While hooking and fighting a fish may not do it any favors, the real harm can come after the fish is released. Soft plastics and lead jigs can be toxic to fish and other critters.

Driven by economic changes and government bans on certain types of tackle, manufacturers are making lures and jigs that are environmentally friendly. And anglers love them just as much as the fish do.

Several states have already banned lead fishing tackle while scientists and environmentalists are looking at the effect plastic lures may have on fish and the environment. There are plenty of studies and reports documenting lead and plastics ingested by fish, birds and other water animals. What is surprising is the amount of lures that end up in the water.

One of the biggest problems is fish and animals eating discarded plastics

In one survey, researchers collected 310 discarded soft plastic lures, a total weighing over 12 pounds, from 50 tournament participants. Another survey found 10 to 20 soft plastic lures around each launch ramp in the survey area. With the writing on the wall, tackle manufacturers have been ahead of the scientists and law makers by producing biodegradable lures and non-toxic plastics that work just as well as the classics.

For Daniel Nussbaum at Z-Man, producing environmentally-friendly soft plastics was mandated by common sense. “ElaZtech baits are 100-percent non-toxic and contain no PVC, plastisol or phthalates,” he says. In addition, the material is considerably tougher than traditional PVC so an angler can catch more fish before throwing the plastic away. Nussbaum brags, “One angler caught over 200 fish on one soft plastic.”

These new-age baits float, too. “PVC sinks and a discarded lure ends up on the bottom where another fish could eat it or it just sits there forever,” he says. A floating bait can be retrieved by the angler, or eventually floats to the bank. “One of the biggest problems is fish and animals eating discarded plastics,” he adds. Nussbaum promises Z-Man will continue to innovate until an angler can have a full arsenal of environmentally friendly lures.

Creating environmentally friendly tackle has been a driver at Berkley for 30 years

That would suite John Prochnow just fine. Prochnow is Director of Product Innovation at Berkley. He’s one of the guys responsible for biodegradable Gulp! and lead-free Gulp! jigs, among other Pure Fishing products. “Creating environmentally friendly tackle has been a driver at Berkley for 30 years,” he explains. In recent years, Prochnow has noticed even more motivation for going green.

“Not only because of regulations against certain types of fishing tackle, but the landfill restricts how much material the company can dispose,” says Prochnow. What started as an economic motivation for recycling and reducing waste has caught on with anglers. “As the price of plastic-free and lead-free lures comes down, anglers are more willing to make the jump from traditional tackle,” he says. In fact, consumer research shows that anglers will pay more for a lure that is environmentally friendly and works just as well. Prochnow expects this trend to continue as anglers become more aware of the effects of tackle on the environment. “After all,” he points out, “fishermen are conservationists, first.”

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