Let's face it, while many people put an unofficial end to open-water fishing months ago, others enjoyed the warm fall and extended their boating and fishing even into November.

Then with the rush of deer season, perhaps the annual chore of winterizing the boat is still on the "to do" list.

Winter Boat MaintenanceFor the most part, that excuse isn't going to do anything but give you headaches next spring. Most boaters will also agree, when it comes to some preventive maintenance, we can be our own worst enemy.

The same could be said for proper cleaning and storage of rifles and shotguns once the year's activities are officially over, but that's a topic for its own column.

With late-season pheasant, grouse and turkey hunting still available, it's maybe not quite yet time to put your firearms through that season-ending cleaning. It is, however, a good time to consider winterizing your boat.

For most boat owners, the engine is the most expensive single piece of your boat and needs particular attention. You should run the engine to warm it up, and change the oil while it is warm. This tends to allow impurities to drain away with the oil.

The blending of ethanol in fuel has added a few more needed checks as the boat is put away. Make sure to use a fuel stabilizer, especially if your fuel contains ethanol. Most regular gas has ethanol, as does some premium gasoline unless it is labeled as non-oxygenated.

Leave a little room (5 percent) in the tank for expansion. Ethanol has an affinity for water and can cause other problems, especially in older motors. A stabilizer helps deal with moisture condensation problems and keeps the gas fresh until spring.

Finally, when the actual physical storage of your boat is considered, undoubtedly a climate-controlled storage unit is preferred. However, that's not available or affordable for everyone so outdoor storage is common and practical. While storing a boat outside has a few challenges, they are mostly overcome with a sturdy tarp and following a few simple guidelines.
Many of the following points will help keep your boat in good repair and mean less money and time needed next spring to get back on the water quickly.

At a minimum, you can simply print this article, or just the short checklist.

Boat Storage Checklist

  • Change the oil and oil filters.
  • Change the lubricant in the engine transmission or the outboard lower unit.
  • Apply fogging if called for by manufacturer.
  • Drain the boat's fuel tanks as much as possible.
  • Fill the boat's fuel tanks completely full.
  • Add biocide and/or stabilizing agents to fuel.
  • Change the fuel filters.
  • Add antifreeze to the engine's cooling system.
  • Add distilled water to batteries, charge completely and disconnect.
While we'd all like to think winter will only last a few weeks, we've all lived here long enough to know better. Making sure you and your boat are prepared for winter can only serve to make spring more about fishing and less about costly repairs to your boat or motor.

Doug Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email at [email protected]