Proper Fishing Line Maintenance and Disposal

How Do You Dispose of Fishing Line?

The proper method of fishing line disposal depends on the type of line. Monofilament and fluorocarbon line should be recycled in fishing line recycling containers typically found on beaches, piers, and in fishing stores such as Bass Pro Shops. It is important to avoid putting monofilament or fluorocarbon in your own household recycling bin since its a high density plastic and requires a special recycling process. Braided line is not recyclable and should be cut up into small pieces and discarded in a covered trash can.

Marine and wildlife conservation should be, and typically is, at the heart of the actions of fishermen. We recycle nylon fishing line to keep it out of the wild habitats and improve our sustainability. We cut up braided line before tossing it to make sure that if it somehow ends up in the ocean, no marine life will get tangled up in it, or if it ends up in a landfill and dug up by a land animal, the land animal doesn't get entangled in it. We also want to protect ourselves and our fellow boaters from experiencing motor damage from fishing line that might get tangled up in a propeller.

Is It Ok To Leave The Hook On The Line When Recycling it?

Kind of, yes, and kind of, no. Typically the single nylon lines like monofilament and fluorocarbon are recycled in targeted recycling bins, which are cleaned out by volunteers. The volunteers will clear the line of hooks and any other items before sending it back to a processing center. So, although it's ok to leave the hooks and leaders on your line when recycling, it sure would make the job of the volunteer easier if you took the extra step to remove it beforehand. You may have the same question about seaweed and other plantlife on your line. Again, it would be courteous of you to go ahead and clean off your line before recycling.

What Should I Do If I Disposed of My Line Incorrectly?

Let me start with a story. I was on the beach fishing with my father in law and his line got stuck on some rocks in the surf. He got frustrated and grabbed his pocket knife and cut the line off right at the tip of his rod. I cringed when I saw it! As he turned away, I quickly picked the line up off the beach and wrapped it up in my hand, and pulled it until it broke. When you do this with fishing line, it breaks at the weakest point which is most often right where the leader is. This approach minimizes how much line is left behind in the marine habitat. And don't worry, we talked later and I let my father in law know the better way to do this.

Getting your line stuck can be aggravating, but there are tips and tricks out there from experienced fishermen which seem to work pretty well. If you're on the beach, your best option might be to let out a bunch of line, move your position, and try to reel it back in. You may have to try this approach a couple of times. If you're fishing in a river, you can make use of a water bottle and the river's current by trying the “genie in a bottle” trick. This video describes how to do the method, and explains that it works by changing the point of pressure on the snag. Take a look and let me know if you try it!

The reality is, if you've done something like left a bunch of fishing line on the beach, you can go back to pick it up if its a reasonable trip, or a good samaritan will likely pick it up for you as they walk by. The key thing to understand is that most often when people dispose of fishing line incorrectly, its because they don't know the negative impact it has on the environment. If you're in the position where you realize you've made the wrong decision about disposal, you can attempt to correct it, or you can look forward and share what you've learned from your experience to prevent others from making the same mistake. Also, the next time you're walking along the beach and you see some discarded fishing line, go ahead and pick it up, now that you've learned the detrimental side effects of improperly disposed of fishing line.

When Should I Dispose of Fishing Line?

Fishing lines should be replaced at least one to two times a year. If you use your fishing line frequently, it will wear out faster and will need to be replaced more often. Over time, fishing line will lose its ability to perform as designed. For example, when monofilament becomes bad, it will become brittle and develops memory. When a fishing line develops memory, it curls based on the spool and these curls can reduce casting distance and increase the likelihood of tangles. As for fluorocarbon, the line can last up to 7 to 8 years without going bad or losing its edge. Fluorocarbon lines do not develop memory, and they last longer, but they will still get brittle after a few years.

Braided line resists memory and doesn't get brittle like monofilament. However, it will still require replacing every year or two, or once you notice that it's fraying. Braided line can be quite a bit more expensive than monofilament or fluorocarbon, so people tend to be resistant about replacing it. I'll let you in on a pro tip: you can extend the life of your braided line by respooling it in the opposite direction, so the end that's been used for tying leaders, now becomes the backing on your reel!

How to Know if Fishing Line is Still Good:

Here is how to check your fishing line to see if it is still usable.

My Line Keeps Breaking Off. What Am I Doing Wrong?

Usually this is a symptom of some debris or damage on your equipment. I recommend checking each of your guides on your rod for small nicks or burrs. You can do this by running a small piece of cotton, like a cotton ball, through the guide and see if any cotton gets stuck. If you find a small nick in the guide like this, you can correct it by using a fine sandpaper to sand away the nick. Check your work with the same method of pushing cotton through.

The success you'll have with this method can vary. It'll work on a stainless steel or chrome guide, but sanding will also cause a reduction in the corrosion resistance. If there's epoxy on your guide that's causing the burr or nick, it'll be harder to sand that down. Its possible your best option for getting rid of a burr or nick is to bring your rod to a shop nearby and ask them to replace the guide. Often times, fishing shops will do this for about $10, which is pennies in comparison to a constant fraying problem on your pricey braided line.

Breaks in your line can also be caused by corrosion or damage on your reel. Things can happen with your reel, such as accidentally hitting it on a rock during your outing and that can result in some scrape on your reel. Inspect and clean your reel and you may identify some corrosion on it that's stressing your line. To properly deep clean corrosion off a reel, you'll need to fully disassemble it while being careful to remember how to put it back together. You can clean the parts with an aerosol solvent first and then soak them in a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar. Using a toothbrush or steel wool will help with the scrubbing. Then you can rinse, dry, and reassemble. For scrape-type damage to your reel, you can take some fine grit aluminum oxide sandpaper and take care of the issue.

How Many Animals Die From Fishing Line?

Every year, more than 100,000 marine animals die from plastic in the ocean. The biggest culprit for their deaths is fishing lines. (Source)

There are ways that you can prevent these animal deaths. First, be aware of your fishing line and choose the right hooks that are less likely to cause it to break off in the water. Secondly, you should properly dispose of or turn in your lines to be recycled. Finally, make sure that you are not cutting off the fishing line or discarding it carelessly, and that you cut it into pieces before discarding.

Fishing line takes around 600 years to decompose. If it is not properly disposed of, the fishing lines can cause long-lasting and detrimental effects on the environment. Most commonly, it affects birds, fish, turtles, and other animals. These animals get tangled up in the almost invisible line and become immobile. These immobile animals are unable to get food and they starve to death.

In addition to harming wildlife, fishing line can get stuck in boat motors and cause a boatload (no pun intended) of damage. This damage can be hard to detect, so we recommend inspecting your propeller and shaft fairly often. For detailed information on how to properly check for your motor's gear lube and seals, check out this great article from Great Lakes Scuttlebutt.

There Are No Monofilament Recycling Bins Near Me. What Should I Do?

There are a couple of options. One is to simply store the mono in something like a tupperware container at home. Another option is to mail in your recyclable line to Berkley Fishing. Berkley Fishing is the organization that's leading the monofilament recycling program worldwide and they accept mailed-in monofilament to recycle from anyone. Here's the address from Berkley's website.

Berkley Recycling
1900 18th Street
Spirit Lake, Iowa 51360

If you're looking to do even more for your community, there are lots of great resources available to help you build your own PVC fishing line collector, which you can put near your favorite fishing spot. Check out this video from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation:

If you choose to build one of these recycling bins, or even if you see one nearby, you can decorate them with helpful stickers to guide the actions of people using them. For example, a common complaint from volunteers is that when they empty these containers, they find a lot of trash in them. I would recommend making sure there is some signage on the receptacle to indicate no trash allowed. BoatUS sells monofilament recycling bin stickers that you can purchase here.

What Do They Make Out of Recycled Fishing Line?

When monofilament and fluorocarbon are recycled, companies like Pure Fishing will melt the line and mold it into pellets. The pellets can be used to make all kinds of products including milk cartons, toys, and fishing products like tackle boxes. Monofilament and fluorocarbon are both made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is one of the easiest plastics to recycle (source).

With braided line, there aren't many options. Its most commonly cut up and discarded in a trash can. However, if you're interested in repurposing some braided fishing line, I've come across a few ideas like handmade bracelets (link) and respooling it onto another reel in the opposite direction. A lot of times, fishermen are not excited about discarding their braided line because of how expensive it can be. You can extend its life by respooling it, but this time reversing the ends so the end where you've been tying leaders onto becomes more of the backing on the reel.

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