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February 17, 2012 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Grab another annoying plastic bag

Unfit to be tied.

Harmless in the beginning. Just fishing some peaceful stream or serene lake. (Relaxed so far?) A sloppy cast and there it goes. A tangled knot of monofilament fishing line. Snarling. Struggling. Fighting the tangle. Until surrender to the knife. Quick, cut line, re-tied and ready to fly. Cast aside that defeating knotted line. Wraps round the ankles one last time. Kicked aside. Rolled off by the wind.

Problem solved.

A few more casts. Oh, darn. Caught on something. Jerking. Tugging. A bit of vehement verbalizing. Until surrender to the knife. Quick cut of that snagged line. Just a little loss: some monofilament line, a few fly feathers, and a hook.

Problem solved.

A pleasant interlude. Peaceful. But time to shove stuff in the tackle box and head back to the real world. Got everything? Oh, darn. Left that limb line – that passive fishing line made to float in the current. Shoot. Just leave that. Someone else will be glad to find some fish. And the game warden will remove it sometime.

Problem solved.

Good spot. Have to do this again sometime.

Now the danger begins, for the original inhabitants

(image from TX Parks and Wildlife website)

After recreational visitors leave, it’s time for raptor’s grocery shopping: a mouse, small bird, a goofy fish just under the water.

A calculated swoop down talons extended towards startled prey.

Strike and lift to the air – if all goes as planned. 

What a tangled web humans weave.

Just some plastic lines, but lethal in design.

 Left behind monofilament fishing line kills.

As hawks and other raptors grab dinner on the ground, they can also grab up a tangle of leftover fishing line..The weightless stowaway not a problem if not eaten? Not a problem unless it wraps around a leg or wing or snags a tree branch. Large birds may hang helpless unable to escape. This Harris Hawk was lucky. Some kayakers stopped and managed to get it free. (From Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine website) Thanks to Guz Henandez and Heidi Kong for this rescue.

Tangled Harris Hawk freed. (photo by Violeta Cantu)

 Left behind limb lines also kill.

A very inexpensive fishing technique, those easy to use limb lines/ set lines/ throw lines which float along in the current just under the surface. Legal in Texas for freshwater fishing of non-game fish like catfish, the lines can’t have more than 5 hooks and must be attached on one end to a tree or some “permanent fixture”. Be aware that these lines are considered private property and because of that, Game Wardens cannot remove them – even if abandoned. So? Unattended these lines just keep killing.

Read this account by Shannon Tompkin about a snagged owl:

Barred Owl in Florida (image from WIKI)

“The barred owl looked dead.

“I used the boat’s trolling motor to ease close to the bedraggled ball of matted wet feathers hanging from a line attached to a limb of a cypress reaching over the edge of the timber-lined bayou, aiming to confirm what I knew. I’d seen it – or some equally tragic variation – too many times.

The owl had flown low along the edge of the bayou, in that space between overhanging limbs and the water’s surface and not seen or paid attention to the dangling length of line.

It had hit the line, jerking it taut until the rusty hook that had been dangling in the water buried into the wing muscle close to the bird’s body.

The hook-impaled owl had hanged there, part in the water and part out, hopelessly struggling to free itself. It had become another victim of a “limb line” abandoned by some irresponsible angler.

When I got perhaps 10 feet from the “dead” owl, the bird convulsed, weakly attempting to flap its free wing. It was still alive, barely.

I used a hand towel to cover the bird’s head in hopes of calming it, gingerly grabbed it by its legs while avoiding those curved talons, put it on the boat’s deck and used a pair of wirecutters to clip the hook’s barb.

The bird was too weak to fly. But when I put it on the bayou bank, it could stand and look at me. So I wished it luck, returned to the limb line and cut it.”

Tomkins broke the law by helping the owl, an endangered species. He cut someone else’s hook off a limb line – and he cut and removed the abandoned line. Those were private property. But the lines are a continual danger to birds, animals like otters, and boaters. Hopefully, the issue will be addressed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission this spring.

Meanwhile, grab one of those annoying plastic bags

and tie it to your belt loop the next time you head outdoors.

You immediately recycle those?

Well, just look around. There’s probably a few bags within walking range frantically waving to gain your attention…..Poor orphaned bags. Didn’t asked to be created …Tossed carelessly aside…Fated to become ever wandering ghosts…Phantoms of the landscape – Invisible to those who should care…Neglected…Reviled….(Oh? OK. I digress…)

When someone makes some snide “plastic bag” remark,

Retort you are using it to collect left over monofilament fishing lines.

Picking up after others to clean the environment and make it safer for the original inhabitants.

Hey, then hand them one, too!

Problem, not solved, but maybe solution begun?

Tread lightly, take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill only time.

More to explore: 

Attempting to untangle some knots,

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.


  1. jmmcdowell / Feb 17 2012 2:01 am

    Why is it so hard for people to clean up after themselves? Another well-done, thoughtful post.


  2. Simone Benedict / Feb 17 2012 2:24 am

    Well said, Mouse. Not so long ago the lakes near me were beautiful. Now when I visit them, it looks like I’m at the city dump.


  3. RAB / Feb 17 2012 2:24 am

    Thanks for this powerful post.


  4. Elyse / Feb 17 2012 2:55 am

    Great post. I see fishing lines at my beloved park every day. It makes me crazy — especially when my dog steps on a hook. But I take care of my dog — who helps the ducks, the geese, the coots. Urrrgggggh


  5. Homestead Ramblings / Feb 17 2012 2:58 am

    When I worked as an ACO I came across several critters bound by hooks and lines. Mostly they were Canada geese, but once it was a Barred Owl. We actually had to call our one lone Conservation Officer for the whole county, who knows when he arrived? You would be amazed at how little we were allowed to do when it came wildlife. 😦


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 3:03 am

      I know. All the regulations that are supposed to help sometimes hinder. Thanks for sharing your experiences


  6. cruz2lose / Feb 17 2012 3:16 am

    How incredibly sad! Thank you for sharing!


  7. PiedType / Feb 17 2012 3:44 am

    Your opening reminded me of a childhood fishing experience with my dad. Trout fishing on a mountain stream. Spent all my time and effort freeing snagged line. Never once considered cutting it and leaving any behind. Why is that acceptable now?

    ” … kill only time.” First time I’ve seen that part of the admonition. Happy to have learned it. Thx.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 3:38 pm

      Great way to start fishing!
      That is the full phrasing used by the National Trust. It does seem fitting
      Thanks for flying by.


  8. Danlrene ©2011 / Feb 17 2012 4:05 am

    our environment is suffering enough..the animals don’t need to worry about our mess.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 3:39 pm

      Sort of “clean up your room” mentality? WIsh everyone would just pick up a little – and leave none. Thanks for sharing your thoughts


  9. jannatwrites / Feb 17 2012 5:45 am

    This is awful! It make sme sad that the animals are being injured/killed by humans’ carelessness. On every Cub Scout outing, they empahsize “leave no trace” and leave the area better than how you found it. Simple really. Even children can do it.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 4:19 pm

      Many children grow up inside wall, spend 8 hours a day in windowless boxes. They rarely interact with the real world and nature. It’s a worry. Thanks for adding to the conversation.


  10. robstroud / Feb 17 2012 6:22 am

    Not being able to remove untended fishing line is moronic. Laws like that need to be changed!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 4:24 pm

      Game wardens and some outdoorsmen are hoping that TX Parks and Wildlife commission will at least require throw lines/limb lines to be labeled with owner’s name and date it was installed. With the tags, Game Wardens and others will be able to legally remove abandoned lines over the allowed time limit. With all the waterways and wetlands this is becoming a real issue. Too bad you have to legislate common sense. Thanks for adding to the dialogue


  11. Bongo / Feb 17 2012 7:11 am

    I wish all people who fish this way could read this post – and maybe some would actually realize the effect they’re having and change their ways.


  12. roughseasinthemed / Feb 17 2012 8:11 am

    Uf! That was a bit hard-hitting first thing in the morning (here). In fact, I didn’t read it first thing – I left it an hour.

    1) On fishing – don’t let your dogs run loose where there is fishing because when they are sniffing around they may well end up with one of those double barbed hooks in their tongue – no fun to get out, I tell you. A side point, but, oops no, this is not my blog – go over to Clouds to write it…

    2) Plastic bags. It is beyond me why people just chuck them all over the place. So we pick them up. And use them for when we take Pippa out to clean up after him. So they may be orphaned, but we try and give them a new home and a purpose. Briefly.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 4:28 pm

      Oh, good ideas. Plastic bags love to redeem themselves with a useful purpose and proper disposal. (We do the same with the German). Thanks for gliding by. See ya’ soon


  13. Lone Grey Squirrel / Feb 17 2012 8:39 am

    I don’t fish but I still learned a lot from this post that I hadn’t realised before. I think all of us enjoy nature but we need to help keep it as pristine as when we found it. Thanks for this important post.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 4:31 pm

      Maybe some of “leave it” behavior is just not understanding. Many fishermen – and others – truly enjoy the outdoors and do a great deal to protect it. Thanks for stopping to chat.


  14. CATachresis / Feb 17 2012 10:49 am

    A very good post. The thoughtlessness and don’t care attitude of us human’s is beyond my ken. I like the idea of obsolete fishing line in plastic bag. Very neat circle. One thing here that gets my goat is after the refuse collectors have been to pick up the rubbish, there is always plastic bottles and bags strewn along the verge!! No amount of phone calls, emails to the council changes that, so you end up having to go and pick it all up again. Gives a whole new meaning to to word recycling!!!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 5:11 pm

      Oh, I do understand the frustration cleaning up after the garbage guys! You don’t want it blowing and rolling down the street for days and days. Thanks for just going out for the pick-up…it would make a difference if everyone took care of their own little area. Enjoyed your visit. Thanks for taking time.


  15. Ally Bean / Feb 17 2012 1:04 pm

    I knew nothing about this topic before reading this post. Very sad for the birds, very stupid of the human beings. Good to know, but disturbing to know that this goes on. It all seems kind of whacked to me.


  16. shoreacres / Feb 17 2012 2:11 pm

    This seems to be creeping into peoples’ consciousness a bit, thanks to folks like you. I tried to find a stunning photo I came across recently – plastic bags filled with monofilament. Couldn’t find it, but it certainly supports what you say here – there’s too much out there, and it needs to be dealt with.

    I’ll say this – the professional fishermen and guides don’t seem to be the problem. They depend on the environment, and work to keep it healthy. I listen to the outdoor show on radio very early in the morning Thurs-Sun, and they talk about issues like this quite a bit – not only how to cure it, but how to prevent it.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 5:14 pm

      Wow, hope you find that picture – seems like I saw one, too recently – but of course couldn’t find it!
      You are right, the professional anglers and guides do try to take care of things – the problem is maybe the casual fishermen out for a fun weekend with each other or families – disorganization? Anyway, groups are trying to raise awareness. Thanks for adding your thoughts


  17. Jeannie / Feb 17 2012 2:13 pm

    Well said. Leave no trace of ourselves behind.


  18. MJ, Nonstepmom / Feb 17 2012 3:01 pm

    Unfortunately, its the mindset of many hunters and fishers – they only see animals as food/prey and dont care what they kill and do not have the ability to think two steps ahead of themselves….

    even after having this brought to their attention, would prob’ly reply “so what, its just a bird”.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 3:35 pm

      So true. Often some these people (and their families) say they love the outdoors, but leave their picnic and camp sites trashed. Thoughtless or just spoiled – “someone else will clean it up – that’s what we pay taxes/entrance fees/park fees for”….or just a few too many beers makes people “forgetful”.
      There is actually information available that tell how to string lines to keep/injure/kill raptors from “bothering” you.
      Guess it takes all kinds, but…
      Thanks for mentioning this point of view.


  19. robert2feather2011 / Feb 17 2012 3:50 pm

    Good article!! When wildlife come into a human neighborhoods, we trapped them, shoot them set out poison. All to keep our neighborhoods safe. When we go out into mother nature, into their neighborhood how ironic, we intentionally or through carelessness do the samething there. I hat it when I hike in my favorite fishing hole and I stop to pickup 20 or 30 pieces of trash along the way. We all need to work towards removing our footprints from the natural environment of mother nature. Remember the old expression you can’t fool mother nature. Unfortunately we can leave her with serious scars/and blemishes. Pack out/what you packed in. Again can article!!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 5:21 pm

      People sometimes just don’t think…or think the world is like Disneyland where a crew comes in and cleans up every night? Outdoorsmen are right when they say more kids need to go camping, hiking, and learn to fish. Then maybe as adults they would appreciate nature and the environment more? (and teach their kids?) Thanks for visiting and adding your comments


  20. earthstonestation / Feb 17 2012 5:20 pm

    Nice job!


  21. The Hook / Feb 17 2012 7:37 pm

    This post was nothing short of brilliant. Thank you.


  22. jwms1 / Feb 17 2012 7:49 pm

    I am not a fisherman and was unaware of the hazards of leaving such a tiny little bit behind. It would be nice if this kind of information was dispersed with fishing licenses. I think the great majority of sportsmen want to preserve and protect. Thanks for such an interesting and informative article.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 17 2012 8:59 pm

      Here the regulations are distributed and publicized. Frequent licensed anglers aren’t happy about others’ sloppy thoughtless habits. Somehow they need to reach the ones who don’t (for what ever reason) follow the rules. Some sort of awareness campaign? Thanks for visiting


  23. johnmcgeeblog / Feb 17 2012 10:50 pm

    Well written, mouse. One more step: before you dump that line in a trash bin, roll it or wind it around your hand, then use that fishing knife to cut it in half. Then you throw a pile of 6 inch pieces in the trash, not a ball waiting to snag a rummaging dog, cat, or bird. It only takes a minute…!



  24. My Ox is a Moron / Feb 17 2012 11:28 pm

    Small actions with big consequences. A sad note from a disposable society.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 18 2012 12:40 am

      Guess some just aren’t very observant. Some don’t think at all. Some don’t care (Possibly the same ones who poach out of season and run deer with dogs from pickup trucks down the country lanes using spotlights to blind them) Serious outdoorsmen and anglers do care and try to fix things as they come across them. Glad you stopped by.


  25. writingfeemail / Feb 18 2012 1:58 am

    I’m not a fisher person, but I wholly agree with the concept of taking everything with you that you brought in. I don’t understand littering of any kind. And the worst offender is the careless smoker who throws out lit cigarette butts knowing its a fire hazard. Not to mention leaving camp fires unattended. Thanks for reminding us that a little vigilence can go a long way.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 18 2012 2:03 am

      Yuck: cigarette littering – not only fire hazards, but creatures try to eat them! Thanks for adding that.


  26. sediment_and_such / Feb 18 2012 4:05 pm

    I love the approach you take in your writing to topics that should be common sense i.e. not being a dirty and wasteful human. This was really great post.


  27. ailsapm / Feb 20 2012 2:16 pm

    Great post, phil – I just wrote about the saddest little park I’ve ever seen, in Coney Island.
    It really upset me to see what havoc we humans can wreak.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 20 2012 2:34 pm

      Everybody enjoys having a park nearby – but they have to be nurtured and treasured. Thanks for stepping up with this information.


  28. Robin / Feb 22 2012 3:46 pm

    This saddens me. I don’t understand why people find it so difficult to clean up after themselves.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 22 2012 4:57 pm

      Lazy? Busy? Used to others coming behind and cleaning up after them? Or just idiots? Thanks for floating by to chat


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