The most senior of four generations of fishermen in our family, Jon Lund, began fishing in Maine in 1935.

In his time he has fished all over the state, catching just about every kind of fish on every kind of rig. The youngest of us, Elliott, just five years old, began fishing this past summer but looked every bit the experienced angler as he yanked sunfish after sunfish out of the water using a worm on a stick rod. In between, Jon’s son Will has fished his whole life and currently runs the Maine Sportsman magazine, and Will’s son Nick is the advocacy and outreach manager for Maine Audubon.Of all the things we’ve learned in our combined decades of fishing – the knots, the lure techniques, the secret spots – the most important lesson might be that the best part of fishing isn’t catching the fish, it’s being outside in Maine.

Elliott (then 4) and his great-grandpa Jon (then 93) fishing last summer on Cobbosseecontee Lake. Photo courtesy of Nick Lund

If you’re fishing, you’re not behind your desk but are out on the water. Even when the fish aren’t biting (and even young Elliott has learned that, sometimes, they just don’t bite), you’re still out with the birds and the beavers and the frogs and other creatures.One of the most beloved of those creatures, the Common Loon, is being accidentally injured by fishermen across the state.

Loons lack teeth and can’t chew their food, so they eat small stones that help to grind food up in the loon’s gizzard. When anglers lose a fishing lure made of lead, the pieces can end up in the gizzards of loons either when they eat a fish that has swallowed a lead fishing lure or when the loon accidentally plucks a lead lure off of the lake bottom for use in their gizzard. It takes just one or two pieces of lead to poison a loon, and it most often leads to an agonizing death in a matter of weeks.Lead poisoning has for years been one of the leading causes of loon mortality. The legislature took action in 2017, banning the sale of lead sinkers and jigs under 2.5 inches. Problem solved, right? Wrong. A loophole was included in the bill before it was passed that only banned the sale of unpainted lead tackle; sinkers and jigs covered in paint could still be sold. The trouble is, from the loon’s perspective, that paint doesn’t do anything to make the tackle any safer. Birds continue to be poisoned.A new bill working its way through the legislature seeks to close this deadly loophole. Sponsored by Rep. Allison Hepler, LD 958 – An Act to Expand Protections to Maine’s Loons from Lead Poisoning by Prohibiting the Sale and Use of Certain Painted Lead Jigs – would expand existing Maine law to phase out the sale, and eventually the use, of small-sized painted lead fishing tackle and keep these harmful metals out of the water.We believe that this is the right change to make to protect one of our most iconic species. Non-toxic tackle alternatives are already becoming widely available thanks to laws in Maine and other New England states, and there are buy-back programs available through the Fish Lead Free group that can help anglers with information and product testing.We can do this, and we should. Fishing in Maine just wouldn’t be the same without the other wildlife, like loons, that go with it, and we owe it to ourselves and to the creatures we fish alongside to ensure that our activities aren’t harmful. We’re four generations of Maine fishermen, but there are many more to come. Those future anglers deserve the same enjoyable experience on a Maine lake that we do – whether or not the fish are biting.

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