Water temps in the area have dropped to the 40-45 degree range and will continue to slowly drop. Docks have been removed and water levels are low, so make plans to adjust to the challenges that can create. I have already visited with several people that had difficulty getting boats and pontoons off of lifts.

Water levels will probably continue to drop, so if you still have your boat/pontoon on a lift, you may want to address this risk sooner than later. You can get your rig on a trailer and still launch and load at the accesses if you continue to fish.

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Many shallow water and rock hazard markers, along with channel markers that are present on a few area lakes have also been removed, so navigate with common sense. Water temps are at a point that it does not take long in the water to experience hypothermia, so safety is a must this time of the open water season. There is no good time to hit a rock pile or bury a boat on a sandbar, but I believe this time of the season is the worst time to take a lower unit out, contend with a damaged boat, or problem solve your way out of that kind of issue. The fact that heavier warm weather gear and boots are worn during this cooler weather, also makes the use of life jackets that much more prudent.

If you are done with open water fishing for the season, make plans to prep your boat and trailer, as well as all your fishing gear, for stowing away for the winter. For your boat, add seafoam, stabile, or similar product to your gas. It helps if you can run your motor with the stabilizers in the fuel to condition the entire fuel system. Charge batteries (even better if you remove them and store them), clean out compartments (you always want to avoid bad smelling spring surprises!) and put dryer sheets in the boat to help keep mice from invading your space.

Changing lower unit oil now makes sure you don't have any water in the lower unit that can cause damage over the winter, and makes sure you are ready to go for the next opportunity your boat has to get on the open water. If you do have water in the lower unit, you have a problem. Now is the time to take care of that!

Check your trailer over and make sure trailer lights are working. Pulling back and forth on the tire can help indicate if you have any bearing issues. There should be no slop or wiggle . It is also good to jack up the trailer and spin each wheel. If it makes noise or catches, and is not smooth, it is a good indication that you may need to repack or replace bearings. Air up your tires before the extreme cold hits. It can help extend the life of tires and bearings if you block the trailer up and take the pressure off the tires and bearings. We are fortunate to have numerous marine experts in the area that you can pay to deal with your boat/motor/trailer if you don't have the time, and you have the money.

A little time and money now can save a lot of time and money later.

(Brad Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)