Last summer, while I was rolling along in that great flounder season, there came a time when I needed a piece of discarded fishing line.
That morning I had neglected to bring along my rusty old chain clip stringer that always accompanies me as I wade the Halifax River.
With a couple nice fish caught, I needed something to make it a bit easier to carry them. As I began to pick through the dead sea grass on the shore, I didn't think it would be any problem at all to find a suitable length of old line to use. Much to my surprise I searched for about a half mile without finding a scrap of line or twine of any kind. That caused me to stop and consider I had not seen any old mono in that area for years.
Mentally I congratulated the fishermen who ply the area north of Granada Bridge. Good work!
A couple weeks ago, I received a call from Lisa Mickey of the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach.
Ms. Mickey did not have such a stellar report to offer on the state of waste fishing line in her area. She was calling to tell me of the many birds she is forced to rescue as she does her kayak eco tours out of the center. As a part of her trip she leads guests to a pair of island rookeries in the Indian River. There she discusses the nesting and mating seabirds. Too often she finds birds in distress from old fishing line.
Lisa told me that recently she had a family of tourists with her and when they arrived at the islands they found a snowy egret hanging upside down from a tree limb.
The poor bird was alive, but just barely, and when a young man in their group climbed up to cut it down they found the egret also had a fish hook in its broken wing.
Lisa always brings along a sheet to cover the traumatized birds she rescues, but this time the poor creature did not make it back to the Discovery Center. She told me that was not an unusual happening at all.
Folks this is just inexcusable.
We as fishermen must do a better job of getting rid of old line. Every one of us occasionally suffers a tangled mess in our reels that just cannot be resolved without cutting away a portion of the line. Please do not toss that line into the water.
Also, never leave it lying about in your boat for as soon as you power up it will surely blow overboard. As we fish, we often snag the bottom. When that happens make every effort to free it up and under no circumstances cut it off at the rod tip. We must do a better job of keeping that mono out of the marine environment. These days most boat ramps have a big PVC pipe installed to accept old fishing line. That is about the only proper way to get rid of it. Don't bring it home and put it into your garbage. That will make its way to the landfill where the many birds there may become entangled. Tying it up in a plastic bag does not work either for the heavy machinery working at the landfill may open it.
Can you imagine how traumatic the sight of a struggling bird hanging upside down from a tree must have been for that family of visitors? Something like that can only happen for one reason. A thoughtless fisherman carelessly allowed old fishing line to get into the natural environment.
I have to tell you I was a little ashamed when I received Lisa's call. I hope for better from people who I know care about nature. If the anglers in the Tomoka Basin area get an "A" for line disposal, then those from New Smyrna Beach get a resounding "F."
For a guided kayak eco tour, call Ms. Mickey at (386) 428-4828.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.