There is nothing worse than parking the boat in the garage, only to realize a few days later that an unbearable stench is emitting from the livewell or aeration tank.
Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. Whether you forgot to flush it out, or left some stinky bait inside… in this article I’ll tell you the safest way to get that fish smell out of a Livewell.
How To Get Rid Of Fishy Livewell Smell Safely
The safest way to get fish smell out of a livewell is to use a non-toxic and natural deodorizer like White Vinegar. First, clean your livewell with fresh water and soap. After flushing out the system, plug your livewell drain and fill the internal hoses and pipes with white vinegar. Let this sit and soak for 1 hour, then flush again with fresh water.
A livewell is a great asset, (especially in bass boats for tournament anglers!) It can be used to hold live bait or to keep your catch alive and fresh.
If you don’t take care of your livewell however, the smell can become a real problem and actually harm the fish you put inside of it.
Fish have a distinct odor that can build up in a livewell over time. The fish smell comes from a chemical called trimethylamine oxide. The longer anything containing this compound stays in your livewell, the more it will oxidize and smell, so clean it every time!
Fortunately, several ingredients are very effective for cleaning out the smell and the things that cause it.
Why Use White Vinegar?
Vinegar is one of the best multipurpose cleaners out there.
It’s so effective because it contains high amounts of acetic acid which works to kill mold and bacteria and dissolve all kinds of dirt deposits. Many household cleaners that you buy are simply acetic acid solutions with coloring and scent added.
White Vinegar is the best kind to use for cleaning. Because it’s colorless, it won’t stain. It’s also completely biodegradable and inexpensive.
When you’re done, you can drain and rinse your livewell without worry. Vinegar rinses and dilutes easily and doesn’t damage the environment.
Vinegar is much easier to rinse out than bleach or other commercial cleansers, so you are less likely to leave a harmful residue in your livewell.
It’s also a lot cheaper!
Vinegar Mixes To Clean Livewell
Vinegar can also be combined with other common inexpensive cleaners to make it more powerful.
Vinegar combines well with baking soda. Both are mild, safe, biodegradable cleaners, that complement each other. After you add your vinegar to the water, just drop in a box or two of baking soda and let the aerators run!
Some people swear by hydrogen peroxide added to the tank at the same time as the vinegar. This combination converts the acetic acid in the vinegar to the much stronger peracetic acid.
This will definitely get some strong smells that vinegar alone might not.
You need to be very careful with this combination. Peracetic acid can be dangerous to your skin, eyes, and even to your throat and lungs if the fumes are inhaled.
Sunlight Never Hurts!
Sunlight is one of the best sterilizers that there is. When your livewell is cleaned and rinsed, open it up to the sun and let the ultraviolet rays, heat, and drying clear out anything you missed.
In fact, every time after I clean and flush out my boat…I open all of the hatches and compartments and let the sunshine do its work!
What Causes Boat Livewells To Stink So Bad?
The most common cause of foul odor from boat livewell units is decomposing fish, bait, or other natural materials stuck in the internal pipes and hoses. That is why it’s so important to thoroughly flush out your livewell systems with safe cleaners after each use.
Certain fish species, especially largemouth bass, catfish, trout and walleye are known to regurgitate what they have eaten when handled or placed inside a livewell.
Pretty gross eh? Well, sometimes that rotten shad or crusty crawfish can get sucked down into your livewell pumps, discharge lines, or hoses where it rots, and stinks.
And remember livewell pumps in water from outside the boat. This means wherever you are fishing, whether it’s a pristine lake or a muddy river…that is the water going into your livewell tank.
Most of the time this isn’t a problem, however, you never know what kind of water, or what kind of decomposing natural materials are mixed in.
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