By Larry Pape
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
LINCOLN, Neb. – As anglers, we mean to be good stewards of our environment.
Sometimes, though, we leave something behind. It could be a bait container lid that blew off or a small wad of fishing line in a snag. It all adds up, is a direct reflection on anglers, and is an environmental hazard.
The problem with shoreline litter is twofold. Litter is just plain ugly and embarrassing. The view of a lake scene is never improved by a misplaced drink container. But the big issue is that litter damages the shoreline environment and the animals that live there.
Plastic trash has the greatest potential for impact. Many types are persistent and will maintain their original shapes for years. Plastics can suffocate and impair animals and habitats by being ingested, entangling, or covering them with an impenetrable layer of synthetic material. Moving water often concentrates these materials along shorelines where many animals live, making the problems worse.
But there is a solution. Pick it up!
Let’s believe the last person who fished in your spot did not intend to leave that bottle cap there. And, trust that the person following you would not pick it up the cap. If you plan ahead and have a garbage bag ready to stow away refuse, you can improve a little piece of nature in a few minutes. A plastic shopping bag works wonderful and folds up into a corner of your tackle box.
Pick it up on a bigger scale and hold a shoreline cleanup event. You can go solo, or call on your friends, scout troop, or any conscientious group and convince them to join you. Suggest they wear old clothes and shoes that can get wet and dirty. An old broom handle with a utility hook screwed into the end works wonderful for reaching out farther than you want to wade. Garbage bags work, but large mesh bags drain away the excess water, and can be reused. Small city parks with ponds and state parks with lakes will love you for doing this, but you might contact them in advance to let them know your intentions.
Fishing line is a particularly big hazard for wildlife. Ducks, muskrats, crayfish and fish all get tangled in lost or discarded fishing line. The injuries caused by entanglement and appendage strangulation are horrible and often result in prolonged illness resulting in death.
The Nebraska Fish and Game Association, a non-profit of outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy sharing their passion for fishing and hunting through information and education, resolved to help by making fishing line disposal an important issue and easier for the public to accomplish.
Fishing line recycling bins are available at most boat ramps and busy fishing areas across the state. These are PVC tubes on a post that are maintained by NEFGA volunteers. Steve Wagle, one of the directors of this program, said the most important aspect is to educate the public on the hazards of fishing line, and get it off the shoreline. The used fishing string can then be recycled into other products or placed securely as waste.
Justin Haag, a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission public information officer, in 2018 was in the right place to save a fishing line entangled American robin. See and hear him described it in a Nebraskaland Afield and Afloat blog at magazine.outdoornebraska.gov/2018/06/recyclefishingline.