Boats: Blowing out gas fumes is a must; having a fire extinguisher is a must-have

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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The sky has cleared. We’ve had some breezy days, but those, too, have decreased.

The honey-do list grows, the garden gets planted, the lawn mowed, and people are eager to get their boats on the water — sometimes, a bit too eager.

There would be nothing more devastating than to be happily boating when somebody on board notices smoke. With a quick glance, it’s, “Nope, the barbecue isn’t going and nobody has a cheap cee-gar burning. My God, it must be the boat.”

Other than scrambling to find the life preservers, what kind of extinguisher you have on board could mean the difference between putting out a fire and losing the craft.

Every year, a few boats throughout the state burn down to the waterline, leaving the once-proud owner staring at charred remains.

Most boaters with an inboard or I-O unit know you need to turn on the blowers for a few minutes to inhale and blow out any built-up gas fumes in the engine compartment before turning the key to the “start” position.

Gas, being heavier than air, will sink to the lowest area. That’s not a problem with cars and trucks; not so with your boat. The blower will suck out residual fumes, whether you last used the boat six weeks ago or an hour ago.

If the fumes aren’t blown out and because an electrical spark starts any gas-powered engine, if there happens to be a crack in any wiring, the boat at the least could catch fire and at the most go boom.

For many years, halon extinguishers were recognized as the best choice for protecting watercraft. Halon was a clean, gaseous agent that quickly put out fires without collateral damage.

Unfortunately, halon was found to have an adverse impact on the environment due to its potential to deplete the ozone. Production was halted nearly 20 years ago.

While many boats are equipped with extinguishers, few people pay attention to them. They need to be checked every year. Buying a new extinguisher every couple of years is cheap insurance.

Smaller boats with outboard motors aren’t immune to fires, either. Should that six-gallon remote tank catch fire, you’re going to get wet jumping over the side of the boat.

With the right extinguishing system, you can put out a fire and more than likely keep yourself dry. There are a variety of sizes.

It’s better to have that measure of cheap insurance today than to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Just remember, it doesn’t always happen to the other person. Sometimes, you are the other person.

Current fishing

Ocean: Action has picked up in the Fort Bragg region — a solid one-fish-per-person average with a limit here and there and the average Chinook hitting 14 pounds. Bigger fish — to 16 and 17 pounds — are being netted in the Bodega Bay region. The best part is that many boats were dropping lines soon after getting out of the jetty.

The S.F. Bay fleet is fishing for just about anything that swims — salmon outside the gate, halibut, stripers and sharks inside the bay. The salmon bite has been great with many limits. Halibut has yet to break loose, but a few nice butts are biting; same with stripers.

Another bit of good news: May 1 marked the opening of the anticipated rock cod fishery, and boats like the California Dawn will do combo trips for rock cod, stripers and halibut on the same day.

Folsom Lake: Getting away during the week is your best bet for decent bass fishing, as weekends find the lake heavily attended by water recreationists. Some of the best bass fishing is happening at Folsom. Bass are in the shallows and will snap at just about anything thrown and dragged in their direction. Concentrate on grassy bottoms and flooded brush and trees.

Shad: When shad move in, they come in by the thousands. Their nickname is “poor man’s tarpon” because of their shape, color and fight. They just don’t get anywhere near the size of a tarpon. Get a five-pounder, and you have a good-sized shad. Many people will fish for shad, but few will be kept, as they’re extremely bony. However, they’re great smoked, which softens bones to a useless state.

Go with light spinning gear with maybe six-pound test line. Use just enough weight to allow a deep drift on or near the bottom of the river. There are shad darts and flies, all of which are effective. I’ve had the best success with red-white colors.

You can cast into the deeper pools along the American River or anchor at the mouth and cast-retrieve and do well; or fish the big sandbar at the mouth of the Feather River and rip big numbers of shad.

Ice House Reservoir: The lake is in good shape water wise, and you can get into a decent rainbow bite hauling a crawler behind a dodger or small set of blades. Trout aren’t big, though — good pan size, up to 12 inches.

Stampede Reservoir: The road is open and the launch ramp useable, and the lake is just under the full level. The little landlocked salmon — kokanee — are biting. They’re growing and right now running maybe 12 inches. Head up into the Little Truckee River arm to drop kokanee rigs into the water. Go the opposite direction with the boat to fish for mackinaw. Haul a silver and black Rapala and drop it a good 30 feet off the downrigger. Mackinaw have been hitting six pounds.

Camp Far West: With the lake full, launching is a breeze. Dart-headed worms should get you well bit on bass while jigs and minnows are attracting a good crappie bite. There’s a lot of flooded structure around the lake to find crappie. Start with minnows, and if the bite turns blistering hot, switch to mini jigs. Nothing like a big stringer of slabsides for a great dinner.

Contact George deVilbiss at