Chicago Sun-Times
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Rinchich on Lead

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John Rinchich is an original member of WindyCity Bassmasters and one of the foremost members of the bass-fishing scene in the south and southwest suburbs. And the proprietor of J.J.'s Bait & Tackle in Bridgeview.

Frankly, I probably should have done a full-blown story on him by now, but haven't yet.

I hadn't heard from him in a while, but Pat Rinchich sent an extended email from him on the issue of banning lead fishing tackle in response to my column in Sunday's Sun-Times.


Before posting it, I want to stress that I think SB1269..introduced by Chicago state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) last week is what I called a ``half-baked idea.'' In part because it would be utterly unenforcable.

However, my prime point is and remains, fishermen should be taking the lead on lead, not following.

Here's Rinchich's response and taking me to task:


I have felt from day one until present that you are a true steward of our environment. You have projected a very positive image of the great outdoors and all it has to offer to mankind. You have promoted youth activities for hunting and fishing; you have had the guts to stand up to politicians on issues that were not in the best interests of the environment. You should be applauded for your efforts.

In your article of February 15, 2009, "Fishermen Must Take the Lead on Lead", you state by your own experience you are trying to do your part of removing lead from your fishing activities. You make reference of the national regulation of banning lead for waterfowl hunting and by using steel shot, you and other hunters have been able to adjust with satisfactory results. Your article implies that you support the bill put forth by Senator Heather Steans, Senate Bill 1269, that would ban lead sinkers and jigs for fishing in Illinois waters.

I would like to point out some facts that you may not have considered before writing your article.

There are monumental differences between using lead for hunting and fishing: ie. You and a buddy go duck hunting ten times a season. Each time you fire, let's say, ten shots each. Every time you pull the trigger you expel approximately one ounce of lead pellets over an area the size of a football field. At the end of the hunt, you and your buddy have left one and one-quarter pounds of lead in the shallow feeding areas that waterfowl use during their migrations. One and one-quarter pound per trip, times ten trips, equals twelve and one half pounds of lead per season. Let's say this is your favorite hunting spot and you and your buddy set up your blind here every year for the past twenty years. Twelve and one half pounds, times twenty equals two hundred and fifty pounds of lead left in this area. Now let's say one hundred other hunters also use this area, two hundred and fifty times fifty equals one thousand, five hundred pounds, or six and one quarter tons of lead in a waterfowl feeding area. Multiply this number by tens of thousands of locations around the country, and yes, we had a problem that needed to be addressed, passing the lead ban for hunting was justified.

Let's take the same scenario of you and your buddy going fishing ten times a year for twenty years. As you stated in your article, you and most fishermen use jigs, split shot or sinkers 90% of the time. I will take an average of 1/8 oz. For your lead usage (jigs, split shot, sinkers) I have based this on the amount of sales of these items in my store. Let's say you and your buddy each loose two set ups per trip, which would equal 1/2 oz., times ten trips, equals 5 oz. of lead lost each year, times twenty years, equals 100 oz. or 6&1/4 lbs., not in a concentrated space like a waterfowl feeding and resting area, but spread over many miles in deeper water, posing no threat to waterfowl.

The main reason for banning lead shot was ducks swallow gravel to assist the digesting of their food, and in this process they would also swallow large amounts of lead that was being dumped by hunters. Now take your fishing 6-ΒΌ lbs. for twenty years times fifty, equals 312 lbs. compared to 6 1/4 tons of lead shot left by hunters. Lead shot left too large of a footprint in our environment and action had to be taken. Split shot, jigs and sinkers compared to shotgun lead shot is truly comparing apples and oranges. Using the foregoing figures, you can clearly see that the continued use of split shot and sinkers posses virtually no threat to our environment as compared to the ban for lead shot for hunting.

You make reference in your article that after the shotgun shell ban on lead, you had to make some adjustments to the new steel shot. Steel shot does not have the density or knock down power as lead shot. The manufacturer of shells was able to increase the powder load and size of the shot to make up some of the deficiencies, so your adjustments were not that great. You state, "Steel shot is far more expensive than lead shot and the fancier non-toxic shots are quite simply out of your price range". The non-toxic shot you make reference to is tungsten steel, ten times the cost of lead.

Banning the use of lead for fishing is not a new idea, this movement has been around for decades. It has repeatedly failed to move forward on the state and national levels due to the fact that the end result would not justify the means. There are those who say any lead in our environment is unacceptable. A point to consider, all things on the face of the earth are toxic to all living things. What makes things toxic are time and amount. ie; one teaspoon of salt given to a baby can be fatal. If we apply the theory that any amount is not acceptable then we would have to eliminate all medicines, sources of energy, manufacturing processes of goods, etc. In other words, go back to the Stone Age. Mankind can exist and go forward in harmony with our world with balance.

Sometimes good intentions can cause more harm than good. We have a move to go green in this country and that is a good thing, but with a lack of oversight good things can turn into disasters. Currently there are approximately twenty ethanol refineries in the Fort Madison, Iowa area near the Mississippi Pool 19, with thirty more under construction. The E.P.A. has determined that a 100-pound release of this product, or waste material from this product would constitute a danger to our environment. In 2007 over 20,000 lbs. had been released causing fish and waterfowl kills by contaminating of our water supplies. Also in 2007, twenty million acres of additional land was planted with corn to supply these refineries. Twenty million acres of more fertilizer and pesticides creating toxic run off into our waters. Illinois currently has ethanol refineries under construction. I would say that Senator Steans time would be better spent by developing oversight for safe operation of these refineries than pursuing the ban on jigs and sinkers from fishing that would have little or no benefit in protecting our environment. By the way, a spill of biofuels (vegetable oils), per the E.P.A., is just as deadly to fish and waterfowl as a petroleum spill.

What would a ban on lead, split shot, jigs and sinkers do for the State of Illinois? Lead products for fishing in this country is predominately a cottage industry. These industries would have to close their doors, costing Illinois thousands of jobs. This would only add to the economic woes that we have today. I took an inventory of my shop as to the items that I would have to remove that would be effected directly or indirectly by a lead ban, (approximately 20% of my stock). As you stated, you and most fishermen use these items 90% of the time on your fishing outings. These items represent approximately 40% of my overall sales. I would have no choice but to close my doors as would all other bait and tackle stores in Illinois if this ban should be made into law.

Your headline for your article "Fishermen Must Take the Lead on Lead", in recent years efforts have been made to replace lead with other materials. First it was brass, which failed to make the grade, double the cost of lead, 50% larger. Brass was found to have it's own toxic problems to the environment. Next came steel, higher cost, plus size, twice that of lead. Using steel weights was like putting tractor-trailer tires on your car, you might go down the street, but not very effectively. Believe it or not a new product was introduced this past year at the ICAST Show, sinkers made out of rocks, talk about going back to the Stone Age.

In the past few years a material has come on line to replace lead, tungsten steel. This is the non-toxic shot that you say is out of your price range. Shotgun shot is fairly easy to produce, different size BB's. If you happen to have a Bass Pro Shop Catalogue, turn to pages 328 thru 333 and look at how many styles of sinkers and split shot are shown. I must ask as to what type of specialized equipment and molds would it take to make these items? It requires thousands and thousands of degrees of heat to melt tungsten. Only multimillion-dollar companies could afford to gear up for this type of operation. In this failing economy, I think not. As to the cost to the consumer, look at page 328, top left. A 25-count package of 1/8 oz. lead worm weights with tax cost $3.28. Now look at the bottom left of page, to purchase 25, 1/8 oz. tungsten weights, with tax, cost $25.16. Now go back to the top, the price for a 15-count package of lead, 1oz. weights, with tax, cost $9.40. Back down to tungsten, the same amount would cost with tax, $99.00. As size goes up, cost goes up exponentially. I think the fishing industry and fishermen have been trying to come up with a substitute for lead for some time now and we are not there yet.

As stated previously, the lead issue is not new. It concerns me to see this issue brought forward, not on sound scientific information, but by an unknown politician, whose agenda might be honorable, or may be seeking some free press on a controversial issue that is in a holding pattern. If the latter is true, Senator Steans has succeeded. At the very least, she is obviously uninformed. It has always been perplexing to me as to why politicians, who are mostly attorneys, give up a one half million dollar a year law practice to take a position in government for $100,000. Power, which breeds greed. There are two main agendas for politicians, get elected and do whatever is needed to get re-elected. The art of politics is to stand in front of you, look you straight in the eye, pee on your boots, and convince you that it is raining outside.

You cannot have something without giving up something. This is a basic law of physics. Let's go back to the ban on lead shot. As I previously stated, steel shot has less distance and knock down power. The industry and individuals as yourself were able to make adjustments, and as you have stated, with satisfactory results. At what cost? Higher price for ammunition that you are willing to pay to continue to enjoy the sport of hunting. What else did we give up? Anyone who has duck hunted has shot at his target and seen feathers fly from the bird, he keeps flying out of range, clean kill? No, injured bird, which many of die a slow death, hours, days, or weeks later. With steel shot the frequency of injured birds has risen many fold over the use of lead. If you truly believe that fishermen should take the lead on lead, then so should hunters. Ban steel shot and use the only alternative material, tungsten. Are hunters willing or able to afford this kind of cost? No. A move in this direction would destroy the sport as we know it. Then how can we ask fishermen to do the same? We have tried brass, steel, and rocks, to no avail. Try loading your shotgun shells with gravel.

If Senate Bill 1269 introduced by Senator Steans becomes law this could be the giant step that destroys fishing as we know it, jobs lost, business closed, etc. I would rather see a kid put a split shot on his fishing line than see him lying on the ground with a piece of lead in his head. We have seen enough of our lost rights and freedoms.

The pen is mightier than the sword. If either is mis-handled the harm caused can be devastating.

I have heard numerous complaints from fishermen about your article. After all, thousands of sportsmen are your readers and put great stock in what you have to say and your opinions.



John Rinchich

J.J.'s Bait & Tackle''

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As a lifelong outdoorsman (deer, pheasant, fishing) I agree that WE need to make the changes and drive the no-lead initiative. You haven't been able to use lead at the State-run pheasant facililties for as long as I can remember, and I don't remember having all that many hit birds that weren't found and probably died later (take good, close in shots) but at least when it does happen, with steel shot when the bird gets eaten by scavengers at least you aren't introducing lead into an animals diet.

I also disagree with John that lost sinkers don't pose a threat to waterfowl. The common loon can dive up to 200 feet, and many that get tested have elevated lead levels which effect their ability to reproduce. In the 90's I found a dying loon in Belmont Harbor (It had a ball of fishing line hanging out of it's mouth with lead sinkers dangling). It died that night in the bird hospital at Lincoln Park Zoo, and it's necropsy showed pretty high levels of lead and mercury.

Just my 2 pennies. Also, I do use lead slugs so I'll have to find something else for my 16 guage.

Wow, that's a really well written article.

ISA President Don Rego and myself met with Senator Steans today at a restaurant overlooking the Kankakee River to discuss the original bill that was presented.
The conversation was engaging, informative and focused on a common regard for the natural resources in Illinois held by our group and the Senator.

If there were any misconceptions on the intent of the bill, or the reasons it was produced, we can say with a great deal of certainty that a genuine concern for the overall well-being for wildlife, people and the resource was always the motivating factor.

I'm pleased to say that many of the original components are being reconsidered and/or rescinded in order to focus on a strong educational approach as to the dangers of lead.
The ISA will be a contributor to this educational approach on various levels, and follow the recommendations that are forthcoming from the IDNR and stakeholder groups that have provided valuable input into a serious issue with varying degrees of opinions and approaches.

Thanks to all of the comments here and on various blogs/message boards, the Senator has been able to get a clear picture of what is important to the sportsmen and women of Illinois.
Given the chance to take a pro-active stance on reducing the dangers of lead, it has become apparent that a usergroup that contributes $3.3 Million every single day to the economy in this state will take a serious look at traditional fishing methods and consider how we all might come together and make sound choices regarding an environment we all depend on for the future of our sport and the well-being of the wildlife that inhabit our watersheds.
We asked for the opportunity to take a chance at proving our devotion to these concerns as anglers and citizens, and that chance has been granted.

It wasn't long ago that we wouldn't have had the opportunity to have a seat at the table in determining policy that affects the rivers and streams we choose to spend a great deal of time among, but a new administration with a history of environmental stewardship has paved the way for every voice to be heard and recognized.
We have many reasons to be thankful and appreciative for a change.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on February 19, 2009 1:11 PM.

Ice-out muskie and Navy Pier perch top Midwest Fishing Report was the previous entry in this blog.

ISA meet with Sen. Steans on lead is the next entry in this blog.

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