Should I Use My Old Fishing Line? When to Replace It?

Fishing line isn’t exactly cheap, so when you buy a roll of it, you want to make it last for as long as you can. You have some old fishing line that didn’t tear or tangle the last time you went fishing with it. Can you reuse that line? When should you replace your fishing line?

If you have braided fishing line, then you can reuse it for years provided it’s in good condition. Fluorocarbon and especially monofilament fishing lines will wear down faster but are generally usable for several years as well. The rule of thumb is to change out your fishing line once per year or two. 

This guide to reusing fishing lines will tell you how long you can expect to do it per type of line as well as what happens if you go too long using the same old line. There’s lots of great information to come, so make sure you keep reading! 

Can You Reuse Old Fishing Line? When to Replace It 

As we established in the intro, you can reuse your old fishing line, at least to a point. Let’s go through the five most popular types of fishing lines and discuss the “shelf life” of each so you have a more reasonable expectation as to how long your line could last. 

Braided Fishing Line

Let’s start with braided fishing line. As one of the oldest types of line, braided line remains popular even to this day for several reasons. 

The braided line is very powerful, doesn’t stretch too much, and its knot strength is exceptional. Further, braided fishing line cuts easily but resists sharp objects and abrasion damage. 

That’s due to the construction of braided fishing lines. The high-quality stuff is usually a mix of Spectra and Dacron and maybe some micro-Dyneema as well. 

Dyneema and Spectra are both types of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene or UHMWPE while Dacron is polyethylene terephthalate or PETE.

Over time, if your braided fishing line is colored, its hue could fade. This is just the dye leeching out but isn’t indicative of the need to replace the line. You could easily get many years out of this type of fishing line, especially if yours is quality stuff. 

Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

The next type of fishing line is fluorocarbon, which has a whole laundry list of benefits. It’s just supple enough, resists abrasions, can handle changing weather, it’s moderately sensitive, and it isn’t too refractive. 

Less stretchable than monofilament, fluorocarbon is strong since the line is comprised of one polyvinylidene fluoride strand. 

It’s not all good though. The stiffness can be an issue for anglers unless you know what you’re doing. Further, fluorocarbon is known for knotting and crinkling.

Fluorocarbon line can last upwards of seven years in some instances, so it’s a good choice outside of braided fishing line provided you don’t mind its shortcomings. 

Monofilament Fishing Line

Next, there’s monofilament fishing line, which some anglers call mono line. 

The stuff is single-stranded as well, but it uses plastic or fiber. It’s weaker than braided fishing line–which is a combination of materials–and it’s up to three or four times feebler than fluorocarbon fishing line as well. 

However, since monofilament is among the cheapest type of fishing lines, it’s also the most widely available to keep production costs reasonable.

This is bad news for you considering that UV light can weaken the monofilament line and it’s not super abrasion-resistant either. You might get a year or two out of your mono line, even if you take good care of it. 

Fly Fishing Line

The fourth type of line is fly fishing line, which is heavier than most other types of line (this is intentional). The core of fly fishing line is either Dacron or braided nylon, so fly fishing line shares many of the same characteristics as braided line, including durability.

The core of the fly fishing line is covered in PVC to lend the line the ability to float. The inclusion of additives makes the line likelier to sink when you need it to. Yes, it can both float and sink depending on how you need to use it. 

Fly fishing line longevity isn’t even measured in years, but rather, uses. If you’ve used the line 100 times, then it’s time to replace it if it’s looking worn and thin. Keep the line for no longer than 250 uses. 

To read what the best fishing line for fly fishing is click the link!

Wire Fishing Line

Finally, there’s wire fishing line, which is the least common type of line that anglers use. 

Recommended only for fast boating scenarios or fishing in strong water currents, wire fishing line is also good for reeling in heavy fish. Wire fishing line on your reel can help you catch tuna and mackerel especially. 

Wire fishing line is indeed made of wire, usually metal alloys, titanium, or stainless steel. The wire is covered in plastic for protection. This type of line can also last for years at a time since it’s heavier-duty.   

What Happens If You Go Too Long Without Replacing Your Fishing Line? 

Fishing line is like those Chinese leftovers from two weeks ago that are still sitting in your fridge. It can certainly go bad even if it doesn’t expire, per se (although those leftovers are definitely expired!). 

What does that mean, exactly? We’re glad you asked! The fishing line materials begin to disintegrate or break down. The line then turns brittle and becomes less elastic. 

Here are the consequences of continuing to fish with old line.

The Line Could Snap

Old, brittle line plus a vivacious fish pulling on the other side is a recipe for breakage. 

You feel the fish tugging and tugging and then suddenly, you don’t feel the fish anymore. The fish has broken your line and has now gobbled down whatever live bait you had on your hook. 

If you replace the broken fishing line with more old line, then it’s only a matter of time before the same thing happens again. 

More Frequent Line Tangles

Some types of fishing lines, such as monofilament, have a sort of memory. In other words, if you store the line all crinkled or cramped, it’s going to know to stay in that shape even when it’s taken out of storage. 

What this means for you is a giant headache. When you try to spool the monofilament line onto your reel, it will kink or tangle at every turn. You’ll have to spend so much time trying to straighten the line that you’ll wonder if it’s worth it. 

Decreased Performance

Even if your old fishing line hasn’t snapped or tangled, that still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to use it. The brittle state of the line leaves it unpredictable. The lack of stretch is also a problem. 

While you don’t want a fishing line with too much stretch, the line must have some flex to help you move with the fish and eventually reel in your catch. When the line feels immovable, you’ll struggle to catch anything. 

How to Make Fishing Line Last Longer

As we already established, replacing fishing lines can be costly. If you’re not quite ready to bid your fishing line adieu yet, here are some strategies that might help you prolong the life of the line. 

Store the Line Away from Sunlight

Even if your favorite type of fishing line doesn’t degrade from heat and UV light, you don’t want the fishing line sitting out in the sunlight for weeks on end until you want to use it again. The materials will begin breaking down faster.

In accelerating the line’s degradation, you’ll have to replace it even sooner than usual, which is a pain. Keep the fishing line in a cool, dark place. 

Maintain the Fishing Line Shape

This goes back to what we talked about before. It’s fine to keep your fishing line in your tacklebox for a day of fishing, but after that, you want to store it somewhere where the line isn’t being pushed down on or cramped in any way. 

Use a Line Conditioner

That’s right, just like you’d condition your hair, you can condition your fishing line. 

Rub the product on the line (carefully so you don’t cut yourself) before every fishing trip. A fishing line conditioner is designed to reduce the rate of tangles, stop the line from forming shape memories, and safeguard the core materials from sun damage. 

Fish with It 

This might seem silly, but we have to mention it anyway. Stockpiling fishing line is not the best thing for it. The line needs to be used to work its best, so get out there and go fishing with it! 

Rinse the Fishing Line After Using It 

It’s not only UV and sunlight that can wreak havoc on your fishing line, but dirt and salt as well. Before you pack it in and call it a day, use a garden hose or another source of fresh water to clean your fishing line each time you use it. 

How to Responsibly Dispose of Old Fishing Line

Once your fishing line has seen its day, you can just throw it in the trash, right? Wrong! 

Tangles of old fishing lines tossed in plastic garbage bags go to landfills. If the landfill is in proximity to the ocean, waste from the landfill can drift into the sea. 

Your collection of tangled fishing lines can latch onto seabirds, turtles, fish, and other oceanic creatures. The animals can choke, and in some cases, their limbs can be severed. The poor creatures can even die.

The fishing line might break down quickly when used, but it doesn’t decompose completely for a long, long time, sometimes upwards of 600 years! 

If you want to throw away an old fishing line, please find the drop-off recycling bin at your local sporting goods store. If your local store doesn’t have such a bin, then bring in your line and ask if the staff can safely dispose of it. Most of the time, they’re more than happy to help! 

Many anglers trim the fishing line down into smaller pieces so that even if recycling does mean the line ends up in landfills, animals that encounter the fishing line couldn’t be seriously hurt by it. 

Final Thoughts

Most fishing line is good for at least several years, especially if it’s durable braided fishing line, fluorocarbon line, or wired fishing line. Monofilament line wears down quickly, especially from heat or sun exposure.

If you have concerns about the integrity of your fishing line, then replace it after a year or two. Please properly recycle the fishing line rather than throw it in the trash. It could end up in the ocean, where the fishing line can seriously hurt the creatures that call the sea home.

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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