Your fishing line is probably one of the most overlooked items in your tackle. Most anglers will replace their hooks, swivels, and even rods before thinking twice about their fishing line. Visually you can spot rust and damage on most of your tackle and gear but fishing line this is not so easy.
So how long does fishing line last? All fishing line will break down over time if they have been used or not. There are many different factors that contribute to fishing line breaking down over time. Here is the recommended shelf life for different types of fishing line:
- Monofilament Line: Replace every year
- Fluorocarbon Line: Replace every 1 – 2 years
- Braided Line: Replace every 2-4 years
My Personal Rule of Thumb: If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your fishing line then it is time to replace the line.
In order to understand how you can properly store and maintain your fishing line, we first need to know what causing fishing line to break down in the first place.
How Does Fishing Line Degrade?
Monofilament fishing line: These lines are manufactured from a type of plastic but like with any plastic they tend to break down when exposed to heat and sunlight.
Monofilament lines can also absorb water which is another factor to causes these lines to break down. Since these lines are able to absorb water then the rate to which these lines degrade is increased when they are used in saltwater.
As the line absorbs saltwater it will also absorb superfine salts particles. Over time as the water in the line evaporates out of the fishing line the superfine particles of salt will be left behind in the line.
The salt particles will affect how the monofilament line will stretch when under load and eventually causing the line to be slightly brittle over a long period of time. There are various studies that show that monofilament lines can eventually lose up to 20% of its strength.
Fluorocarbon fishing line: These fishing lines are manufactured from a particular type of plastic generically called “Fluoropolymer“. Because of the different type of plastic used to manufacture the fishing, it offers a completely different set of properties.
Even though these lines are manufactured from plastic these do lines do not degrade the same way like monofilament fishing lines. Fluorocarbon lines do not break down by heat, sunlight, and do not absorb water.
However, these lines do not stretch under load, unlike the monofilament fishing lines, which causes an effect known as “necking” to occur in the fishing line.
Necking is when a material that is under high loads causes the material to stretch. Think about stretching a rubber band where the band becomes thinner as you stretch it. However, unlike the rubber back once the load is released from the fishing line the line will not return to its original shape.
As the fishing line begins to start necking the material becomes progressively weaker. Necking tends to occur at localized weak points such as scratches or external damage on your line.
Braided Fishing Line: Manufactured from multiple strands that are tightly wounded together typically using one of the two fibre materials, Spectra or Micro-Dyneema. These strands are linked by applying heat to an externally to bond the fibres together.
Braided fishing line is resistant against heat, sunlight, and does not absorb water. However, the twisted fibres that give braided fishing line it properties will start to be loose when subjected to heavy loads for a sufficient amount of time. This can cause the fishing line to get tangled and easily damaged.
Braided fishing lines have poor abrasion resistance. Meaning that these lines are easily damaged if it is rubbing against shape. These lines get its strength and performance from the use of ALL the fibres in the line. Being that braided fishing line is susceptible to damage if it is rubbing against sharp underwater objects can result in individual fibres being cut through.
This will cause a lot of fraying in the line. For every single fibre that breaks will result in the line to be weaker.
Properly Storing Your Fishing Line
Keep It Tidy, Keep It Tight: Storing your fishing line for the offseason it is important to keep your fishing line organized. If you are storing loose fishing in a bag or container it can result in the line being damaged. Make sure to keep your line spooled tightly and stored in a well protected to avoid having objects placed on top.
Cool and Dark: Keep your fishing line in a dark and cool spot to protect it from sunlight and heat. You can use a cloth bag to provide protection against scratches and to store reels and spools of line.
Rinse It Off: Rinse off your fishing reel to remove any organic bacteria and salts from the fishing line. Removing these bacteria and salts ensure that the fishing line will not break down when stored. Organic bacteria can break down the fishing line and the salts will cause micro scratches on the line which will reduce its strength.
Rinse-Off The Tackle Box: Storing your fishing line in your tackle box is a very convenient place. However, before you do that you need to make sure you give your tackle box a good wash.
Your tackle box can contain the same bacteria and salts that you just rinsed off from your fishing line. By placing your clean fishing line in a tackle box that could contain these bacteria and salts could result in the fishing line breaking down.
So take the extra 5 minutes to clean out your tackle box. It could save your fishing line.
Examine Your Fishing Line If It Needs Replacing
Before the start of every season, you will need to examine your fishing line to see if you need to replace it.
The easiest way to check if your fishing line is in good condition is what I call the pinch method.
Pinch the fishing line between your thumb and index finger. Slide your hand along the fishing line. The smoother the line feels the better the condition. If you feel kinks or roughness this is generally signs that the line needs to be replaced. Also, visually inspect the line for any discolouration which can be related to damage from excessive sunlight exposure.
If you want to confirm the strength of your fishing line, then the best way is to physically lift weights using the fishing line. There is no one right way to do this. Just pay attention to using a proper knot for your particular setup. Knots are typically a weak point for the fishing line to make sure you use a knot that has good knot strength.
Example, if the fishing line is a 20lb pound test then try to lift 20lbs of weight. If the line snaps then reduce the weight again and try again. Repeat until you find a weight that does not cause the fishing to snap. This will determine your new fishing line test.
Check to see where the line break occurs. If the break occurred at or near a knot then try again using a different knot to see where the break occurs again. If the break occurred away from the knot then the knot was in good condition.
To determine if the line needs replacing after doing these tests depends on your experience and comfort level. Generally speaking, fishing line is one of the cheapest components when fishing. So take the time to play it safe and buy some new line … it will save you tons of headaches.
Dispose of Your Fishing Line
Not all fishing line can be recycled. Monofilament fishing line is the only fishing line that can be recycled. As a matter of fact, there are a number of programs out there that are geared towards recycling monofilament fishing line.
When recycling monofilament fishing line it must be clean from excessive growth and not made from plant-based material. Organic growth and plant-based material cannot be processed in the recycling plants, therefore, it will not be accepted.
As responsible anglers, we need to do our part to protect the environment and to protect the sport that we all love. So I came up with 3 ways to dispose of your fishing line:
Drop It Off: Once again, monofilament fishing line can be recycled. The best way to dispose of your fishing line is to send it to a recycling depot. Even your local fishing tackle location will be able to handle this for you.
Do not recycle any type of fishing line with your home recycling bin. The chemicals used to manufacture the fishing line cannot be processed in recycling plants designed to handle household products. There is a special recycling process that needs to be done to break down the fishing line properly.
Reuse It: Reusing fishing line is a great way to repurpose the line for other things around the house. Using the line as string or for arts and crafts to making bracelets and necklaces.
Trash: Cut the line into 6-inch segments. Wildlife at the landfill such as birds can use the cut fishing line to build nests. If the segments are too long wildlife can get entangled in the line and if the segments are too short then wildlife will try to consume the line which will not break down in their stomach.
How long does unopened fishing line last?
Fishing line does not come with an expiry date on them. However, if you are properly storing your fishing line then expect your fishing line to last for a while.
- Monofilament: 1-2 years
- Fluorocarbon: 2-5 years
- Braided: 4-7 years
How long does
fishing line take to decompose?
The reason why recycling used fishing line is so important is because it takes a long time for fishing line to decompose. Monofilament fishing lines can take up to 500 years before it starts to show evidence of it breaking down. Fluorocarbon and braided lines can take much longer. This is why we need to do our best to recycle and protect the environment.