Fishing Boat Maintenance: Everything You Need to Know


With the right care, a fishing boat can last an average of 10 to 25 years and sometimes longer. That care, by the way, entails regular maintenance. How do you keep your fishing boat in tip-top shape?

Here are some fishing boat maintenance areas to focus on:

  • Engine
  • Electrical systems
  • Topside
  • Hull
  • Fuel lines
  • Upholstery
  • Hinges
  • Fluids

Depending on which component of your fishing boat we’re talking about, you should commit to maintenance tasks every day to every 100 hours (roughly every four days). This guide will go through all the maintenance tasks your fishing boat requires so you can get into a good care routine!

Do This Fishing Boat Maintenance Every Time You Use Your Boat

Are you frequently on your fishing boat or do you only pull it out a couple of times a month to go fishing with your family or friends? Regardless of how you answer that question, your fishing boat requires the following maintenance every time you venture out. 

Fire Extinguishing System Inspection

Even though you’re surrounded by water on your boat, that water does nothing if your fishing boat catches fire. You hope that you’ll never have to use it, but you should still become familiar with your fire extinguishing system if your boat has one.

Before you set off to sea, give the fire extinguisher a once-over. Is everything still in working order? How long have you had the fire extinguisher? Although extinguishers don’t expire, per se, their components are only good for so long, between five and 15 years.

It may be time to replace your fire extinguishing system if it’s at least that old! 

Refill Depleted Oil Levels + Test Oil Pressure

Go through your fishing boat and review the oil levels wherever the boat uses the fluid. If the oil is running low, don’t wait until you’re out in the middle of the ocean or a river to find that out. Refill the levels now. 

While you’re at it, you might as well test your fishing boat’s oil pressure. If you have an oil pressure sensor, then you don’t have to do this manually. Should your boat lack that sensor, you’ll need to use an oil pressure gauge to get a good reading.  

Electric System Inspection

If your fishing boat has a fire extinguisher onboard, then it’s fair to assume the boat has electrical components as well. Test that everything electrical is working before your boat leaves the shoreline.  

Keep in mind that inspecting your boat’s electrical system does not mean checking wires or testing breakers, although it’s not a bad idea to do that at least once per season or somewhat more often if you’ve had electrical issues in the past. 

Plate Bolt Check

Your fishing boat may have a plate bolt or jack. If not, then perhaps you use transom mounting bolts. If you do, then you need to ideally check these bolt connections every time you use your fishing boat.

Have a screwdriver handy so you can tighten any wiggling screws. 

Battery Charge

Your fishing boat derives its power from a battery. Once that battery dies, it’s lights out for you until you get back to shore and recharge. 

You don’t want to be caught unawares, which is why you should always check your battery levels before your day of boating fun. We wouldn’t recommend embarking on a day trip with a half-drained battery. Recharge it fully first. 

Boat Damage Check

Part of keeping your fishing boat in good shape is inspecting it inside and out for signs of damage, ideally before it’s in the water. After all, you can’t see the hull very well at that point. 

What are you looking for? Here’s a checklist to get you started:

  • Skeg damage
  • Propeller damage
  • Cowl air intake blockages
  • Hull damage
  • Bilge pump auto switch
  • Safety gear such as life vests or rafts

If you spot any dings, scratches, or other signs of damage to the above areas of your fishing boat, you might want to shelve your fishing plans until you get your boat parts repaired or replaced. 

Engine Operating Temperature Check

This is one of the most important parts of your routine fishing boat maintenance, as without your engine, your boat is just a still vessel sitting on the water. Unless you have oars or paddles, then you’re not getting back to shore anytime soon. 

The average operating temperature for a fishing boat engine is between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If your engine operating temperature is 10 degrees higher than those temps, then it’s still within a good range. 

Should the engine be operating 20 or more degrees higher than the t-stat, then your engine is at risk of overheating. An overheated engine can then fail, so it might be a good idea to visit your mechanic today rather than go fishing. 

Steering Movement Test

Does your steering wheel move more towards the left when it should be aligned straight? Do you feel like the wheel has too much give, which is keeping you from navigating steadily on the water? Only a steering movement test will tell you. 

Test your wheel every time you plan on going fishing. 

Deck and Hull Wash

This goes double for anglers who prefer saltwater, but even in freshwater, it’s not a bad idea to get into the habit of washing your deck and hull after each trip. You can prevent rust, corrosion, and other avoidable exterior damage. 

Plus, your boat will look clean and fresh! 

Do This Fishing Boat Maintenance Every 20 to 24 Hours

In addition to the above tasks, about every day during the active boating season, you want to commit to the following maintenance jobs. 

Decarbonize Fuel

To decarbonize your fishing boat fuel is to reduce the levels of carbon in the engine. This, in turn, lessens how much carbon dioxide your fishing boat produces when you use it, which is better for our planet. 

Further, decarbonizing the fuel in your engine regularly can improve engine health and functioning, so it’s worth doing often! 

Gearcase and Drive Check

The gearcase and drive of your fishing boat can accumulate particulate matter and water from using the boat. When lubricant from the other components of your boat burns off, this is usually where they build up.

Remove this residue before it gunks up the gearcase and refill the drive with fresh lubricant as needed. 

Engine Operating Temperature Check

Yes, you just checked your engine operating temperature yesterday, but today is a new day. It’s time to do it again. 

Interior Cleaning

If you check your fishing boat’s interior and tidy up about every day, then you won’t have to worry about large messes later. 

This routine maintenance includes throwing away garbage, treating stains, removing dust and grime, and polishing interior surfaces. If you have guests on your fishing boat, they’ll be impressed by how good your interior looks.

Bilge Cleaning

You’re not done cleaning yet. Keep the bilge clean so it functions well. 

Every day you use your fishing boat, you also want to inspect the bilge pump to ensure it’s working. Double-check that its auto-switch is also functioning, as you don’t want your bilge pump to fail you.

The pump collects the water that naturally accumulates in the bilge (which is near your hull) and sends it out of the boat. 

Do This Fishing Boat Maintenance Every 50 Hours

Has it been two days since you’ve last done the above maintenance tasks? Then it’s time to repeat everything to this point and add the following tasks to your to-do list as well. 

Deck and Hull Waxing and Polishing

A clean deck is a happy deck. Your fishing boat also looks so much better with a clean hull.

 These parts aren’t going to clean themselves. After rinsing and sudsing up the deck and hull, treat them to a special wax and polish.

The sunlight will reflect off your boat so brightly that you’ll need to wear sunglasses. Take some photos of your fishing boat in this pristine state, as the next time you use it, it won’t look quite as good (sorry!). 

Fuel Line Check

The fuel lines send fuel to the engine, so they’re an integral part of your fishing boat. 

Over a series of seasons, the UV rays from the sun can break down the fuel lines. At that point, they’re prone to leaks.

Alcohol that pumps through the fuel line can also degrade the quality of the lines. Thus, every 50 hours, it’s good to get into the habit of checking the fuel line. 

Steering System Line Leak Check 

The 50-hour mark is a great time to pay special attention to your fishing boat’s steering system. The hydraulic lines could be losing fluid due to bleeds or leaks, so give these lines a thorough once-over.

If your steering system does have leaks, then your hydraulically-powered steering won’t work up to standards. This could explain why you were having the aforementioned issues with your steering, so take your boat to a specialist. 

Steering System Grease Point Lubrication 

While you’re getting acquainted with your boat’s steering system, check the grease points. If any of them feel dry, then apply lubricant. 

Do This Fishing Boat Maintenance Every 100 Hours

About every 100 hours or four days, you have a new set of fishing boat maintenance tasks to tackle. These duties should be carried out in addition to every other task we’ve presented so far. 

Here’s what to do. 

Silicone Protectant Spray Application to Electrical Components

Electrical components are under more duress on a boat given their proximity to the water. To keep these parts in working order, apply a silicone protectant spray once every four days. If you haven’t boated a lot this week, then you can maybe skip this step until the following week. 

Power Trim Fluid Check + Refill

Have you refilled your fishing boat’s power trim fluid lately? Since this fluid allows for water to enter the boat without it failing (at least to a certain level), it’s especially critical that you maintain the levels every four days. 

Fastener and Bolt Retightening  

Throughout your fishing boat are a series a fasteners and bolts that keep everything secure. It’s your responsibility to ensure that all the bolts are as tight as they need to be, especially the deck fittings, rail fittings, cleats, and plate bolts.

If you can shake the connections and they move even slightly, then they can afford to be tightened up more. Keeping fasteners and bolts tight is a matter of safety for yourself and your fellow passengers, so don’t take it lightly! 

Paint Touch-Ups

Using your fishing boat means wear and tear is inevitable. If you’ve noticed areas on your boat where the paint has chipped off, there’s no better time than now to touch these areas up. 

Be sure to keep the paint can sealed so you can use it again throughout the active boating season as necessary. 

Steering System Line Kink Check 

If the steering system line has a kink or several, then the steering fluid can’t reach your wheel. You’ll no longer be in control, which increases your risk of crashing into other boaters or even unmoving objects such as docks. 

Final Thoughts 

To keep your fishing boat reliably ready to use for years to come, you’ll have to maintain it several times per week. By making a habit out of routine maintenance, you won’t be surprised by issues with your boat. If anything, your dedicated upkeep can prevent serious problems!

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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