Preparing Your Boat for fishing Season
For those of us that live in the midwest and are forced to endure through the long, cold winter days, the thought of waiting for spring to arrive can seem like an eternity. Once the days start getting a little longer and a little warmer, there is that glimmer of hope that spring is right around the corner! With that glimmer, the excitement of getting your boat out arrives. Before you hit the water, there are a few things you can do to ensure your first trip out is trouble-free.
One of the first things to check are your batteries. Be it your cranking battery or your trolling motor batteries. If you didn’t have them on a battery tender all winter, you might want to hit them with a battery charger to get a full charge. Do this at least a few days before you plan to head out. You will want to charge your batteries and then make sure they are holding a charge the next day. If not, you will need to get new ones.
Next up will be the fuel system. If you have a smaller-sized fuel tank that you can take in and out of the boat, it is usually best to empty that tank and start with all new fresh gas. It is suggested to always use ethanol free higher octane fuel. I try to always use at least 91 octane. When unhooking your tank to take it out to empty, check your fuel line and ball for any weathering, cracks, or fuel seepage. When your fuel line or ball gets cracks in them, they will allow air to get in, making your engine chug and lose power. If you have a bigger tank or a tank built into the boat, it is best to top it off with fresh fuel. Hopefully, you put some stabil or seafoam fuel preserver in your tank when winterizing. That, along with the new fuel, should keep your motor running like a top.
With your fuel system all up to par, it is now time to check your engine oil and lower unit oil. With 4-stroke motors, you will want to check your manual to see how often you should change it out. If you use your boat at all, I would suggest changing your oil every year. If not, go by engine hours, but always check your manual. If you had a fresh oil change, checking it each time before heading out is still good practice. If you have a two-stroke motor with a built-in oil reservoir, make sure it is full. It is also a good idea to put a spare jug of oil in your boat. That really goes for both two and four-stroke motors but more so for the two-strokes. While you are at the motor checking the oil, it is good to check the lower unit oil as well. Check for any leaks around the fill and drain plugs. If oil levels are good and you have fresh fuel in the tank, you can hook up a hose and muffs and test start your motor. Only run it for a short time and at idle speed. When the motor is running, check to see if the water pump is working and the motor is spitting water.
Next on the checklist is looking over all the boat straps, registration stickers, tires, and trailer lights. Look for frays, cuts, and weathering in the straps. If the winch strap looks weathered, you can usually cut the hook off and pull off some of the old looking strap, and retie the hook on. This will save you some time at the ramp if you are winching your boat on and your strap is worn out and breaks.
Now that everything on the outside of the boat has been checked over, you will want to hop in and give the inside a look. Make sure to check all your safety gear. Look over all the life jackets, first aid kit, and fire extinguisher. When checking these things, keep an eye out for any mouse damage that might have happened over the winter. Look through all your storage compartments. You don’t want to get out there on the lake, pull out your drift sock and find out mice have chewed it up!
One last thing, more of a tip than anything. The more effort you put into keeping your boat clean and running smoothly after each trip out, the easier the maintenance work will be for you all season. If you are one to wipe your boat down after every trip and like to keep your hull clean, you can put a coat of wax on it. This will save your elbows and shoulders throughout the season. Also, wiping down windshields and a simple vacuum a few times throughout the season will be extremely helpful in the long run. A clean boat truly can make all the difference!