Around the marina it might be called spring commissioning, but in your driveway it’s just “get the Alumacraft boat ready for opening day.” Another season of angling and family boating is almost here. Before you back down the launch ramp, it pays to follow a simple fishing boat checklist. Any issues you deal with now won’t impact your coming season. Here are some key items to prepare your Alumacraft boat for spring.
Was It Winterized?
If your Alumacraft Aluminum Boat and its outboard motor were properly winterized those systems should be good to go for another season on the water. If the engine and boat were not winterized, you’ll need to do a little extra work to be ready for Spring boating. Basic instructions for outboard maintenance can be found in your engine owner’s manual.
- Change the engine oil and oil filter in a four-stroke outboard.
- Top off a two-stroke outboard oil reservoir and keep a spare bottle of oil on board.
- Change the fuel filters.
- Change the outboard gear lube.
- Remove the propeller and inspect the propshaft seal area (where the shaft enters the gearcase) for fishing line and remove it using a small screwdriver or sharp pick. Line around the shaft can eat through the propshaft seal and allow water to enter the gearcase, causing expensive damage.
- Follow any other off-season service instructions in the engine owners manual, including lubrication of moving parts and checking the fluid levels in the power trim pump.
- Clean the livewells and baitwells. Cleaning the livewell not only creates a healthy environment for fish, but it also helps to keep livewell screens, pumps and lines clear of scale that can inhibit water flow and cause the system to work inefficiently.
A boat with a built-in fuel tank should be stored with the tank filled with fresh gasoline that has been treated with a fuel stabilizer product. If that’s what you did in the fall you should be able to start the season with that treated fuel. If the fuel was not stored properly consider pumping the old fuel out of the tank. Then start with fresh fuel, avoiding fuel blended with ethanol if that’s possible. It’s good practice to add fuel stabilizer to every tank of gas unless you know that fuel will be consumed in a few weeks.
During the off-season it’s best to remove the batteries from the boat and store them connected to a maintenance-type battery charger. If that was the case you can reinstall the batteries, but first check the date of purchase on the top of the battery. A well-maintained marine cranking or deep cycle battery has a typical life span of five years. If your batteries are more than a few years old, have a marine or auto parts dealer give the battery a load test to gauge its condition. If you question the condition or age of the battery, better to replace it now than to have its life inconveniently end in the middle of the lake.
Confirm that all required safety gear and insurance and registration documents are on board and you are ready to pass an inspection if you are hailed by the water police. Replace those tools you borrowed from the boat last winter, and check storage compartments for rain gear, sunscreen and other essentials.
Check Every System
Install the drain plug! This is a mistake most boat owners make only once.
With the aluminum boat on its trailer or secured at the dock, start the engine and let it fully warm up. Make sure a good stream of water is flowing from the outboard pilot hole, an indication the water pump is working.
Inspect the steering for smooth action and for any leaks in a hydraulic or power steering system. Also check the control cables for smooth action and proper shifting – cables sometimes need to be adjusted and lubricated.
Go around the boat and give every system and accessory a test. Check the lights and the horn. Make sure the VHF radio and all navigation and fishing electronics are functioning and have received recommended software updates.
It’s a common sight in the spring – a boat and trailer on the highway shoulder resting forlornly on a flat tire. In all likelihood that flat was caused by low tire air pressure. Heat builds up in a tire with low pressure and can cause the tire to delaminate and fail, which is more than inconvenient; it can be a dangerous situation. Tires will naturally lose a pound or two of air pressure each month, so it’s especially important to remember to air up the tires after the trailer has been sitting unused over the winter. Inflate to the maximum rating on the tire or as listed on the capacity sticker on the trailer, which may be 60 psi or more. Don’t forget to air up the spare tire, too.
Now you’re ready to go boating! Load up the cooler, the bait and the rods and head for the lake. And we’ll remind you one more time – don’t forget to install the drain plug!