Sporting Life

Now’s the Time to Take Care of Boat Repairs 

By Dennis Doyle 

Glancing out my front window at my mostly empty driveway all of my alarm bells went off, big time. My skiff and its trailer were missing! Only a split second later I remembered that it was me who towed it away a day or so ago for a scheduled repair. As my heart rate slowed back to normal, I compulsively ran down my mid-winter boat check list to verify if I’d covered everything properly. 

The problem that needed the professional attention was a hydraulic leak somewhere in my Power-Pole shallow water anchor apparatus—not a big deal. The leak had actually started mid-season last year but after a perfunctory check revealed no simple solution, consulting with nearby repair sites I soon realized that their maintenance bays were full, the waiting list was long and if I delivered my craft for attention there was no guarantee how soon repairs could be completed. 

Topping off the Power-Pole’s fluid reservoir tank and wiping up leaked oil from the deck from time to time was not the tidiest solution but it kept me on the water until my boat mechanics eventually cleared their backlogs. The fact that they weren’t finished until the end of February gives one a good idea of just how busy the marine maintenance industry gets toward the end of the boating season. 

Since I was already committed to delivering the craft for repair, I had also checked a number of other issues that could be problematic and in need of servicing. I double checked my lower end gear fluid to be sure it hadn’t turned milky. A whitish appearance to this lubrication is a sure sign of water invasion from the drive shaft seals which would then have to be replaced. The lube ran clear, so I could breathe a sigh of relief on that account. 

My engine oil check was also clean and at the proper level, as was my power trim and tilt hydraulic mechanism. Running the console steering wheel back and forth assured me that the cables weren’t binding nor were there any mechanical problems. Attaching a flushing muff on the lower unit, reattaching my battery and firing up the motor affirmed the probability I’d have the same result come fishing season. 

Any problems in any of these areas can easily be dealt with in the off-season. But if they’re not discovered until Opening Day, it can mean you are out of business and often for quite some time. At the very least you’ll miss the first week or so. The early season maintenance backlogs at marine repair centers are even worse than the end of season backups. During the winter is definitely the time to schedule professional attention. 

It’s also an ideal time to re-charge and evaluate all of your marine batteries and check your navigation lights, bilge pump, live well, fish finders, GPS units and radios, all for the same reason. It’s much easier to repair or replace these items now, and with it also comes the opportunity to do some price shopping, something that may not be practical in a summertime rush. 

The same goes for your boat trailer. Issues including tires, wiring problems, bearing problems and general roadability are best handled this time of year. Add to that the odds are much better that you’ll get a full-time, experienced technician to take care of your needs rather than a seasonal part-timer. The service department will also not be pressured by summertime customers pleading for attention. You’ll have them all to yourself. 



The yellow perch bite has begun, though slowly, of course. Weather is the biggest problem though that might be a good thing if it manages to interfere with the commercial netters who traditionally scoop up the majority of the legal fish. One of the keys to finding the better bite is avoiding areas where there are commercial fish traps and areas where nets can be easily manipulated. 

The yellows will be around in frequent surges for about a month though in ever decreasing numbers. White perch should also start up their spawning run this month and should be in greater numbers than the yellows though the netting problem will remain the same. Grass shrimp, worms of all types and small minnows under bobbers are the traditional and most productive approaches. Hickory shad are about a month away but well worth the effort to engage them. The fishing season is upon us at last—REJOICE!