Tips for preparing for the 2006 boating season
Mike Norris Outdoors - march 12, 2006

Pulling my boat out of storage last weekend was not a pretty sight. A quick glance at my trailer revealed that one of its four tires was flat and two of the wheel-bearing seals were leaking oil at the hubs.

If that wasn't enough, dead silence filled the air when I pressed the down button on the power tilt switch for my outboard motor.

It was evident I was not quite ready to hit the water.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that with the air temperature reaching into the upper 60s last weekend, I wasn't the only person taking my boat out of winter storage.

I'm not that mechanically inclined, so after refilling the flat tire, I headed to a local boat dealership in search of professional help for the remaining repairs.

While at the dealership, I learned most boat dealers are working seven days a week right now to prepare boats for the 2006 season. I was told it will be a couple weeks or more before the mechanic can even get to my rig and work it back into operating shape.

Therefore, spring fishing is on hold.

But for those of you who are mechanically handy and budget-minded and anxious to get out on the water, here are some tips to prepare your boat and outboard for early-season fishing:

1. Check your battery, and if needed, top off the water levels in the battery cells using only distilled water. Grease the terminals and remove any residue. To clean the battery, use a mixture of baking soda and water.

2. Check hoses and cables for cracks, inspect the connections and make sure they are tight.

3. Locate the grease fittings on the steering arm shift and throttle linkage on your outboard and be sure to lubricate all these points according to the manufacturer recommendations.

4. Change the fuel filter. Change it once a year to eliminate moisture and trapped contaminants.

5. If you didn't add a fuel conditioner to your gasoline last fall, top your gas tank off and add the fuel conditioner now. A fuel conditioner will absorb any moisture that may have formed while the boat was stored.

6. Change the engine oil and oil filter. If you can connect a water source to your engine first, then start the engine and allow it to come up the operating temperature. Doing so picks up moisture that may have condensed in the engine while not in use. This moisture can then be removed with the old engine oil.

7. Take out your spark plugs and inspect them, making sure the electrodes are clean and properly gapped. Clean and regap the plugs or change them if worn and necessary.

8. Inspect your live well and bilge pumps and clear away any debris that may have accumulated in and around them. Run both pumps to ensure they are working properly.

9. Restock your boat with safety devices. Make sure your are carrying life vests, a throwable device, rope, anchors, air horns or whistles, a distress flag, a flare gun kit, compass, and marine radio.

There you have it. Now all you have to do is add your best selection of fishing lures, a couple good fishing rod and reels, and you will be off to a safe and successful start to your 2006 boating and fishing season.

Outdoors notes

Doug Schlenz of Spring Valley and Jake LaPine of Fond du Lac , Wis. , hauled in a six-fish limit weighing 13.63 pounds a couple weeks ago at the Illinois Walleye Trail Tournament on the Illinois River , earning them a check for $1960. The next IWT tournament is scheduled out of the Spring Valley 's Barto Landing today. Contact Bob Kidd at (309) 527-6238 for more information.


-Outdoors with Mike Norris is heard every Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m. on WBIG (AM-1280). For more information on his fish guiding service, Mike Norris can be reached at