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Volume 16, Issue 51 - December 18 - December 24, 2008
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Winter in the Fishing Life

What have you got to do but winterize?


The Chesapeake is a harsh environment for fishing ­tackle. The brackish water of our Bay has more than enough salt to be corrosive to just about any metal. Anodized aluminum, stainless steel and plated steel are only resistant to the effects of demon salt, not immune. If your equipment sits over winter without proper cleaning and maintenance, you may regret your inaction come springtime.

            This includes terminal tackle, as well. Your jig heads, jigs, plugs, hooks and similar hardware have been exposed to the corrosive effect of the Bay’s waters — even if they have not been used. Merely being on the water subjects them to the invisible saltwater mist that hovers over the Chesapeake. That mist insinuates itself into the smallest crevices and gets into every area of your tackle boxes. The salt deposits accumulate and concentrate over a long winter. Rust never sleeps.

            Attending to your gear now will save you time and money come spring. It will also reward you with equipment in top condition and ready to take on the challenges of a new season. The alternative will be one ugly discovery after another in a few months, some more expensive than others.

Fish Are Biting

The winter rockfish bite continues with a few very nice-sized fish being taken — but it hasn’t been easy. Constant cold temperatures and windy conditions have made the late season quite unpleasant. Most weeks have at least a few days of small craft advisories. Trolling is virtually the only method that can be employed with these conditions, as rough seas and high winds make any other type of fishing all but impossible.


How to Do It

            Pick a large uncluttered area and spread a couple of layers of newspapers over a section of floor. Take all your lure boxes to the sink. Thoroughly dunk each lure in a basin or bowl of warm soapy water and rinse well with running water. Place the lures on the newspaper to dry. A small fan to one side can speed the drying, but be sure to tape down the newspaper.

            Feather-dressed hooks are particularly prone to rust because the feathers concentrate and hold the salt where they are attached to the hook. If the rust is advanced, now is the time to replace the dressed hook because it will only get worse. Most mail-order tackle suppliers carry replacements.

            If you carry a substantial number of loose hooks on your bait-fishing sorties, you may consider cleaning those as well. The better varieties of salt-water hooks are well plated, but all have a carbon steel core into which salt will find its way.

            Less expensive hooks will be even more vulnerable. After washing, rinsing and drying, a light coating of WD-40 can help further preserve them. A rusty hook point with a rough texture takes many times the normal force to penetrate a fish’s mouth — and the larger the fish, the tougher its mouth.

            If there is any evidence of salt corrosion on your jig hooks, it must be removed with a sharpening file or fine sandpaper. Otherwise, discard the lure. Rust will migrate to adjacent pieces.

            Wash out all lure and hook boxes thoroughly. Be sure to clean the minute debris from every corner, for that is where salt accumulates. Beware of using the dishwasher for this function. The high heat of the wash cycle can cause your expensive plastic boxes to warp.

            Take all your reels off of their rods. Salt loves to hide under the reel seats, the seat hoods, the locking rings and any other area where it can remain invisible. Rinse your rods under warm water and give the guides and reel seat and reel seat threads a good scrubbing with a soapy toothbrush. Rinse them off again, and after they dry give them a spray coating of marine grade silicone. That will preserve the rods nicely until springtime. Reel seat threads benefit from a coating of grease.

            Your fishing reels, at the minimum, should be rinsed off, allowed to dry, and lightly coated with WD-40. Water Displacement #40 (it was the 40th formula attempted) was developed by NASA to protect components of space-bound vehicles while they were stored, awaiting assembly and launch. It does a nice job on fishing tackle as well.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.