Colorado: Discarded fishing line deadly to wildlife

Tangled fishing line left behind by careless anglers is a common sight at popular fishing spots, and dozens of animals die as a result of this problem.

Tangled remnants of monofilament can be recycled with Berkley

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s been great fun the last couple of years watching my son’s growing enthusiasm for fishing. In the warm part of the year, it’s become an important part of our father and son time. Along with the occasional thrill of catching a fish, we explore new spots and we have time to just sit and talk.

But one thing that’s always bothered me is the tremendous amount of garbage left behind at popular angling spots, especially the easily accessible shoreline venues along Dillon Reservoir. I’ve been harping on this to my son since he could walk and talk, and I’m proud to say he’s become quite the anti-litterbug — to the point that I’ve heard him call out people on the chairlift at A-Basin when he sees them drop a candy wrapper.

Included in that shoreline debris I often find tangled wads of fishing line. In a few areas, it’s become ubiquitous. This is a big problem. Of course, the line doesn’t biodegrade, but even worse, dozens of birds and small mammals get tangled in the line and die every year in Colorado. There’s really no excuse for this.

Thoughtful fishermen always dispose of their waste, including fishing line, properly.

“Fishing line left on the bank is dangerous,” said Scott Gilmore, statewide angler education coordinator for Parks and Wildlife. “An animal can’t untangle itself from fishing line so it is often fatal.

Earlier this summer, a kingfisher — -a bird that lives along riparian areas — -was found hanging dead in a tree along the Uncompahgre River in Montrose, hopelessly tangled in fishing line. During his career, Gilmore has seen lots of birds that have died in the same way. When a bird becomes tangled, it can’t fly, run or protect itself from predators.

“There’s no reason to toss line on the ground,” Gilmore said. “Just stuff it in your pocket and throw it away at home.”

Some birds use fishing line to build nests. The result is that chicks and young waterfowl end up tangled in the mess.

Fishing line also cuts into the tender legs and feet of birds, waterfowl and other wildlife. Those cuts then can become infected and result in an agonizing death for the animals. Pets can also get tangled in fishing line with a potential to cause injury.

Monofilament line is very strong and can remain hazardous for years. Unfortunately, line can be found along reservoirs and stream banks throughout the state.

Anglers who see line should pick it up. Also, tell youngsters and inexperienced anglers about the dangers.

“It’s easy to perform this small service for the environment and wildlife” Gilmore said. “Carry out your own line and pick up line and other trash you see in the places you fish.”

If you want to recycle your old fishing line, it can be sent to: Berkley Recycling, 1900 18th Street, Spirit Lake, Iowa, 51360. Fishing and sport shops that would like to offer recycling to customers, can contact Berkley at 800-237-5539. Berkley is a fishing products company.

For more information about fishing in Colorado, see:


2 thoughts on “Colorado: Discarded fishing line deadly to wildlife

  1. some days, i come out of the water with pockets-ful of discarded fishing line. the people who leave it behind (full-fledged members of the ‘no brain-no headache’ club), should be strangled with it to within an inch of their lives, then left to untangle themselves…

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