Why Clean Fishing Gear Is Essential For River Health

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The following is by a guest author:

If you’re a lazy angler, you may be the type of person who throws all their fishing gear into the garage or shed without cleaning it. Not only are you shortening the life of your equipment, you could be doing untold damage to river ecosystems, such as those in the Smokies.


A single-celled species of algae called Didymo (Didymosphenia geminate) is extremely invasive and is smothering riverbeds, killing native plants and fish through limiting sunlight. Previously this wool-like algae was happiest in cold waters, but it’s starting to adapt to warmer temperatures and is moving further south. Unfortunately, it’s been found in one stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, namely Tennessee, where fishing is banned. It’s of paramount importance that it isn’t accidentally spread to other streams, through dirty waders, boots, fishing line and even life jackets. The following guidelines will help stop cross contamination and should also extend the life of your equipment.


Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to wash your gear in water and a bit of biodegradable soap. You’ll need to disinfect everything first in a hot bleach solution for at least ten minutes, and then rinse and dry thoroughly for a minimum of 48 hours after they’re touch dry.


Wash & disinfect as above, then pack with newspaper and allow to dry. Once dry, they can be rolled them up (folding encourages cracking) and stored in a sealed black garbage bag. Do not store them before the extra 48 hours is up.


Arguably, reels can be the most valuable piece of equipment but often the most neglected. They’ll need bleaching as well and can be left on the reel once dry, but over winter you may wish to transfer monofilament and fluorocarbon line onto something with a larger diameter, so you don’t get too much curling.


Obviously the number one priority here is disinfecting your lures, spinners, flies, etc., but afterwards it’s important to keep them sealed in an airtight container, out of direct sunlight, as some of the rubber and plastic can perish.

Life Jacket

You’ll need to immerse the jacket in a large container of the bleach solution, then scrub any remaining dirt off and rinse thoroughly. It’s important to dry the jacket in a shady but well ventilated area, as heat and sunlight can warp the flotation material. If you pack it away before it’s bone dry inside and out, you’ll get mildew.

Spending a few minutes on proper gear maintenance should not only keep it in good condition, it will stop you infecting other waters with unwelcome organisms like Didymo.

Hiking in the Smokies


Anonymous said...

Tip for the author: if you want to convince your audience to do something, you probably shouldn’t begin your article by calling them lazy. (I haven’t taken offense but others might.)

I am interested in your recommendation for disinfection. What is the origin of the recommendation for 10 minute hot bleach solution followed by 48 hours of dry time? Why is this so much more extreme than other recommendations that I’ve read?

Anonymous said...

A simple internet search of "bleach and aluminum" will likely convince that that bleach will damage your reel.

The Goretex customer service department recomends against using bleach.

I am definitely in favor of disinfecting my gear but bleach sounds like a really bad idea!