Fishing Sinker Safety
Inside the Outdoors, April 1,

Just recently, I happened to read an article published by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation pertaining to fishing responsibility in the state. For years now, there has been a controversy over using lead weights in the sport to weigh lines, however, very little as way of solving the problem of toxicity of lead.

Concerning this release, there was a new legislation law passed under Section 11-0308 regarding the ban of small lead fishing sinkers. It states:

(1.) No person shall sell at retail or offer for retail sale lead fishing sinkers weighing one-half ounce or less. Each day of sale or offering for sale shall constitute a separate violation of this second.

(2.) For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings: a. “sinker” shall mean any device that is designed to be attached to a fishing line and intended to sink the line. Such term shall not include artificial lures, weighted line, weighted flies or jig heads. B. “sell at retail” or “retail sale” shall mean the sale to any person in the state for any purpose other than for resale.

(3.) The department shall provide notice of the prohibition of the retail sale or offering for sale of lead fishing sinkers weighing one-half ounce or less in the state fishing regulations guide.

In the release it was noted that “split shot sinkers” were the culprit. For those unfamiliar with this product, these are a little bit bigger than a BB and have a slit in them. The fisher puts the line inside the cavity made by the slit, squeezing it tightly, crimping the line so as to not fall off. Thus, the line at this point becomes heavier.

“The loss of sinkers and lures is a routine part of fishing,” stated the writer. “Unfortunately, lost sinkers, especially split shot, may be mistaken for food or grit and eaten by waterbirds such as ducks, geese, swans, gulls, or loons. Toxic effects of even a single lead sinker can cause birds to sicken and increases the risk of death through predation, exposure or lead poisoning,” he said.

It was recommended that fishers visit tackle stores and buy lead substitutes. That may be a good strategy, but some of the wholesalers still don’t carry anything but lead sinkers.

However, I did find some alternates. In Ligonier, Ligonier Outfitters and Newsstand does carry tin split shots. Gander Mountain in Greensburg has titanium and tungsten weights in place of lead. And ever since its premier, Latrobe’s Frank Moff has been selling the BobberWithABrain including its weight that is made out of ceramic material.

He scientifically analyzed water weight before arriving at the ounce weight of his weight.

He explains it this way, “To determine the density of a material, its air weight must be compared to its water weight. We use water as being the standard for density with its density rate as ONE. Lead weighs 11 times as water and is considered a heavy metal.”

In comparing today’s lead replacements, Moff explained, “It seems that most newer sinkers seem to try to get the lead out, but retain the density to keep the product small. I think that density has its place, but lighter density also has many advantages. Our sinker has three times the weight of water. Lead, on the other hand, is a whopping 11 times the weight of water. A one-half ounce ceramic sinker will be a little over three times as big as a lead sinker of the same weight,” he said.

The entrepreneur stated that he found more advantages of a lighter density sinker. There is no difference in throwing both a lead or ceramic sinker. Where the difference lies while in the water itself.

“The ceramic can be reeled in at a slower rate without dragging the bottom, which leads to less snags. Slower reeling can also be used for trolling with a hook below the ceramic slip sinker.” He added, “Heavier ceramic sinkers will also work better with lighter floats, not sinking them like lead does, since ceramic loses one-third of its air weight in the water.”

As an angler, this caught my attention, and it is hoped others will be turned onto it, as well. “Unlike lead, ceramic has a fish attracting sound when it strikes rocks, making a noise like a crayfish, tapping its tail.

Right now, only a couple retailers carry ceramic weights. One can purchase them from Each pack contains five weights and five snap ball bearing sinkers. I will be carrying them at the Latrobe Indoor Vendors’ Market, Tuesdays, from 11 to 3 p.m. at the Thomas Anderson Post 515 American Legion, 1811 Ligonier. St., Latrobe.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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