Crystal Schick/Yukon News Max Zimmermann, one of the three F.H. Collins Secondary School students that created a fishing line receptacle in hopes of reducing fishing line litter, finds a bundle of fishing line falling out of a garbage bin at Hidden Lakes in Whitehorse on June 22.

Reeling in used fishing line

Project will see four collection receptacles put in place around Whitehorse lakes

Tangled balls of fishing line are a common find around waterways in the Yukon and a group of F.H. Collins Secondary School students may have a solution to reduce that drastically.

Sara Charlton, Aleix Toews, and Max Zimmermann are continuing with a project they started during the school year that will see their fishing line receptacles placed at four lakes in the Whitehorse area, at least to start.

“We may expand (on that) later,” Zimmermann said, describing the initial four as a bit of a pilot project.

The receptacles are made out of PVC pipe with a covering on the end that prevents wildlife from getting in while still allowing a small opening where discarded fishing line can be dropped in. Signs will be placed on each, letting fishers know how they work and the impact they may have.

As the three students explained during an interview in the Hidden Lakes area of Whitehorse June 22, the project came about after a presentation by the 3% Project at their school. The 3% Project is an organization challenging youth to take local action on climate change.

All members of F.H.’s social justice committee, Charlton, Toews and Zimmermann worked to come up with a project that would make a difference in the territory. Zimmermann recalled his dad Dennis’ work with fish and the issue of errant fishing line in and around water bodies in the territory.

The trio pointed out not only does the errant fishing line contribute to more plastic being left in the water, but wildlife can become tangled in the fishing line wherever it is left. Even if it is discarded into the trash, if it is not cut into small pieces, birds can end up getting tangled in it at the landfill.

With that, the group started looking at better ways of collecting discarded fishing line, eventually coming up with the idea of using the pipe pieces.

A small test run of a unit on a small creek near Little Atlin Lake revealed the receptacle could have the potential to divert discarded fishing line from the water or nearby shore with tangled discarded lines thrown into the unit with some visitors opting to discard their used fishing line in the receptacle.

The group also ran a survey during the school year, which showed support for the initiative.

“I think a lot (of people) would use them,” Toews said.

Their initial efforts secured interest in making more with funding support and in-kind help from Respect for Fish (Dennis Zimmermann’s consulting firm), the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund, EDI (which has provided professional graphic designs for the stickers to be placed on the units and posters) as well as the Kwanlin Dün First Nation which has provided permission for units to be placed nearby some of its lakes and Hougen’s Sportslodge, which is set to have a receptacle on display.

The project was also selected among the top 50 from across the country submitted to the 3% project. That position would have meant a trip to a Skill Up Summit May 11 to 14 in Toronto had COVID-19 not cancelled those plans. Each of the 50 projects selected would have been presented there.

“It would have been a good learning experience,” Charlton said citing mentorship opportunities. Zimmermann adding he would have liked to learn more about what others were doing to take action on climate change.

He also said the group was pretty proud to have their work selected for the final summit.

Despite the summit not happening at this time due to COVID-19 and the school year being officially wrapped up, the trio is pleased to continue their work on it through the summer.

As Charlton said, knowing just how big the problem is and having a means to make a difference makes her want to continue the effort.

“All three of us definitely like being outside,” Toews said, adding that wildlife is important to him so he wants to do something to help.

Four receptacles will be placed at some of the more popular fishing lakes around the city in the coming weeks with another set to be on display at Hougen’s Sportslodge.

The three students said if it proves successful, receptacles may be placed at more Yukon waterways in the future.

As they get set to install the receptacles, they are also looking at ways to make use of the discarded fishing line they collect. Zimmermann cited art work — jewelry perhaps — as one way to put the discarded fishing line to use.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

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Crystal Schick/Yukon News Signage that the students plan to attach to their fishing line receptacles in Whitehorse.

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