Fish Lead Free

Maine Audubon provides lead-free fishing tackle and lead tackle recycling assistance for anglers and builds awareness of Maine’s current lead tackle laws.

Maine Audubon engages with partners in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts on a regional campaign to reduce loon lead poisoning. The goal of the Fish Lead Free Initiative is to increase the use of lead-free tackle on lakes and ponds throughout the region.

Here in Maine, Maine Audubon helps set up tackle exchanges across the state, delivers multi-media presentations, and serves as a resource for anglers looking to transition to lead-free tackle. Fish Lead Free Maine is a cooperative partnership between Maine Audubon, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine BASS Nation, Make Lakes Society, USFWS and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

Do you know an organization or community group that wants to help keep lead out of Maine lakes and ponds? Email us or call 207.781.2330 x219.
Read our Fish Lead Free fact sheet for more information.

Trade in your Lead Tackle

Why is fishing lead free better for our lakes and wildlife?

Lead that enters our lakes as lost or discarded fishing gear is a leading cause of death for adult Common Loons. To protect loons and other wildlife, Maine state law bans the use and sale of lead sinkers and bare (unpainted) lead head jigs that weigh one ounce or less, or that measure 2 ½ inches or less. Sale of painted lead jigs will be banned in 2024 and it will be illegal to use them beginning in September 2026.

Fishing tackle with lead
Lead fishing tackle
Lead-free fishing tackle
Lead-free fishing tackle


Tackle Exchange Events | Maine Lead Tackle Buy-Back Program | Lead Tackle & Monofilament Line Collection Bins | Soft Plastic LuresBackground: Lead Tackle Legislation | Latest News

Would You Like to Host a Lead Exchange in Your Community?

Please contact us if you are attending a public event, like a lake association or civic group meeting, if you spend time at a local boat ramp, or if you have a location where fisherman can exchange lead tackle for lead-free samples.

We can provide you with everything you need to publicize the exchange event, collect lead tackle and distribute lead-free samples. Our lead-free kits come  with an assortment of lead-free tackle, outreach materials such as rack cards, posters, stickers and business cards outlining the lead law.

Have you gotten lead-free tackle from a tackle exchange? Click here to see where we got the tackle from and check out the other options they have! Where is my lead-free tackle from?

Maine Lead Tackle Buy-Back Program

Make the switch to lead-free tackle, it’s on us!

Maine Audubon and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) have partnered with local tackle shops* to provide a $10 store voucher to any person who turns in one ounce or more of lead fishing tackle (including lead jigs and sinkers containing any amount of lead).

* Participating Retailers Subject to change.
1. Indian Hill Trading Post (Moosehead Lake)
2. Dag’s Bait Shop (Auburn)
3. BackWoods Bait and Tackle (Chesterville)
4. Willey’s Sport Center (Auburn)

Tackle Buy Back Program Flyer [PDF]

Lead Tackle & Monofilament Line Collection Bins

Would You Like to Set Up a Lead Tackle Collection Site in Your Town?

We currently have funding to support lead tackle and monofilament line collection bins at a number of Maine lakes and ponds. Please contact us if you are interested in setting up a lead tackle collection bin at a boat ramp, public beach, or lake access area. Let us know if you have an organization or business in mind which might be interested in serving as an ongoing lead tackle collection site. Unlike one-time exchange events, ongoing collection sites require someone to construct and install a colection bin, check regularly for deposited tackle, and dispose of the lead tackle at a designated lead collection facility or it can be mailed to us at Maine Audubon, 20 Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth, ME 04105. If you want to set up a collection bin at a state launch be sure to contact MDIFW first before doing so – unsure whether your launch is state or private, click here.

How to make PVC collection bins for lead tackle and monofilament line – see our construction plans on how to build your own tackle collection bin! We can also provide you with stickers to label each bin:

Sticker to be placed on lead tackle collection bin        Sticker to be placed on monofilament line collection bin

Soft Plastic Lures

soft plastic fishing luresHelp us launch a new community science project that aims to evaluate the extent of harmful use of soft plastic lures and reduce injury from soft plastic lures to fish, loons, and other animals by:
(1) Reporting the stomach contents of harvested fish in inland waters, and
(2) Securing soft plastics properly while fishing, and
(3) Exploring the potential use of nontoxic and biodegradable alternatives.
Soft plastic fishing lures are a popular and common type of tackle used extensively across Maine and New England. When soft plastics fall off or are improperly discarded, they end up on lake and stream bottoms where fish ingest them. These ingested lures can interfere with the fish’s ability to digest natural foods.
We want to know what you’re finding in your fish. Getting involved is easy! When you’re out fishing and keep a fish, let us know what you find on the inside! Take along one of our datasheets, snap a photo or two, and send it to

Questions? Email

Background: Lead Tackle Legislation

In 2013, the Maine State Legislature passed LD 730, An Act to Protect Maine’s Loons by Banning Lead Sinkers and Jigs. The law bans the sale and use of lead fishing sinkers one ounce or less or 2.5” long or less. A ban on bare lead head jigs one ounce or less or 2.5” long or less was phased in, with a ban on their sale in the state starting September 2016 and a ban on their use in September 2017. In 2023, the Maine State Legislature passed LD 958, which phases out the sale and use of small-size painted lead tackle. Sale of painted lead jigs will be banned in 2024 and it will be illegal to use them beginning in September 2026.

The passage of these laws was prompted by findings that lead poisoning from lead sinkers and lead head jigs is a leading cause of death of adult loons in Maine. Lead poisoning from lead fishing tackle was found to be responsible for close to one-third of the documented adult loon mortality over a 25-year span. For every two loons that died in Maine from natural causes like illness or disease, one loon died from ingesting a small lead sinker or jig-head. Adult loons catch fish with lead sinkers and jigs attached or they pick up lead objects while eating gravel they need from lake bottoms. Click here to view a presentation on the effects of lead on loons.

Interested in helping us spread the word about the lead tackle ban and the effects of lead on loons by sponsoring a talk, hosting a tackle exchange, or posting and distributing informational materials? Email us or call 207.781.2330 x219.

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