Anglers, mind your fishing lines and gear to avoid causing unintentional harm

A white egret dangling motionlessly with its wing splayed open, snagged on fishing line wrapped around branches. — Photos: ARNOLD LOH

As soon as I saw the stark white shape amidst a sea of greens and browns in the distance, I braced myself for what lay ahead.

Ornithophobia had been a mild affliction of mine since childhood, likely stemming from an incident involving a boisterous cockerel my mother once brought home.

I vividly recall the chaos that ensued when the cockerel, escaping from its cage, made our house its domain, crowing triumphantly as it perched on furniture while I cowered until my mother intervened.

That childhood memory lingered as I approached the stranded egret on the lake, knowing I had to confront my irrational aversion to birds.

As I paddled my kayak nearer, my trepidation mingled with guilt when I saw that the egret was ensnared in a length of braided fishing line.

It was clear the bird was in distress, weakened by the heat and the fatigue from trying to free itself.

A close up of the entangled egret.A close up of the entangled egret.

The presence of the fishing line was not due to an inconsiderate angler.

Some fish, when hooked, instinctively dive into underwater structures, and it is a really good survival strategy.

Thin fishing line cannot stand up against abrasion against submerged branches and when a large, hooked fish dives deeply, your line can get so snagged that you have no hope of freeing it.

When snagged, large fish have a chance of snapping the line or dislodging the hook from its mouth and going free.

So it was not as if some uncaring angler had negligently discarded the fishing line that wrapped itself around branches; the egret was simply a victim of circumstance.

White egret dangling motionlessly with its wing splayed open, snagged on fishing line wrapped around branches.White egret dangling motionlessly with its wing splayed open, snagged on fishing line wrapped around branches.

Braided fishing line, many of which are made with polyethylene threads called Spectra, is often touted as being one of the strongest and lightest lines in the world.

Spectra threads are used to make bulletproof vests, and more than once, I cut my hand on braided fishing line when I gripped it and tried to yank my lure that got snagged in the water; the general advice on the label of a spool of braided line is to wrap the line a few times around something when attempting to free snagged lures.

Back to the unfortunate egret. It was weak. A wild bird would flap frantically but as I paddled near, it was motionless, one wing splayed open in an unseemly fashion, the flight feathers rendered a mess by the fishing line.

Despite my fear, I drew alongside the motionless egret, carefully assessing the entanglement before gingerly cutting it free with a knife.

The egret is free at last, but with a broken wing.The egret is free at last, but with a broken wing.

The bird, though liberated, bore a broken wing, casting doubt on its chances of survival as it limped away into the shallows.

The encounter served as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by discarded fishing gear to wildlife.

Dispose of such materials responsibly. Never throw them into the water – bring them home if necessary and toss them with the garbage.

Regularly inspect your fishing equipment. Also, check the line in your spool before each fishing trip and if it is worn out, replace it to avoid inadvertent breakages while you are fighting fish.

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StarExtra , Outdoors , kayaking


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