Open water is closing quickly; sponge livewells
By Jason Durham / For the Enterprise
Ponds are freezing. Frost is evident most mornings. Jackets are mandatory. In other words, the open-water fishing season is pretty much over.
The largest, deepest lakes around will remain open for a few more weeks. With the forecasted temperatures, you’ll have to be a hearty soul to breach the public access.
Yet at the same time, the woods will soon swell with hunters, most searching for whitetail deer. For nine days, blaze orange will be the new black.
If you can stay warm in the woods, you can stay warm on the water. Yet an important part of getting on the water is keeping your boat and equipment warm too.
In no hierarchy of importance, there are several items that need to remain thawed which ranges from simply catching fish to paying thousands of dollars in broken gear due to ice formation.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fish, but anglers should be aware of how to avert causing damage to equipment.
For starters, if there’s just a thin skim of ice at the public access, don’t try to muscle through it with your trailer. I know this through experience. Broken tail-lights and a sunken license plate are all errors from the past. An ice chisel works to clear a public landing, but waders are helpful. And remember, the launch cold freeze again while you’re out when the temperature is below freezing.
Speaking of trailers, those with bunk style trailers should no longer confidently unhook the boat before launching or pull out without attaching the winch strap and chain when landing.
Launching or pulling the boat from the ramp without securing things is common practice during warm weather months. But as the bunks on the trailer freeze, they become slick. Fortunately I’ve never lost the boat off the trailer and with a cold weather routine of attaching all safety equipment, shouldn’t have to ever admit to the mistake (fingers crossed).
Livewells and baitwells are another consideration. Since the pumps are below the water surface, they rarely freeze. But once you come off the lake, it’s more common. Since water expands while converting from a liquid to solid state, pumps, plumping and connectors can become damaged. Get all water out of your wells using a sponge (which you are legally obligated to do anyway), but also store the boat in a heated garage.
While operating the engine, periodically look to see if the water pump is pushing a stream of water from the rear. It’s warm water and usually remains fluid. But once on shore, drop the motor down to drain all water and start it for several seconds to push remaining water from the pump.
Line and rod guide freeze-up is the final, most minor affliction from cold weather, but one that influences your catch rate.
Though a petroleum product applied to the rod guides might help, the easiest is to watch them carefully and stick them in your mouth to thaw. We call frozen line guides, “North Country popsicles.”