Getting My Boat Ready for Winter Storage

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.

I have of late been spending a lot of time in the neighborhood retention pond tossing a small lead-head jig and plastic twister tail at the many bluegill 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 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 – pardon the pun – in the same boat, 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 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 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 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. Store them up and off the floor in a cool, dry place and keep at least one of the terminals covered to minimize discharging that will occur naturally with the passage of time. Read more

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.

Winterize 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. 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.

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 into the next. And so as they begin to slow their activity and I lay in my supply of firewood and 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