THUNDER BAY — When it's no longer needed to catch a steelhead or a walleye, discarded fishing line can inadvertently cause lots of problems for wildlife and the environment.
It's why members of the North Shore Steelhead Association became intrigued by a Manitoba-based program that provides receptacles for collecting abandoned line that is then processed for use in other products.
The association will install and maintain a number of the units, and the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority has also come on board.
According to ClearYourGear, improperly discarded fishing line can remain in the environment for hundreds of years, and is the leading cause of entanglement issues for wildlife, people and property.
The recycling initiative began in Florida and was implemented in Manitoba in 2016.
"We are late to the game. It was in Kenora in 2020 and finally in Thunder Bay here in 2023," said Steelhead Association spokesperson Frank Edgson.
Like all anglers, Edgson has had to deal with tangles in his fishing line from time to time.
"I'm probably guilty of losing some line on a riverbank when I was fishing. You take these rats' nests off your reel or whatever, stuff it in your pocket and hope to bring it home, but that just transfers the problem. It goes to the landfill but doesn't degrade, so the birds in the landfill can be affected as well."
At other times, he said, line might fall out of one's pocket on the way home and end up getting tangled in the brush.
The North Shore Steelhead Association will install six fishing line receptacles on the Neebing, McIntyre and Current Rivers, and will work with the City of Thunder Bay to install and maintain some units at municipal boat launches.
Michelle Willows, environmental planner for the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, noted that abandoned fishing line can also contribute to microplastic pollution in Lake Superior.
She said the authority will maintain the units that are being established at various conservation areas including Silver Harbour, Little Trout Bay, and Hurkett Cove, as well as inland at Hazelwood Lake, Cedar Falls and the Cascades.
When the receptacles are emptied, the line will be taken to D&R Sporting Goods, packaged, and sent to the Berkley Conservation Institute to be recycled.
Willows said discarded fishing line is transformed into plastic pellets which may then be used to make things such as new tackle boxes and car parts.
Edgson said fishing lodge operators may want to consider ordering their own recycling units from Clear Your Gear, free of charge.
"We have to thank Clear Your Gear in Manitoba for initiating the program and promoting it nationwide. It's the kind of thing that anglers enjoy doing. It's an environmentally good practice to clean up after yourself as you go into the river, and fishing line is the common problem for all of us that fish in the rivers and out of boats as well."