Preventative Maintenance Keeps You Fishing

With so much water surrounding us in south Louisiana, a reliable boat is a critical piece of equipment for getting to the fishing grounds and back. Today’s modern fishing machines, though inherently engineered to be more reliable than ever, are still plagued by a variety of issues that send them for repairs. In order to avoid making your boat yet another hole in the water you throw money in, there are a number ways to minimize maintenance and operating costs.

1. Use It!

With so many activities vying for your time and attention, a little-used boat often gets neglected more than many would like. Unfortunately, the worst scenario for the well being of your boat and its systems is to sit up for extended periods. Unattended cranking batteries go dead without charge from the running motor or a charger. Similarly, trolling motor batteries lose their charge while sitting unattended as well. An on-board charger can go a long way for properly maintaining voltage in your cranking and trolling batteries. Today’s automatic units can be plugged in indefinitely without the need to monitor the charge, nor fear overcharging.

Fuel in the motor’s feed system deteriorates and will eventually end up as a gummy mess, ill-suited for proper flow when you’re ready for the next trip. When possible, running the fuel out of your engine is a great way prevent buildup within the engine’s components, though this is typically only practical on smaller engines where the fuel line can be unplugged. On larger engines, you’re reliant upon today’s array of fuel stabilizer products, which can extend the life of your fuel to be ready on the next trip. Brands like STA-BIL, STAR TRON, etc. offer fairly cheap insurance against fuel-related issues when used regularly.

2. Corrosion Prevention

Many of our favorite fish are chased in the salty waters along the Louisiana coast. Whether you’re after redfish in the marshes or dolphin on the rip, it’s critical to fight the effects of saltwater corrosion on your equipment. Just as my rods and reels get a good rinse with the hose back at the dock or home, my entire boat gets a similar freshwater rinse, giving much of the attention to all the metal components. The engine gets a good wash with soap and water to remove salt built up on the outer surfaces during the course of a trip, but that’s just the beginning.

Flushing the internal cooling system is critical to the longevity of the saltwater fishing outboard. Working in the marine industry has shown me the results of not taking the internal impacts of saltwater seriously with numerous cases of water passages crumbling in decay following years of saltwater remaining between fishing trips. It doesn’t happen overnight, but neglect over time will take its toll and you’ll eventually pay the resultant price.

Many of today’s models come with a dedicated flushing port for a garden hose built into the engine. Use of this port allows for thorough flushing of the engine without having to run it. I’ll often let the motor flush for a few minutes while I’m taking care of unloading other items after a fishing day as this function can be left unattended. For those motors without the port, running the motor with earmuff style flushers will be needed and should be attended in case they were to slip off. Religiously following a flushing regimen after every saltwater trip can save thousands of dollars spent later on corroded parts.

3. Preventative Maintenance Keeps You Fishing

Though flushing is key to a good preventative maintenance routine, marine engines require regular maintenance just like a car or truck. In today’s four stroke outboards, that includes routine oil and filter changes at the manufacturer’s prescribed running-time intervals. Otherwise, four stroke and two stroke outboards require similar maintenance attention such as changing the lower unit oil and spark plugs and greasing the prop shaft and other grease points on the engine.

When pulling the propeller, keep an eye out for fishing line or other materials wrapped on the shaft, which may compromise the nearby seal. Also, inspect the old lower unit oil for signs of water intrusion, which would appear as a milky substance in the oil and may be indicative of a seal failure in the gear housing.

A good once-over by a mechanic on an annual basis can go a long way in preventing costly repairs later on. That said, many routine maintenance items can be performed at home with only a few tools and at your own schedule, thus preventing time lost while the boat is in for service during peak season. Doing the maintenance yourself can similarly save you costly hourly shop rates which often range from $75 to $100 per hour.

4. Trailer

Critical to getting your rig to the water and back, the trailer is as important as anything else in your fishing arsenal. Nothing can derail your plans for the early morning topwater bite quicker than a rusted trailer bunk support giving way or a worn tire blowing out on the highway. Though many issues can pop up unforeseen, a lot can be done to minimize the risk of leaving you on side of the road instead of heading to the fishing grounds.

As poor as our roads are here in Louisiana, your trailer tires have a tough job. These tires must be kept at proper pressure in order to assure even wear and prevent undue stress under load. Since trailers are often equipped with minimal suspension capability, the tires typically take the brunt of the forces generated as your heavy rig bounds down the road. It’s a good idea to make checking the pressures part of your pre-trip routine to assure proper inflation to whatever level is recommended on the tire wall.

Though often sealed, the wheels’ bearings are also critical to maintain. Keeping the bearings greased and sealed will minimize friction as they spin down the road and can help to prevent a failure that shuts down your trip. Bearing Buddies are ideal to make greasing the bearings a minimal chore.

Just as with the metallic surfaces of the boat, my trailer gets a thorough rinse after backing down at a coastal marina. If it’s going to sit up for a few weeks or months to the next trip I’d rather it does so without being covered in salt. Aside from corrosion and the wheel system, keep an eye out for simple but critical components like the winch strap and bunk boards, along with the wiring system for the lights. Fix small issues while at home before they become much more expensive and inconvenient.  Keep all crucial parts like lugs, couplers and springs with a good spray lubricant to prevent rust, corrosion and frozen parts.

5. Fuel Issues – The Fight Against Ethanol

With many fueling stations serving up primarily blended gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol, fuel-related issues with both modern and older model fishing boats is as rampant as ever. Fortunately, there are still a good many stations in Louisiana offering conventional gasoline without ethanol, though the list is in decline. Nevertheless, today’s fuel stabilizers are formulated to combat the effects of ethanol on your fuel system and can prevent headaches and repairs with regular use.

For example, Marine Formula STA-BIL is among a host of products readily available and effective in keeping your boat out of the shop. I’ve been using this product for a few years now in three different boats without any issue. Regardless if filling up with ethanol-blended fuel or not, I still make this treatment part of my fueling stop and have had remarkable results in doing so.

Aside from treating the fuel, a good water-separating fuel filter is a great addition to your fuel system. Since ethanol tends to increase the amount of water that gasoline can absorb via condensation in your fuel tanks, catching the water before it gets to the engine is critical. Modern separators are rated to catch particles as small as 10 microns and serve as a key part of an ethanol defense regimen.

With the significant costs of purchasing a modern fishing rig, one must also consider the costs of keeping it in good operating condition. Regardless of the age of your boat, the time and nominal costs invested in preventative maintenance is well worth the effort when your rig brings you safely home after each day making memories on the water.

Shrimp & Pasta

This is a quick and easy dish for those hectic days where time is limited. Also, any leftovers make a great cold pasta salad for lunch the next day.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 10 oz. pasta (your choice)
  • 1 cup Guidry’s Creole Seasoning Mix ( onions, bell peppers, celery, green onions, parsley, garlic)
  • 4 tbsp margarine or butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


Directions

  1. Cook pasta in medium pot until desired consistency; drain and set aside. Keep pasta water.
  2. Heat oil and margarine in large skillet. Add Guidry’s. Sauté on medium-high heat, stirring often.
  3. Add shrimp, cook until done.
  4. Lower heat to medium, add cooked pasta and 1/3 cup pasta water. Season to taste.
  5.  Stir gently and often until pasta is incorporated into shrimp mixture.

What’s on the Other End of Your Line May Surprise You

Chumming for tuna on the East Lump? Watch out! You might hook into a giant shark – or a shark tracking device.

Anglers out of Cocodrie were sure they hooked into a giant tuna this weekend out at the “East Lump,” but weren’t able to turn it or get a visual before they pulled the hook. When they brought up the line, they were surprised to find a mysterious item covered in algae attached to their hook.  The intermittent red blinking light indicated it must be something of importance.

SPOT tag deployed on a scalloped hammerhead off the coast of Louisiana for 399 days. Tag was foul hooked by an angler at the same location as the original release. Biofouling, algae and barnacle growth can often reduce or terminate tag function. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Babcock.)

Important indeed, the mysterious object turned out to be one of our electronic shark tags. This particular tag was deployed on an 8-foot male scalloped hammerhead at the “East Lump” back in January 2015. Accumulated biofouling on the tag interrupted the signal, and the shark’s last reported location was received in July.  Although the tags and mounting pads are coated with an antifouling paint, swimming speeds are often not fast enough to completely inhibit growth.

The LDWF Electronic Tagging Program utilizies tags like these to study multiple species of sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Smart Position Only tags work best on fish that spend time at the surface. When at the surface, these tags transmit signals that can be detected by the satellite-based Argos tracking system. Most live-tracking applications are based on SPOTs, which can generate multiple positions per day for a given fish. The tags can either be fin-mounted or towed behind a tagged fish. Since 2012, 37 scalloped hammerheads have been fitted with SPOT tags and released in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Catch rates of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico have declined since the mid-1980s. Globally, some populations of scalloped hammerhead sharks are listed as “near threatened” or “endangered” and protected under the Endangered Species Act. Although not listed as threatened or endangered off of Louisiana’s coast, they do have a high risk to post-release mortality in commercial fisheries. The Department uses these tags to better understand their habitat use off our coast and assess risks such as incidental by-catch to other fisheries.

Generations of Fishermen Share Love of Life’s Work

Every morning before sunup across the coastal regions of Louisiana, teams of fathers and sons, brothers, uncles and nephews, and sometimes grand- and great-grandfathers set out upon the waters to pull in the region’s bounty of shrimp, oysters, crabs and finfish.

“I have a natural compulsion to get out on the water,” said Ray Brandhurst, a seventh generation fisherman who dates his family business back to the 17th century in the Basque region of northern Spain, where his people plied the waters with harpoons.  “This is therapy for me.  It’s a connection that, as a fisherman, I make with nature.  I will do this for the rest of my life. Even if it were not profitable, I would still do it.”

Brandhurst, 54, tells the story of his uncle, Jimmy Bayhi, who at his mother’s desperate urging obtained a college degree only to present his diploma to her “pretty much the day he graduated.”  He then boarded a boat with his father to take to the business of trawling for shrimp just as Brandhurst does today.

Though their eldest son, Ray Jr., 20, is studying Petroleum Engineering at LSU, neither Brandhurst nor his wife, Kay, will be surprised if he takes up the family business.  That their youngest son, Rhett, 12, will enter the business is an accepted fact.

“He already has a deep connection with nature and a deep love for the business,” Brandhurst said.

Nick Collins, a fifth generation oysterman, eagerly awaits the day when consumer confidence in his product is fully restored.

On the other hand, according to Collins, “I have been secure all my life in this industry.  I always knew I would do this. I know what I have to do and how to do it.  I always put food on the table, even in the bad years.”

Like Jimmy Bayhi and Ray Brandhurst, Jr., Sean Thon humored his mother by giving college a try.

“That didn’t last long,” said Thon, 31.  “I wanted to get on the water with my dad, like he did with his dad, and my great granddad did with his dad before that.  We go mostly for crabs, a little bit of shrimp, and the hardships are offset by the pleasures.  I love waking up and working for myself, being in charge of my own career, being on the water.  Some days are not so good, but you just take the good with the bad.  I wouldn’t do anything different.”

A WAY OF LIFE

Commercial fishing is one of America’s first industries, dating back 400 years or more.  Explorers came to North America seeking new lands and more lucrative fishing grounds.  They settled in communities along the coast from the Atlantic to the waterways of the Gulf of Mexico to utilize the gifts of the sea.

A man fishes alone in a Louisiana hand-made cypress pirogue.  Another joins his crew of family members aboard a 95-foot shrimp boat headed for the open sea.  Both are sharing Louisiana fishing traditions that have been handed down for generations.  The state of Louisiana is both a “Sportsman’s Paradise” and the source for nearly one third of all the seafood consumed in the United States.

Seafood is an important part of life in Louisiana. The traditions of catching, cooking and eating seafood are ingrained in Louisiana life.  From the fine dining restaurants in the French Quarter of New Orleans to neighborhood crawfish boils, everyone has a seafood recipe to share. The finest chefs in the world know fresh Louisiana seafood has no equal.

When you choose Louisiana Seafood you’re supporting the traditions, lifestyles and environment that have sustained the people of Louisiana and fed the nation for centuries.

Louisiana seafood is a sustainable resource.  The seafood producers of Louisiana work hard to provide nourishing, fresh product while protecting each species for future generations.  Fishery management plans provide responsibly for the needs of today without damaging the ability of the species to reproduce and flourish in nature.  If you buy Louisiana seafood managed under a U.S. fishery management plan, you can be assured it meets 10 national standards that ensure fish stocks are maintained, overfishing is eliminated and the long-term socioeconomic benefits to the nation are achieved.

Crawfish Corn Soup

Crawfish corn soup is a great meal any time of the year. Especially when it is paired with a hearty sandwich or light salad. It is a favorite in my family.

Ingredients

  • 1 quart Half & Half
  • 1-pound peeled Crawfish
  • 2 lg. Onions – diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic – diced
  • 2 pinches Saffron
  • ½ can Creamed Corn
  • 2 cans Whole Kernel Corn
  • 2 pinches Red Pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. Oil
  • 2 tbsp. Margarine or Butter
  • Salt, Pepper, *Cuddin Eddie’s Fais Do Do Dry Seasoning

Directions

  1. In large stockpot, heat oil and margarine
  2. Sauté onions, garlic, and crawfish. Add corn.
  3. Turn heat to low. Slowly add half & half.
  4. Add saffron and red pepper flakes
  5. Season to taste. Simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Seafood Poppers

Here’s a light finger food idea, seafood poppers. I use jalapeños from my garden, and for a milder taste, sometimes banana peppers. Whichever you choose, they are sure to be a hit. Once you taste the first one, you won’t be able to stop “popping” them in your mouth.

Ingredients

  • 24 Jalapeño Peppers
  • 1 lb Pan-seared Shrimp, diced
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 8 oz Monterrey Jack/Cheddar Cheese Mix

Directions

  1. Spray bottom of large baking pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Slice jalapeños lengthwise and remove seeds (remove vein for less heat).
  3. I like to mix my diced shrimp in a bowl with the cheese mixture. You can put them in separate bowls if you like and “assembly-line” the process of filling your peppers if you prefer.
  4. First, spread cream cheese inside the pepper, filling the pepper about halfway. Then I like to invert and press, making sure the cream cheese is well-coated and the pepper is almost overflowing with the filling. If you prefer, you can spoon the filling in, pressing it down with the back of the spoon. Repeat for remaining peppers.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.