Fishing & Boating in the Northwoods


Boat Winterization and Storage – Getting Ready

Free stock photo of cold, fall, fog

The days are warm, sunny and bright, the nights are cool and crisp, and lakes are beginning the slow process of turnover. I know that, up at my favorite fishing hole in northern Minnesota, the pike are feeding voraciously and the walleyes and smallmouth too, are fattening up for the long winter ahead. It’s not really a time that I want to think about boat winterization.

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Time to Put the Boat Away

Lately I have been spending a lot of time on the neighborhood retention pond tossing a small lead-head jig and plastic twister tail at the many bluegills that are also seemingly angry – as I find myself to be – at the decreasing daylight hours of late September. It is truly strange that the time of year that is the prettiest, is also the time that at once I both like and dislike. This is because it is time to put my boat away for the season… and the winter. And I have many times already put the chore at the end of a long list of autumn activities.

For those of you in the same boat – pardon the pun – take some time now to “winterize” your boat so that you can sit beside a winter’s fire and enjoy memories and pictures of last summer’s vacation, and rest assured that your boat will be ready next spring when you are.


There are a number of things that are important for you to do now, before the snow flies. The first thing to do is to thoroughly clean the inside of your boat. (If you have the time, it’s not a bad idea to also clean and wax the hull. It will save time in the spring, and your boat will move more easily through the water next season!) Vacuum the carpets, Armor All the seats and other vinyl surfaces and wash any gear that will remain in the boat during the winter months.

Stowing Gear

Remove/store life vests, rain gear, fishing poles and other items to which you may want access. Take out the batteries and refill the water levels as needed. If you have a portable charger, make a schedule that allows for a once-a-month charging of those batteries. They will lose water as well as charge over the winter months. Store them up and off the floor in a cool, dry place and keep at least one of the terminals covered to minimize discharge that will occur naturally with the passage of time. Read more about battery charging.

Repack Wheel Bearings

It is also a great time to have the trailer wheel bearings re-packed. When I had more time, I used to do this myself with a Lubrication Kit. (It may be a dirty job, but it is comforting to know that the chances of a hub seizing up on me, half-way to the lake, will be tremendously reduced.) Now I simply take the boat to my Lund dealer and let them do the work. I do this about once every other year, depending on the number of miles I trailer my boat in the summer.

Winterizing the Motor

It is also time to change the gear oil in the lower unit, fog the engine to protect the cylinders over the winter, and add stabilizer to the remaining gas in the tank. I’m betting that the majority of you already do this. And you all know what happens to untreated gas with the passage of time. In a word: varnish, and it’s not a pretty thing. Motors obviously run much better on clean, fresh gas.
These last tasks I also used to perform myself… back when I had the time. Again, I prefer to let my authorized dealer do the work. His time is worth my money. It is also a good time to replace the spark plugs in the engine. And if you must store your boat outside, do your very best to ensure that it is covered tightly to keep all moisture, as well as insects and small animals, out. Mildewed carpeting in the spring is a very unpleasant surprise! It also helps if you can get the wheels up off the ground and try to insulate the hubs, if possible.

Ready for Next Season!

As the available sunlight dwindles and the first major frosts wipe out my remaining flowers and vegetables, even the bluegills and largemouth in my retention pond realize that all seasons must pass, from one into the next. And so, as the ‘gills begin to slow their activity, I begin to lay in my supply of firewood. As I anticipate another Midwest winter, I can be soothed by the fact that my boat is mostly ready for another season on the water. My job next spring has been greatly reduced by a little extra preparation this fall. I’ll see you next spring … On the Lake.

R. Karl

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R. Karl

Angler, Author & Epicure

Fishing since the age of eight.  Seriously writing since the age of 16. Chef and foodie from the age of 22 years… and counting. So much to learn and so little time. I have enjoyed every minute of it all.  Whether on the water (where I like it best), in the kitchen, or at the keyboard, churning out content, I feel like I have found my place.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that some of what I love to do will rub off on you. I hope to see you On the Lake!

R. Karl