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Getting the Lead Out - Recycling Lead Weights and Cleaning up the Waters

Over 100 pounds of Lead in 1 dive!

The majority of my dives in my local river (the Menominee River) involve a LOT of cleanup efforts and aquatic preservation. Besides removing thousands of fishing lures and large bunches of fishing line (which entangle fish, mudpuppies, and crawfish), I remove old metal, aluminum cans, glass bottles, old bicycles, anchors, cellphones, fishing rods, lead weights for fishing, and much more!

Several people have asked me to save the fishing weight lead for them, so they could melt it down and re-mold new sinkers for fishing. I collected all summer and ended up with about 50 pounds of lead! None of these people ever came to collect it from me, so a new friend of mine asked if he could buy some. He asked if I could get more for him after he melted some down, removed the metal from the old lead snag hooks, and created a big lead ball.

So, the next day, my buddy Kyle and I went down by the dam and found 2 huge piles of lead in the water….about 10 feet deep. For about 15 minutes, we dove up and down…collecting lead from the bottom and throwing it into bins in my kayak up top. We didn’t realize how much we collected until we tried to remove the bins from my kayak. HEAVY! After hauling it all back to the truck, we estimated it all to be over 100 pounds of lead weight (not including the other stuff we retrieved).

We barely put a dent in the piles underwater, but we made a difference and WILL be back. I think there is still about 300 pounds of lead down there in those 2 piles!!

Lead melted down

Rusted metal hooks removed

Lead cooled down

A big chunk of recycled lead!

More information about lead's issues in our waterways, removal/recycling, and safe fishing methods can be found at your state's Department of Natural Resources page.

Wisconsin DNR Page - GET THE LEAD OUT


Michigan DNR Page - Lead Poisoning

Photo credits: Ed the Diver and Paul Klaver

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