Prepare Your Boat For Winter

Tips to Make Sure Your Boat Stays Fresh

Fishing boats often take their worst beating during the storage season, when slow time and harsh weather have the chance to gang up on boat, motor and trailer.  Winter does not damage all boats, only those that have been put away improperly.


Boats need protection from elements.  It’s best to store them over winter in an enclosed place, a garage, barn or shed preferably where they won’t be subjected to variations in temperature or at least temperature extremes.


Boat covers provide an extra measure of protection, whether the boat is stored indoors or outside.  Beware, however, of relying on just a boat cover to protect your boat.  Too often water will pool on top of these covers, and the heavy, constant weight of the water will literally bend a hull.



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Almost everyone knows to elevate the trailer tongue and remove the drain plug, so that water can exit the boat.  They should also recognize how easily leaf debris or ice can foil this drainage system.  Only an overhead shelter can provide sure protection against water buildup, and it prevents the mold damage frequently caused by a close fitting cover.


Lubrication is best accomplished with a warm engine.  With the lower unit in the water, take off the cowling, start the motor and disconnect the gas line.  As the fuel remaining in the carburetor burns up, squirt oil directly into the carburetor intake.  In a few seconds, the outboard will start gasping and smoking.  Shut it off quickly.  At this point a nice coat of protective oil covers the interior of the cylinders and crankcase. 


The powerhead can also be lubricated after the motor is out of the water.  Remove the motor’s spark plugs and inject a bit of same oil, into each cylinder.  Turn the motor over a few times, then replace the spark plugs.


The gears of an outboard’s lower unit are bathed in a heavy oil, which should be changed annually.  Before draining the lubricant, check for water contamination of the lower unit by loosening just the lower gearcase plug.  If water trickles out before the lubricant starts to seep, your seals are probably bad.  Either take the motor to a repair shop or replace them yourself.


Check your propeller.  If the blades are nicked, worn or bent back, your motor will not operate at its peak power of fuel efficiency.  Unless they are badly worn or damaged, propellers can be made like new at a repair shop.  Ask you outboard dealer for details.


Preparing the boat for winter is a habit most owners try not to forget.  Before that first frost hits, boats are prepped for a long winter nap.  Engines are fogged, lower unit grease replaced and wheel bearings packed.  It makes preparing for that first trip in the spring a bit easier.


"Too often, the attachments to the boat are simply overlooked", said Computrol® Blair Carpender.  The fishfinder worked great on the last trip and the downriggers did their job flawlessly.  But these high tech electronics need special care.


"First, unplug power cords and remove the fish finders from the boat", he said. They should be stored inside away from the extreme winter cold. Bottom Line® fishfinders work just as good in January as they did in August but prolonged storage in cold is not recommended.  Apply anti-oxidants to terminal connections to reduce oxidation potential, and this is a good time to inspect components, looking for cracks in transducer or cables.


Carpender added that now is also a good time for servicing if needed, such as replacing scratched screens or fixing known problems.  Send the unit to the factory or factory authorized service center for inspection and servicing.


Cannon® electric downriggers should have power cords unplugged and units removed for inside storage.  Like the sonars, electric downriggers work just as great in winter but prolonged storage in the elements is not recommended.


Here again, apply anti-oxidants to terminal connections to reduce oxidation potential. Electric units should be serviced once a year at the factory or factory authorized service center.  It's quick, usually a three day stay at the service center, and not very expensive, about an hour of service time charge.


Manual downrigger units can be left on the boat and stored anywhere, cold and ice will not hurt them.  Cannon cables are stainless so no worry there. Just inspect units for cracks or broken parts and replace as needed.


That's it, a simple process that prolongs the life of the units and takes them out of service at a time when they are not being used anyway. 

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Whether you are in the states of Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kentucky, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, California, Nevada, or New Jersey, there are fish to catch. If you are in one of the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, or Quebec, there are fish to catch.

You might be trolling with cranks as your lure of choice. You might be jigging with jigs. You’ll probably need rods, reels, some live bait (crawlers, minnows, leeches), sinkers, leaders, and fishing line. More often times than not, it takes a boat to get to those spots, as well. Maybe you will be fishing from the bank or wading, however. You may need fishing reports or maybe even a fishing guide. This website will try to help you achieve the goal of catching bigger, better, and more numerous fish.

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