It’s was more than 40 years ago, but for some reason I remember the comment like the conversation took place yesterday. I was probably 7 years old and my dad was talking about hunting over a cup of coffee with Bill Elliot, a family friend and rural café owner up in Tehama County.
Bill was an old man at the time. He’d been a logger and mechanic and was a lifelong angler and hunter. Bill wasn’t an educated man, but he was ripe with life experience and insight.
“Hell, long before your boy is my age hunting and fishing in California will be the sports of rich men. That is if hunting and fishing are even allowed to continue,” Bill said nodding toward me.
Those words stuck with me. Bill is long dead, but every year his prediction takes on more weight as I watch the quality of hunting and fishing available in California decline.
As if this weren’t bad enough, the rights of California’s anglers and hunters have been steadily legislated away and the cost of engaging in these sports has soared as a result of both regulations (ever increasing and expanding license and tag fees) and legislation that makes participation in hunting and fishing more and more costly.
Now, I’m going to end up talking about a dark cloud that is now looming over fishing in our state, but before I move forward I need to offer a bit of background.
As most of you know, I’m an avid hunter. I know some of my readers are hunters and shooters, but many are not, so I want to explain something that has taken place in the world of California hunting.
In 2007 Assembly Bill 821 established a Condor Zone in Central California where lead ammo could no longer be used for hunting big game. The ban was based on a study at UC Santa Cruz that indicated that California condors were dying because they were eating lead particles in big game kills.
Fast forward to 2010 and we learned that the so called “science” offered up by UC Santa Cruz was an utter lie. The only condors with lead in their systems got the lead by eating chips of lead based paint on a fire tower used as a roost. The university admitted to intentionally leaving this fact out of their 2007 paper.
So, you might be thinking with that revelation lead ammo can once again be used in the “condor zone”. Nope! Instead the lead ammo ban has morphed into a state-wide ban on all lead hunting ammo. The ban has been put into effect incrementally with July 1, 2019 being the effective date of the total statewide ban.
What has this ban meant for hunters? First and foremost, it requires big game hunters to use copper ammo, which research has shown to be inferior to lead for quickly putting down big game animals.
Second, the copper ammo we are now forced to use is extremely expensive. For example, the rifle ammo I use for deer hunting went from $19 for a box of 20 copper jacketed lead rounds to $42 a box for 20 non-lead copper rounds. The shotgun shells I must now use for turkey hunting have gone from $2 per shell for copper plated lead to $5 a round for tungsten.
Again, keep in mind that this legislation is all based on a lie that was admitted to by the researchers, but that just doesn’t seem to matter…And this brings us back to fishing and Assembly Bill 2787.
Assembly Bill 2787
This bill states “A person shall not manufacture, sell, or purchase a fishing weight or sinker in California that has no cross section greater than or equal to two centimeters in length, is under 50 grams in mass, and contains more than 0.1 percent lead by weight.”
For those of us that work in inches and ounces, that’s about ¾ of an inch and about 1.75 ounces. So basically, this is aimed at folks fishing in freshwater primarily.
The bill was authored by an Assembly Member Bill Quirk of Hayward, California. I’ve called Mr. Quirk’s office for an interview, but have yet to receive a call back. I want to ask Mr. Quirk to give me some evidence, some science that demonstrates that lead sinkers are hurting people and/or wildlife in the state of California.
He can’t because there isn’t any. Quirk’s justification are some studies that were conducted on the East Coast and Canada concerning loons. There is not one shred of evidence that the small lead sinkers and split shot the bill sets out to ban are damaging or injuring anything or anyone.
With Quirk a recipient of $22,600 in contributions from the oil industry, I’d also like to ask him if Assembly Bill 2787 isn’t just an opportunity for him to “green wash himself” much like Governor Brown did with banning the use of lead hunting ammo, while being an enthusiastic supporter of things like oil fracking specifically and the big oil in general.
I think I already know the answer to this one. I’m betting that Quirk wants to grow up to be a bootlicking tool of big oil with a “green veneer” just like Governor Brown!
To me Bill 2787 is one of the biggest threats to California Sportfishing that I’ve seen since joining the staff of the Fish Sniffer and it touches on classism.
The folks that will be most affected by this bill are bait anglers and based on observations I’ve made over my past 4 decades in the field, most of the bait fishing fraternity is made up of folks from medium to lower income groups. You see, the yachting crowd tends to prefer trolling for marlin in Cabo over drowning worms with split shot in a slough outside Stockton.
The group that the bill will affect the most is also the group that can least afford to pay for lead alternatives. The price increases I outlined for hunting ammo as a result of the lead ban will be replicated in the fishing tackle world if lead sinkers are outlawed.
As bad as a ban on lead sinkers would be, the really scary thing is that it would open the door to the ban of any and all fishing gear that contains any trace of lead. Have you noticed those lead warning labels on fishing tackle?
They are on everything, even on spoons and things that contain only a trace amount of lead. If the flood gates open and this sinker ban turns into a full lead ban (you know sort of like the condor zone big game ammo ban morphed into a state-wide hunting ammo ban) we can kiss every package of fishing gear with a “contains lead” sticker on it goodbye. This would be devastating for both California anglers and the economy.
“A full ban on fishing tackle containing lead was proposed a number of years ago and it was shelved. If the sinker ban legislation becomes law I’m afraid that a call for a total lead ban will be reignited. This may be just the beginning so it’s important to get involved,” said Marko Mlikotin executive director of the California Sportfishing League. “There is no scientific data that indicates a lead sinker ban is warranted. This is a classic example of legislation that offers a solution in search of a problem.”
What Can You Do?
You can call Bill Quirk’s office in Sacramento at (916) 319-2020 and voice your concern. It also wouldn’t hurt to give your local representative a call or drop them an email too.
We all need to work together to dowse this fire before it really starts to burn….