Fishing line doesn’t have a set-in-stone expiration date, but it can (and will) degrade over time. The last thing anglers need is for their line to snap, especially if you’re trying to reel in a big one. Here’s everything you need to know about your line’s life span to help you answer the question: how long does fishing line last?
What Makes Fishing Line Go Bad?
Several factors affect your fishing line’s quality and shelf life, though it largely depends on the type of fishing line you have in your tackle.
Monofilament lines are made of synthetic fiber. They’re sensitive to heat and UV light. Not storing your line properly is usually the reason why its quality deteriorates, as its material will break down if it’s exposed to sunlight for too long.
Another problem is that monofilament fishing line is absorbent and will degrade even faster if you use them in saltwater. This is because water evaporates, but salt doesn’t. When your line dries, salt particles will remain inside it and in time, they’ll ruin its stretch, causing it to break under load.
Fluorocarbon fishing line is also made from synthetic fiber, but it’s not as flimsy as monofilament lines are. These fishing lines won’t melt or warp when exposed to heat or light, and they don’t absorb water. They’re not indestructible, though. “Necking” is a huge problem with this type of line.
One of the main differences between monofilament and fluorocarbon lines is line memory — how well the fishing line can retain its form. Mono lines can stretch under load and bounce back to their original form with ease, but fluorocarbon lines cannot.
If you stretch a fluorocarbon line too far, it will deform and pull thinner. Given enough time, it will break. Necking is more severe on already weakened or damaged spots on your line, for example, scratches.
As for braided fishing line, it’s heat and water-resistant and won’t break down when exposed to light. The biggest problem is that its fibers could unravel or tangle, which weakens the line. Braided lines also don’t fare well against abrasion and will likely collapse if any of their strands erode, tear, or break.
Maintenance is key in making your fishing line last as long as possible, so we’ll cover that shortly. First, we must answer an important question: how long does fishing line last?
How Long Does Monofilament Fishing Line Last?
Monofilament fishing line is an excellent material and a firm favorite to many anglers, but did you know that it has the shortest lifespans of all types of fishing lines? How long it will keep you for depends on your different types of fishing and how you put it to use.
If you’re a hobbyist who fishes for leisure, monofilament fishing line will last for 2 to 3 years, on average. However, if you’re a heavy-duty angler who fishes in rough waters, you should change your monofilament line every season.
How Long Does Fluorocarbon Line Last?
Fluorocarbon lines will last much longer than monofilament lines because their material is hardier and resistant to the elements. Still, they’re not infallible and will have to be replaced eventually. With good maintenance, a fluorocarbon line could keep you for a good 8 – 10 years.
How Long Does Braided Fishing Line Last?
Even though braided fishing line is often considered the trickiest line to work with, it’s practically immortal. If you take care to prevent tangles and keep it out of waters that will break it down, it could technically last a lifetime.
This isn’t easy to do, though. So, it’s likely that you’ll have to replace it after a few seasons. Still, braided line will last longer than both mono and fluorocarbon, so if you’re looking for the most durable fishing line of all, there you go!
Is Fishing Line Biodegradable?
No, fishing line is not biodegradable. The plastic polymers used in monofilament fishing line and all other types can take hundreds of years to degrade, so they have to be disposed of correctly and can never be left out in the field.
How To Extend the Life of Your Fishing Line
There are many ways that you can prolong the shelf life of your fishing line, but, of course, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You’ll need to consider what type of fishing line you have, how you fish with it, and how frequently you use it. If all else fails, look up manufacturer recommendations or, if you have one, your line’s instruction manual.
That said, some general good practices apply to all types of lines. The following tips will make yours last longer if you take care to implement them. Here’s what you should keep in mind:
Tips for Prolonging the Life of Fishing Line
Tip 1: Store Fishing Line Away From Sunlight
The fastest way to preserve your fishing line and extend its shelf life is to store it in a cool, dry, and dark place. This is especially important for monofilament line, but it won’t hurt to do the same for fluorocarbon line and braided line as well. Appropriate storage is one of the most important aspects of making your fishing lines last longer.
Tip 2: Reel Your Line Onto Your Spool Properly
Storage can only take you so far. You have to learn how to handle your fishing lines too. Learning how to load lines onto your reel, spool, or rod will prevent unnecessary wear and tear, and it will keep your line from snapping or breaking while out on the water. Again, the types of fishing lines you use will determine how you do this.
Tip 3: Manage Line Damage
You shouldn’t wait for your fishing line to break on you. Most of the time, you can tell when it’s been weakened and needs a little bit of TLC. Test your line before you use it, check for signs of damage (like nicks, scratches, or loose fibers), and make sure that it’s not caught on your rod. Remember, you can trim your line, too, if need be.
Tip 4: Use Your Line Properly
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you store your rod in a dark place, test it every time you look at it, or constantly attend to its nicks and cuts — if you use your fishing line carelessly, it’s guaranteed to deteriorate. For example, don’t use braided line in water that will abrade it, and don’t overuse fluorocarbon lines for labor-intensive (or heavy) catches that are bound to deform it. And remember to please dispose of line properly and recycle it where possible.
Tip 5: Condition Your Fishing Line
If you want to go the extra mile, you can preserve your fishing line even more by conditioning it. Doing so will help it resist the elements, prevent wear and tear, and— according to many anglers— it spells smoother casting too. You could opt for a branded fishing line or conditioner or DIY it with household products. Anglers swear by silicon spray, silicon hair conditioner, and WD40.
How to Tell if Your Fishing Line Needs Replacing
Damage to your fishing line is inevitable. Because they’re often synthetic (like monofilament lines are), they will deteriorate naturally over time— even if you leave them in their original packaging. So, how can you tell when fishing line is at the end of its shelf life?
Generally speaking, it will be obvious. If your line has severe damage, it’s better to chuck it out than attempt to repair it. Likewise, if your fluorocarbon fishing line is stretched, tight, bent, or otherwise warped, it won’t return to its former glory, no matter how hard you try. Throw it out.
That said, regardless of your fishing line’s expected life span, it isn’t meant to last forever. Replacing your line frequently— even if it’s not damaged— could improve your overall fishing experience (and it might just help you catch more fish!).
Final Thoughts on Making Fishing Line Last
Fishing line can last you anywhere from a few months to decades — it’s up to you and the line you choose, as well as the steps you take to preserve it. With proper storage, handling, and maintenance, you could save a ton of money on replacements. More importantly, you’ll decrease opportunities for big ones that got away on account of faulty lines.