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Between You and Your Catch

Don’t lose fish to tired old line

      As the 2019 fishing season begins, the most important thing you can do — aside from renewing your fishing license — is also the most affordable: replacing your fishing line. It is also the one thing most commonly ignored.
     Working parttime at a local sports store and teaching springtime light-tackle fishing classes at Anne Arundel Community College have given me a window into the equipment habits of a broad spectrum of anglers. Fishing lines, I’ve discovered, are often taken for granted — with unfortunate results.
      Most of the outfits I’ve examined over the years are spooled with monofilament line that is well past its effective lifespan. I can tell by a line’s dull, white, opaque appearance. Testing the breaking strength, I often find it a fraction of the line’s rated numbers. A 10-pound test line a few years old barely passes a strength-test of two pounds.
     Invariably the owners are surprised. In their defense, the weakness of the line is not immediately apparent because it is actually the knot strength that is the true culprit. If one merely grasps a length of line and gives it a good tug, it will not usually fail.
    However, if you tie an overhand knot in the suspect line and then give it a healthy yank, worn line pops with ease, even line into the 20-pound range. That is because as its material integrity erodes, it cuts into itself.
      All monofilament lines are eventually degraded not only by use but also by exposure to ultraviolet light from sunshine. Even if the line is not being used, it is slowly breaking down. 
     Keep in mind that your line is going to invariably fail at the most critical moment: when you’ve hooked a big fish.
     Two years is a good standard for the full working life of good-quality monofilament. But remember that this lifespan begins with its manufacturing date — not when you spool it onto your reel. Bulk line stored on a shelf under fluorescent lights or exposed to sunlight through a window is already degrading. So beware, especially line tests of 15 pounds and less.
     The best place to replace your fishing lines, especially those on spinning gear, is at a sporting store. Such stores constantly renew their stock. They use a special machine to transfer the line onto your reel evenly and with constant pressure. This eliminates the twist created when line comes off of a stationary spool and onto the spinning reel by winding it with the reel’s rotating bail, which can cause knots.
     Over the last 60 years, monofilament line has greatly improved. Today it is regarded as the best general fishing line available. Mono has evolved from a single thread to a mix of many types of nylon polymers, some making it more pliable, some making lines harder and more abrasion-resistant, some giving it more stretch and others reducing the stretch.
     You can hardly make a bad choice in selecting a line, but anglers with a specific technique in mind can choose from a wide selection of performance profiles. If, for example, you wish to troll extensively, or fish bait at the end of a long cast, you’d prefer a line with less stretch for superior hook-setting.
      An angler targeting active fish with delicate mouth structure may prefer a more stretchy line to protect against sudden shocks tearing the hook out.
     The cheapest line is usually not the best choice. Choose good-quality lines with stabilizers and internal lubricants that preserve integrity. 
     Your line is the most vital link between you and the fish. Make it your first priority for the coming season.
Fish Finder
     With commercial netting closed on the Chester River, there’s a good chance of intercepting some sizeable yellow perch. Martinak Park and the mid to upper Choptank are also good prospects. Wye Mills Creek may be productive if the beavers haven’t dammed it up again, in which case just below the dam can also be excellent. Blackwater River drainage and Black Walnut Creek are also good choices. The Tuckahoe is still troubled by high water.
     Crappie will start up soon now, as will white perch. 
     Rockfish season is closed on the Chesapeake and its tributaries but remains open seaside, where the limit is two fish 28 to 38 inches or 44 inches and over. Anglers at Sandy Point are enjoying catch-and-release.
Hunting Seasons
Canada geese, resident, thru March 9
Snow geese, thru April 15