While the return to more normal local fishing conditions has been much quicker than anticipated, many area anglers are just now discovering that the drought took its toll on not only the landscape, but their equipment as well.

On a leisurely ride through north Newton county last week I was surprised to find not only most of the road side ditches water leveled, but acres of low lying woods still flooded as well. Over the past few days it has continued to rain with even more to come for the remainder of the week so salinity levels will continue their decline.

One of the unappreciated benefits of launching on the Sabine or Neches River is that your day of saltwater fishing is normally preceded and concluded with salt purging runs through slightly brackish water at the worst. The drought negated that benefit this year, however, and neglected boats, trailers, and fishing tackle have paid the price.

I initially noticed the unprecedented effects of the sky high salinity levels in the river when washing down my rods and reels every evening. It had always been little more than a good habit until I started discovering a few crystals of salt on reel seats and level winds the following day. While I usually break my reels completely down for cleaning every two months, I stepped it up to every two weeks and I was still finding salty residue each time.

Even if you made only a few trips this fall or summer I would recommend going through your tackle as soon as possible. Check the frames on your rod eyes and the reel seat for corrosion. If the locking collar does not unscrew easily….do not force it as it will crack wide open. Spray it with WD-40 or a mild solvent and it will usually loosen up.

If you don’t feel comfortable taking your reels completely down take them to someone that does. I think R-1 Bass in Beaumont does a good job and they have most replacement parts in stock. Even if you plan on taking them in, you still need to remove the old line and clean the exposed surfaces. Quality reels cost far too much today to simply discard them and buy a couple of new ones!

I was in Texas Marine picking up another trim tab anode for my Yamaha Monday when Dennis Hebert walked through the parts department. For more years than he would care to admit, Dennis has been dissecting and rebuilding outboard engines. You are at the top of the class when you can walk a novice through a problem over the phone and you can’t even see the engine in question. He has no intention of providing that service on a regular basis, but he has saved my grits more than once while I was still on the water!

He was quick to point out just a few of the problems that he has seen this year that were directly attributed to saltier water.“Most people around here just aren’t use to it and it is biting them in the butt,” he stated.“They all know about the horrors associated with ethanol and they are doing a better job using a gas additive, but they have overlooked the salt problem.”

Having to change a trim tab anode twice in the same year was an easily noticed problem.“Any exposed fittings, cowling latches that haven’t been exercised, jack plate motors, battery terminals and exposed electrical connections are the first items to go,” he added.“A lot of fishermen are going to turn that key once they get back on the water and hear nothing but the dreaded click or find that they can’t turn their steering wheel!”

Because I seldom keep a boat longer than 12 to 18 months, I don’t often see the effects associated with normal wear and tear or weather related problems, but this year has been different. Staying on top of corrosion in running light connections, electronic plugs and panel switches has been a daily battle.

Even the trailer has taken hits I have never had to deal with before. I spray everything from the leaf springs to wheel hubs down with Corrosion X the first time I launch a new boat and it really helps, but I have had to be even more diligent this year. I have already had to replace rusted courtesy lights and a winch strap hook.

Johnny Cormier suggested that I remove the lug nuts off every wheel and properly lubricate them last summer and it proved to be a valuable suggestion. Some of them were all but impossible to break loose and a flat tire would have been a nightmare on the side of the highway!

Right now is the time to take care of any and all of those problems before they ruin your next outing or lead to more expensive problems. I have found that the service lines are much longer when you wait until the last minute to address a problem. The bottom line is that our salinity levels are now closer to normal, but your equipment may not be.

At this point I don’t know if the weather is going to be conducive to making the 17th annual Trash Off re-scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18 happen, but it is still on for right now. For more information you can call the Shangri La Botanical Gardens.