Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
Written For Outdoor Gazette
October 29, 200

Simple Preparations Help Avoid Fall Boating Mishaps
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

There is one lesson that I learned a number of years ago that I try to pass along every year. That is the importance of a few simple maintenance items if you are planing on fishing in to the cold water period leading to ice up. Simple steps that you can take to make sure you are ready to go when the fish are.

First of all I remind everyone to make sure to lower their outboard to vertical position after you put the boat on the trailer. In the nice weather we had this past weekend I watched numerous anglers trailer their boat without taking this simple step. I have been with an experienced angler who forgot to do this a week or so before a cold snap, then paid the price when temperature plummeted before his next outing. It’s easy to remember this when there’s snow on the ground but forgetting this step when temperatures are warm in the fall can cause a problem. Although the motors are really self draining, boaters can also “pop off” their motor to help remove any left over water. My boat sponsor Josh at Boat Doc in Lomira recommends that those who wish to do this turn the key, let it start count one, two, three and shut it off. Letting the motor run while dry for more then a few seconds can cause damage. Josh and I discussed a few other fall recommendations here they are.

Make sure to check the prop area on your main outboard, your electric trolling motor and your kicker motor, if you have one. If there is fishing line wrapped around the shaft, chances are you have damaged the seal on the shaft that keep water out of the lower unit. Change the lower unit fluid on your outboards now. If there is any water in your lower unit, best to find out about it before it gets below freezing. Water will show up as a milky white coloring to the lower unit fluid. A small amount may not be need to worry, but if the entire fluid is light in color, you should have your motor checked by a professional. As far as your trolling motor, if you’ve got water in the lower unit, you’ve got trouble only a professional can take care of. Check your owners manual for any maintenance recommendations. One thing is certain, a good running electric motor still requires a strong source of power. Those with an onboard charger should keep a fresh charge on your batteries between outings. Those of you who do not have this piece of equipment should consider removing your batteries from the boat and storing them inside. Cold can drain a battery quickly and also does a good job of making a weak battery show up. Slow charge the battery prior to your next outing and make sure all cells are properly filled and you should be good to go. Remember, trolling motor batteries and starting batteries are different. Make sure you have the right equipment and don’t skimp.

Josh also recommends keeping your gas as low as possible in the boat. An additive such as Stable is important too, especially if you are unsure of the timing of your last outing. Keeping your gas as low as possible also lets you fill up with the 93 octane he recommends for your first tank next spring. Large amounts of gas just require more additive and can actually absorb water while sitting. This is also a time of year when it is important to check your trailer tires and wheel bearings. Tires should be checked for any uneven wear and a bit of fresh grease might be what keeps you on the road. Make sure all your lights work and that the connection plug is cleaned and coated with a bit of dielectric grease.

Josh and I also discussed a couple of precautions some may take if planning on fishing right up to ice up. Because ice in a live well line, intake or pump itself can freeze, crack and literally cause a leak, some anglers choose to plug ALL lines and intakes once it starts to get real cold. RV antifreeze in live well lines and in the bilge can keep this potential dangerous situation from happening. This biodegradable liquid can be easily flushed next spring. Even when I’m fishing for a limit of keepers, I never use my live well if fishing in near freezing temperatures. A nice long stringer works well as does taking the chosen fish and putting them directly in a cooler full of ice. Point is, when it gets to the point of late November and December fishing, taking proper precautions can be a life saver.

For those of you who are already thinking about putting the boat away or your last trip, making plans for winterization with your dealer is a good idea. Like most boat dealers my sponsor, Boat Doc in Lomira, has winterization specials and offers shrink wrap service. If you don’t use your boat year round like I do, having it professionally winterized will help extend the life of the motor and save costly repair bills next spring.

For more information on topics such as this and the areas great fall fishing, make sure to check out Doc’s Wolf River Country.Com Joel “Doc” Kunz is a freelance outdoor writer / photographer published weekly by Outdoor Gazette. His work is also seen in many other Wisconsin and Midwest publications. He is a recent READERS CHOICE award winner and a member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. His is a Pro Team member of Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Motorguide & Lindy Little Joe.


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