John Harrigan: Time to do what's right for the loon's haunting call in the night

JOHN HARRIGAN May 18. 2013 8:29PM

I've heard from all sides on the issue of lead jigs and lures versus their effects on loons, and have been asked to write about it because a defining bill is before the House, and will come up in the ensuing week. This action should not be tabled or sent to committee, where so many bills are sent to die.

Right from the start, let me say (once again) that I'm no expert. I fish with flies. Maybe that puts me on The Dark Side, in the enemies' camp. But in the long ago, I fished with worms, for warm-water fish.

When I was a teen working at hunting and fishing camps, I was taught to shoot loons, which I did, on the premise that loons competed with paying customers who came north to catch (and hardly ever release) fish.

I did this with a 30-ought-6, aiming low, so the bullet would skip and hit the loon, which to my teenager's stupid eyes looked like a battleship, an errant competitor for the camps' livelihood. I shot kingfishers, too, with a side-by-side shotgun. Today, watching these beautiful birds fish for their livelihood, I can't imagine pulling the trigger (mea culpa, whipping myself on the back here).

Back then, a trip's rental for cabins on one whale of a good trout pond was calculated by the number of fish caught, killed and, perhaps by a stretch, on how many fish were eaten for breakfast. On this last, in the keep-kill-release discussion, one of my channel-markers is Ginger Jannenga, she of sled-dog fame, who admonishes me whenever I advocate catch and release. She loves trout, as I do when I catch them and keep them to be rolled in flour and placed in a cast-iron fry-pan for the morning's sustenance. Ginger is a devotee of wilderness travelers who would no more release a captured bit of food (say, a trout) than they would sacrifice their dogs to a bear.

On the subject of loons and lead, my take is to go with protecting the resource. I've been fortunate to hang out with people who love loons (me too), and this in no way is a guilt-trip for having shot them in my youth. That was back then, nothing to do with the here and now.

I've heard all the arguments pro and con regarding jigs. I'm sick and tired of the whining about having to chuck lead-laden jigs and buy new tackle. Come on, now.

I'm thinking here of when a lot of duck hunters had to shelve lead in favor of steel. And even further back, when we had to stop thinking about a line of demarcation for hunting seasons north and south, which was replaced by 13-something hunting zones that help Fish and Game (and hunters) do what's right for the resource. And then there was the time when, with Bandy Siegler's leadership, hunters and writers (that would be me) teamed up to get rid of the bobcat bounty.

Yes, I'm a cold-water fly-fisherman, and yes, I've caught smallmouth bass in that nice little rip at the foot of Garvin's Falls.

Time to step up, I think, and get rid of the old and the bad, and do what's right for the resource, which is what that loon's call in the evening air is all about.

John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576, or

John Harrigan

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