DIFATTA: Before a day on the water, do much-needed inspections

By PHIL DIFATTA,

After a fun-filled day of skiing at Paul B. Johnson State Park a long, long time ago, my friends (both of 'em) and I were headed back to Hattiesburg when a pickup, towing a really nice (as in expensive) ocean-going fishing vessel, blew by us like a rocket and topped the hill. When we reached the top, a frightful sight greeted us.

There was no way of knowing what happened at first, but skid marks lined the highway, the pickup was sideways all by its lonesome. The boat, trailer and all, was smashed to smithereens amongst the pines.

After offering assistance and inquiring about injuries, we learned the boat had become detached from the truck as the driver swerved to avoid crashing into a vehicle entering the highway from a side road. Whether the trailer hitch broke, or simply was not properly latched, I do not know. But I do know that the costly accident could have been avoided, and that's the reason for this “Weekly Mistake”.

With peak fishing and boating activities upon us, or very near, it's time for routine and sometimes not-so-routine inspections and necessary repairs of your equipment – ALL of your equipment! Start with the big stuff first, the things you really don't want to do, the things that can even get you killed, like checking and greasing bearings on your vehicle and trailer.

Inspect tires for wear. If in doubt, have an expert check behind you. Oh, and check your spare, too. It's disheartening to have a flat, but it's even more so when you discover your spare tire is also flat.

Once, when leaving a marina down on the Coast, I saw a boat come partially off its trailer after being pulled from the water. The mishap did a number on the foot and prop of the big outboard when it hit the pavement, but definitely would have been much worse had it happened while traveling 65 or 70 miles-per-hour down the highway. The culprit? Well, let's just say the tie-down strap on the trailer was old and brittle, and far too inexpensive not to replace.

Once you've gotten all the big stuff out of the way, inspect other things and replace them if there is any doubt. I know from experience that a fouled spark plug on your boat motor can leave you “talking ugly” at the boat launch. Also, make sure your battery has enough life left in it for a day of boating, particularly if you plan to spend time out in the Gulf.

Make sure there are enough life jackets for everyone onboard, whether fishing or skiing. Skiers should inspect ski ropes, too, as well as skis or wake boards for cracks.

Anglers can next turn their attention to their tackle. Add fresh line to reels. Use reel grease to lubricate those reels as needed. Sharpen hooks on lures that have been stored over the winter months, and inventory your tackle box for items that should be replaced or added. Simply put, make sure all your gear is in tip-top shape before heading to the water … even if you intend to fish from the bank.

As usual, I could go on and on, boring both my readers to tears about what you should or shouldn't do while on or near the water. However, in some instances it could spell the difference between having a great outing or a miserable if not fatal one. After you've done your homework of inspecting, repairing or replacing your equipment, feel free to get outdoors and enjoy what Mississippi has to offer. And try to take a kid with you … every time you can.

PineBelt News outdoor writer Phil DiFatta may be reached for comment, story ideas or photos at pdifatta@hotmail.com. You may also text pictures of your catch, with contact info, to 601-596-4475.