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Vol 43 | Num 21 | Sep 19, 2018

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Article by Capt. Mark Sampson

IT’S OVER! The 2018 fishing and boating season IS OVER!

Well not exactly – I only said that to ruffle some feathers and grab your attention. This season definitely has a few more months to go and will allow both inshore and offshore anglers wonderful opportunities to enjoy some of the best fishing of the year. HOWEVER, for some anglers, it really is over because the end of summer brings with it the start of school, hunting seasons, weather changes, football and any of a thousand other distractions that will draw them away from spending much, if any, time on the water.

Whether it’s now, next week, next month or not until the waters are locked up with the first layer of ice, sooner or later every fisherman will arrive at the day when their season really is officially over. Admitting that time has come is something anglers are always reluctant to do. We know there’s good fishing ahead, and we optimistically hold out hope that we’ll have the opportunity to get in on it, but with so much else on our fall schedules, we also know that there is little or no chance of it happening.

While there’s nothing wrong with keeping the faith that we’ll get one or two fishing trips in before officially calling it “quits”, problems arise when our boats, tackle, and equipment sit neglected for the few weeks or months it takes us to finally admit “yeah – it’s over!” Whether it’s an outboard motor or a spinning reel, in the rather harsh saltwater environment we live in, sitting idle and unattended can be a bad thing for the tools of our trade that are not properly prepared for extended inactivity.
As sportsmen we accumulate a lot of “stuff”. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that, like everything else we stockpile in life, it all has to be kept somewhere and it all requires some level of maintenance, which in itself can be both a hassle and a blessing. Unfortunately, a lot of folks wait too long to start preparing their boats, tackle, and equipment for the long winter hibernation ahead – an error they will end up paying for in both time and money next spring when they find that some of their stuff needs to be replaced or repaired because they neglected it at the end of this season. Working on our fishing and boating gear is both good for our stuff as it is good for our spirits as such chores keeps us engaged in our passion even if we don’t have the opportunity to get out and fish. But when their season stalls to an end anglers need to get on with the maintenance and storage of their gear and not put off till tomorrow what they can and should do today.

One of the best things folks can do once they’re done with their boat is to get it out of the water and properly winterized and stored. A vessel in the water requires a lot of looking after, and if it’s not being used frequently problems can arise that go unnoticed until it’s too late and something catastrophic happens. In a few weeks local boat technicians are going to be really busy winterizing everyone and their brother’s boat. Don’t procrastinate, if you’re done with your vessel you can avoid much of the rush by getting her cleaned up, pickled and put away now. The same holds true for any major or minor projects that will need to be done to your boat between now and next season. Start now because what you think should be a one week job could take months to complete and that could seriously cut into next year’s fishing season if you wait until the winter to get started.

Off season tackle service should be of primary concern to all anglers, especially those who fish for big game. Considering the price and quantity of reels needed to effectively fish offshore, proper upkeep will not only ensure reliable operation, it will also help maintain the value of the investment.

Reels should always be removed from the rods and wiped down with an oily rag. If you know that you are going to change the line, go ahead and at least take the old stuff off the spool now. This will allow you to clean the spool itself and prevent corrosion that might result from water trapped under the line. This is also a good time to inspect, clean and lubricate the inside of the reels. Anglers who are even just a “little” handy with tools should have no problem removing a side plate and looking inside at the gears to ensure that there is adequate lubrication and no signs of water, sand or grime. If you can do this yourself, go for it, otherwise take it to Atlantic Tackle in West Ocean City and let Dennis do it for you. Do this now to avoid the spring rush.
Besides a little clean up and light lubrication, rods don’t typically need a whole lot of upkeep. But inspection is necessary and will sometimes reveal finish worn down to the wraps, frozen or worn rollers, grooved guides or corroded real seats. Here again, if you can fix it yourself, do it, otherwise get your tackle off to a qualified rod repair shop as soon as possible.
Hooks, lures, rigs, leaders, swivels, crimps, floats and anything you’ve had on the end of your line probably started out in a neat and orderly tackle box or drawer. By the end of a busy fishing season, on many boats such containers have been rendered down to a stinking mass of rubber skirts, chalky lead and rusty hooks all tangled up and held together by a twisted web of monofilament and steel leaders. More than one fisherman has opted to chuck the whole mess in the garbage and buy all new stuff rather than have to deal with untangling, cleaning and re-rigging everything after it’s been sitting in such a state for six months.
My solution to terminal tackle management is to de-rig everything, wash it all in warm soapy water, then re-rig just the lures and rigs I know for sure I’ll be using next season. Hooks, swivels, crimps, weights and floats are sorted, inspected and put back into clean drawers. I always like to replace monofilament leaders before the new season starts. It doesn’t take much use before these leaders cloud over and lose much of their transparent camouflage and clear, fresh mono and fluorocarbon leaders always outperform those that have clouded-up over time.

Whether they do it in the bay or offshore, anyone who does much bottom fishing probably goes through a lot of rigs either because they lose them to snags or they just get torn up from general use. Just like fresh leader material, new rigs catch more fish because they’re less visible and they’re less likely to spin, twist or do other things they’re not designed to. It’s so much more efficient to leisurely make rigs while sitting at home in a comfortable chair in a comfortable environment than to try hustle through getting it done from a rocking boat in the middle of a hot bite. An entire season’s worth of rigs can be made in one sitting, leaving “one less thing” to have to worry about this summer.

The big “put-away” at the end of the season provides a great chance to go through the tackle box and ensure that every lure, hook, sinker, swivel and everything else in there is 100% ready to be fished. Close inspection of every bit of terminal tackle will reveal what’s good-to-go, what needs to be fixed and what needs to be pitched-out. Anglers should look closely at all hooks, particularly the ones on lures. So often corrosion will form on the very tip of hooks and the sharp points dissolve away leaving nothing but a blunt end. Most lures are designed so that their hooks can be easily replaced, but it’s not the kind of task an angler wants to discover is needed when they’re out on the water and need to use that lure.

There’s no need for anyone to rush this fishing season to an early end. But those who are able to take a realistic look at their own schedule and know when the time has arrived to start cleaning, oiling, winterizing and putting away all their fishing and boating “stuff” will be in much better shape next year when they happily start getting it all back out and ready for the new season ahead.

With this being the last weekly edition of the Coastal Fisherman until the famous “Winter Issue” hits the streets, I guess it’s time for me to sign-off for a while and wish everyone the best in the hopes that whenever they decide to call it quits this season that their “no-fishing period” is neither too long or too painful. In the months to come I’ll finish out my Ocean City charter season sometime in the fall, then hopefully find time to shoot a couple deer, teach a couple captain’s classes, and NOT break my leg before finally heading south in early February for a three month guiding gig in the lower Keys. Have a great fall and winter season!

Capt. Mark Sampson is an outdoor writer and captain of the charter boat, “Fish Finder”, docked at the Ocean City Fishing Center.

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