How long is fishing line good for on the spool?

Fishing line has a shelf life and will eventually go bad, even when left on the spool. However, there are several factors that determine how long fishing line will last before it needs to be replaced.

What Causes Fishing Line to Go Bad?

There are a few key reasons why unused fishing line can degrade over time:

  • Sunlight exposure – UV rays from the sun can cause fishing line to become brittle and weak. This is especially true for monofilament and fluorocarbon lines.
  • Temperature fluctuations – Repeated hot and cold cycles can cause the line’s polymers to break down over time.
  • Moisture – If stored in humid conditions, moisture can get absorbed into the line and cause it to deteriorate.
  • Abrasion – Winding and unwinding line from the spool introduces stress and friction that can fray or nick the line.
  • Chemical exposure – Things like fuel, solvents, and other chemicals can react with fishing line and accelerate degradation.

So environmental factors like sun, moisture, and improper storage are the main enemies of fishing line shelf life. But the type and quality of line also play a big role.

Line Type and Quality

Higher quality fishing lines that are designed for longevity will typically last much longer on the spool when stored properly. Here are some general guidelines for different types of lines:


  • Low memory, stiff monofilament: 2-3 years
  • High memory, limp monofilament: 1-2 years

Monofilament is the most prone to degradation from UV light, moisture, and abrasion. Stiffer, low memory mono lines resist damage better than soft, flexible high memory mono.


  • Low quality fluorocarbon: 2-3 years
  • High quality fluorocarbon: 3-5+ years

Fluorocarbon is more UV and chemical resistant than mono, but the formulas vary. Premium fluorocarbon lines use advanced polymers that break down slower.

Braided Line

  • Budget braided line: 5+ years
  • Quality braided line: 10+ years

The tightly woven polyethylene fibers of braided lines are highly resistant to aging. Higher end braids are color-fasted and coated to further resist UV radiation.


  • Co-poly blends: 3-5 years

The chemical resistance of copolymer lines falls between monofilament and fluorocarbon. Their shelf life is intermediate as well.

Proper Storage

Storing fishing line properly is the best way to maximize its usable lifespan on the spool. Here are some tips for proper storage:

  • Keep in cool, dry place away from direct sun, heat, and moisture.
  • Avoid exposing to chemicals like gasoline, solvents, or other contaminants.
  • Store spools vertically to avoid line dig-in and deformation.
  • Loosen drag tension to avoid excess pressure on line.
  • Use original packaging for protection or re-spool for long-term storage.

With ideal storage conditions, high quality fishing line can last many seasons on the spool without degrading. But even properly stored line has a finite shelf life.

Inspecting Old Fishing Line

The best way to determine if old fishing line is still usable is to inspect it thoroughly. Here’s what to look for:

  • Brittleness – Try bending a section of line. Brittle line will crack rather than flex. Discard if brittle.
  • Discoloration – Significant fading or yellowing means the line is UV damaged. Replace if discolored.
  • Cracks – Check for fine cracks or fractures when the line is flexed. Toss out any cracked line.
  • Stiffness – Line that is excessively stiff indicates loss of elasticity. Replace if no longer supple.
  • Knot strength – Tie a few test knots and tension them firmly. If knots slip or break, the line’s strength is gone.

Performing these quick checks will reveal if your old fishing line is past its prime and no longer able to perform on the water. Always discard line that fails any of these inspections.

When in Doubt, Replace It

As a general rule of thumb:

  • Monofilament – Replace every 2-3 years
  • Fluorocarbon – Inspect after 3 years, replace after 5 years
  • Braided line – Inspect after 5 years, replace after 10 years
  • Copolymer – Replace every 3-5 years

But storage conditions and line quality play a huge role in determining actual line lifespan. If you fish often and expose line to harsh conditions, err on the side of replacing it more frequently.

The costs of new line, compared to losing the fish of a lifetime due to a line failure, make routine replacement a wise investment. When in doubt, spool up some new line for peak performance and confidence on the water.

Maximizing Shelf Life for Future Use

To maximize fishing line shelf life for future use:

  • Spool new line loosely with manageable tension
  • Completely seal spool packaging after opening
  • Store line in a cool, dry place away from direct sun
  • Avoid kinking and over-stressing line when handling
  • Wash hands before handling to prevent salt and oil transfer
  • Minimize exposure to dust, chemicals or other contaminants
  • Re-spool bulk line onto smaller spools for long term storage if needed

With proper storage and handling, today’s premium fishing lines can maintain their strength and fishability for many seasons before needing replacement.

Safety Precautions

Discarding old, damaged fishing line requires care to avoid harming people or wildlife:

  • Never dispose of line in the water or on the ground where animals can become entangled
  • Don’t place old line in the trash where it can injure waste management workers
  • Find a monofilament recycling program or secure collection bin if available
  • Cut line into short segments prior to disposal to minimize harm
  • Melt test spools in small batches to avoid dangerous smoke

With some caution, old line can be safely disposed of without further contaminating the planet. Handled responsibly, it will not hurt wildlife or people.

The Bottom Line

Here are some key takeaways on fishing line shelf life:

  • Many factors like light, temperature, moisture and abrasion degrade unused fishing line over time
  • Higher quality lines last longer, while lower quality lines degrade faster
  • Ideal storage conditions help maximize the usable life of fishing line
  • Inspect old line carefully for brittleness, cracks, and loss of strength
  • As a general rule, replace mono and fluoro every 2-5 years, and braided line every 5-10 years
  • Discard old line responsibly to avoid harming wildlife or people

With proper storage and timely replacement, today’s premium fishing lines can retain their fish catching properties for many seasons. Re-spool with fresh line periodically to maintain peak performance on the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the quality of fishing line impact its shelf life?

Yes, higher quality fishing lines made from advanced polymers and construction techniques will last significantly longer on the spool when properly stored compared to low quality budget lines.

Should fishing line be stored sealed in its original packaging?

For best results, fishing line should be sealed in its original packaging after opening. This prevents UV light, dust and moisture from reaching the line and starting the degradation process.

Can old fishing line be reconditioned or restored?

Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to restore or recondition fishing line once it starts to degrade. Old line needs to be discarded and replaced for optimal strength and performance.

How should I dispose of old fishing line responsibly?

Never put old line in the trash or water. Find a line recycling bin or program if possible. Otherwise, cut line into short segments and melt test spools in small batches to avoid smoke issues. Never litter old line where wildlife can become ensnared.

Can fishing line expire if never used?

Yes, all fishing line has a finite shelf life because of the gradual degradation of polymers over time, even if unused. Proper storage can significantly extend the shelf life, but line cannot last indefinitely.


Fishing line is a consumable item that needs periodic replacement as it ages. While quality line stored under optimal conditions can remain usable for many years, natural processes inevitably take their toll over time. Anglers should get in the habit of inspecting line condition and rotating out older spools to avoid a failure at the worst possible moment. With reasonable diligence, fishing line can deliver reliable performance for multiple seasons of fishing before degradation becomes an issue.

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