Fishing Line Can Harm Wildlife

Submitted by Tom Galante, Natural Resources Commissioner

The Fox River and numerous creeks, ponds, and nearby lakes bless St. Charles, the “Pride of the Fox.” Enjoying our waterways before, during, and after these days of social distancing, by fishing has been acknowledged and encouraged as a healthy and acceptable form of recreation regardless of zones or phases. Fresh air, nature’s beauty, the great outdoors, sounds perfect, right?

One of the few events that could spoil this reverie is the “bird’s nest.” In fishing parlance, the “bird’s nest” is a frustrating, baffling, and (hopefully) rare event when a malfunction of equipment or technique causes the fishing line, usually thin but strong monofilament, to defy the known laws of physics and become hopelessly tangled with itself. I defy Fermi Lab to explain how the “bird’s nest” occurs.

The best way to handle a “bird’s nest” is to cut the offending line, angrily throw the tangled mess into the water or on the shore, and retie your tackle. Right? NO! Your momentary frustration can permanently harm the wildlife that shares our fair city. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) lists a number of harmful consequences of improper line disposal. Ironically and tragically, our feathered friends are often the victims of “bird’s nests” and broken fishing line that is left behind. It’s all too easy for them to become wrapped, snared, choked, and trapped by fishing line. They can even accidentally eat broken fishing line and hooks when they catch the fish “that got away” from you. Fish and reptiles are also victims of these baffling traps. Unrecycled line lasts for decades, at least.

Naturally (pun fully intended), the best solution is to recycle. Secure the fishing line until you can dispose of it in a special recycling bin like that shown in the photo.

Photo: Illinois Department of Natural Resources

These can be found along the Fox River; maybe you wondered what these were for? Can’t find a monofilament recycling bin? IDNR also recommends mailing used fishing line to Berkley, the famous fishing tackle provider. More information, including where to mail your fishing line, is at

Alternatively, used fishing line can also go into trash containers. Just be sure to not leave it on top where our bird and animal friends can “shop” for it while scavenging or looking for nesting materials. And before you go fishing again next year, replace and recycle your line to prevent broken line frustrating your recreation and harming wildlife.

Be sure to check out to buy your fishing licenses and get all your fishing information.

Good fishing, see you on the water (at a responsible distance, of course).