It is time to start thinking about getting your boat and equipment out and ready for spring and summer fishing/boating. I am going to run down a few items that need to be checked to have a safe and happy season. Most of these items we can do ourselves, but please don’t get in over your head. Ifyou don’t feel confident doing the work yourself, please have a qualified marine tech. or service center do the work for you to be sure it meets your standards.
I start out by getting the boat out of storage and home so I have unrestricted access at anytime, I know this isn’t always possible but in a lot of cases it is. Do a quick walk around and inspect the hull, all fittings, props, and lower gear cases for damage or leaks. Make note of any items than need attention and decide if it is something you can handle or not.
I check for grease fittings on the lower unit and give them a good shot of grease along with the gimble bearing. Climb up inside and look around and again inspect for any damage that might have occurred during the winter storage. I inspect my battery fluid level and clean all the connections, and then I install my shore power cord, turn on the battery charger and let the batteries charge. I keep an eye on them and make sure the winter didn’t damage them. While the batteries are charging I start checking all my fluid levels, trim pump, trim tabs, P.S. pump, lower unit or trans. and closed cooling system if equipped. I also check my engine oil level and hopefully it was changed in the fall when the boat was winterized so I don’t have to do it now. I check my belt tension and inspect for wear and cracks. I check my throttle linkage and shift linkage for smoothness and lube if necessary. Now is a good time to check and see if there are any grease fittings inside on the steering linkage or center section. I also look at ALL of my fuses and electrical connections…a lot of corrosion occurs and now is the time to clean or replace if needed and apply a bit of dielectric grease to them. While I am checking fuses, I also check all of my lights, interior and exterior, along with my wipers, bilge pumps, bilge blower, aux. pumps, horn, hatch motors, live well pumps, wash down pumps, and all of my instruments on the dash. I will install and check all of my navigation and fishing electronics a little later.
By now the batteries are starting to get a good charge in them so I climb back down in the bilge and recheck all of my coolant fittings and hose clamps and do one more quick visual inspection. Now I install my water source and get ready to fire the engine up. I start the engine and let it idle for a few minutes all while keeping an eye on the oil pressure and temp. gauge and watching for issues/leaks in the bilge. When I am comfortable that everything is OK, I bring the engine RPMs up a bit and keep an eye on the gauges. If everything still looks ok, I feel pretty confident that the engine will be ok from this point on. After the engine has cooled down a bit, I change my water/fuel separator and fuel filter. I want to make sure I have flushed all the sediment out of the system from sitting over the winter and start out the season with clean filters. I again recheck my engine oil level and prepare to clean the bilge.
I like to take a bucket, mix some water and bleach together and wash my bilge out. It will cut any grease/oil and make it smell nice and clean for the season. I also add a new oil absorbent mat to the bilge to soak up any oil and prevent unwanted discharge of oily bilge water. Now I take a good look at my bottom paint and touch up or recoat as necessary and then I give the 'ol girl a good bath and then get a couple of good coats of wax on the hull above the water line. I also take a look at the canvas and see if it is up to another season or do I need to get it some attention as well. If it looks ok I give it a good bath as well and after it has dried I spray it down with a water/UV repellent treatment. Don’t forget to check your anchor, line and chain as well as checking out your trolling bags and retrieval line. One last thing I do before heading to the launch with the boat is to make sure I have a small tool box on board along with a few extra parts to get me out of a jam you need to decide what parts you might need based on your mechanical experience).While I am up in the boat I take a look at my first aid kit and make sure it is up to date and in a easily accessible spot. I also check the dates and charge of my fire extinguishers and flares. Take a look at your life preservers and make sure they are in good shape and easy to get to and that you have enough of them along with a good throwable ring and attaching line.
Now I get my navigation and fishing electronics out and installed, I make sure they all power up (be careful about powering your fish finder up out of the water). You may want to choose simulation mode so you don’t damage the transducer. I make sure my GPS locks in ok and is receiving satellite signals. I make sure my radar is powering up ok and the antenna is rotating, I power up my VHF radio and check out reception of one of the weather channels. I check my autopilot and make sure it will power up ok and is ready to give it a try on the sea trial. I make sure all of my downriggers work ok and inspect the cables and ends for kinks and damage and repair as necessary. I also check out my speed-n-temp. probe and transducer. I make sure the safety cable is OK, and now is a good time to put a little Vaseline on the O-ring of the probe cap and get a package of new batteries to put in the boat for the season.
How are you doing for rod holders? Are they in good shape and in the correct position? If not this may be the time to think about installing a track system and being able to adjust them to the different fishing situations. I also go around with a screw driver and allen wrench and tighten all bolts and screws that I can find that may have vibrated loose from last season. I now am pretty close to being ready to go, but I now do a close once over of my trailer, checking the tires, wheel bearings, tongue, brakes, and lights. No use in having the boat in order and not being able to make it to the launch!
Now that the boat and trailer are ready to go I concentrate on making sure my fishing equipment and tackle is all ready as well. Some of this gets done during the winter doldrums but if not, now is the time to get started and make note of any tackle you may need to replace as you go through this process. If you’re not replacing fishing line on your reels you should at least pull off several feet of line and retie the snap swivel. If replacing line, then now is the time to strip the line and check out the drags and condition of the reels and get them serviced if needed. Take a look at the rods, check all of the eyes and rollers and tips, apply a little wax to the rod joints for easy removal later and wash the handles down with a bit of soapy water and dry them with a towel.
Now we take a look at the spoons, plugs, attractors, and flies and get them organized. Check the hooks out, make sure they are not damaged and give them a touch up with the hook sharpener. Check out the terminal tackle (split rings, swivels, snaps) on all the baits and attractors and replace if needed. I also take all of my sliders from last year and cut the swivels off and retie with new line and spool them on my leader eater. I have a couple of different leader eaters that I use and I mark the ends with a permanent marker for the different line sizes for easy identification later.
Check out the rings and releases for your dipsey divers, and the releases for your downriggers. I also check my in-line boards out and this is the time I add my boat name to the bottom of the boards with a permanent marker so if I lose them I do stand a chance of getting them back from another sportsman. This is also the time to check out your lines and release’s on your outriggers (if you have them), along with the pivot joints and pulleys and spreader wires. Check out your large planer board reels and tow lines if you use them. The line has a tendency to get wet and will deteriorate after a couple of years use. Lube the reel bushings/bearings, handles and pulleys for ease of line retrieval. Check out the planer boards, make sure they are in good shape and ready for the season by inspecting the tow line hook, the adjustable weights and make sure they have a good water proofing on them if they are made of wood. I have a small water tight box that I keep several tapes and ladder backs in along with a couple of pairs of scissors to doctor lures up. I check out the box and make sure I have a good supply of tapes and supplies and replace as necessary. I also make sure I have a good supply of hooks in my terminal tackle box along with all of the other gear that I may need during a day of fishing. I check to make sure the long needle nose pliers are still in the tackle bag along with a good pair of wire cutters.
A little preventative maintenance will go along way. If these items are all checked out and any issues addressed then you stand a pretty good chance of having a safe and enjoyable summer season.