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We’re only a week away from Maine’s official opening day of the open water fishing season (April 1 each each year), and it may be somewhat disconcerting to be thinking about “spring” with the kind of weather we’ve had lately. Will it snow again? Maybe. Will we be faced with more cold, wind and blustery weather? Probably. But, spring will come no matter what winter has to say about it, and even if you can’t get outdoors now, this is the time to prepare for the gorgeous days that are ahead.
If you think that looking out the window and finding more snow on the ground is depressing, imagine heading for the garage and finding last year’s fishing gear piled high in a corner, untouched since the heat of last summer (remember heat and summer?) drove you off the water.
Bad as things may look, you can get your gear in order in time for balmier days if you take it one step at a time. Most modern fishing tackle is well made, dependable and long-lasting, but some maintenance is always in order. The average modern fishing rod is pretty much made to last forever, so unless you’ve done some serious damage to your favorite rod (slammed it in a car door, run over it with a 4-wheeler, etc.) there’s nothing you need to do but wipe it down with any off-the-shelf surface cleaner (Fantastic is fine. So is Windex and the like.)
Just clean last year’s mud, spider webs, algae and fish scales off the rod, check the line guides for wear and be sure the reel seat is still tight and serviceable. If your rod’s guides show damage, they can be deburred by running a twist of steel wool over them several times. Anything worse calls for replacing the guide, an easy job with plastic shrink tubes.
Your reels could probably stand some cleaning as well. It often takes no more than a quick burnish with a soft cloth and a touch of reel oil or graphite on major moving parts to get your reel ready for the season. Of course, replace any broken parts, and I’d also recommend that you purchase a spare reel handle. You may never need it, but I have had two lengthy trips nearly ruined when I lost or broke a reel handle enroute to camp. In one case I would have been out of luck for a week because I was many miles up the Golden Road on a camping trip and wouldn’t have been able to find another reel, let alone a reel handle, in time to salvage the trip. Luckily, I was able to dig out my spare handle and save the trip.
If nothing else, take the time to replace your fishing line before you start fishing this spring. Line is probably the cheapest aspect of any fishing trip and yet it’s the most important. You certainly can’t fish without it, and if you take a chance on last year’s line, the odds are good that the one, big, memorable fish of the season will break off in that frayed spot you saw but figured was “good enough” for another trip. Break-offs happen every day to anglers who forgot or chose the lazy way out, so, while it’s still cold and snowy outside, hustle on down to the store and buy a spool of fresh line. You won’t regret it!
Another thing that stymies a lot of anglers each season is dull or rusted hooks. Most fishermen buy lures and fish with them for years without once taking the time to sharpen the hooks. A long season of catching fish, banging hooks on boats, dragging them over rocks and logs and otherwise abusing those points and barbs mean dull hooks next trip. You’d think a fishhook that can stab your finger would be sharp enough to hold a struggling trout or bass, but any angler with more than a day’s experience can tell you that fish do throw the hook, and most of the time the culprit is a dull point.
You can replace old fishhooks with new ones (rarely happens) or you can sharpen the old ones (also rarely happens) but either option is better than just ignoring the problem. If you spend a few minutes examining your lures and hooks, you may be surprised to find that some of the points are broken, bent or so dull you can’t scratch a line in a thumbnail. These hooks will not hold a fish!
You may have to get the pliers out and bend a few hooks back into shape, but in most cases you’ll just have to swipe a hone or file across the point and bring it back to its original shape. Once you get set up and get going you can run through your entire tackle box in a few minutes. If you’ve ever lost a big fish after a mighty hit and wondered why, a session with the file and hone will bring it all back to you.
If you use boats and motors (even canoes or johnboats), you know what has to be done there. Any motorized boat needs to be registered, and if repairs or parts replacement are in order (is it time for new paddles, oars or PFDs?), now is the time to get it done.
Motors require some serious maintenance, especially if you use your motor often. These mini-engines need care just like your car or mower engine does, and you often have to make appointments to get it done or wait for special parts to arrive – all taking time away from your fishing if you wait till next month to get it done.
Trolling motors, live well aerators and other small motorized units should be checked and repaired, if necessary. If your equipment is more than two years old, it may be time to think about replacing them. Some of the busiest fishing guides I know end up buying all new gear every third season, and some work so hard that a new trolling motor only lasts one summer!
Ignore what’s outside your window right now. Fishing season will be here soon and along with it some great fishing opportunities. Get your gear ready and don’t miss a single beautiful spring day!
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