How to Winterize Your Fishing Boat
You people in Florida and Texas shouldn’t stop reading now. Yes, I can hear your obnoxious laughter all the way over here in Virginia. “Winterizing? What the hell is winterizing?” If you’re going to use your boat 12 months out of the year, there’s likely no reason to take winter-specific precautions, but even if you live on the equator, there could be a reason why you’d need to put it up for a while—maybe due to a deployment, to care for a dependent, or just because work is kicking your ass. When this happens, you’ll need to ensure that everything will be functional when you return.
In fact, taking some time off from your trophy-snatching schedule to keep things running properly is essential if you want to keep your time on the water comparatively expletive-free.
Trust me. There’s nothing worse than finally getting a beautiful spring day, driving to the ramp, dumping it in, turning the key, and…nothing.
Yes, wintry conditions add a layer of complexity and sophistication to the process, and some of you may not need to read those particular steps. But everyone needs to take some steps to keep everything in top shape.
As I said above, I live in Virginia and I’ve only truly winterized my outboard once in 25 years of bass boat ownership. I don’t mind fishing in mild winter conditions, and we usually get one or two gorgeous days in January and February. For those of you who live further north, if you’re not going to make a mad dash to Florida once the water gets hard, you should take care that everything gets buttoned up properly.
High and Dry The number one thing to remember is that when water freezes, it expands. Simple, right? Well, think of all of the places that water can accumulate in the boat: hoses, bilge, livewells, and a host of other places. If it expands enough, it’s going to crack or break something. That’s when the trouble starts. When you park the boat for the season, take the plug out (if you’re like me and never take the plug out otherwise, there’s about a 95% chance you’re going to forget to put it back in on next year’s inaugural launch, so make sure your bilge pumps work), raise the tongue jack as high as it’ll go and let that water drain.
Some old-timers put one end of a rag through the drain hole and hang the longer end outside of it so any remaining drops will leach out. Don’t forget to trim the motor all the way down, too, to get any remaining H2O out of the lower unit and prop hub. Otherwise that’s a big bill in the springtime, and with supply chain issues still ongoing it could put you out of commission for much longer than expected.