While organizing your fishing supplies, you come across several old spools of line you forgot you had.
You don’t even know how long it’s been sitting in storage. So you wonder: is it still good to use on the water? Do unused fishing lines expire?
Fishing line doesn’t come with an expiration date. That said, it won’t last forever, and it can go bad if it sits in storage for too long.
Do Unused Fishing Lines Expire?
Fishing lines don’t technically expire.
Depending on the type of line you have, your unused spools of line may still be good many years after you purchased them; on the other hand, some types of line begin to deteriorate within a year or two.
All line will go bad over time, but this deterioration will not happen at the same rate. As the line goes bad, it will become brittle and may break when you put pressure on it.
How long your unused line will last depends not only on the type of line, but on the quality. Expensive braid line from a reputable brand may last for decades, while cheap braid from a fly-by-night company may go bad after only a year or two.
That said, even the best line will go bad before its time if it isn’t properly stored. Keep unused line in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
Fishing line will absorb water, which can cause it to break down sooner, so it’s best to keep it inside away from water and humidity.
As you might imagine, unused line lasts longer in storage than line that has been used repeatedly. The same line that may last for years unused should be replaced on your rods every 6 months to a year, depending on how often you fish.
Every time you fish, your line develops small frays, absorbs water, and is weakened by UV exposure.
The more it’s used, the more its quality declines. Your lines should be replaced regularly for best results and to avoid losing lures and hooks while fishing.
Proper care helps the line last. Every time you use it, rinse it off with clean water afterward, and allow it to dry completely before storing.
How Long Do Fishing Lines Last if Unused?
You may still be wondering if those old, unused spools you just found are any good. How long, exactly, can you expect unused fishing line to last?
Let’s look at the three most popular types of fishing line and how long they typically last in storage.
- Braid : This is the most expensive and highest-quality line you can buy. A good spool of unused braid should last several years to a decade at least; it may even last for a lifetime.
Braid takes a very long time to decompose and will hold its quality well in storage as long as it is stored properly.
- Fluorocarbon : Fluorocarbon is another popular line type. Its design allows light to pass through so the fish can’t see it.
When in storage, unused Fluoro can last up to 8 years, though your best bet is to use it within 3 to 4 years.
Fluoro can take up to 4,000 years to completely break down, but of course it would not be a high enough quality to use during the majority of that time.
- Monofilament : Monofilament is the cheapest and one of the most widely used lines, but it also has the shortest lifespan.
If you have unused Mono line still in the package, it’s best to use it within 2 years of purchase.
Mono will last up to 600 years before completely decomposing, but as with Fluoro, it would not maintain its quality during this time. You can store it for up to 3 or 4 years, but again, using it within two years is best.
In recent years, biodegradable line has been developed that is better for the environment.
However, these types of line don’t last well in storage; they generally decompose after just 5 years, and they should not be kept in storage for more than a year or two.
How To Test if Your Fishing Line Is Still Good?
If you’re not sure how long your unused line has been in storage, check it over to see how it looks. Any discolored or frayed line should be replaced.
Color changes are due to sun exposure, which indicates the line has been weakened. Color changes are especially noticeable on colored line.
These changes may not be as obvious on clear line, though you may notice the line has taken on a yellowish or cloudy coloration.
If dealing with monofilament, look for mold or mildew spots on the line. These will show up as black or or gray dots and splotches.
Mold and mildew are evidence of water damage, which in turn means the line has been weakened.
You may also want to test for line memory. On very old unused spools, especially of mono and fluoro, the line takes on the shape of the spool. When you try to let the line out, it will come off in a bunched, tangled mess.
Line memory isn’t as common with braid line, but that may depend on how long it sits in storage. Unspool part of the line and see how curly it looks.
If the line is very curly or tangled, or it won’t straighten after being unspooled, it may be best to discard the old line.
Old fishing lines should be recycled properly; you could take it to a tackle shop or specialized recycling service. Old fishing line takes too long to break down in landfill.
If you’re not sure whether a particular store or recycling service takes old fishing line, ask. Someone will be happy to help you.
You may be able to recycle your old line from home, but check your local recycling service to make sure. Wrap the old line in paper or cloth so it doesn’t become a hazard during the recycling process.
Unused fishing lines don’t have an expiration date, but they will go bad over time.
To get the most out of storing unused fishing lines, keep them in a cool, dry place away from moisture and direct sunlight.