Unless you are a hardcore, all-season angler that uses your boat any chance you can get, it is time to think about putting her away for the winter. It is real easy to get distracted now with hunting seasons looming and the “I’ll get to that next week” mentality. I’m guilty as charged, although I usually try to practice what I preach.
If you have already pulled the boat, there are a couple things you should do immediately, especially with these colder nights. Outboard owners need to do only a couple of things, mainly to get any residual water out of the engine and bilge pumps, but inboard or sterndrive owners have much more to worry about. So for the purpose of this article, I will stick to the fishermen and their typical boats.
With my outboards, I have learned that cycling the engine up and down, manually on smaller motors, or via the trim/tilt feature on the larger motors, a couple of times after use can eliminate air bubbles and any trapped water that may remain. This will ensure nothing will freeze up and cause popped seals or worse, cracks in the castings/casings. Pretty simple, smart for outdrives too.
Draining water out of the bilge is also a necessity, as even a small amount of water can freeze in the bilge and crack those plastic pumps. Bilge pumps are pretty tough, and most are OK to run dry, at least for short periods, so pump them out good and get as much water out of them that you can. It is also a good time to check any compartments, housings, etc. for any trapped water. Also, remove any wet clothing, life jackets, etc. and dry it all out. Lay the seat cushions out on a sunny day, and clean and protect them. Avoid the mildew in the spring!
Live-wells are another area where water left sitting can cause issues. Run your aerators and pumps to remove any water and, when using the boat for the final time, pour a little RV anti-freeze into the drains to keep water out of the low points. Remember to use modern, bio-degradable RV type anti-freeze and flush it out in the spring before launching your boat
Doing these things will ensure, even if you are using your boat to take advantage of the great fishing this time of year, your spring will be much happier when the problems don’t show up.
Mechanically, now while it is still warm, it’s time to spray, spread, fill and pump all lubricants and protectants. Spray a light lubricating oil, lithium grease etc., per manufacturers specifications, on all linkages, pivots, swivels, ratchets, gears and cranks, on the boat and the trailer, now while the oil can flow and do its job. Pump some fresh grease into the wheel bearings, grease up the trailer ball latch, check your wiring and inflate the trailer tires.
Lastly, unless you are storing in a climate controlled shop, remove tackle, rods and reels, electronics and batteries from the boat and put your batteries on a trickle charging or other maintenance system. Properly inventorying and storing your tackle and gear will go a long way towards making sure you are ready to go in the spring and give you a shopping list for the winter!
All of these things are necessary when putting the boat away for the season, but many can and should be done on a much more regular basis. Don’t put it off, because you know…next week will come and go!
Many of you will be chasing game this weekend, so good luck and be safe! I’ll see you…in the field!