In much of the world there comes a time; a dreaded time, where the beautiful colors of fall are overtaken by the throes of winter. For you it may be as subtle as a slower bite, but for many of us, the water slowly hardens, and kayak fishing seems like a distant memory.
If you are anything like me, you don’t leave the water until you are forced to break through ice on at least part of your paddle. We all know that feeling of driving home from what feels like the last trip of the season. So what now? Do I just sit around and wait for spring?
Often I feel envious of those that can kayak year round. But as the season draws to a close, I feel grateful for the opportunity to pause, to do some needed maintenance, and reflect on the sport that I love and am privileged to be a part of. It’s for these reasons that I have come to love winter.
In the winter there isn’t the strong feeling of “missing out” when you aren’t out on the water. This is why winter is such a great time for maintenance. For a few short weeks you can actually focus on making your kayak the best that it can be, by renewing and revitalizing each component. And that begins with winterizing the hull of your kayak.
Strip It Down
The first step in that process is to strip your kayak down. Take off all the electronics, your crate and accessories mounted to the rails our mounts. Anything that isn’t hard mounted to the hull should come off. This will give you an opportunity to inspect the whole kayak.
Start by looking for signs of wear on the top and bottom of the kayak. Any kayak will scratch and show signs of what has come to be referred to as “river rash” over time. And while minor cuts and scrapes are to be expected, if you develop some deeper gouges, a heat gun or lighter can soften the plastic enough to just press any scratch closed. The bottom of your Feelfree Kayak is reinforced with extra thick plastic to prevent most scrapes and gouges from penetrating the hull. Should you see any cracks, contact your local dealer for assistance, or Feelfree customer service for a repair kit. With little to no experience you can repair almost any crack on your kayak in no time.
Inspect the bolts on your kayak. Are any loose? Just back out loose bolts and apply a drop of blue LocTite to keep bolts in place. Thread them back in with an Allen wrench. Be careful not to over tighten the bolts though.
If your kayak is equipped with a rudder, inspect the rudder cables for any signs of fraying. Check the foot controls, or the hand control for any signs of damage. Should you see damage on any of the components, contact your local dealer for how to proceed.
Keep It Clean
Once you have inspected your kayak, wash it down completely. This is especially important if you take your kayak into any salt water. Scrub it with some mild dish soap and water. Make sure everything is dried out completely including the inside of the hull. Leave your hatches open overnight to ensure this. Once it is dry, for that “fresh from the Feelfree factory” look, apply some 303, or similar vinyl protectant spray.
Wash down all your accessories, paying special attention to your pedal drive unit if you have one. The Overdrive, Pro Fish Pedal Drive, and Rapid Pedal Drive need to be cleaned well, especially if they are exposed to salt water during your fishing season. Again, just washing them down with soap and water is best. Use an allen wrench to remove the prop, and clean out any weeds that have found their way inside. Double check that the shear pin is straight, and place the prop back on the drive shaft. If your drive requires lubricant, consult the owner's manual for the lubrication points, and the recommended lube. Hang them indoors in the same orientation that they sit in the water.
Store It Properly
Finish winterizing your kayak by storing it properly, for smaller kayaks it is recommended you store them on their side or upside down. Larger heavier kayaks, store upside down on a rack with the hull up. This will prevent your hull from warping. Regardless of size, if you are hanging the kayak, do not hang from the handles, this can cause your kayak to warp, especially larger heavier models. Inside always works best, but if you are unable to store it in a garage or shop, raise the kayak off the ground, and pitch a small tent using a tarp over your kayak outside. To prevent animals from using it as a shelter, or to avoid an oven effect on unseasonably warm days, don’t have the tarp touching the kayak, leave some breathing room. Store the seat inside so that rodents don’t use it as nesting material.
Following these simple steps will help your kayak not only survive the winter, but be ready to go in a fresh way when all that ice melts.
Winter truly is one of my favorite times. It allows me a moment to pause and reflect on the sport that I love, and just how blessed I am to have the opportunity to take part in such a unique and meaningful experience. Taking each piece of gear off of my kayak, washing it down and storing it for the winter makes me truly grateful for those times on the water where I get to experience what few others do. Whether it is a beautiful sunrise, or the thrill of reaching areas that few have paddled before me, it is these moments that make me love the sport. And it’s those memories that make me count down the days till spring.
For more information, tips, tricks, and plenty of community to get you through the winter, be sure to join one of the many Facebook groups out there:
Feelfree Kayaks Facebook Group
3 Waters Kayaks (Big Fish) Facebook Group
Seastream Kayaks Facebook Group
Written by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member
Cover Image by Jon Nigl