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Winterizing your motors and boats; pennies now, or dollars in the spring

October 6, 2008

by Chris Schultz

From Tim Smalley of the DNR

Each fall, after the boating season is over, it’s time to prepare your watercraft for winter storage.

For some, putting the boat away consists of turning it over on the beach, putting the motor in the basement and forgetting about them until April 30.

However, taking a few more steps in the fall will reduce some hassles in the spring when you get ready for your first outing.

If you have to stop to fix a cranky motor, or hunt for a life vest without a broken zipper, you’ll be cutting into your time on the water.

Here are some tips for winterizing your boat.

• Fill your gas tank

Use a fuel stabilizer, especially if your fuel has ethanol. All regular gas in Minnesota has ethanol, as does some premium unless it is labeled as non-oxygenated.

Leave a little room (5 percent) in the tank for expansion. Ethanol has an affinity for water and can cause other problems, especially in older motors.

A stabilizer helps deal with moisture condensation problems and keeps the gas fresh until spring.

• Flush the cooling system

You can bet at some point during the summer, you ran through the shallow end of the lake and dredged up a good percentage of the lake’s bottom sediment plus the usual snips and snails and eelpout tails through the outboard’s water pump.

Using an “earmuff” style flushing attachment that hooks up to the garden hose can help make flushing a quick chore.

Water pump impeller fins can break off after a few years and may need replacing, too.

This isn’t a job for “Mr./Ms. Fumble Fingers” so you if you aren’t sure how to do it, you might want to farm this one out to the professionals.

• Check the plugs and fog the cylinders

While you are flushing the motor, it’s a good time to take the cover off and check the plugs, plug wires, and fuel lines and run some engine cleaner through the carb.

After this, run the engine with the fuel line disconnected until it stops. This pulls the stabilizer through the system.

Inspect the plugs too, but before you put the plugs back in – spray some fogging-oil in each cylinder to help prevent the cylinder walls from rusting. Empty and clean the fuel-filter bowl as well.

• Change the gearcase lube on lower units

Even on new motors, a little water can sneak by the propshaft seal. It then gets into the lower unit and can corrode the gears. And if it’s a lot of water, might cause freeze damage.

If the old gear lube oil looks really milky, it’s also a telltale sign of imminent seal failure.

More than a few drops of water (leaky shaft seal), a large amount of metal filings or gear teeth (grinding gears) in the oil mean a trip to the shop.

Unfortunately, there is no gear-tooth fairy, so it will cost money to repair.

Changing gearcase lube can be messy, since you fill it from the lower drain hole.

Take out both upper and lower drain screws, let the old stuff drain out in a coffee can and dispose of it properly. Then force the lube into the bottom hole until it runs out the top one.

This is a little easier if you use one of the inexpensive lower unit gearcase lube pumps that you can find at a well-stocked marine dealer.

Have some kitty litter around to soak up any spills on the garage floor. Please remove the cat first.

• Check for worn or loose parts

This includes the steering, which can loosen up over the summer, and also the trim tab on the bottom of the anti-ventilation plate just above the prop.

The trim tab, in combination with the steering friction adjuster (sometimes a screw, sometimes a lever) helps fight a kind of boating accident we are seeing more of every year.

Folks let go of the steering tiller or wheel while the boat is moving and it is so loose that the boat cuts a hard right due to “propeller walk” and ejects the operator from the boat.

The boat continues around in a circle, running down the person in the water. Thus the name “Circle of Death accident.”

• Check the prop for any bad dings

Repair or replace as necessary. You can hammer out minor dings with a rawhide mallet. Bigger ones need professional help.

Dents and nicks throw off the prop’s balance which can eventually wear out seals and gears.

Also check for fishing line around the prop shaft.

Remove it to prevent damage to the shaft and seals.

Grease any zerk fittings that need it, and finally, store the motor standing up – no, not you, the motor should be standing all winter.

It doesn’t hurt to put a breathable (not plastic) dust cover on them too.

• Nonmoter items to look at

Check your boat oars for serious cracks and replace as necessary.

Check aluminum boat hulls for missing rivets, torn seams, obvious leaks, loose seats, torn up transoms, etc.

Check your boat cushions and life vests, and make sure they aren’t torn or otherwise damaged.

Also check buckles, zippers and snaps to be sure they are in working order. If they’re damaged, torn or seriously worn, they have to be discarded.

You can’t sit down at the sewing machine and stitch old flower-power appliqués over them – state and federal laws forbid patched or repaired PFDs.

Most new life jackets are made from closed-cell foam rubber, but if you still have a few of the old orange “Mae West” kapok vests around, squeeze them to make sure they aren’t hardened from water leaks.

Note – the kids really love to wear these, especially if they are dirty, greasy and smell like the inside of a minnow bucket.

They’ll remember your outings fondly from Dad making them wear “those ugly orange life preservers.”

Do yourself a favor, get some of the new attractive vest-style PFDs.

They are more comfortable and people are more likely to wear them, which is the whole point of life vests.

• Check registration

Check your registration stickers for expiration (they turn back into pumpkins on Dec. 31 of the year indicated) and renew if necessary.

These are the colored square decals with the last two digits of the year of expiration on them that stick on each side of the bow of the boat, sternward from the numbers. Many boat owners get this wrong.

They tend to stick it next to the MN on both sides.

Nope! It goes before the MN on the starboard (right) side of the boat and follows the last two letters on the port (left) side of the boat. And don’t line them up fighter ace-style, one after the next.

The law requires that only the current year be displayed on the boat.

That’s it! Lock your equipment away and hope for a short winter.

Waverly Gun Club events coming up

The Waverly Gun Club will host a concealed carry class Monday, Oct. 20 and Tuesday, Oct. 21

For more information on the class, contact Les Johnson at (763) 675-3527.

Meanwhile, the doubles league will begin Thursday, Oct. 2 and continue Oct. 9, 16, and 23.

For more information about the club, call the office at (763) 658-4644, or visit the web site at www.waverlygunclub.org.

Migration Reports
From Avery Pro-Staff

• Name: Ben Cade

Date: October 1st, 2008

Location: Buffalo, MN

Weather: Highs have been in the sixties with overnight lows in the forties. There is slight northwest breeze this morning.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Low areas are still dry. More rain would create more hunting opportunities.

Feeding Conditions: Geese continue to use loafing areas as well as the small grain and sweet corn fields that have been available for most of September. I have noticed a few soybeans being harvested.

Species and Numbers: We picked up a few Canada geese with the cold weather and north winds. A few big ducks are in the area. There are a lot of wood ducks still around.

Migrations: Small migrations have occurred with favorable migrating weather.

Season Stage: Regular waterfowl season begins Saturday October 4th.

Hunting Report: Hunters are gearing up for the opener on Saturday. Look for a report next week.

Gossip: Looks like comfortable hunting weather for the opening weekend. Good luck to everyone.

• Name: Kevin Kriha

Date: September 30th, 2008

Location: Montgomery, MN

Weather: We’ve had cooler temps this week with a little rain. Temps have been in the sixties for highs and lows in the forties.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Water conditions on area lakes and sloughs are still low.

Feeding Conditions: Geese have been feeding in sweet corn, chopped corn, and as of late a few soybean fields. I have been seeing a few ducks in the chopped corn.

Species and Numbers: Canada Geese are still being seen in good numbers everywhere. Duck numbers are also strong.

Migrations: I have not been seeing much for migrating geese or ducks.

Season Stage: Our regular season starts this coming weekend.

Hunting Report: Can not hunt at the present time.

Gossip: There seems to be a lot of hunters excited about the opener. Good luck to everyone this weekend.

• Name: Greg Owens

Date: September 30th, 2008

Location: Mississippi River pools 4, 5, 5A and 6 (SE MN)

Weather: Cool nights with daytime highs in the seventies.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Low and slow.

Feeding Conditions: The wild rice is looking very good in the area and the ducks are feeding heavily in it.

Species and Numbers: Duck numbers are about normal for this time of year however most of the teal left the area with the cold snap a few weeks back.

Migrations: Migrating birds are beginning to trickle into the area.

Season Stage: Early goose season is closed as of Monday the 22nd. The regular season for ducks and geese opens back up on the 4th of October.

Hunting Report: We are waiting for the regular season opener on Saturday.

Gossip: If you find rice you will find ducks. However, with the low water levels a mud motor would be a big plus!

• Name: Greg Owens

Date: September 30th, 2008

Location: Rochester, MN

Weather: Cool nights with daytime highs in the seventies.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Typical for this time of yea.

Feeding Conditions: The small grain and sweet corn fields are mainly picked in the area and the farmers are beginning to harvest beans. However, the geese seem to prefer the nice green grass in the area golf courses and pastures.

Species and Numbers: Duck numbers are about normal for this time of year and are holding steady since last week. We have picked up a fair number of geese in the refuge. Most of these birds are staying inside the refuge.

Migrations: Migrating birds are beginning to trickle into the area.

Season Stage: Early goose season is closed as of Monday the 22nd. The regular season for ducks and geese opens back up on the 4th of October.

Hunting Report: We are waiting for the regular season opener on Saturday.

Gossip: As more fields are picked in the area the geese have more reason to start coming out of the refuge. Also when the regular season opens on Saturday it will finally be legal to hunt on water in this area.

• Name: Brad Fontaine

Date: October 1st, 2008

Location: Webster, SD

Weather: Clear and sunny.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Open.

Feeding Conditions: The birds are starting to use the bean fields that were harvested last week. They are also using the wheat fields and on occasion the harvested silage cut corn.

Species and Numbers: Decent number of local mallards, teal, a lot of gadwall, and honkers. Need some new birds in from the north.

Migrations: Have seen a few new Hutchinson geese arrive in the area this week. Also, I did see a very small flock of eight snow geese.

Season Stage: Start of regular season.

Hunting Report: Slow. Birds do decoy well if you are on the ‘X’. But hunters have had some success using traffic fields as well.

Gossip: I hear the birds are starting to show up in Canada more and more. Hopefully we will see some of those sooner this year. It’s all about the weather!

TIP call results in $2,600 in fines and restitution for Ohio anglers
From the DNR

Two Ohio anglers have paid fines and restitution of $2,600 for taking 99 sunfish over the legal limit, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

DNR conservation officers receive d a Turn-In-Poachers call on Aug. 13 that two individuals had an overlimit of sunfish after fishing Lake Hattie in Cass County for several days.

The anonymous TIP caller also provided conservation officers Cary and Nikki Shoutz with a vehicle description and license plate number.

The officers located the vehicle parked near a cabin on the lake. They drove to the other side of the lake, and with a spotting scope, observed both men keep several fish and also release several fish.

When the officers met the men upon their return to the cabin, Tommie R. Love, 61, Medway, Ohio, invited them to look at the nine sunfish the anglers had just caught. Love’s partner, William H. Ehrgott, 60, Galloway, Ohio, asked the officers, “Well, there’s no limits here, is there?”

The officers asked if they could take a look at the fish the men had caught earlier in the week.

Love said they were in a freezer and then gave the officers permission to examine the freezer’s contents. Love opened the freezer revealing 20 bags of frozen fish.

One of the bags was marked with “crappie” while two others were marked “bass.”

The remaining 17 bags contained 130 sunfish. The nine undressed sunfish caught that day made for a total of 139 sunfish, or 99 over the legal limit of sunfish. Minnesota’s daily/possession limit is 20 sunfish.

Love and Ehrgott were each issued a citation for being 49 sunfish over the limit. Each man paid an individual fine and restitution amount totaling $1,342.

“Over the years, the DNR has received valuable information through the Turn In Poachers hotline, assisting us in ending a variety of natural resources violations,” said CO Nikki Shoutz. “This case is another example of how the concern of Minnesota sportsmen and women can be used to protect Minnesota’s natural resources.”

Established in 1981, the TIP program allows Minnesotans to call a toll-free number from anywhere in the state to report natural resource violations.

Calls regarding violations can be placed anonymously at 800-652-9093, cash rewards are given for tips.

Baiting law changes greet hunters this fall; firearms can be seized
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds hunters that it is illegal to bait deer in Minnesota.

In addition to fines, hunters stand to forfeit firearms and potentially loose hunting privileges if there are previous big game violations.

“If you’re convicted of baiting your firearm can be confiscated,” said Capt. Rod Smith, DNR Southern Region Enforcement supervisor, and member of the DNR’s Deer Committee, which annually reviews state hunting laws. ”But that’s the last thing a conservation officer wants to do.

What we’re looking for is better compliance with the law changes that will greet Minnesota hunters when the head afield this fall.”

Among the baiting restrictions are:

• “bait or feed” is grain, fruit, vegetables, nuts, hay, or other food that is capable of attracting or enticing deer and that has been placed by a person

• hunters are not allowed to use or hunt over bait or feed or hunt in the vicinity of bait or feed if the hunter knows about or has reason to know about the placement of the bait or feed

• a person otherwise in compliance with this section who is hunting on private or public property that is adjacent to the property where bait or feed is present is not in violation if the person has not participated in, been involved with, or agreed to baiting or feeding wildlife on the adjacent property

• an area is considered baited for 10 days after complete removal of the bait or feed

• liquid scents, salt, minerals, and bird feeders containing grains or nuts that are at least 6 feet above the ground are not considered bait or feed

• this restriction does not apply to foods resulting from normal or accepted farming, forest management, wildlife food plantings, orchard management, or similar land management activities.

The penalty for baiting includes a fine of between $150 and $200. If the deer is shot over bait, it’s an automatic $500 restitution payment.

It has been illegal to bait deer in Minnesota since 1991, but the law was strengthened at the request of hunters.

“These new provisions are intended to close some of the loopholes associated with baiting,” Smith said.

Such excuses as “I’m feeding the pheasants not the deer,” or “I didn’t know there was bait here”, and “I didn’t know there was bait placed here last week” will no longer work, Smith said.

The DNR’s deer committee has spent a great deal of effort trying to come up with the best options.

As is often the case, Smith said there is no perfect law, but hopes the changes will provide some additional tools for closing the gaps.

Baiting deer is a form of poaching and poachers should be reported.

People who have information on illegal baiting in their area, should contact their local conservation officer or call the Turn In Poachers Hotline at 800-652-9093 or for cell phone users dial # TIP.

Judge’s ruling puts wolves back on threatened species list
From the DNR

Minnesota’s wolves have returned to the federal threatened species list following a federal judge’s ruling Monday that rescinded a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2007 decision to delist the western Great Lakes population of gray wolves.

The gray wolf, commonly referred to as the timber wolf, was removed from the threatened species list in March 2007 and management of the wolf population became a state responsibility.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) managed wolves under the terms of a federally approved state wolf management plan.

The judge’s Sept. 29 ruling places wolves back under federal protection and management.

“As a result of this ruling, Minnesotans need to know there is no legal way for an individual to kill a wolf except in the defense of human life,” said Dan Stark, DNR wolf management specialist. “Taking wolves to protect domestic animals may only be done by agents of the government.

“This was a technical legal decision that focused on federal rule-making procedures and will require the federal government to revisit its processes,” Stark said. “The ruling had nothing to do with the status of Minnesota’s wolf population or the adequacy of state management.”

A survey last winter showed that an estimated 2,921 gray wolves live in Minnesota, which continues to rank second only to Alaska in wolf population among U. S. states.

Minnesota’s wolf population surpasses the federal delisting goal of 1,251-1,400 wolves.

The state has one of the highest wolf densities recorded anywhere, indicating that Minnesota’s wolf population is fully recovered, according to the DNR.

All wolf damage complaints should be reported to a local conservation officer, who will make appropriate contact with federal authorities.

Only an authorized agent of the government is authorized to take wolves that cause damage.

Planning for 2009 DNR roundtables underway
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has started the planning process for its 2009 Roundtable to be held Jan. 9-10 in the St. Cloud area.

The DNR is asking some participants from last year’s Roundtable to help plan the 2009 event.

Roundtable invitations will be sent to participants in November.

The Roundtable features discussions about important fisheries, wildlife, and ecological resource issues with members of conservation organizations.

For more information, contact DNR planner Brian Stenquist at (651) 259-5144 or Brian_stenquist@dnr.state.mn.us.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Why do trees change color in the fall and what determines if we have a good display on a given year?

A: Those magnificent colors you see in the fall are actually there all summer, its just you can’t see them because of the green chlorophyll in the leaves.

As our days get shorter and the temperatures cool down, trees cease green chlorophyll production causing the reds to form, oranges and yellows to show. 

Any sugars trapped in the leaf will react with each other in the presence of sunlight - thus the more sun, the more brilliant the red colors.

The best weather conditions are the same ones we enjoy in the fall - bright, cool days and chilly but not freezing nights.

The slightest change - too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry - can slow the process, or cause trees to lose their leaves before they change color.

Minnesota is fortunate to have many excellent places to view the changing season - from the northern hardwood forests along the North Shore to the prairie regions of the state.

To get the latest information on when and where the fall colors are expected to be at their peak, check out the DNRs Web site, .