Why remove fishing line from the shores of our lakes, bays, rivers, and streams?
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Post by PaddleBear » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:18 pm

Janet and I were out hiking along Lake Hodges one day in April, 2018 and we found a duck hanging from a tree by a fishing lure in its mouth. It was out over the water and we could not get to it. We tried to call for "official" help, but could find none. We finally flagged down a fishing boat, but the duck panicked and jerked loose as they tried to grab it - taking the lure with it. It probably died.
In late May of 2018 we found a Great Egret with its left wing entangled in fishing line. I tried to wade out to it, but it also panicked and jerked loose, losing some important flight feathers in the process. It struggled off to a safe branch and just sat there for a long time looking very unhappy. We came back after a while and it was gone. Hopefully it had only lost feathers and not damaged the wing. Feathers will grow back if the bird can remain alive and feed itself for a while.

Since there is no organization in our area that one can call on for help in cases like this, we decided that we needed to remove the threat by going around the lake, pulling fishing line out of the shoreline vegetation. We rented a kayak and were appalled at how much line we found. The random section of bank that we chose was festooned with line like a Halloween haunted house. We spent 45 minutes pulling the line from just a couple hundred feet of shoreline.

Realizing that this was going to be a big job, we bought a Hobie Oasis tandem kayak and proceeded to become experts at the arcane hobby of finding and removing fishing line. Janet's schedule prevented us going out on some days, so I started to recruit neighbors to help on those days. One, Mark van den Broek, became a regular who comes out every Monday morning.

At first we also picked up litter because it is unsightly. Then we realized that styrofoam bait cups, plastic bags and other forms of plastic can entangle or choke birds and wildlife. So our litter picking became important, too.

It took months to make a complete circuit around the lake, then we went into maintenance mode until the water level changed, exposing new line.

I would like to say that we have completely eliminated fishing line related bird deaths, but that is not the case. We cannot follow the fishermen around, pulling out their line as soon as they lose it. Sometimes it sits in the bush or tree for a few days before we find it. And so some birds are still lost. Spring seems to be the worst time. We are trying to recruit more kayakers to improve the coverage of the worst areas. Ideally, we would have enough boats to make a thorough search of the entire shoreline at the end of each fishing day (Sat, Sun, Mon) but that will be difficult to achieve.
--Brian Godfrey
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