Modern fishing lines have been a boon to anglers, but they are also dangerous if not disposed of properly. Wildlife of all sorts can become entangled and the results are usually tragic. A friend called me recently to report finding four mallard ducks hopelessly entwined in abandoned fishing line. One duck was already dead and the other three in very bad shape. My friends, after some difficulty, managed to cut the remaining three ducks loose. The mallards didn't look too healthy as they swam away, but hopefully they survived.
I have written about the dangers of abandoned fishing line in past columns, but this sad story made me feel it was time to bring it up again. Monofilament line is nearly invisible and impossible for an animal to break. If you do not believe this, try to break even one of the light weight test lines with your hands. On second thought, don't try to break this stuff with your bare hands as you will suffer some nasty cuts before the line breaks.
As if monofilament line is not tough enough, manufacturers have recently introduced lines that are even stronger. Brand names like FireLine and SPIDERWIRE should give you some indication of the strength of these new lines. Not only are the new lines strong, but their small diameter makes them even more difficult to see. Twenty-pound test SPIDERWIRE, for instance has the same diameter as a 6-pound test line.
Stronger line that is difficult for a fish to detect should really help our fishing success, but those same attributes make it even more dangerous if it is not disposed of properly. The problem is determining how to safely get rid of line we no longer need. I have found no perfect solution.
This winter serious anglers will re-spool their reels as we get ready for spring fishing and that means there will be a lot of old fishing line out there. My less than perfect solution has been to melt the line into a harmless glob. I'm sure it is not harmless to the environment, but at least it will not become a deadly snare. To remove line from my reel I force a paper towel cardboard tube over the end of my portable drill. The tag end of the line is taped to the tube and I use the drill to spool the line off the reel and onto the tube. I then burn the tube and the line making sure the line has melted. I don't like to do this, but I will not discard line into the trash can. I guess I am performing what I consider the lesser of two evils.
One line manufacturer, Berkley, offers a better and safer way to recycle line. You can mail your used line to them at Berkley Recycling, 1900 18th St., Spirit Lake, Iowa 51360. Not only will this get dangerous abandoned line safely out of the environment, but it will be recycled into Berkley FishHabs. These 4-foot cube structures can be sunk to provide safe habitat for fish. The program takes a danger to wildlife and transforms it into safe habitat. What could be better than this?
The problem becomes finding a way to collect the used line and get it to Berkley. While each of us could save our line and then mail it to Berkley I think this would be too inefficient. What we really need are collection centers and so far my preaching has not caused anyone to step up and perform this community service. The ideal centers would be set up at tackle stores and marinas, especially dealers who sell line. I know I would definitely patronize a store that had a collection box for my used line.
There would, of course, be problems with collection boxes as there always will be some miscreant who will use the box as a garbage disposal. I'm sure that you have seen the mattresses dumped at boxes meant to collect clothing for the needy. Still, the advantages of collecting used line and recycling it into fish habitat should outweigh the disadvantages. Perhaps this is the time for one of our sportsman's clubs to join forces with a tackle shop or marina and perform a vital service to our wildlife and environment. Who will be the first to step up?