Old man winter has left us for another nine or so months, which means one thing to most fishermen in SoCal and other parts of the world. Time to get ready for spring fishing and the start of our inshore and offshore seasons.
Here are five quick tips to get you ready to roll and avoid problems during the season.
1. Check your batteries – Most boats still use lead acid batteries. Before you do anything else on the boat, make sure your batteries are in good shape. Trying to start a boat with low water can permanently damage the batteries. If your batteries are less than three years old, pop the caps off and make sure all the cells are filled with water and give them an overnight charge. If they are older than three years, it’s time to spend a few bucks and replace them. Nothing will ruin a fishing trip faster than dead batteries.
2. Get your motor ready – No matter what type of propulsion system you have, now is the time to take care or it or risk coming home on “the rope”. Take a Sunday afternoon (or hire a pro) to replace all fluids, filters and spark plugs. If you haven’t replaced your water pump impeller in the last couple seasons, do it now. Take an extra hour to lube all zerk fittings with a grease gun and do a meticulous inspection of your engine and/or drive. Now is also a good time to start a maintenance log. Just get a small notebook and note the date, engine hours and the maintenance performed.
3. Check and re-check all of your safety gear – The importance of this step cannot be understated. The ocean can be an unforgiving place and you need to make sure you stack the odds in your favor. Start by checking your flares, life jackets, horn, fire extinguishers, anchor/rhode, epirb and raft (if equipped). Replace anything that is out of date, corroded or not 100%. Now is also a good time to either assemble or check your ditch bag. A ditch bag should contain everything you need should you have to abandon ship. This includes (at a minimum) hand held GPS, VHF Radio, epirb, signal mirror, whistle, first aid kit, extra batteries and water, all sealed safely inside a waterproof bag. You probably already have most of these items, why not keep together, protected and in reach?
4. Give the electrical system a once over – Start at the helm and make sure every switch is in working order and everything powers up. This includes testing all lights, pumps and other accessories. Next fire up your electronics and make sure everything operates correctly. Take a look at your main electrical connections at the batteries, battery switch and the back of your main switch panel at the helm. Make sure all contacts are clean and corrosion free. Once you are sure everything is clean and good to go, coat all connections with a quality corrosion inhibitor like Corrosion X HD, Boeshield or Fluid Film.
5. Make sure the boat is water tight – This seems obvious but more boats sink at the dock than anywhere else. Start by checking all thru hulls and seacocks. Make sure seacocks operate smoothly and there are no signs of corrosion on them or thru hulls. Give the attached hoses a good tug to make sure there aren’t any cracks or corrosion you can’t see. Also, make sure all hose connections have TWO hose clamps in good shape firmly attached. Inspect the underside and transom of the boat. Make sure all through hulls are bedded correctly and look closely for any chips or cracks that may cause problems later on.
All of these steps can be completed in about a day with just basic hand tools and supplies. This little bit of preventative maintenance will go a long way to ensuring a safe and fun fishing season.