Addressing Boating Issues

By Steve Weisman

In an earlier article, we discussed boating issues or mistakes that can adversely affect our experiences, specifically trailering issues. Now, let’s take a look at other issues. In this article, we will cover drain plugs, electronics, anchors and addressing storms.

#1-Drain plug
With the importance of draining our livewells and drain plugs to ensure that we stop the invasion of aquatic species, such as zebra mussels, it is the law that we must remove our plugs when we leave the ramp. However, don’t forget to put in the drain and livewell plugs as we enter the body of water we will be fishing. It sounds like a foolish thought, but I can speak from experience on this one. Unfortunately, one time instead of putting the drain plug back in the correct hole, I inadvertently put in the adjacent live well hole. It took a while, but we were soon sitting rather low to the water and had to use the bilge as we slowly plowed our way to the ramp.

Another time I was fishing with a friend, and we knew the drain plug was in the correct place. However, we were later fishing in some pretty good waves, and my friend happened to notice the boat sitting lower and there was water just below the wood floor of the boat. Sure enough, the drain plug had worked its way loose. It was a screw in plug and it wouldn’t stay tight. Since that time, my friend has replaced plugs, and this one works!

It is also not a bad idea to have a few extra plugs on hand in the event that the plug has been misplaced or lost. Keep these spare boat and life savers in a compartment on the boat, I like to place mine in the compartment next to the steering column where I know they will not be misplaced. A few extra dollars spent on extra parts can be a boat and life saver.

Today’s boats are rigged with hi-tech electronics from trolling motors to locators. However, the batteries need to be charged. Many a time a locator is left on, and then when we come back a day or two later, the battery is dead. Not a pleasant event to have happen and can make what was going to be a good outing a very stressful one. Many boats now have a master power switch. At the end of the outing, check all electronics to make sure they are off, and as a double protection, turn the master power switch off.

Anchors are a pain, and I have lost several over the years all because of not thinking. How about this one? Throw out the anchor, and the clip holding the anchor to the anchor rope is open and as the anchor hits the water, it keeps going into the depths without an anchor rope! Oh yes, I have had that happen. I’ve also seen a fisherman throw out the anchor and the rope slipped through his hands sinking out of sight before he could reach it!

How about this one? Ever taken off and for some reason the boat just didn’t get up to speed? Then you look back and see the anchor rope…way out behind the boat bouncing through the water like a lethal weapon ready to strike!
Both Minn Kota and Motor Guide now offer spot lock technology, which helps eliminate many of the traditional anchor issues. However, there is one thing to be careful of with the trolling motors. When you leave a fishing spot or are done for the day, make certain that you get the motor locked into its cradle. Case in point. I thought I had done this with my I-Pilot, but it wasn’t quite secure. Right in the middle of going through a series of waves, the I-Pilot rocked out of its cradle and entered the water. Luckily, I was not going that fast and was able to stop soon enough that I did not bend the shaft on the motor!

Thunderstorms are dangerous, but it’s tough to get anglers off the water when the fish are biting. We always seem to hang on the spot until the last possible second. Case in point. I was fishing a late May NAWA team tournament on West Okoboji several years ago. My partner and I were in first place after Day 1, but Day 2 dawned with heavy overcast and the rumble of thunder in the background. However, the directors sent us out, so we headed for our spot. We didn’t have the luxury of having the smart phones and weather radar and updates like we do today, or I am sure they would have never sent us out.

We were using slip bobbers and leeches, and right away we were on fish. The weather seemed to stay the same for nearly two hours with that same heavy overcast and the same distant rumbling. Then I made a cast with my slip bobber rig, but when the bobber hit the water, the line kept unwinding off the spool on its own, arcing a couple of feet above my head. Now that’s some serious electricity. It was way, way past time to get off the water! We told a competing team what had happened and asked if they would honor our spot if we put out a marker buoy. They agreed and headed with us to the weigh-in point. Soon all of the teams were huddling with us under the shelter on shore as the rain came down with lightning and thunder all around. Luckily, we could talk about it and didn’t become a statistic!

Anglers will always push the envelope; it seems to be engrained in us. However, we still need to be prudent and make wise decisions. No fish is worth getting struck by lighting.

Here is a rule of thumb to follow. See a flash of lightning; count the number of seconds until you hear the thunder. So, let’s say you see a flash of lightning and count 10 seconds until you hear the thunder. Divide that by five and the storm is roughly about two miles away. How many times have you seen lightning and only counted to two? Now that’s scary!

I could go on and on with boating issues and mistakes that I have witnessed or been a part of over my 40 years of boating. It really comes down to patience and common sense. Being in a hurry or making a hasty decision often leads to a big problem. The last thing we want do is follow a quote that my father-in-law used to say, “Too late smart!” Instead, we want to be proactive and make sure we stop the issues before they even start!