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Neglected Battery Causes Lost Fishing Day

The fishing day began with hope and expectations. It would end quite differently, terminated much sooner than anticipated.

I was fishing The Susquehanna River on this chilly mid-November morning. No other boats were present; no other fishermen willing to tolerate the 35-degree air temperature. The forecast: light wind, partly sunny, and climbing thermometer held promise. I was confident a good fishing day would unfold.

The wind intensified, bringing with it a heavy ceiling of clouds. Leaves littered the river’s surface. Like magnets, they clung to the line on every cast. They also were sucked fast to the jet motor’s intake. Handling the wet leaves and retrieved fly line quickly numbed my fingers. The wind chill factor would be better described as the ‘wind freeze factor.’

My enthusiasm was further checked when the trolling motor battery died. No juice meant no boat control. Now the wind whipped the boat where it wanted. No longer could the river’s flow provide the desired drift. The upriver wind made control impossible. The boat changed position so quickly it became a chore just to complete a cast. This was the final nail in the fishing day’s coffin. I was back at the boat launch before noon.

Many factors that dictate a day of fishing are out of the angler’s control. Weather and water conditions have to be accepted as delivered. So too, are the fishes’ attitudes on any given day. These components can be frustrating enough, but when the blame for one of the factors contributing to a poor outcome falls squarely on the angler’s shoulders, the disappointing situation is compounded. This was the case that November day. I had neglected the trolling motor battery.

My first visit after getting the boat home and stored was to Hurwitz Batteries in South Williamsport. I have dealt with the McWilliams for years, both for car and marine batteries. A test of the battery proved it was ready for the battery graveyard. In a short question and answer session with owner Brian Mc Williams I became better educated, discharged some myths, and came away prepared to get more life out of marine (deep cycle) batteries.

There are several types of deep cycle batteries available. The flooded cell is the most common, but the AGM (absorbed glass matt) and gel-filled styles are still growing in popularity. These so-called high tech batteries weigh more, but discharge is much slower, charge is much faster, and generally they last much longer. These batteries cost nearly double compared to a flooded cell type. The gel-filled batteries are not suitable for engine cranking, should an emergency arise.

What size battery do I need? Brian McWilliams said, “One important feature to remember with deep-cycle batteries is that the higher the cold-cranking amps, the lower the minutes of service. It really depends on the size of the boat, the current of the water being fished, the strength of the wind, and all the other electronics drawing off the battery.”

How long will a battery last? McWilliams said, “Reducing the time a battery remains in an uncharged state will increase its longevity. A battery should be charged immediately at the end of each fishing day.” McWilliams told me that an average fisherman could expect a deep cycle battery to last two to five years, or 200 complete cycles. That is, if it is properly cared for.

What is the best way to charge a deep cycle battery? The best chargers have a three-stage feature that brings the battery up to charge and maintains it. With flooded-cell batteries it is important not to charge with too many amps, too quickly. McWilliams recommended using 6 to 10 amps for a 24-hour period. “That should fully charge a battery,” he said.

Putting a battery up for the winter is important. First, make sure the battery is fully charged. In this state the battery cannot freeze. A cracked battery can leak acid and damage not only the battery but also the storage area. Disconnect the ground (negative), or better yet remove the battery from the boat. Clean all corrosion on the terminals with a mixture of baking soda and water or a professional cleaner. Store the battery in a cool dry place. Storing the battery on a cement floor is okay. If the battery needs electrolyte (water) added, use distilled water. Some tap water has too high of concentration of chlorine. The lime content will neutralize the acid in the battery. Cover the plates first, bring to a full charge, then top off with water.

For all your battery needs pay a visit to Hurwitz Batteries, 326 Hill St., South Williamsport, 570-323-7947. They are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and sell Deka batteries that are made right here in Pennsylvania.

Mike O'Brien

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