By Montana Grant

Posted: August 3, 2023


Fishermen use lead to help sink their baits, flies, and lures. The more lead, the deeper the presentation. Lead is considered a toxic metal when added to our waters. Too much lead can be deadly to living creatures. Lead that is solid, will not cause a problem. If it becomes a powder or dissolves, the lead can cause health issues, but this natural process takes decades to become a concern.

Yellowstone Park and other fisheries ban the use of lead in their waters. Ironically, lead pollutes their waters naturally. Geothermal features release toxic pollutants like mercury, arsenic, and lead naturally.

A friend recently showed me several lead objects that he found while metal detecting along the Smith River. The lead was well worn but had a hole in one end. Back in the pioneer days, there was not a local fishing tackle spot to buy weights or other fishing gear. You had to use what you had. Hand lines were carried by most soldiers for centuries. These could be attached to a pole for fishing. Supplementing their rations was important when food was hard to find. He had found a fishing spot frequented by soldiers that had been assigned to Camp Baker.

Harpers Ferry, in Maryland, has been the home for soldiers for many years. This town is at the convergence of the Potomac Rivers and was a major weapons manufacturer. During the Civil War, soldiers went fishing when they were off duty. It was not uncommon for the Rebs and Yankees to fish with each other. They shared tips and tricks. Local metal detector experts have found buckets of bullet weights. 

Lead bullets made perfect sinkers. The Minnie Ball was an ounce of lead in a conical shape. The tip could be smashed flat and allow an auger to drill a hole in the soft lead. Sinews or horse tail woven fibers were perfect lines that could be attached to the sinkers.

Like all fishermen throughout time, fishermen got snagged. The Potomac and many waters are full of rocks. Bass, catfish, carp, and bluegills were common catches. A stringer full of fish would be shared in the ranks. Smoking or salting the fish would allow soldiers to have a handy meal ready when needed.

Lead bullets can provide food without pulling the trigger!

Montana Grant

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