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How to Prepare for a Fishing Trip: Checklist for Boats & Trailers

Start with this fishing trip checklist to get you on the route to a lifetime of satisfying trips.

How to Prepare for a Fishing Trip: Checklist for Boats & Trailers

Make a habit of installing the drain plug at home, avoiding pitfalls at the boat ramp. Also forces you to check trailer lights and other systems.

Couple of things I’ve learned—some the hard way!—to make my fishing days a little easier.

One, I fuel up the night before my trip. I use ethanol-free Rec 90 fuel. It was nearly $6 a gallon last I fueled up, but good insurance against a range of gremlins. I also check my trailer tire pressure on this trip—and ensure my trailer lights are working and my bearings are doing their job without overheating or grumbling in protest.

If it’s been more than a few weeks since I last used the boat, tonight or early tomorrow, I’ll top off the charge on my starter and house batteries. This simple exercise also prompts me to check water levels and terminal connections.

Fresh fuel, proper voltage, good trailer tires and bearings—if you can guarantee those four things, you’ll save more than a few trips in your boating life.

man putting red pfd into boat
Always confirm PFDs and other safety gear are on board.

With the boat fueled, charged and ready to roll, I’ll sleep well. When I wake up, I’ll select PFDs for each guest—including at least one extra. After each trip, I store my PFDs in the garage, not on the boat. Longterm, they’ll only mildew and dry rot in the boat, and besides, I think it’s a good habit each morning to make deliberate choices about safety gear. Bringing the vests on board naturally leads me to eyeball the fire extinguisher, condition of flares, and do a quick receiver check of the VHF radio (transmit only on the water).

While I’m at the console, I make sure the tilt/trim motor is functional. Failure of this component—and one day, it’ll happen—at the boat ramp is a bummer. I also check that the steering wheel turns normally. Regular lubrication of zerk fittings at service intervals is key, but always confirm things are moving properly, before each trip. Periodic inspection of hydraulic fluid levels in the fill on the binnacle is a good idea, too. Check the bilge pump, too.

man with red headlamp looking down at boat helm
Before leaving for the ramp, make a quick systems check at the helm (fuel, batteries, ignition, steering, tilt/trim, radio).

Check to see if the engine starts up? Maybe. If it’s been months since my last trip (shame on me...), I’ll put the flushing muffs on and crank the engine and let it run a few minutes—but I’ll do this the day before, not in the predawn quiet.

This next one may mark me as at bit OCD, but after I stock the boat, before I leave the house I’ll give the deck a quick washdown. Mainly I’m trying to clear the decks of any leaves or dirt. I take time to flush out the scuppers and my livewell/ fish box drain to ensure the lines are clear.

Next, I’ve always made it a point to install my drain plug in the driveway. As a side benefit, it puts me back there where I’ll look over my prop to be sure I don’t see any fishing line or damage to the blades.

Last but not least, before I leave, I’ll return inside the house to tell my wife where I’m going (north or south, inshore or offshore, within cell range or outside, etc) and with whom I’ll be fishing. FS

Published Florida Sportsman Magazine August/September 2022




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