Does Fishing Line Go Bad?

Does Fishing Line Go Bad

There aren’t many moments in a man’s life when he can ask How old is too old?… especially in public, without receiving some weird looks or an insult or two.

In any case, we don’t know about the fish, but we’re pretty sure the fishing gear won’t mind. What’s more, we can bet our lives on the fact that fishing lines have nothing against us asking the infamous question.


When it comes to the fishing line, how old is too old? And… does the line go bad over time?

Yes, fishing line can go bad. Much like many other man-made products, it can, and probably will. Fishing line can lose its elasticity and become brittle over time. As such, it will become prone to snapping.

Refresher Course: Fishing Line Types

Although we assume everyone knows their fishing line ABCs, we don’t really want to rely on that assumption.


Because an assumption is the mother of all… You know.

Anyway, just to be on the safe side, there are three types of fishing lines: monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided lines.

Seeing as they have different performance characteristics, we’ll discuss them briefly before we move on.


Monofilament line, or mono, is simply one continuous strand of synthetic material. For obvious reasons, it’s most often made from nylon. Very often, fishing line manufacturers use different types of nylon in order to ensure maximum stretch, strength, and abrasion resistance.

Anglers far and wide are huge fans of mono because it’s relatively easy to handle and it can withstand sudden impacts. It comes in a variety of inexpensive color palettes, too.


Fluorocarbon fishing line shares one common trait with monofilament. Namely, it comes in one continuous strand. However, instead of nylon, polyvinylidene fluoride is used in the production process. (Now, that’s a name fit for a drunken tongue twister challenge!) Jokes aside, the material is actually a compound of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, with some synthetics added to the mix.

Until recently, fluorocarbon has been used primarily in saltwater fishing. However, it appears to have grown in popularity due to the fact that it’s more difficult to spot in the water.

Although it’s highly resistant to abrasion, we can’t neglect to mention that fluorocarbon line has a better memory than mono. That means that it’ll keep the shape of every curl and twist you make with it. Obviously, that’s not a great thing.

Braided (a.k.a. Superline)

If there’s one thing that helped braided fishing line gain in popularity, it’s the amazing strength of its braided polyethylene fibers. Considering that it’s made of several strands braided together, this type of line is surprisingly thin in diameter.

Although it has very little to no memory, the braided fishing line has one serious flaw. Namely, anglers who use it report that not every knot will hold it. However, they say that it’s best to stick with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Is There an Expiration Date for a Fishing Line?

Technically, no. Fishing line has no expiration date, in the sense that you can’t find an actual best before label on it. That, however, does not mean that it can last forever.

Does the Fishing Line Lifespan Depend on Its Type?

To put it plain and simple — yes, it does.  The average shelf life of a fishing line will largely be affected by its type.

Monofilament, for example, has proven to have the shortest shelf life. Seeing as it’s highly vulnerable to heat and UV light, it’s no wonder it’s the first to expire. It’s recommended to replace it after every season. Some anglers, however, advise changing it after every fishing trip.

Although fluorocarbon’s much-praised transparency leaves it unaffected by sunlight, its memory can shorten its overall lifespan. However, it’s worth noting that, if properly cared for, fluorocarbon will last up to four times longer than mono. Still, it’s often recommended to have it replaced annually.

When it comes to the braided fishing line, it seems to be the longest-lasting fishing line out there. Some go so far as to say that it can last an entire human lifetime. Now, we don’t know about that, but what we do know is that it is not affected by the sunlight and it can last for several fishing seasons. However, anglers who are after bass or similar large fish should pay special attention to frays.

Is It Possible to Prolong the Life of Fishing Line?

In theory, yes.

We say in theory because we do not recommend relying on a fishing line that is too old by standards given above. It will snap.

However, there are several things that we can do in order to prolong the life of our fishing line.

First of all, proper storage is of the utmost importance. We’ve already mentioned that the exposure to light and heat can cause serious damage to the fishing line. Therefore, we should keep our line in a cool and dark place, regardless of its type.

Second, it’s always smart to keep the used fishing line we don’t need at the moment on a spool. However, we should remember that this can only work for a braided line. Both monofilament and fluorocarbon have way too much memory for that. Here is a useful article I found on storing monofilament line.

Third, anglers often make a simple mistake when setting up their pole. Namely, they sometimes miss the guide and string the line through the mall gap that they find between the guide and the fishing pole. The friction produced when the line rubs against the sharp edges can cause serious damage. Therefore, properly setting up the fishing pole is important, too.

Fourth, we can always respool or use a starter line. By combining two different types of lines, one less expensive and the other desired one, we can get the maximum out of our fishing line. Not only will we have a reel of longer-lasting line, but we’ll also have it at half the usual cost!

How Can We Know That Our Fishing Line Needs  Replacing?

It should be obvious by now, but just in case it isn’t — the lifespan of our fishing line will depend on a number of factors. Namely, its type, how often we use it, as well as the general fishing conditions all affect how long the line would last.

Let’s be honest here — we all fear having to part ways with the catch of a lifetime because our fishing line failed us at the crucial moment. By regularly checking our fishing line for imperfections, we minimize the chances of experiencing the snap effect.

There are several tell-tale signs that our fishing line needs replacement. The signs themselves, naturally, depend on the type of line we’re using.

With monofilament, we should be on the lookout for loops and tangles. It’s by far the most susceptible to bunching up and breaking down due to extensive exposure to sunlight.

When using fluorocarbon, on the other hand, we need to regularly check for fraying and stretching, as well as any other signs of damage caused by UV light.

Although the braided line is dubbed the most resistant to wears and tears, we must keep in mind that it, too, has a limited lifespan. Should we notice any decolorization or obvious fraying, it’s safe to say we need to replace it.

When in Doubt…

In some cases, there will be no visible signs of damage even after a year had passed. In such cases, there’s another way to check whether the line is too old. We can always test its strength.

Namely, all types of fishing lines are rated based on their durability, i.e., how long it takes them to break under exertion. The rating test is called the pound test, and the fishing line ratings range from 2 to 400 pounds.

Now, for our own strength test, we’ll need an object that can withstand a lot more force than we’re going to put on the fishing line. It would be best if the object of our choice is somehow fixed to the ground — we don’t want it flying towards us, do we?

While we’re on the topic of safety, it wouldn’t harm us to wear a pair of goggles. A snapped line can cause quite a lot of damage. And pain, if it hits you on the face. And no matter how manly we are, we don’t want to get hurt.

For the test itself, we need to take the fishing line we want to examine and securely tie one of its ends to the object of our choice. Then, we should let out around 20 ft of fishing line and stand at an appropriate distance from the object. Once the fishing line is strained, we should start pulling. The amount of force we apply on the line will, naturally, depend on its type and its pound test rating.

Now, regardless of the type, the line shouldn’t break well before we reach the weight it’s supposed to handle. But, if it does, at least we’ll know it’s time to go shopping for a new spool of fishing line.

Can We Just Toss Out the Old Line?

Of course we can. But doing it in a haphazard manner would be irresponsible. And we’re not the irresponsible kind, are we?

Of course we’re not.

We need to keep in mind that fishing gear recycling is finally catching on. Luckily, that includes all three types of fishing line, too. So, gentlemen, we’re not going to just toss it out. We’re going to recycle it.

Why Recycle?

Simply, because fishing lines are not made from natural materials. As such, they almost never decompose. Ultimately, they can somehow resurface and become a hazard to wildlife. We’ve seen similar scenarios with other plastic products before, haven’t we?

Once recycled, the old fishing line is often used in the process of manufacturing new fishing line spools. What’s more, sometimes it’s turned into artificial aquatic structures and sold in pet shops. Remember seeing those beautiful aquarium setups?

To put it plainly, if we recycle, we’re doing everyone and everything a huge favor.

Can’t recycle? We don’t judge.

If, for whatever reason, we choose not to recycle the old line, the least we can do is make sure we dispose of it safely. Therefore, we should wind it tightly onto a spool and secure it with a knot and some tape. It’s worth noting that we can use a rubber band instead of tape.

Alternatively, we can always chop the old line into pieces no more than a foot in length before throwing it in the trash.

In any case, we need to ensure that the fishing line does not come loose.

So, What Did We Learn Today?

It’s time to wrap things up.

We learned that, although it technically does not have an expiration date, an older fishing line can go bad. We also learned that we can try to prolong its lifespan by storing it properly, respooling some of it, and by properly setting up our fishing pole.

We briefly revisited the topic of the types of fishing lines, and we discussed some things regarding recognizing the moment when our line might need replacement. What’s more, we learned how to test the fishing line by ourselves.

All in all, we managed to ask the infamous How old is too old?… And, come out of it unharmed. What’s more, we learned some valuable lessons along the way. And we hopefully established that the reverence with which anglers handle their equipment is justified. Being a great angler is never an accident. It’s all in the details.


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