When It’s Time to Put the Boat Away

Part 2

In part 1 of the article, we discussed some of the things that will help with trailer longevity, and a few things to check when putting a boat and trailer in for winter storage. In part 2, we will discuss some of the things that will help keep the boat itself in good working order come spring.

Motor
Motor maintenance is a crucial aspect of boat ownership, and is one that is done by most boat owners. It’s our motors that we rely on to get us to our favorite fishing hole, and it’s our motors that often command the most attention when they break down. There are a couple of things that we should do when putting our boats up for the winter.

The impeller is what pulls water into the motor to cool it. Needless to say, it’s a hugely important part of the motor. The impeller itself is fairly cheap, and that’s a good thing. This one part is also one of the things to keep an eye on to ensure motor longevity. When our motors don’t “pee” the way that they should (spitting water out of the back of the motor), it is often either a partially plugged intake, or it’s an impeller going bad. Regularly replacing our motor impellers will keep the motor cooling itself properly and running long into the future. Impeller replacement is something that routine motor maintenance should take care of, but it’s advisable to double check that is has been replaced every other year or so.

Spark plugs are an easy thing to replace, and can help keep a motor running at its peak. For motors that log a lot of hours like those being used by Sport Fish Michigan’s Captains and Guides, spark plugs should be replaced annually. For recreational anglers, perhaps every other year or so is acceptable. Poor motor performance can often be linked to a fouled plug.

Water filters help keep water out of the motor, and with the ethanol in today’s gasoline, replacing this filter is an essential part of preventative maintenance. Replacing a water filter every year will go a long ways towards keeping water out of the combustion chambers. In fact, on all of my boats, I took the extra step of adding a second water filter. Should there be phase separation in my fuel tanks, a second water filter will help, and hopefully stave off very costly repairs.

Dry
Storing a dry boat is much better than storing a wet boat. This will help to prevent mold during the long winter layover, making for a quicker and easier spring dust-off. One thing that I like to do is to leave compartments open to let air circulate freely. A closed compartment, especially with lots of things in it, will trap moisture and can become moldy.

Batteries
Charging boat batteries at the end of the season is a great way to keep batteries lively come springtime. A fully charged battery is better able to withstand cold winter temperatures if boats are stored in a cold facility or outside. If possible, topping off the charge mid-winter is another good idea.

Fuel
The ethanol in fuel these days can spell big trouble for boat owners. Long-term winter storage of gasoline in a boat’s fuel tank can be problematic without a fuel additive like Stabil. Phase separation is when water separates from the gasoline itself, and ethanol has a high water content in it. In the late winter and early spring, alternately warming and cooling temperatures makes phase separation a real possibility. In addition to a fuel additive like Stabil, a full fuel tank will also help. This obviously leaves less room for air, which will vary in humidity, and thus, in moisture. This moisture can lead to condensation inside the tank, which is no good.

By taking a few simple steps at the end of the season, our long-anticipated spring fishing trips can be as enjoyable as we hoped they would be. Sure, the fish may or not be biting, but at least we can get out fishing without being sidelined with repairs. Proper boat, motor, and trailer maintenance before winter storage can go a long ways towards an enjoyable experience later. I believe that preventative maintenance is far better than repairs when things break. It’s often cheaper, too!


When it’s Time to Put the Boat Away

Part 1

It’s mid-November, and the snow is flying heavily here in northern Michigan. Many are in the woods chasing deer, following the firearms season opener just a few days ago. Coupled with the cold windy weather, this means that it’s time for most anglers to mothball their boat and store it for the winter.

Here at Wolfe Outfitters, and those of us with Sport Fish Michigan that guide the Lake Michigan tributary rivers for steelhead, we will keep our boats in service all winter long, provided we have running water! Last winter, even rivers like the Big Manistee, Muskegon, and the Grand River froze enough that we were forced to reschedule many trips due to unfishable, icy conditions.

For those that will put their boats away for the winter season, there are a few things that are advisable to do to help ensure a smooth and painless experience when pulling the boat out for the first time next spring.

Trailer
Our trailers are often an overlooked part of our boat package, but yet they play a crucial role. After all, we rely on our trailers to carry our precious boats to and from the lake or river, dunking it in the water each time. This tough kind of wear and tear can be brutal on trailers, and things like wiring, lights, brakes, wheel bearings, etc. can all suffer without routine maintenance. Now is a great time to service your trailer.

I check over the trailer wiring, looking for kinks or breaks in the lines. I also look over the lights to ensure that they are working properly. Trailer lights are not only a safety concern if they don’t work properly, they are also a legal requirement in most states. Another simple thing to check that often causes trouble is the wiring harness coupler that plugs into the vehicle power to connect the lights and brakes. This simple coupler can absolutely wreak havoc when the pins are slightly bent or have corrosion on them.

Proper tire pressure is essential, not only for gas mileage when towing the trailer, but also for helping to prevent blowouts and unnecessary wear and tear to the treads.

The wheel bearings are another too-often overlooked part of a trailer. Many blowouts on the road are actually a result of bearings that are worn out. Properly lubricating wheel bearings will help keep you on the road trouble-free, but good preventative maintenance also includes replacing the bearings. When to replace trailer bearings is really a matter of how much use they get. Guides that tow boats on a daily basis, like many of our Sport Fish Michigan and Wolfe Outfitters Guides, will have to replace wheel bearings much more frequently than those that tow their boats only a few times a season. New-style bearings like oil-bath hubs or the new gel-style make bearing maintenance almost a no-brainer. Compared to the older and much more common grease-style bearings, these newer technologies keep maintenance to a minimum. For trailers that have the more common grease-style bearings, a simple grease gun will do the trick. Regularly adding a bit of grease will go a long way towards longevity. One telltale to look for when determining if bearings should be replaced is the presence of water. If water gets pushed out of the bearings when grease is added with a grease gun, it could be a sign that the trailer bearings should be replaced soon, if not immediately. Water in the bearings means that the watertight seal has been broken. When the seal breaks, water gets inside the bearings, where it will not only break down the bearing grease, it can also rust the bearings themselves, or freeze in winter temperatures. A little bit of water under the dust cap isn’t a huge deal and can be drained out. But water in the bearings is a big deal, and taking care of this issue now can mean no roadside hassles later.

Another thing that is crucial for those that have brakes on their trailers is to check them for wear and tear. Unless squealing or squeaking brakes have already been detected, checking the life of your trailer brakes is best done by a professional. Throughout the season, trailers with brakes should be checked to make sure their brake fluid level is topped off. Unless there is a leak, this is usually a once a season task.

One more thing to check on a trailer is the tread on the wheels themselves. Make sure that there is enough tread on the trailers to safely transport your boat to and from the water. It’s advisable to carry a spare tire for your trailer and the appropriate tools to change a tire, should there be a flat while out on the road. I always carry a full wheel and tire so that I can make the change and keep going without having to worry about replacing a spare that may not be a match for the trailer tires.

Keeping our trailers going is a big part of a fun day on the water. With some simple maintenance and preventative measures, we can help to ensure that we make it to and from the water without issue. Catching fish is hard enough as it is, without having to deal with a trailer breakdown on the road.


Deer Season is also Fishing Season

This coming Saturday is the opening of the deer season for many who hunt, and the woods will be full of people anxiously hoping for a shot at a trophy buck. A couple of recent snowfalls have hunters giddy with anticipation. Indeed, this is a great time to be hunting in the beautiful state of Michigan, as the woods and waterways are full of life. Ducks and geese are plentiful as they head south for the winter. Squirrels are busying themselves for the winter, foxes are calling out to mates, bears are on their last few feeding binges before bedding down to hibernate, and turkeys are abundant, scratching the ground for a morsel. And then, of course, there are the deer. Lots of them.

Despite much of the attention for the outdoor enthusiast now being focused on hunting, this is still a wonderful time to be on the water. Lake or river, there are some terrific options, and competition for a fishing spot is almost non-existent.

Steelhead are in the rivers now, and where it’s still an open season, such as the lower Manistee River below Tippy Dam, the trout bite is fantastic this time of year. Rainbows and browns gorge themselves in preparation for the winter, and anglers can have lots of fun targeting these beautiful and scrappy fish. Lake run brown trout enter the rivers to spawn, as do lake trout in certain systems. Cured or fresh salmon spawn tied into spawn bags will get bites from all of the species just mentioned, and when the bite is on, it’s easy to run out of spawn bags. Light jigs tipped with wax worms can also be a great option when fished under a float.

Those anglers preferring to fish the numerous inland lakes here in northern Michigan have great options as well. Perch are biting this time of year, as are most of the predatory species like bass, pike, and walleye. Walleye fishing is getting better and better as the days shorten, providing great opportunities for anglers fishing at early light and the last light of the day. The same goes for pike. Bass tend to feed a bit better after the sun goes up a bit. Blade baits, like the Heddon Sonar, can score extremely well this time of year, and it’s not uncommon to catch walleyes, perch, and pike on these baits as well. Whitefish begin to come shallow on waters like Grand Traverse Bays, and even though the lake trout season is closed on the Bays, it’s very possible to hook one of these fun fish while fishing for whitefish. Just throw them back to stay legal! Whitefish bites are usually very light, but well worth it for this outstanding tablefare.

The fall feed is on, and the bite can be downright hot, despite some of the colder temperatures associated with the opening of deer season in Michigan.


Fishing Beads: Rigging Options

Fishing Beads: Rigging Options

The real thing vs. the real thing? A bead perfectly matches a natural coho egg, making for a great option when experimenting with colors.

Floats

Whether used with fly fishing gear or conventional tackle, the rigging options for bead fishing are essentially the same. The two most common rigging options are either under a float or rigged without a float. Within these two basic categories, there are options such as how beads are fished under a float, etc.

Float fishing is an incredibly fun way to target salmon, steelhead, and trout. Watching a float suddenly disappear gets any heart pounding faster. Typically, when fished under a float, there are two main ways to rig—either with a second bead as a dropper, or as a single bead without a dropper.

Fishing a single bead under a float is very similar to any float fishing application. The bead is pegged onto the line the desired depth below the float. The hook is then tied to the line a couple of inches below the pegged bead.

In the illustration, above, note that 20 pound fluorocarbon line is used to ensure that the upper portion of the rig remains intact, even if the drop portion should become snagged.

To fish the usual tandem bead rig, the first is a bead pegged onto the leader a set distance below the float, depending on the desired depth to be fished. A second length of leader is then tied onto the bend of the first hook, creating a dropper line. The second bead is then attached to this second line.

Another fantastic tandem rigging option is to tie a surgeon’s loop onto the line and then cut the bottom of the loop in such a way that there are two different length leaders (this simply means that two leaders are made when the loop is cut, but make sure to stagger the cut so it isn’t right at the end of the loop.) This method keeps the beads slightly closer to each other. The October/November ’14 issue of In-Fisherman discusses and illustrates this rig very well.

A double rig using a surgeon’s knot. This is a rig that can be fished with 2 beads below a single float with only a single knot, rather than a knot tied to a hook. This is a bit more compact, and can be a good option at times.

Another option is to add a colored jig as the bottom dropper below a bead to give fish another option/look. A good selection of jig colors is crucial to success – some days fish prefer a certain color.

Colored jigs

Both tandem rigging options give anglers the ability to experiment with colors and sizes. Salmon, steelhead, and trout have a particular preference on any given day, and that preference may change within the course of a day. Such was the case several days ago, when the sun came out for a couple of hours and suddenly the bottom bead, which was a slightly different color, became the go-to color. When the sun dropped behind the tree line, the top bead went back to being the preferred color. Without fishing a tandem rig, experimenting with color choices would have taken much longer, and we very well may not have not stumbled onto the color that lead to 8 more nice fish in the boat.

Bottom-Bouncing

Bottom-bounced bead presentations include those presentations similar to a chuck and duck, where split shot or pencil lead is placed on the line a few feet above the first bead, and a second dropper bead is several feet below the first hook. The main difference between split shot presentations and the pencil lead is that the pencil lead is generally placed on a sliding swivel that can freely slide up and down the main line, stopped by a second swivel to which the leader is tied.

A dropper bead or fly is commonly used below the first offering, another 3-4′ below the first fly or bead.

Split shot rigs, in contrast, often have the split shot directly on the leader. Only enough weight is applied to keep the presentation on the bottom, allowing the river’s current to sweep the beads downstream, ticking along the river bottom.

A dropper bead or fly is commonly used below the first offering, another 3-4′ below the first fly or bead.

Both of these presentation options can be done on spinning gear or fly gear. For fly anglers, this is a chuck and duck presentation. For gear anglers, this is most commonly known as bottom bouncing. In either case, the angler can very accurately feel the bottom composition, as the weights tick along the bottom. Most often, this presentation is used when fishing very close to gravel spawning redds.