April 30 and continue into October. A complete schedule of free Toxic Tackle Swap dates and places is posted on BCLF’s website, and will appear in local media. The proposed schedule, subject to change, is as follows:


Apr 30                         Fishing opener              10 am – 1 pm                          Some Nam & Cable Lk landings
May 27 – 30                 Mem weekend             10 am – 1 pm                          Some Nam & Cable Lk landings
June 7, 14, 21, 28        Saturdays                     10 am – 1 pm                           Some Nam & Cable Lk landings

June 17                        Sunday                        10 am – 1 pm                           Cable Natural History Museum

June 24                        Sunday                         1  pm – 3 pm                            Cable Natural History Museum

July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30     Saturdays                     10 am – 1 pm                           Some Nam & Cable Lk landings

July 15                         Sunday                         1  pm – 3 pm                            Cable Natural History Museum

July 2                           Cable Lk Assn Mtg   TBA                                           Cable

July 4th                         Community celebration          TBA                               Cable Depot Park,
July 23                         NLA ‘Fun on the Water’          TBA                              Lake Namakagon
Aug 6, 13, 20, 27         Saturdays                     10 am – 1 pm                           Some Nam & Cable Lk landings

Aug. 19                       Sunday                          1:00 – 3:00                              Cable Natural History Museum

Aug 20                         NLA Annual Meeting               TBA                            Lake Namakagon
Sept 2, 3, 4, 5              Labor Day weekend     10 am – 1 pm                          Some Nam & Cable Lk landings
Oct 1                           Cable Fall Fest                         TBA                             Cable

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Lead is a toxic metal that has adverse effects on the nervous and reproductive systems of mammals and birds. Found in most fishing jigs and sinkers, this metal is poisoning wildlife such as loons and eagles the very symbol of Wisconsin lakes.  However, there is hope.  Alternatives to traditional lead tackle such as sinkers and jigs made from non-toxic materials like tin, bismuth, steel, and tungsten-nickel alloy are now available at several retailers.  All local bait and tackle retailers are encouraged to stock lead free sinkers and jigs, both to serve Wisconsin anglers and to protect our wildlife.

  LoonWatch ( maintains a list of non-lead tackle suppliers. Other sources of information are the Raptor Education Group ( and DNR’s website (  

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Other Brakken quotes to use as needed:

“Non-toxic sinkers cost about a penny apiece more than toxic lead sinkers. For this very small investment, every angler can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that his or her sport is not killing off our herons, swans, loons, eagles and many other wildlife species.”

“Many manufacturers are now re-tooling for non-toxics and, as production goes up, the price will come down. It will soon be cheaper yet to protect our wildlife from lead poisoning.”

“Some anglers are not concerned about this issue because they don’t see the results of lead poisoning in our wildlife. Typically, an animal that ingests lead will become very ill and find a place to hide from predators. The animal usually dies after suffering and it is not likely that it will be discovered by humans. Often, those animals that are weakened from lead poisoning are killed by or consumed by predators after they die. These predators often die from ‘secondary’ poisoning. If anglers saw these scenarios in person, there would be far less use of lead sinkers and jigs.”

“If switching from lead to non-toxic sinkers and jigs will allow us to practice the sport of fishing without jeopardizing the health of our loons, swans, herons and eagles, then how can we possibly, say no. It is just good conservation.”

End extra Brakken quotes.