Lake Associations Protect Loons with Get the Lead Out

Get the Lead Out is a program at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Our mission is to educate about the dangers of lead fishing tackle to Minnesota’s loons and wildlife.

Impacts of lead on loons:

Lead poisoning from ingesting lead tackle is a leading cause of death for loons. The national estimate is that 20-25% of adult loon deaths are caused by lead poisoning. Loons ingest lead tackle in many ways:

1) They consume fish with lead tackle attached. The fish can either still be on the line or broke off with tackle still hooked.

2) Loons need grit in their gizzards to help digest food. They pick up and ingest pebbles from the lake bottom for grit. They also pick up lost lead jigs and sinkers too.

3) Lastly, loons may strike directly at fishing tacking being reeled in.

Acid in the loon’s stomach dissolves lead and it then enters their bloodstream. Their nervous system is affected, and their body begins to shut down. Physical symptoms include: loss of balance, gasping, tremors, and limited flying abilities. Depending on the amount of lead ingested, death may occur in days to a few weeks. If a loon sickened with lead poisoning is found, the only course of action is to humanely euthanize it.

What can you do?

Lake associations and lake residents are integral partners for our program, as they have direct connections with lakes and the loons that may be present on them.

There are many alternatives to lead tackle out there, such as tungsten, tin, bismuth, and steel. Finding and switching to lead-free tackle does not happen overnight, it takes time and money. Get the Lead Out wants to facilitate and encourage lead-free fishing for anglers, of all experience levels. For this reason, we are looking to distribute lead collection kits, at no cost, to lake associations. These kits include a lead collection box and educational materials. They also include lead-free tackle samples, to give out, preferably in exchange for lead tackle disposed.

These kits will give people a convenient opportunity in your area to dispose of lead tackle. More importantly though, the lead-free samples will also allow anglers to try out non-toxic, lead-free fishing tackle on your lakes.

If you/your association would like to collect and dispose of lead tackle to protect common loons and other wildlife, please fill out this short survey,, to request a free lead tackle collection kit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Get the Lead Out program. More information and pictures can be found on the survey. If you have any questions, please visit, or contact