This is a good year to tow your boat to west coast Van Isle to nab your share of those 2.4 million chinook beetling by to the States. Do some gear prep before you go. First, spend a million dollars on your engine and vital electronics.
Then add some more money. My boat is in the water at Oak Bay, and it makes sense to – once you have dealt with your trailer, as a previous column mentioned – do a quick power wash, particularly if you use that Micron anti-fouling that lasts two years, because it won’t break down. Do your prop and transducer, too, as well as checking your pitot-tube for growth.
Regular scrubbing over the transom also makes your prop work at peak efficiency for popping your boat out of the hole, and running more efficiently on the plane. If you have not already done so, the next time you service the prop, have it cupped. This eighth of an inch on the prop’s leading edge holds more water and it pops and planes easier. And trim your leg/engine each time out. Look at the prop wash and trim until it settles nicely at the speed you want to plane. And listen to the sound of the engine/prop. It will smooth out when properly trimmed. And, of course, do plane at an easy level for your engine, not above 80% of engine capacity.
Also consider buying another propeller. If you use stainless cable on your downriggers, and they tangle in the prop, it will look like Swiss cheese after even a few seconds of winding cable around itself. It can be so damaged you are not coming out of the hole and it will be a long, slow trip to your evening destination. I have changed blades on the water. Not much fun, because you cannot drop that cotter pin, nut and any spacers, but leads to a quicker trip home, in west coast water that can grow extreme in no time. Carry a replacement stainless or braided cable.
And if you do tangle the prop, make sure to check the seals on the leg, as if they blow, you are looking at an expensive repair, particularly if the salt gets on the various gears/shafts/splines inside. If you see oil on the water when you are at the dock, take that as evidence of blown seals. And do make sure your kicker works, before you pull away from home. Put those ‘earmuffs’ on the intake ports with a hose attached, to run water through, keeping the engine from red-lining.
Retie the ball clips on your cable, whether stainless or braid. And reposition the red spacers on the cable, as over time they tend to slip up, particularly on braid that is more slippery. Buy an extra ball – 12 pounds for tidal current or deep trolling – the banks off Ucluelet/Tofino can have you trolling at 250 feet – because it’s a drag dropping a ball off and not being able to use that downrigger for the rest of the day. Trotac has them for $35. And pick up an extra release clip.
Make it long enough to clip the cable, and pull the release clip into the pipe-stem rod holder or over the gunwhale, where you want it once you are satisfied with tackle action in the water.
Also consider adding a buss for your downriggers, and added electronics. Any boat older than 10 years will have corrosion in the wires which leads to erratic electronics action. For example, if you have to knock the glass of any dash component, oil pressure, for instance, that is evidence of corrosion. I once cut an inch off a downrigger lead to find good metal, only to find, cut after cut, that the corrosion had moved up inside the vinyl coating more than 2.5 feet. Then I pulled out the line and put a complete new one in.
My boat is 30 years old and stringing electric wires is the most costly job on a boat. I had Gartside put in a new harness, new dash and all new to all the new dash electronics, as in ka-ching. But the goal is being confident your boat will bring you back through anything. In my boat, that still leaves things like the blower, wiper and horn on the original panel on the starboard side, and condensation leaves them erratic as well – I’ll patch on a few items, and have all rewired this winter.
Bring your rods home and service them. Wash rods and reels with warm soapy water, rinse, and take the reels apart. Wipe off all the grease and reapply a saltwater grease, such as white lithium. Take off the old mono mainline and reapply. If you measure the length of line on a single turn of the reel handle, then you know the number of winds of new 30 pound mono to put on the reel. Should be 300 yards for each reel, as long as the reel is not over filled. Any line that does not sit below the spool edge will come flying off the reel and tangle on that big fish. That will make you angry. Also measure the circumference distance on the last complete handle turn, to give you an idea how length increases with circumference distance.
The alternative is to use Island Outfitters et al, as their commercial reel loaders have counters and you will have the correct amount of line on each reel, with the added benefit of having your previous mainline recycled.
If you use expensive reels like Islander or Penn, I would send them to a special repair location over the winter. I use Success in Shawnigan Lake for my Penn 965 Baitcasters, but Islander Reels and Outfitters are in Victoria for when the teeth on your drags wear down on your one-way drag Shimano and Daiwa.
And then there are the small things. Make sure your ball bearing end snaps still rotate easily. Some WD 40 will help. Then buy a half dozen more, another half dozen large ball bearing swivels, as well as large split rings, a split-ring pliers, and a dozen large quick-changers. You will break off a half dozen and should have more than enough in your tackle box.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: check your stock of flashers, and add some favourites, like the Betsy, Purple Haze and glow green. Farr Better Flashers make sense, too, as their tail pins come out on a bite and the flasher is no longer in-line between you and the fish, so its shear cannot be used to pull out hooks.
Check leaders on your lures, but don’t replace them on your klllers; some hootchies, for instance have magical properties. Some work far better than others, and you do not want to retie them; they will out fish all other hootchies until they finally break. In the intervening time, get to know which particular replacement hootchies work well and don’t work, so you have another killer when you lose a killer. A hootchie in a killer pattern that doesn’t work should have its leader retied and then retried. There is magic in these. I tie 34 inches, but the length depends on how fast your troll. And if you are speeding up for coho, which often have pink and sockeye with them, do remember that increased speed is the same thing as shortening a leader.
Tie a dozen cut-plug arrangements of two single, kerbed, size 4/0 – 6/0 hooks, tied six inches apart, with ‘sliding’ knots and wrap them around a grooved, plywood rectangle. Use 25 pound test. Tie also leaders with a treble and a single trailer (only four inches behind) on six foot leaders for fishing bait and do check the wires on your wire-rigged teasers because they can become rusty and break just as you are sliding the wire down from the gill plate inside the bait body. Grr.
One final thing: never leave the dock without full tanks of fuel. Make that a rule you never break. It will save you.