Fishing line is made to be as invisible to the fish as possible. That makes it difficult for the birds to avoid and tough for us to find. It helps a lot if you know where to find it and it helps a lot more if you go slowly and look closely at the vegetation, beach, logs and rocks.
Where to look.
There are two general classes of fishing: bank fishing and boat fishing.
- Bank fishing is the biggest source of fishing line and tackle that we find. So it is important to know where it occurs in your area.
- It is easy to figure out where bank fishing occurs even if you don't see anyone at the moment.
- Look for a trail down from a parking area or road turn-out.
- Look for a beach or opening in the bankside vegetation large enough to cast out from.
- Look for trash on the bank or beach. This can be easily spotted from a distance and is usually our first clue.
- Fishing from docks or piers can be very similar to bank fishing. Especially in areas where vegetation grows nearby.
- Boat fishing might be trolling (dragging some sort of lure or bait through the water behind a boat. This is usually done in deep water and is rarely a source of lost line.
- Or it might be done from a stationary or drifting boat. Often this involves casting a lure or bait near rocks, logs, or vegetation because the fish like to hide out in those kinds of places. Casting takes skill and is subject to wind gusts and such. So this is the second biggest source of lost line that we find. But rather than being concentrated around beaches or banks, this line tends to be scattered around the entire perimeter of our lake.
Spotting the line can be difficult. No matter how hard you try you will miss some. But you will miss less as you become more experienced.
- Your brain is an awesome image processor - if you will let it do its job. The idea is to look for something that "doesn't belong in the picture."
- Visual lines that go in odd directions; shiny, flashy, or brightly colored things; cloudy-looking areas which turn out to be big messes of line. These things tend to stand out. Lures are often the first thing we see.
- Fresh line almost glows if it is backlit by the sun. This means you can go over the same area in the evening and you may spot some line that you missed in the morning. We don't actually do this, but it is a consideration when multiple kayaks are working an area on their own schedules. If I know that a volunteer went over an area on the evening of a fishing day, I may make a quick pass through that same area the following morning just looking for new line while on my way to the day's real work area.
- Bank fishing line tends to be within 100' of the shore. You will often find a lure or hook/weight out in a shrub or log or something and then follow the line back towards the shore.
- In areas with lots of near-shore vegetation in the water you will tend to find bank fishing line and tackle on the "inside" or bank side of the vegetation and boat-fishing line and tackle more towards the "outside". It can be very important to actually weave around through these areas if possible because the stuff isn't always right on the outer edge.
- Go slow! There's a lot to look at and sometimes your hint will be just a few inches of the line hanging at an odd angle. Take your time, this is the Zen part.
- Go close. We find the most line when we are passing within 5' or less of the vegetation or other snag hazards.
- When you stop to untangle line or pickup litter, look around. You will probably find more.
We see or find signs of three kinds of illegal fishing. Here they are and our opinion about what to do when you find them.
- Trotline, handline, and similar types of fishing. A heavy weight is tied onto a heavy line with one or more hooks suspended from it. It is cast out by hand and tied to a shrub, rock, or chunk of wood. It is left for some period of time, then checked. The heavy weights and multiple hooks greatly increase the chances of this rig becoming snagged on the bottom. You might think that being on the bottom is no big deal, but we have rescued a grebe with its foot caught on a trotline hook. We've also found a cormorant who appeared to have taken a trotline hook in its beak and died.
We report these to our local ranger when we find them. Especially if we find areas with frequent activity.
- Gillnets. We have found four gillnets on the shores of our lake in just one year. We also found dead cormorants lined up next to one of them - apparently caught in the net and drowned. Another guy found one in the water with a live cormorant caught in it, just able to get its head out of the water to breathe. That was a lucky bird who would have died very soon. We report these when we find them.
- Multiple rods, no license, etc. We do see people with too many rods out and others who are probably fishing without a license. We are not policemen. We do not condone these activities, but we do not confront them or report them, either.