August 24, 2007
You own a four stroke outboard to power your fishing boat, you use nontoxic sinkers; you never throw anything overboard except when casting a fishing lure attached to your line; how can you be polluting the lakes that you fish?
If you are using soft plastic lures you may be unknowingly contributing to a growing problem when you lose a lure on bottom or when a fish breaks it off your line. These lures come in a variety of designs to mimic crayfish, salamanders, worms, minnows, etc. Most soft plastic baits sold today are not biodegradable. In other words, they do not readily breakdown in the environment. That means they persist for a very long time on the lake bottom and can be picked up by fish and other aquatic life, and mistakenly eaten as food. This can seriously harm the ability of these animals to feed and grow. The physical presence of the lures on the lake bottom also cover important habitat and may release chemicals called phthalates. Phthalates are cancer causing and can affect reproductive capability.
So what’s the big deal, a few lures here and there seems miniscule compared to the amount of water that is open to fishing. It may not seem like an issue but Maine has nearly 250,000 anglers, and with the increased popularity of fishing with soft plastic lures and a 7-month fishing season, these persistent pollutants can accumulate.
It is said that the bottom of Lake Okeechobee, a popular fishing lake in Florida, is coated with enough soft plastic lures to make a pile large enough to cushion a tank dropped from a plane! There may not be the same magnitude of a problem here in Maine at this time, but it may only take a few more years for some of the more heavily fished lakes to start significantly accumulating these soft plastics.
The good news is that you don’t need to stop fishing with these effective lures to help to deal with this problem. Several companies are now offering biodegradable versions that in some cases may be even more effective than original soft plastics. Companies like Advanced Angler Technology (AAT), Berkley and Food Source Lures produce baits that can break down in as little as three weeks. Some of them can also be safely eaten by fish with no ill effects. The prices for the lures are also very competitive with current soft plastics. If your local supplier does not stock biodegradable lures, request that they order some for you. In the meantime, the lures are readily available from online suppliers. If you are a member of one of Maine’s fishing clubs, suggest that the use of biodegradable lures become club policy and that the club work with local suppliers to ensure that they stock them in their stores.
Anglers have always been known as advocates for clean water. Switching to biodegradable lures will continue that tradition and will ensure that future generations will be able to continue to enjoy Maine’s precious water resources.
This column was submitted by Bill Laflamme, an Environmental Specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. In Our Back Yard is a weekly column of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. E-mail your environmental questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to In Our Back Yard, Maine DEP, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.
From the Department of Environmental Protection, State of Maine – http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=IOB&id=41264&v=Article