There is no worse feeling in fishing when you hook a fish and your line snaps. You have done everything right, found the fish, convinced it to take your lure/fly/bait, and then it’s suddenly all over but why?
This used to happen to me a lot as a young angler as my attention was on catching fish and not my tackle.
One of the things I didn’t know about was how long a line lasts. So, does fishing line go bad?
In an answer, yes. But, it depends on the type of fishing line you are using, how often you use it, where you use it, how you store it, and lots more.
It is only through understanding all of this, that you will know when you need to change your fishing line. Too soon and you’re wasting money, too late and you’re losing fish.
Let’s take a look at all the details about when fishing line goes bad and why, so you can change it out at the right time.
Table of Contents
- What Makes Fishing Line Go Bad?
- How Long Does Fishing Line Last?
- How do You Tell if a Fishing Line has Gone Bad and Needs Replacing?
- How to Extend the Life of Your Fishing Line?
- Can you use last season’s fishing line after winter?
- How often should you replace your fishing line?
- What do you do with old fishing line?
- How do you store unused fishing line?
- How long does fishing line last under extreme conditions?
- How long does it take for a fishing line to decompose?
- How do I use less fishing line?
- Winding Up
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What Makes Fishing Line Go Bad?
There are a lot of different things that make fishing line go bad from simply using it, letting it be exposed to sunlight, getting wet, getting hot, and lots more.
Let’s look at all these in more detail below.
Exposure to UV Light
All types of fishing line are damaged by UV light over time, but some last a lot longer than others.
Monofilament doesn’t handle UV very well and it can lose a lot of its strength when exposed to strong sunlight over a season. This, of course, depends how often you use it and where you are using it.
Mono being fished offshore on the equator will degrade a lot faster than mono being used in winter in Alaska, for example.
Fluorocarbon is a lot tougher than monofilament and isn’t affected by UV light as much, but it is still affected. If you leave a spool of mono in the sun, eventually it won’t be worth much.
Braid on the other hand is supposedly impervious to UV damage but my experience says it differently. While braid is much better at handling UV than mono and fluoro, it does contribute to the weakening of the line in combination with other factors.
Dacron, on the other hand, is susceptible to UV damage and it will degrade when exposed to too much of it. It will begin to turn yellow and will snap easily when over exposed.
Fly lines have a plastic coating on them and this coating is very much affected by UV light and can degrade quickly if not looked after.
Overall, UV light is one of the things that causes all lines to go bad. It is something you should monitor and think about with regards to your line going bad and when to change it.
Heat is an Issue
With strong UV light in a fishing environment comes heat from the sun. Almost all fishing lines are made from nylon or polyethylene fibers, or something similar. If you have held any type of fishing line up to a lighter, you know it melts almost instantly.
Now, imagine, say, monofilament on an offshore boat being in the hot equatorial sun all day long. It is going to change its chemical form and the same thing goes for all fishing lines, including braid.
Braid lasts the longest, followed by Dacron, fly line, fluorocarbon, and finally mono is the weakest, again when it comes to handling heat.
But, heat also comes in the form of friction and no line lives forever when under a lot of fiction. All types of fishing line, even braid, will burn out, especially when used against big fish and high drag pressures.
No matter what type of fishing line you are using, if it has a slight nick in its side, aka a weak point, the line is going to be compromised.
Abrasion happens, it is just part of fishing. If a fish pulls you into a snag, runs under the boat, or you are fishing in a rocky area, your line is going to touch something at some point, become abraded, and it will have a weak point in it somewhere.
You can avoid fishing with lines with weak points though, all you need to do is check. Run your fingers along the line feeling for nicks. If you find one, cut the line and remove the compromised section.
Wear & Tear
Simply using your fishing line reduces its lifespan as it is exposed to water and stress when fighting a fish. There is only so much of this that any line can handle.
Monofilament stretches a lot, which is very useful when fighting some species of fish. But, it can’t be stretched forever and will eventually break instead of stretching anymore.
Also, mono absorbs water but it dries, if it dries with saltwater, the salt is left behind and it degrades the line too. This is why freshwater rinsing is so important for lines after saltwater use.
Fluorocarbon has less stretch than mono but it still stretches and eventually will be worn out with time. Fluoro, however, does not absorb water.
Fly line is made with a braided or hollow nylon core surrounded with a PVC coating. It does have some stretch to it, but very little at the core, as the stretch occurs in the coating. Once the coating cracks, your fly line is done and needs replacing.
Dacron on the other hand, along with the braided line has very little stretch, if any at all. This makes both lines very durable but they will fade over time with use, as nothing lasts forever.
Knots & Tackle Use
Any time your fishing line bends, it weakens. It is, of course, designed to do this and still be strong even when this happens, but it does cause it to degrade over time.
This means, every time you tie a knot, add a sinker, or a bobber, you are creating a weak point in the line. This is why we change out our leaders more often than anything else, as leaders are where sinkers, bobbers, and hooks spend all of their time.
Damaged Line Guides
Line guides on fishing rods are made with stainless steel or chrome and they have a ceramic insert. The ceramic insert is there to reduce friction and heat so your line can run through the guides without being damaged.
But, when that ceramic insert gets chipped, it creates a sharp edge. If this happens, every time you cast your line or fight a fish, your line starts being worn down very quickly. I have literally seen monofilament come off in strands due to a damaged line guide.
Don’t store your hook on the line guides, don’t wind lures to the top, and generally check your line guides so you can avoid this happening.
Tangles & Casting Errors
We have all dealt with tangles that come from backlashes, casting errors, or other errors. Again, this causes your line to lose a bit of its strength.
When it bends, it weakens, friction in a backlash weakens it, if you catch your line on the boat while casting, it weakens.
While these kinds of things are unavoidable, just remember to check your line to see if it is damaged after something like this occurs.
How Long Does Fishing Line Last?
This is a hard question to answer as it depends on what type of line you are using, how you care for it, how often you use it, and lots more.
But, luckily, there are some general guidelines you can follow for each type of fishing line to ensure you are never fishing with a bad line.
Let’s look at the details below.
How Long does Mono Fishing Line Last?
Monofilament is made from a single strand of nylon and it is the most popular fishing line in the world.
Mono stretches a lot, it absorbs water, and it suffers more from UV degradation than any other lines out there. But, it is also the most affordable fishing line in the world too.
So, how long does mono fishing line last?
Generally speaking, you should change out your mono fishing lines every year. This is especially the case if you use them often.
But, if you don’t use them often and you buy high-quality mono, you might get away with using it for 2 years instead of one. However, this is a risk and you should test your line to ensure it is still strong enough.
When it comes to storing mono, it should last about 3 to 5 years on the spool when stored in a dark, dry place.
How Long does Copolymer Fishing Line Last?
Copolymer fishing line is a lot like mono but it is made with two different types of nylon instead of one. This allows manufacturers to fine tune it and make it a little tougher than mono.
Copolymer line absorbs less water than mono, stretches less, has more impact and abrasion resistance, and is generally better than mono overall, but it does cost a bit more. But, how long does it last?
Copolymer will last a bit longer than mono, a maximum of 2 years when being fished heavily and maybe 3 years when not used so often.
If you are storing a spool of copolymer it will last at least 5 years so long as you are storing it correctly.
How Long does Fluorocarbon Fishing Line Last?
Fluorocarbon is made from a single strand of polyvinylidene fluoride. Polyvinylidene fluoride is a much tougher material than nylon and comes with a lot more water-resistant and UV resistance.
This means that fluoro lasts a lot longer than both mono and copolymer fishing line, and it is invisible in water, which is why we anglers love it, despite it being expensive.
So, how long does fluoro last?
Fluorocarbon will last about 1.5 years of heavy fishing and close to 2.5 years if it isn’t fished with often. On a spool, properly stored it will last up to 7 years which is pretty impressive.
How Long does Dacron Fishing Line Last?
Dacron is made from a bunch of polyester yarns braided together but it comes with a hollow core, which is the main difference between Dacron and braid.
Dacron is incredibly tough. It can handle extreme heat, extreme cold, friction, abrasion, UV and lots more plus it has little to no stretch. It is one of the strongest fishing lines on the planet.
When used often, Dacron can last for 3 years and up to 5 years when used now and then. It can last forever when stored properly but it can suffer from dry rot. Dry rot only occurs if your Dacron is stored wet, or gets wet in storage and then the rot sets in.
How Long does Braided Fishing Line Last?
Braid is made from multiple strands of synthetic fibers wound tightly together. The materials used are usually Spectra or Micro-Dyneema and a braided line can be made up of a number of strands, from 4, 8 or even 16 in some cases.
Like Dacron, braid is incredibly tough, and has excellent UV-resistance, doesn’t absorb water, can handle heat and cold, and it almost doesn’t stretch at all.
Unlike Dacron, braid does not suffer from dry rot. This makes it another of the toughest fishing lines you can own.
Braided line will last for up to 3 years when fished heavily, up to 5 years when fished not very often, and it will last forever if stored properly.
But, this is all dependent on how you treat it and use it. Be sure to check braid that is over 3 years old just in case.
How Long does a Fly Line Last?
Fly line is made with either a single strand of mono inside (warm water fly lines) or braided line (cold water fly lines) surrounded with a plastic coating. The plastic coating does protect the core from going bad, but once the plastic coating is finished, the line is too!
Cracks in the fly line catch when you are casting, catch when you are stripping the line, and let water into the core. This can stop a floating line floating and cause it to sink, and affect the core.
The general rule is that a fly line lasts 250 days of solid use and should be changed afterwards.
By this point, a floating line could be sinking, the coating could be cracked, or the line could have too much memory. If this is the case, change it out.
But, check your line, as if it still floats, isn’t cracked, or hasn’t got much memory, then you can continue to use it.
How do You Tell if a Fishing Line has Gone Bad and Needs Replacing?
If your fishing line has gone bad, it will be quite obvious but it won’t be if you don’t check.
There are some tell-tell signs to look out for.
Too Much Memory
The first thing to look at is shape. Is the line coiling? Does it look over-stretched? Does it return to a mess after you have neatly put it away? If this keeps happening, your line might not be bad but it certainly isn’t fishing worthy.
At this point, the memory of the line has gone too far and as it continues to tangle and be mis-shapen, it will slowly become weaker and weaker.
The next thing to check is to physically check the line. Run your fingers over the line and feel for weak points and if you find some, then cut the line and retie your rig.
But, again this doesn’t mean all of the line has gone bad, it means there is a bad section that needs removing.
It is All Bad
The final check is seeing how strong the line is and this can only be done by testing it properly. Take the line and pull hard until it snaps. If it snaps too easily then chances are all the line is bad and it needs to be thrown away and replaced.
Other tell-tell signs especially with Dacron is discoloration. Any brown spots on the line, discoloration, or a weird smell are a sign of dry rot. If Dacron has dry rot, then it will snap too early when you test it.
Time vs Risk vs Cost
This is a rule to live by in my some 30-years of experience as a fly fishing guide and offshore skipper. Replacing lines costs money, but it has to be done so that you don’t lose fish and over time all lines go bad, so you are always taking a risk using a line season after season.
Here is my formula for when to replace the different types of fishing lines, in general.
- Mono should be changed every year
- Copolymer should be changed every year
- Fluoro should be changed every 2 years
- Dacron should be changed every 3 – 5 years
- Braid should be changed every 3 – 5 years
- Fly lines should be changed every year if fished regularly
Now, this is generally speaking. You should check and test your line before every season and decide whether you trust it or not. This can mean you get an extra year out of all of them, or find a dodgy spool of braid that only lasts 1 year instead of 3.
At the end of the day, a bad line is not an acceptable reason to lose a fish, so don’t take risks when you don’t need to and change out your lines often enough.
How to Extend the Life of Your Fishing Line?
But, it is not all doom and gloom as there are quite a few ways to extend the life of your fishing line so it lasts longer.
Here are some tips for you!
- Store your fishing line out the way of UV rays
- Store your fishing line in a dry, cool, place
- Rinse your fishing line in freshwater after every use and make sure it dries
- Take your line of your reels at the end of every season and put them on a spool
- Remove damaged sections from abrasion by checking
- Remove damaged sections from UV by checking for cloudy colored parts in the mono
- Spool your line tightly onto the reel so it doesn’t wear from unnecessary friction or biting
- Use the right line for the right situation, so it doesn’t get damaged as much in the process
- Clean your fishing line and dry it before storing it at the end of the season. This involves taking all the line off the spool, cleaning it, drying it, conditioning it with a fishing line conditioner, adding it to a spool, and then storing it in a cool, dry, dark place
- Use long leaders on all your reels as this is the part of the line that suffers the most and changing a leader is easy compared to changing all your line
Can you use last season’s fishing line after winter?
Yes and no. It depends on the type of fishing line, how long you have used it, how you have treated it, and how you have stored it.
If it is not a mono or a copolymer fishing line, then you should be able to use it for a second season. But, you should check it hasn’t gone bad before taking it fishing.
How often should you replace your fishing line?
You should only replace your fishing line when it has gone bad and this means checking it consistently at the end of each season and before the beginning of the next one.
Generally speaking if you fish often, change mono, copolymer, and fly lines every year. Change fluoro every 2 years, and braid or Dacron every 3 to 5 years.
The key is to always check your line and whether it is good enough to fish with, without risk.
What do you do with old fishing line?
Old fishing line can be repurposed, especially around the house. It is useful for hanging pictures, making jewelry, adding decorations to a Christmas tree, or tying up cables in cars or around the houses too.
But, if you can not find any use for fishing line you should dispose of it properly. There are recycling options for mono, copolymer, fluoro, and fly lines. Do a search online and you should be able to find your closest recycling center which is usually at a tackle shop.
If you can not find a recycling center or are disposing of braid/dacron, then be sure to cut the line into small pieces. Birds and wildlife can get caught up in long lengths of line and die.
Simply wrap the line into a coil and cut it in 4 different places. This will turn a long length of line into multiple short lengths and you can then place it in the trash.
How do you store unused fishing line?
If you have some new line on a spool then make sure it is in a cool, dry, dark place. Leaving it in a cardboard box under a desk in your office or under a bed is ideal.
How long does fishing line last under extreme conditions?
In extreme conditions, mono, fluoro, copolymer, and fly lines will not last more than 6 months and will wear out quickly.
Braid and Dacron will last a lot longer, especially braid as it doesn’t get dry rot, and it can be used for at least a year.
How long does it take for a fishing line to decompose?
It is estimated that monofilament fishing line takes around 600 years to decompose. That is a very long time and all other lines, apart from Dacron, will take longer as it is tougher.
This is why it is so important to dispose of your fishing line correctly. Always recycle it if you can and if you can’t then be sure to make it as small as possible so that it doesn’t kill any wildlife.
How do I use less fishing line?
The best way to reduce how much fishing line you use is by using lines that don’t need replacing often and looking after them well.
I always fill my reels with braid and then a mono top section. This means I only have to replace the mono top each year, rather than a whole reel of mono. Then I change out the braid after 5 years, as I look after my lines very well.
Braid might be more expensive than mono, but over 5 years, it actually becomes more affordable.
So, all fishing lines go bad eventually, but some quicker than others and for different reasons. The key is to always look after your lines, store them properly, and check them. This way they will last as long as possible, and you will never have to use a line that is bad.
Please leave a comment below if you have any questions, want to know more, or have some experiences you want to share with us!