As anglers in Minnesota prepare their gear for the Saturday fishing opener, state officials are asking that only lead-free tackle be used.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says that lead is toxic and harms the nervous and reproductive systems of mammals and birds.

Found in most fishing jigs and sinkers, lead is poisoning wildlife such as loons and eagles.

"When lead fishing sinkers are lost through broken line or other means, birds can inadvertently eat them," the agency said in a news release. "Water birds such as loons and swans often swallow lead when they scoop up pebbles from the bottom of a lake or river to help grind their food. Eating just one lead sinker can poison a loon. Eagles ingest lead by eating fish, which have themselves swallowed sinkers."

The agency offers these tips:

• Use nonlead fishing weights. Anglers should use sinkers and jigs made from non-hazardous materials such as steel, tin and bismuth.

• Never throw old fishing gear into the water or shore. For example, you may want to bring them to your local household hazardous waste collection site during your next visit.

• Never put a lead sinker in your mouth or bite down on slip shot. Use a pair of pliers instead.

• Always wash you hands thoroughly after handling lead sinkers or cleaning out your tackle box.

For more information about lead-free tackle and a list of Minnesota locations where it is available, visit

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482