Prepare for the challenges of fall fishing
We are moving into the time of the fishing season that has some very pleasant fall days, but we can have some extremely cold nights. This past week, I have already launched my boat in the morning several times with the temperatures below freezing. If you are like me and will continue to fish open water when the temperatures get below freezing, some proper prep work will make the trips go more smoothly.
Latches and storage compartments have a nasty habit of freezing shut. They get wet or collect moisture and the freezing temperatures at night will make them a pain to try to open in the morning. Livewells and baitwells can be the worst. Make sure you open compartments and let them dry out as much as you can, and then do not shut them all the way and latch them. Oiling the latches can also help reduce the risk of freeze up. Dry out any towels, drift socks, or weather gear before returning them to one of your storage compartments. Just let the doors rest with little or no contact to the closure, that way you can gain access in the morning to all of your compartments.
Take anything that operates with batteries out of your boat and bring them into the warmth of your home, cabin, or hotel room. Cameras, cell phones, flashlights, etc. do not do well with the cold temps. I have missed some nice fish pictures because my camera batteries were dead from leaving them out in the cold.
Make sure you trim your motor down after fishing and drain all the water (you are supposed to do this after every trip anyway!) I do a quick dry start and shutdown after trips when I know it will freeze overnight to make sure the water is cleared from my water pump impeller. If the water is left in the housing and freezes, you can tear the rubber "fingers" and render your water pump useless. Some motors come with a rinse hose connection and blowing through that hose can clear all the water out of the water pump housing.
Keep your fuel tank over half full to full to reduce the amount of condensation that can accumulate in the gas tank. Water in fuel is the enemy of a smooth starting and running engine. Adding a fuel stabilizer, antifreeze, or treatment can help keep the moisture out of your tank and help with cold morning starts. I use "Seafoam" and have been very happy with the results over the years of cold weather performance.
Make sure you warm up your engine and the water pump is working before you throw the boat in gear and head out across the lake. Make sure your boat batteries have been recharged. If you are having any problems with trolling motor or starting batteries, they will show themselves as we transition to colder fishing conditions.
We are dealing with extremely low water conditions in our area so be prepared for dealing with difficulty with launching and loading your rig. Waterproof boots, rubber wading boots, and paddles or push poles will come in handy. When leaving or approaching the dock, get people in the boat to move to the back to help keep the bow from bottoming out and getting the boat stuck in the shallow water.
Don't give up on the open water fishing season yet just because there are a few more challenges. Get out and have some fun fall fishing.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)