STOCKTON (CBS13) — Fishermen’s lead bait weights are the subject of a toxic substance study and there is talk California could ban their use.

The Outdoor Sportsman fishing supply sales team said it sells hundreds of lead weights every week. Avid fishermen say you can’t fish in the Delta or rivers without them.

“You pretty much need lead weights for every application of fishing,” fisherman Kenji Nakagawa said the lead weights keep the bait on the bottom of the river and keeps the current from taking the fishing line.

The Stockton sports store sells a lot of lead weights, because fishermen admit to losing a lot of them.

“You do lose quite a bit, so maybe $10-$15 dollars a trip we would lose,” said Nakagawa.

The weight is made of lead, a potentially harmful toxic chemical. The California Department of Toxic Substance Control is looking into banning them from the state’s waters.

“It’s a work plan over 3 years, so in that 3 year period we would be having more dialogue, we would be having workshops, getting experts in the field in to talk to us,” said DTSC spokesman Karl Palmer.

Palmer said a ban is not in the immediate future; the fishing gear is just part of a 7-category harmful substance study.

Fishermen, however, said they don’t want a three-year study to turn into a ban, so they’re petitioning the agency now.

“So, if you had a bait like this, a laser mino, it’s a 3 ounce bait going for $5,” said Outdoor Sportsman manager Andrew Grafius.
“And if you took that and went to a Tungsten weight, this is $9 for one ounce.”

Grafius said if you do the math, your outdoor hobby will cost you a whole lot more.

“A weight like this is 12 ounces, if you do 12 ounces times $9, that weight will now be $108.”

The California Sportfishing League also argues that lead doesn’t seep, so it’s not contaminating the water. The problem, according to the DTSC is that lead weights are harmful to birds.

“It’s very well documented,” said Palmer.
“There’s a lot of scientific literature that shows that birds eat these things and that it causes harm to them.”

Grafius said he’s skeptical of the claim birds are being poisoned by lead bait weights.

“I’d like to see the statistics on that, because I don’t think it’s that huge of a thing.”

The fishing gear study is expected to take several years, but if a ban does happen, the DTSC said it would only affect manufacturers, who will no longer be able to sell lead sinkers in California.

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