Maintaining Your Fishing Boat

By Christine Morford, Category Director,

When you fish for a living, a lot of time is spent on your boat—it almost becomes your home away from home and it’s important to be routine with the upkeep to ensure your boat remains in great condition. As all boat owners and fisherman are painfully aware, there is a lot of work required to maintain a boat but being consistent and thorough is the key to making the job as easy as possible. Here’s a breakdown of some tips and tricks to make boat maintenance a breeze:

Hard Parts Maintenance

Depending on how many hours you put on your boat, be aware of when you need to change your oil and filter and be sure to routinely check for oil or fuel leaks either in the bilge or water. Oil changes can be done every 50-100 hours, so check with the manufacturer for recommendations.

You also want to be proactive in protecting your electrical components by keeping them well lubricated with marine grade grease. Routinely check your props for any damage, and your prop shafts for intertwined fishing line. Fishing line can easily become wrapped around the shaft and destroy the seal, causing leaks and gearcase issues.

Use a Fuel Stabilizer

While the majority of daily boat maintenance involves cleaning, one important task to stay on top of is fuel levels and quality. Whether you’re stopping at the pump before heading out for the day or picking up a few parts and gear from an outdoor shop, be sure to purchase and add fuel stabilizer to your fuel tank. Fuel stabilizers help keep fuel fresh and clean, which in turn keeps your engine working at its peak performance, while extending the life of your fuel and engine. It’s relatively inexpensive, available everywhere and the benefits substantially outweigh the cost.

Keep a Good Wash Down Pump in Reach

Now, let’s get into cleaning. For starters, every boat needs an onboard washdown pump. This may well be the most important piece of equipment you will need to keep your boat in pristine condition with the least amount of work.

It’s best to purchase one with multiple pressure settings so you can use a lower pressure setting when you are washing down the windows and hatches, as too much pressure used in these areas could cause water to seep under and end up in the engine compartment, which can cause steel parts to rust.

You’ll want to position your wash down pump on your boat where it is within easy reach so you can easily grab it for any reason (after bleeding out a catch or to wash down your bait table) and are able to periodically wash your boat down while fishing. By doing so, you will avoid having to scrub off the dried blood, scales and fish pieces that will inevitably stick like glue to your boat.

While rinsing down your boat don’t forget to clean out all those little drain holes and sliding window tracks. Fish bits and pieces can easily get lodged in there and cause water to overflow into areas where no water should be, like your electrical systems, engine or generators. Sliding window track will also last longer and open and close more smoothly if you clean and rinse them regularly.

It is also a good idea to clean your anchor and chain off before putting it away. While this can also be done at the dock, as any fisherman knows there will be plenty more to do once you return.

Always Wash Down the Exterior

A day of fishing is not only a lot of work, it’s a commitment! Once back to shore, it’s time to really give the boat a good bath—no one wants to be on a boat that attracts more flies than fish!

After you unload everything, give the boat a good washdown with mild soapy water. While there are a number of material specific cleaning agents available on the market that are perfect to add to your cleaning regimen, a sponge and a bucket of mild soapy water will suffice for an overall daily cleaning.

However, a good fisherman’s trick to get those really gritty dried blood splatters is to use Bar Keepers friend. Just be careful not to use it on any sensitive areas such as fiberglass or Eisenglass and always wash it off entirely.

After thoroughly rinsing off all detergent, consider using a protectant for your seat cushions, vinyl, Eisenglass and other surfaces that are exposed to the sun’s harsh UV rays. And don’t forget about your hull! Keeping it waxed not only gives it a beautiful shine, but it will protect it from oxidation and looking dull. A good polish and some elbow grease will go a long way.

Thoroughly Clean Any Bait/Fish Storage Devices

Those fish coolers and live well tanks are breeding grounds for mold, mildew and foul smells. Live well cleaner and tablets are available for purchase, but a good scrub brush, some baking soda and water will help neutralize odors. It will also work in your cooler. I know a fisherman who once got in late at night and forgot a fish in the cooler. He ended up throwing the cooler away, but even if he were able to stomach cleaning it, it would likely never be the same.

Take Care of Your Gear

Every fisherman knows that before you’re done for the day, you need to clean your gear. While it’s common practice to pay attention to your rods and reels, don’t neglect your tackle. You may want to consider putting lures used throughout the day in a bucket and rinsing them off before putting them back in the tackle box. We have all seen the rust covered tackles boxes and sad rusty lures that don’t get the same attention as the shiny reels.

If you are fishing in saltwater, you know how imperative it is to keep corrosion at bay and prolong the use of your likely pretty pricey rods and reels. This not only includes a freshwater wash down using low pressure, but may also include wiping down the rods, guides and reels with an anti-corrosion product such as corrosion X. Some prefer WD 40, Woody Way or 303 protectant, or I have even heard of furniture polish for the rods. As with all products, consider the manufacturers recommendations prior to using.

In freshwater, you may just want to make sure you haven’t collected any unwanted marine plants or animals. Regardless, make sure you are storing your gear properly to avoid any tangling or damage.

Choosing a life on the water is a lot of work, but once you get into a routine, all the general upkeep and maintenance becomes second nature. Fish, clean, repeat!