The Wintertime Put Up
By Dennis Doyle
It was with bittersweet emotion that I began preparing my center console skiff for the wintertime put up. The weather has not been chilly enough to keep me ashore of late but the trees have been thrashing the skyline around the house the majority of my available October days and kept the water too rough for comfort.
I have traditionally always hesitated to put up my gear but this angling season has been different. I’m fond of saying, “When the fishing is good on the Tidewater, it’s very, very, good and when its bad, it’s still pretty good.” The angling hereabouts has been enjoyable the last few months despite a one fish daily quota and a threatened rockfish population, but then our hunting season has just begun and Maryland is indeed rich in other sporting opportunities.
One final hull waxing after a rinse and going over interior areas with some anti mildew spray remain to be done before putting on the full canvas cover but it shouldn’t take too long. I’ve already checked my lower unit lubricant level, changed my oil and gave the 50hp Yamaha a healthy coat of WD-40 under the hood to keep it pristine.
I’ve also added half a can of Sea Foam Marine fuel treatment to my gas then topped it off with some fresh fuel, minimizing the empty space in the six gallon tank so that condensation is not a problem. Next year when I start the rascal up that fuel treatment will not only have kept my gasoline fresh but as it runs through the motor it will also clean up any overwinter nastiness in the carbs and other internals. The last step will be charging up all my batteries and removing them to the basement for storage. Previously, I gave the motor a good 20 minute purging with Salt-Away in its cooling system and topped off all of the motor’s grease fittings.
Thorough fall preparations go a long way toward a smooth functioning unit in the springtime. The worst possible way to start a season is waiting for a marina to find time to correct a problem that could have been addressed over the winter when there is always ample downtime.
And just because the full canvas will be on my boat and everything trim and ship shape doesn’t mean I can’t have it rigged up and on the way in under 30 minutes, one of the many advantages of keeping the craft on its trailer and in my drive. Pickerel fishing in the Bay tributaries and late season fishing around Ocean City can be frigid but fantastic.
All is ready now except for the more than two dozen rods and reels cluttering my writing room that will have to be attended to. A warm sunny day will help so I can transport them all to the porch and hose them down collectively with a soft, fresh water spray and thoroughly clean the dried fish and bait slime off of the rod blanks, handles, line guides and reel seats.
Coating the rod blanks with a good healthy dose of marine grade silicone, the guides and reel seats with some Corrosion-X lube and the cork rod handles with pure neatsfoot oil will get them ready for the layover period. Cleaning my assorted and much abused reels will come next with much attention to the exposed mechanisms using a toothbrush soaked with WD-40 then the entire reel wiped with a soft cloth.
Finishing the task with some high grade reel lube on the more delicate parts and a generous hosing of silicone line conditioner on their spools then slipping on the individual neoprene reel covers should keep them cozy and free of dust for the whole of the cold weather.
The deep freeze is approaching, being prepared will insure a comfortable experience.
The rockfish, white perch, spot, croaker and mackerel are on the move. Schooling and heading toward wintering grounds, the spot, croaker and mackerel are on their way back to the Atlantic, and our rock and perch are moving to deeper Bay waters. Jigging or bottom bouncing bucktails around the Bay Bridge supports is a traditional approach for better sized rock this time of year, adding a bit of scent or bait strips to your offering will increase the likelihood of hookups as the rockfish are transitioning from sight to smell to locate their meals. Deeper waters around the bridge rockpiles as well as the mouth of the Eastern Bay are excellent locations for bagging nice perch as well as an occasional rockfish. Bull minnows, worms, clams, shrimp and crab will entice the most interest. Trolling will also begin to pay off more handsomely as medium sized bucktails tipped with Sassy Shads may tempt some early arriving ocean stripers that begin to grace the Bay this time of year. Recreational crabbing is mostly over as it becomes too cold to drink beer and eat outside, but for some stalwarts, the winter fat jimmies are at their peak of deliciousness. Get out there while you can.