Clean-Up Time

This year Old Man Winter arrived with an especially frigid blast. Closing the rockfish season almost two weeks early for most of us, the 20-degree nighttime temperatures have since turned our tributaries to ice, denying even pickerel anglers their bitter weather pleasures.

Fish Are Biting

But not around here. Rockfish season is officially closed on the Chesapeake. However, if you still have a hankering to tangle with old linesides, the season remains open year-round oceanside. Ocean City experiences a winter bite that is sometimes red-hot along the shoreline. Tossing spoons, plugs or fishing cut menhaden on the bottom can get you some giants, mostly at nighttime. Fly-fishing maniacs can also score, as the big fish often feed in the suds right behind the break in the early morning and evening hours. Dress warm. 

In Season 

Details at: Hunting_Seasons_Calendar.pdf

Mourning doves: thru Jan. 1
Ruffed grouse: thru Jan. 3 
Brant: thru Jan. 29 
Snipe: thru Jan. 29 
Ducks: thru Jan. 29 
Black ducks: thru Jan. 29 
Sea ducks: thru Jan. 29 
Light goose: thru Jan. 29 
Migratory Canada goose: thru Jan. 29 
Rabbit and Squirrel: thru Feb 28.
Resident Canada goose: thru Mar. 5 

Worse, a glance at the weather forecast for the remainder of December and well into January guarantees that there will be no reprieves, no balmy respites. The forecasters are calling for below-freezing nighttime temperatures well into the foreseeable future.

It’s time to put up our gear for better days. The numerous outfits that I have stored in my ready racks — the plug-casting, live-lining, bait, perch, pan-fish and fly-fishing rigs — now have only one sad feature in common. They desperately need cleaning and maintenance.

Simply putting the gear up as is and facing the ordeal in the spring is a foolish decision. The accumulated salt and dirt from our brackish Chesapeake waters will, over the months to come, degrade even the most corrosion-resistant metals and turn even the most innocuous fouling into hardened deposits.

Time spent now caring for tackle will be more than repaid when you break it out in the springtime. Facing the task all at once is the best method. 

Pick a time when the family won’t be using the kitchen. You will need unfettered access for at least an hour or two, since outdoor temperatures preclude tackle maintenance in the garage or the back yard.

Assemble the necessary tools for the chore. That includes a couple of old toothbrushes, toothpaste, pieces of towel or soft cloth, an old large bath-sized towel, silicone spray, dishwashing soap, reel oil, reel grease, an abrasive kitchen cleanser like Comet and a kitchen scrub pad. 

Put Your Cleaning Tools to Work

I generally start off by removing all of the reels from the rods, clipping off any terminal tackle still attached and wrapping the line off on the reel spools. The spinning reel spools generally have line clips; if not, wrap them with a rubber band to keep the line from spooling off. Casting or conventional reels require a short piece of electrical or masking tape to trap the line to its spool. 

Once that is done, the rods can be addressed. Get a soft cloth well dampened with warm water and go over the entire rod. Use the kitchen scouring pad to go over the determined dirt on the rod blank.

Any dirt or deposits on the line guides and reel hoods should be scrubbed with the toothbrush and a little liquid soap until clean and clear. Use toothpaste on the more difficult areas; its mild abrasive helps scour dirt off.

Working over an old bath towel spread out on a kitchen counter or table will keep debris safely contained. When the rod has been cleaned and wiped off, wet the kitchen scrub pad, add abrasive cleanser and over the sink work over the cork or foam handles of each rod in turn. 

This will remove accumulated fish, dirt and bait slime. Do not use a brush to scrub a cork handle, lest it erode and disfigure the cork. Rinse the handles well, set the rods aside to dry (over a towel, preferably, so they don’t drip on the floor) and turn your attention to your reels.

If you have a spray attachment to your kitchen faucet, run the water with a soft warm spray and gently work over the entire reel. Use the soapy toothbrush and plastic-wool scouring pad to get off dried debris. Remove the spools of spinning reels and scrub away any debris from the inside of the spool and around the reel housing. 

Concentrate on cleaning the moving parts of the bail, especially the line roller and the handle. With casting or conventional reels, concentrate on the level wind apparatus, the handles and the areas around the star drag. When each is finished, wipe them dry with a soft towel and set them aside.

Now return your attention to the fishing rods.

Saturate a piece of soft towel with silicone. Automotive products such as Armor All will do the job, but marine and heavy-duty silicones will do it better. Rub the rod blanks, guides and reel seat assemblies with the saturated cloth until they shine.

Trolling rods will benefit from an application of grease to the reel seat assemblies, as they are magnets for salt accumulation. Roller guides should be checked for frozen bearings and removed and soaked in alcohol to free them up. Lubricate them with good quality reel oil: Hot Sauce, Reel Butter, Rocket Fuel, etc.

Then go over your reels with the siliconed cloth. Using Q-Tips, lube the harder-to-reach moving parts. Oil the spool axle and inspect the line roller to be sure the bearing spins freely. A frozen roller will cause excessive line wear and result in break-offs. 

Lubricate the line roller and reel handle with oil. Wipe off the reel with the silicone-saturated towel and lubricate the level wind mechanisms and handles.

Reassemble the outfits and put them away for winter. Clean up the kitchen. Then reward yourself for a job well done. Come springtime, you will really appreciate your timely efforts.