by Daniel Kiazyk

Ever found yourself scrambling the night before the opener? Have you been out on the lake and found your missing something? To varying degrees over the years, we've all scrambled to get ready for the opener. With increasing workloads, our leisure time seems harder to prepare for…. usually not a top priority most of the time. But therein lies the rub, taking a holiday or maximizing leisure time necessitates planning. There are some who are good at it and others who need to be encouraged. I want to suggest a deliberate process, that even if it only partly happens this year, next year will be even better!

Primary Considerations

Unlike other plans I've seen, I would suggest that we all take a step back when planning for the new season. Canadians will all soon be required to complete a boating safety course and to carry proof of their having knowledge of the material. Do you need to refresh your knowledge of safety issues, or have you re-certified your first aid and CPR (remember re-certification is required every couple of years)? How about your boat and motor... do they need major repairs and do you have the necessary safety gear stowed on board your boat? e.g. whistle, waterproof light, bouyant heaving line, PFD ( a personal flotation device which have been tested recently to see if they work!), paddles and signal flares. Even though the latter seem a bit "over the top", they all might save the day in case of an emergency…

Getting There

Your next concern involves your trailer. Have you checked the lights? Are your safety chains in good condition and when was the last time you repacked your trailer bearings? If you're in and out of the water a lot during a season, repacking is a smart option. How are your tires and spare (proper pressure, tread and general appearance)? Is the coupling mechanism easy to operate, has it been adjusted or does it need lubrication? Small things mean a lot when your hauling a big boat. Don't forget that larger boats with higher gvw's and/or duals need brakes --- have them checked!

Last, but not least is licensing and insurance. Many of us cannot afford to replace equipment on an annual basis. Many good policies exist and should be considered if the angler is to avoid instances that could ruin a whole year of angling!

Well, your next stop will be the lake. But before launching, a couple of considerations need to be made. Remember when hauling an object of any weight, your vehicle will not react in the same way as it does when not hauling something. Drive prudently and give yourself more time to do everything and make sure your vehicle is in good working order!

Ready Set Fish!

When you get to the launch, have you the parking requirements for that launch. Provincial parks in Manitoba require a "use" sticker. Private launches like Selkirk and Pine Falls require yearly parking passes (or seasonal passes). Passes are available and do save a considerable amount of money if you frequent the launch often! Now, you're backing your boat down to the water, but wait! Is the plug in, have you lowered transducer and have you trimmed up your motor? Not paying attention to any or all of these can result in a minor nuisance or major repairs, or just plan embarrassment! P.S. engage your parking brake if you need to hold position on the ramp. It's better to be safe than sorry, besides vehicle insurance doesn't look too favorably on cars submerged through owner neglect! Be sure to park your unloaded equipment in a safe place and be sure that nothing is left out for someone to steal!. I personally take a walk around the unloaded trailer to see if there are any other problems.

For good boat performance throughout the season, regular maintenance is required. Proper octane and recommended additives do ensure peak motor performance. Letting your motor "warm up" is important (remember too long a warm up is not good either!) Battery maintenance is a must if you are going to troll effectively with your electric trolling motor for many hours. Proper charging requires a good charger with automatic shut off. If you are using the acid/lead batteries, be sure to top them off with clean distilled water once a month at least. Clean your terminals and even wash your batteries to get off any corrosion or errant acid. Proper care extends the life of batteries at least a couple of years (and dispose of those batteries safely!). Don't forget to wear that PFD, most people who drown weren't wearing them!

Fishing Yet?

So, what do you need to be prepared to actually fish? I would suggest that you start with your rod and reel. Have you greased up that reel and have you changed that line? The latter consideration is crucial and is most often ignored. How often is enough? One season where we fished over 120 days, our line was changed once a month – but that's extreme use. If you angle occasionally, mono might need changing once a year. It is here where super-lines shine. They don't seem to break down like mono – so once every two (maybe three) years might be all that's necessary! What about that rod? Be sure that all of the guides are in good shape, not cracked or rough /abrasive. Look for any signs of weakness in the blank. Some damage can be repaired but generally graphite needs to be replaced if the damage is too great. One last item to consider in this area is a replacement tip. This is a once in a while investment that can save you from loosing that favorite rod.

Tackle is your next consideration. What is your quarry? What techniques are common for the lake, reservoir, river you're going to visit. You'll often hear, don't take stuff you don't use! Well, most often this common sense approach is effective but sometimes it's the different "stuff" that produces a new successful pattern. Ultimately, you'll have to decide on what you are fishing for, where, when and how much room you have in the boat. Another important consideration with regards to tackle is complexity and angling experience. New or young anglers can be turned off with too much complexity. Keep it simple is a policy that has always worked well for us and our clients.

And finally, there are some necessary extra's – a good pair of needle nose pliers or "clamps" will aid in removing hooks. A cradle is better than a net if you need to handle a fish. A camera with 400 ISO is a good choice as it allows you to take photos in most light conditions. Appropriate clothing and footwear only serve to improve your day – a rain suit might just save the day.

It's not an easy task preparing for the opener and maybe this year, with a little reflection you'll do better at it than last year. Nonetheless, some preparation will at least guarantee safety and getting to your favorite fishing haunts. Catching those fish is another thing.