Late-autumn, even early winter angling can produce big fish results, but take care not to allow cold weather to damage your expensive equipment.
Regular readers of mine know I love fall fishing, plus river fishing in late winter or early spring as walleyes prepare for the spawn. But there’s a fine line between great fishing and pushing the limit of safety or risking damage to important gear such as our outboard motors.
I fish into the cold weather months, and we can use our outboards into temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, even 25 degrees, but 20 degrees is my strict limit. By sticking to these temperature guidelines, I’ve never been in a boat where my outboard froze up.
Here’s an important rule whenever your boat will be exposed to freezing temperatures: When you leave the ramp, immediately drop the outboard and let all that water drain. If you don’t, it’ll freeze inside your lower unit, and when it expands into ice, it can crack the lower unit or potentially damage your water pump.
When you’re officially off the water for the season, winterize your boat a number of ways to prevent freezing damage. Again, thoroughly drain that outboard. Run your live well pump for a minute so there’s no water inside. Drop and drain the trolling motor, too, because there likely will be some water inside.
A freezing weather factor to expect and avoid? Is the ramp where you’re loading your boat icy? Beware and be careful. Also, the bunks on your trailer can coat up with ice, so if you don’t attach your safety chain first, the boat could slide right off. That’ll leave a mark! So always crank and add that safety chain before pulling your boat from the water.
Lots of guys also ask me: Do I need to take the batteries out of the boat? That answer is no, but if you’re storing it in an unheated garage, then disconnect the batteries, trolling and starting. If you have a heated garage, then there is no need to disconnect them just charge them every 20 days or so.
A little bit of effort now will keep your boat tuned, tight, and ready to go come spring.
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