Bundle Up for Winter Boating
January 29, 2021
Is winter boating a thing? Yes, though not so much in our part of the world. In the coldest months, we northerners catch most of our fish through holes drilled in thick lake ice. Winter offers great fishing opportunities and snow-kissed fun for the dedicated boater with access to open water - and who's not afraid of the cold. Cold weather saps battery power. A battery loses 30 percent of its charge at freezing temperature (32F/0C). Keep your battery charged to avoid frustration when starting your motor. Also, watch for water in your fuel. Warm days followed by cold days cause condensation, which can contaminate your fuel. If you'll be using your boat over the winter, change your fuel/water separators and filters before cold weather sets in, as David Meeler of Yamaha Outboards advises. Adding a fuel stabilizer helps, too; it can keep your fuel fresh for up to 12 months. Snow left to sit can be hard to remove, and that's true of your boat as well as your front walk. Cover your boat when not in use and remove any snow or ice that accumulates on the hull. Ice adds weight and can clog through-hulls. Try a plastic ice scraper rather than a metal tool, and work as patiently as you can to avoid scratching your boat. If you're going fishing, be aware of water temperatures, as fishes' behavior depends on it. Fish are more likely to be active on sunny, warmer days, and you'll be more comfortable fishing on those days, too. Read up on the fish you're after and adjust your strategy accordingly to avoid disappointment. Take Me Fishing has good information on cold weather bass fishing. Speaking of fishing, watch your livewell and drain it completely when you're done. Water swells when it freezes, bursting hoses and breaking pipes. If you're boating on a very cold day, close off and plug your livewell from inside the boat before you set off to avoid a plumbing disaster while you're on the water. Keep warm and wear your life jacket. You lose body heat 25 times faster in cold water than you do in cold air, and a plunge overboard without a life jacket can quickly turn deadly. Bring an insulated container of something hot to sip, dress warmly, and keep as dry as you can. A portable butane stove is an affordable, comforting addition to your boat or ice-fishing shanty, allowing you to heat water, brew a percolator of coffee, or warm a pot of soup. Wear sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes from glare and cold. As always, be aware of your surroundings, make a float plan and leave it with someone you trust, boat sober, and have fun!