Since 1986 I have made the annual pilgrimage to the Maumee River near Toledo Ohio in search of walleye. Whether I caught fish or not the trip and the adventure was always exciting and enjoyable. The major drawback of the trip was the constant replacing of terminal fishing tackle. Nothing was more frustrating than tying on a replacement lead head jig only to get hung on the first cast and lose it. I can’t count the number of times when I would put down my pole and stop fishing in frustration of losing gear.
I kept thinking that there has to be a better way to catch fish. For those of you who don’t fish, a sinker is a device that is attached to the fishing line that causes the line to sink to the bottom of the fishing environment. I started looking at the current technology and realized the problem was caused by a small high density metal object that was cast into a fishing environment where it easily snags in the rocks. After studying lead sinkers it became obvious that their function hasn’t changed much since ancient Egypt invented them over 5,000 years ago. All that changed during the spring run of 2008 when I invented a sinker that doesn't get hung up in the rocks. I started to develop prototypes by use tubing to enclose the lead sinkers and realized that by placing a high density material (lead) inside a low density material (tubing) the density was changed and the prototype didn’t snag. It was at this point that I realized how deep-rooted and pervasive the lead problem is. Lead not only pollutes the environment but it is harmful to anglers. Instead of using lead I switched over to steel which, unlike lead, is friendly to the environment.
But when a hook was attached to the rig another problem developed. The hook would snag on the rocks. I attached the sinker, leader, and hook similar to the Carolina rig. I attached pole line to the proximal swivel that has greater diameter and strength than the line that serves as the leader that is connected to the hook and distal swivel. When the hook gets caught on the rocks the leader and or hook will break off. This design worked well during the development stages and the production stages. By using lighter line for the leader I was able to limit the amount of line that is lost during a snag. In some cases only the hook is lost which will rust over time.
Why is this story significant? Prior to my invention I would lose between 12 and 24 lead sinkers each day fishing the Maumee River. These sinkers range in weight between 3/8 and 5/8 ounces depending on the river level. So if you multiply 3/8 * 12 I lost 4.5 ounces of lead on a light day. There are approximately 3,000 anglers who fish the river each day during walleye season. Now multiply 4.5 * 3,000 and the daily number is 13,500 ounces. Divide 13,500 ounces by 16 ounces per pound and the number is 843.75 pounds of lead is deposited in the river by anglers each day. For the higher number 24 sinker * 5/8 ounces per sinker = 15 ounces per day. Multiply 15 ounces of lead* 3,000 angler per day and the number is 45,000 ounces of lead divided by 16 pounds per ounce and the number is 2812.5 pounds of lead deposited in the river by anglers each day.
These numbers are approximations but they give an indication to the severity of the problem. Even if the lower number is accurate, on any given day that is over 1/3 of a ton of lead lost in the river, and the average walleye run last 4 to 6 weeks. This is just one three mile section of one river in this country. There are hundreds of rivers where anglers lose lead sinkers in significant quantities each year.
Since I started using the Salamander Sinkers I can honestly say that I haven't lost one lead sinker in the Maumee River since 2009. This is a profound statement. If I can stop using lead sinkers other anglers can also. Let me state for the record that I do not advocate a ban of lead sinkers for several reasons. Rather I believe that anglers must make an individual decision to stop using lead sinkers. If anglers follow the model that I have outlined, lead use will be reduced significantly over a short period of time.
Until now the fishing industry hasn't given anglers a practical alternative to lead that keeps rates of catching fish optimal. Anglers want to catch fish. If given an alternative that will not only catch fish but save them money with a snag resistant product they will buy. The fact that it doesn't contain lead is an additional benefit.