Here are a few examples of some of the great tips and small things to make sure your winter boating and fishing rigs stay running strong! Here is my system, but be sure to consult your local experts to better consult you in your local waters.
Before Leaving and on the Water
It may go without saying, but look out for ice chunks! Hitting one can significantly damage hull.
For bilge protection, a little RV antifreeze in the live well will do just fine. Don’t forget to run the live well pump for a bit. Personally however, I would not use them in the winter.
I actually use my Shop Vac to suck water out of live well. A 2" hose placed in the livewell will do the trick.
For two wheel drive vehicles, it is a good idea to bring a set of tire chains. Also bring a tow strap just to be safe.
I also bring an ice chisel and a small shovel to remove any snow or ice at the ramp. Especially if there is a “lip” of ice at the water's edge.
For console steered boats, w-d 40 sprayed on the linkages directly in front of the motor is a quick preventative measure that sometimes pays off. This will help keep the steering from freezing.
Let your motor warm up fully. Don’t panic if you don’t see water streaming from the motor “pee hole” right away. The water pump is probably functioning fine, but it probably had a frozen line from your motor to the exit hole that will thaw once the motor gets warmed up.
Be careful to monitor your motor while fishing. The motor will cool off rather quickly when you stop to fish. This can make restarting the motor more difficult. Additionally, always double or triple check your batteries. The cold is also hard on batteries, and will drain them if not monitored.
Immediately Before and After Trailering
As a courtesy to the next guy who shows up at the ramp, let the water drain from your boat trailer before pulling up the ramp. That is both launching and loading!
After pulling your boat out of the water, lower your motor all the way down. Then, pull the starter rope or turn the motor over briefly. (Be ready with the kill switch if the engine starts). You basically want to spin the impeller and force all of the water out of your water pump and lower unit. Let it sit to drain the lower unit of all water. Water is not your friend during the winter!
Next, if you have used your electric t-motor, spin the prop a few times to release any water. This helps avoid freezing.
When you get home with your rig, I like to take a wet rag and remove the road salt from my trailer and hull. This helps prevent rusting.
I would run fuel treatment in the gas all winter. This treats the fuel in case you cannot fish and get the motor running for a few weeks.
Greasing the linkage on the motor forces out water and refills the cavity with grease. This is a solid preventative measure that prevents bad damage to the motor.
There are many more measures one can take to ensure you can safely fish cold weather fisheries, but remember to ask your local experts to their full recommendations before taking your boat out in freezing temperatures. They better know the local waters and systems, and can help make or break your trip! Tight lines!