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Fishing line... Love it, hate it!

By Rodney Hsu, Fishing with Rod | Published in December 2002

A walk along the bank of Vedder Canal near Keith Wilson Bridge, it is not a rarity to see miles of fishing line partially buried in the sediment. So often we get to a secluded fishing spot where we think only the true sportsmen venture to, only to be disgusted soon after when we come across balls of fishing line with rusted hooks and lead attached to them. How many times have you asked yourself angrily while fishing, "Who on earth would leave strands of fishing line behind?" and how often do you pick up it up after you've asked yourself? It's a huge problem that takes place anywhere in the world where sportfishing is carried out, yet it has seemingly be quietly ignored. It wasn't until recently when I began to search for solutions and ways to dispose unwanted fishing line.

Fishing line, we love it, but we also hate it. It's always so satisfying when a reel is spooled with a new spool of untwisted, glossy monofilament. It's like giving the new a brand new life. It would not be an exaggeration to say fishermen get excited when seeing new fishing line on a reel. Our attitude towards fishing line soon changes once it has been used. After months of casting and reeling, the line begins to stretch, twist. It no longer is smooth, instead it is rough and dry. At times it makes an unpleasant sound when it is reeled in. The sound of old line overlying on top of one another makes a reel feel old and disfunctional. Memory on the line sometimes causes tangles and unforgettable birdnests. It can ruin a fishing day, you rather be sitting on a couch than dealing with the mess. Often the birdnests can be unfixable. That's when the angler takes the matter to the extreme, cutting off all the line into small strands to save the time to get more fishing done. This usually results in all the strands flying off in all directions. It often baffles me why it is so important to prioritize our convenience over the tidiness of our environment.

Wrongly disposed fishing line is not only an uncomfortable sight and a nuisance, but also an environmental hazard. Fishing line is not biodegradable, meaning one hundred years from now, it will still be embedded in the river bank and hung from the trees. The sight of fishing line wrapping around a seagull's leg is not uncommon at popular fishing grounds. Just this past fall, I witnessed a great blue heron with strands of fishing line hanging from its mouth. It's painful to imagine how many birds die from starvation by the fishing line wrapped around their mouth.

Fishing line is changed two, three or four times per year, depending on the amount of fishing you do. The leftover ball or spool of old line is always frustrating and uncomfortable to look at. A simple toss into the garbage can solve the problem. Out of sight, out of mind, a common practice that has been adopted by the human society since industrialization. It is a shame that we don't find alternative uses for our unwanted tools more often.

The reality is, all of the above scenarios described can actually be avoided if every angler donates a small amount of time and effort during their fishing outings. I usually spare a pocket in my fishing vest as a line disposal pocket. Every single thread of line that is snipped off my reel, goes straight into that pocket. A brief five minute walk around your fishing spot to collect the discarded fishing line on the ground at the end of the day can only make your day more satisfying.

After changing your spool of line at home next time, do not throw the old line into the garbage can. Monofilament line can actually be recycled. The only existing recycling program for fishing line was established by Berkley in 1990. It has been incredibly successful. In the past decade, over seven million miles of fishing line has been recycled. Berkley provides recycling bins for tackle stores and venders, so customers can bring their used line back. Once the bins are filled, they are sent to Berkley, where the line is made into artificial fish habitat. After surveying several stores in the Lower Mainland, I've discovered only several stores are involved in this program. If your local tackle store is not a participant in the recycling program, please urge them to do so. Such program can only be beneficial to both the fish and the sportfishing industry.

The importance of being a friend of the environment is preached constantly in today's educated society, yet little details such as correct fishing line disposal method is still being ignored. The mutual relationship between sportfishing and the mother nature does not exist until these little details are fixed. If we continue to degrade the resource that we use, enjoy and harvest, soon it shall diminish to the point of no return. Next time, do the right thing with your unwanted fishing line.