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Gary Howey

” IN 2017

Before putting it Away

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

November 30, 2019


  This has been one of those years, where I was on the water very few times; first, it was radiation treatments beginning in late spring through most of the summer, so my fishing was minimal.

 With the high water, it didn’t look like I missed much in this area as up to 80,000 cubic foot of water coming through the dam, made for some tough fishing in our area.

  When there’s that amount of water being discharged, the slack water pockets the fish used out of the current are no longer there, so you may have had to fish using high water tactics, and because of the huge amount of heavy current the fish will be spread out.

  This week, the temperatures dropped, I started thinking about ice fishing, but before I get into that, I want to make sure that my open water equipment will be ready when things warm up.

  Winter is hard on boat batteries and before covering up the boat or putting your batteries into storage, if you haven’t all ready serviced your batteries, it’s a good idea to fully charge them.

   If you pull your batteries out of your boat, you’ll want to charge them, place them on a board or some other solid pad, which gives them a little insulation from the cold bare concrete floor and store them out of the weather.

  If you store your boat in a garage or rental areas, put a full charge in your battery before storing them through the winter.

  By doing this, when spring arrives, if needed you can hit the battery with one quick charge, and be ready and on the water quickly.

  Once you’ve taken care of batteries, before it gets too cold, I like to mix STA-BIL with my boat gas, which helps to keep my boat gas fresh and to protect my motor.

  Once that’s completed, I like to clean my boat up, vacuuming it out and put things where they need to be.

  Then to remove the algae, water and other stains the boat acquired last season before they set in and won’t come off.

   If I have time, to put a good coat of wax on the boat to protect it, especially if it’s a newer boat without too many battle scars.

  Then I like to check over my life jackets and throw able cushions, making sure that they’re usable if I need to replace them, checking them for tears and other damage, wiping them down, to clean them up and store them properly for next season.

   This is also a good time to check the safety items that need to be onboard in every watercraft, checking to making sure that you have all of them and if some items need to be upgraded and replaced.

  Boaters are required to have several pieces of safety gear in their boat, listed below are the safety items needed on a boat as well as some Items I carry just in case I may need them.

*Life jackets and flotation devices, as every vessel (except sailboards) is required to have one U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III, or V life jacket of suitable size for each person on board.

* Fire Extinguisher (if motorboat has enclosed fuel tank, enclosed space or enclosed engine)

* Throw able flotation cushion

* Oars

* Bailing bucket

* Signaling device, an air horn whistle or bell

* Fore and aft lights with a white light displayed at the back of the boat, visible for a distance of at least two miles. Up front, a red and green light visible for at least one mile. The front green light should be visible from the starboard side and the red from the port side.

* A first aid kit needed in case of an emergency

* Tool kit in case something goes wrong with the motor while you’re on the water

  If you spent a lot of time  fishing this spring and summer, this would be a good time to get your rods, reels and tackle squared away before putting them away.

  Moisture in your reels, tackle and in your tackle bag can do a lot of damage, so before putting your boat and equipment away, make sure that everything is dry.

One of the most important things you’ll need to do is to check your reels drag, as you probably had them set up fairly tight, which means the fiber washers which make up the drag system are together and there’s a good chance that they may be frozen or stuck together.

  I like to back off the reels drag, which keeps the washers apart, allowing them to dry off and use-able when next spring arrives.

  I have dozens of tackle bags that I store in my shop garage and in my loading dock and if I put them away damp, there’s a chance that you’ll see discoloring on the bag, and the possibility of having mold form.

  To keep this from happening, before I put the bags away, I remove the boxes, wiping them and the tackle bag down, using a clean dry towel.

  Not only does this keep mold from forming, by doing this, you tackle bags will look good and last longer.

  When anglers are on the water, sometimes you’ll do a lot of bait changing and if you’re like me, I don’t want to waste any time when the fish are biting and just throw my wet baits into my tackle bag and not in the box where they should be and if not put away correctly, it can become a rusty mess.

  It doesn’t take long to clean and put loose baits away in their proper place, and if you don’t, leaving them lying loose in the tackle bag, you could have a problem with rust and end up having the lures all knotted up together, so it’s a good idea to empty out your tackle bag, discard those baits that are beyond help and to check, dry any the other loose baits, putting them away so they’ll be easy to find when you need them.

  The above items don’t take long to do, and by completing these tasks now, you’ll have everything in order and where it should be for spring fishing.


    Gary Howey, a 1968 Watertown graduate, now residing in Hartington, Neb. is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide,  an award winning writer, producer, photographer and broadcaster, a recent inductee into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017.  Howey is also the Producer-Co-Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and Outdoor Adventures radio. If you are looking for more outdoor information, check out, and like Gary Howey’s Facebook or watch his shows on

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