TPWD conducts creel surveys on Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend year round. Creel surveys are one of the best monitoring tools we have by actually talking with the fishermen and seeing what they are catching. One of the questions we ask (one I don’t like asking) is how much was spent on the fishing trip. The average fishing cost per day is typically between $100.00 and $150.00. The biggest expense factor in a typical fishing day is gas, and it is beginning to get noticed on the lake at $4.00 a gallon. I want to continue seeing folks fish, as it is my job to see that they have a good place to go. I realize that in order for people to fish boats will be used and gas will be consumed.
Here are a few ways to conserve fuel and expense in the pursuit of fishing.
Boats – The best way to save fuel in a boat is to simply slow down a little and take all the stuff out of it you don’t plan on using or need in order to reduce weight. In the interest of keeping weight down, run your bilge on a regular basis throughout the day if it is not automatic, remember a gallon of water weighs a little over 8 lbs. Check your prop regularly for bent blades and dings that will cause your boat to run less efficiently, using more gas. Keep a clean hull to reduce friction while moving through the water. Also, if your boat has something unnecessary you never use below the water line creating drag, get rid of it. Maintain a good steering system – the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If there is a lot of slop in your steering and it has not yet driven you insane, now at the time of high gas prices is your justification to fix it. Plan your trip. Not only should you have done this for safety reasons, but thinking ahead will save money by launching out of the nearest ramp to where you want to fish to the best route of driving there. Look at it like this. An average 225 hp boat motor uses anywhere from 10-20 gallons of $4.00 gas per hour of run time, so it is easy to save a few gallons over the course of the day. That being said figure out how much fuel your motor does use. Running from public boat ramp cove to above the 147 bridge may not sound as good as trailering to Caney or Cassels Boykin.
Work the system - There are both state and federal taxes on gasoline. The federal tax is $0.185 and the Texas tax is $0.20 per gallon of gas. The point of the state fuel tax is to help provide money for highway construction and maintenance. However, you can get a refund for the money you paid on fuel taxes for off road use. You can claim this refund on all gas purchased for boats, 4-wheelers, chainsaws, lawn mowers, etc anytime throughout the year, just be sure to keep your receipts. You will need a “Texas Claim for Refund of Gasoline or Diesel Fuel Taxes” form available on the internet. Example- if you fish once a month and put about 20 gallons in your boat each time, then you are looking at $60.00 - take the wife out or buy some new tackle with it. It’s your money.
Getting there - Because it hurts filling up, we all need to get smarter on how we fill up our tanks and drive. Fill your tanks during the coolest hours of the day. The warmer it is outside the more the liquid in gas expands, so the cooler it is the more you get per gallon based on the volume. Don’t top off the tank just to have an amount ending in a number you like, when the pump shuts off your done. That “extra” $0.05 or $0.10 or whatever amount you are trying to squeeze into your tank may not be making it there because it is likely staying in the hose or it evaporates. A big no brainer is to maintain your vehicle and change filters and oil regularly for optimum engine efficiency. Avoid long warm-up times, even in cold weather - 30-45 seconds is plenty. Just like your boat, remove all the unnecessary weight out of the vehicle. As always drive smart - plan your trip and combine trips. Check those tires and keep the pressure where it needs to be. It is simple and saves gas.
Call it like it is - The dung heap is getting higher as more people become experts on saving gas. Do your homework. Dropping the tailgate on the truck does not help save gas or decrease wind resistance. Trucks are designed to be as streamlined as possible with the tailgate up. It is ok to drive with the air conditioner on. Turning it off or down is not going to save much fuel. The air compressor will use some power for the AC, but it is negligible, so enjoy the ride. Back flushing your oil will most likely not help with your fuel mileage. As long as you change your oil on a regular basis (every 3,000 - 5,000 miles) you will not need to back flush your oil. The half tank is bad for fuel efficiency conspiracy is a lie. Your gas gauge moves down faster as the tank becomes emptier because the tank is irregularly shaped; your fuel efficiency has not changed.
The number one way to save money while fishing is to take someone with you to share expenses. There are a lot of loners out there on the lake, so buddy up.
Dan Ashe is a fisheries biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He has worked out of the Jasper, Texas field office since 2005 helping to manage east Texas reservoirs including Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend. Dan has also worked as fisheries biologist in Puerto Rico, California, and Alaska but now calls Texas home.
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