Our region just had the first freezing temperatures of the year. When that happens, you have a couple of items that you must do to continue to fish this fall and winter. If you don't take these steps, you better learn to dog pedal.
Many of the angler's in our region fish all year long, to do this, there are several steps that need to be done every time you go boating after the temperatures start to reach the freezing point. These steps are easy and only require a few minutes to complete and will keep you from having a problem that could possibly cost you your life. Water freezes at 32 degrees, when water freezes, it expands. This expansion is a problem for the pumps, values, hoses and even some engine parts on your boat. When a component freezes and cracks, a water or fuel leaks will occur. Water leaks will at a minimum will get you wet, hampers boat drive-ability and wreck you day. But much more dangerous results are possible; you boat could sink leaving you in the cold water causing hypothermia, loss of consciousness and possible death. The hazards of a fuel leak are just as dangerous, with fire and explosions possible. Leaks of either water or fuel should be taken very seriously as life and limb can be a consequence of a part failure.
So how can I keep this from happening to me? You can never stop every issue from occurring, but you can take the steps that will minimize your risk of them happening to you. First thing to do after boating in freezing climates starts at the boat ramp after you load your boat on the trailer. Pull your rig into the parking lot and trim your engine all the way down. This will allow the water to drain out of the engine completely, this takes about five minutes. No water in the engine means no engine parts freezing, cracking and causing fuel leaks. Next, remove your boats drain plug and allow the water to drain out every time you go boating during cold weather. Next, drain your live-well/bait-wells completely and leave them in the empty position. This will let the water drain from the pumps, valves and hoses and keep them from cracking which could cause a water leak. Now you are ready to drive home and park your rig. When you arrive home, if your rig gets parked outside, make sure that the nose of the trailer is cranked up to allow any water from rain or snow to drain out. I always check my boat for water after parking the truck every time I launch my boat during cold weather, just in case a pump cracked. Do this by turning on the bilge pump, if it pumps water, put it immediately back on the trailer to find the reason water got into the bilge. That's all there is to it.
Take these simple steps during cold weather boating and chances are you will have a great time without taking any chances of something bad occurring. It should be mentioned that other engine services are required such as checking gear cases for water should be done before it gets to cold. Also reread our post from April about warming up DFI Engines, as cold water and cold air require you to warm your engine up before operating it in cold conditions. Some of the best fishing days I have ever had occurred on the Potomac River when ice was forming in the guides of my fishing rod. Cold weather fishing is great fun when you are well prepared and look at safety first.