Winterizing Your Fishing Boat

Boat dock overlooking lake in the fall.

If you’re like me, it’s always a sad time of the year when you decide to put your boat away for the season.  In order to avoid unhappiness next spring, and to help ensure a good start to the new fishing and boating season, here are a few of my recommendations.

Say Goodbye to Water. Everywhere.

Water is the enemy.  At least it is for boats during the winter, and particularly for those stored outside.  Water in any part of the boat could cause significant and costly damage when it turns to ice, expands, and potentially breaks things.

Remove the drain plug at the back of the boat and tilt the boat back as much as possible by lifting up the front.  The idea is to get as much water out of the bottom as possible.   Ice that forms in the winter can damage the hull.

Drain the gear lube from the lower unit.  On most outboards this involves removing two screws and letting it drain.  If it appears “milky”, there may be a crack in one of the seals that’s allowing water to get in.  By replacing it with fresh lube there’s little chance of any expansion during the colder months and therefore less chance of damage to the lower unit.

Don’t forget the wheel bearings.  Adding some grease and pushing out any water that may have gotten in is a good idea.

Protect the Engine

Fogging the engine will help protect the carburetor.  It’s a good idea to disconnect the fuel line and run the engine dry.  Remove the cowl and spray the fogging agent directly into the carburetor.  I would also recommend emptying the gas tank if it’s just straight gasoline and there is no oil mixed in.  If it’s mixed, top it off and add a fuel stabilizer.  Nothing is worse for the carburetor than old gas.  It has a way of “gumming” up the carb so that it doesn’t work properly.  Been there done that, and it can cost several hundred dollars to have them rebuilt.

Protect the Hull & Electrical Systems

Remove the battery and bring it to cool dry place like your basement.  Hook it up to a battery or trickle charger every month to make sure it stays fully charged.

And lastly, a mooring cover is not meant to handle a Canadian winter of snow and ice.  It’s great in warmer weather to keep the rain off and the boat dry, but in the winter you will need something more durable and solid support underneath to handle the weight of the snow and ice.  I used to think my lighter cover was okay, but I saw – to my horror – one cold February day a few years ago how the mooring cover collapsed and there was ice and snow in the boat that had been there for weeks.  Never again!

For any of these preventative maintenance tasks, consider enlisting the help of a friend if the task seems too physically demanding. If you aren’t familiar with boat mechanics, contacting your nearest local marina might be your best bet.

Investing some time in the fall will increase the likelihood you’ll have a trouble free start to the fishing season next year.