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Quick Tip: How to Clean Your Livewell

A clean livewell means healthier fish and happier anglers

How-To Gear & Tech

If your livewell could talk, it would probably wearily ask for a little attention.

Fish, mud, vegetation, scales, dirty water and heat all combine to create an environment that’s ideal for mold, mildew and smells that you’d rather not be sitting or standing next to on your day on the water. What’s more, when left unchecked these unavoidable byproducts of fishing can clog your recirculating pump and drain lines, and potentially leave your livewell inoperable at the least convenient time.

No need to fret. In this Mercury Quick Tip video, we’ll show you how to get your livewell sparkling clean and ready for your next trip. It only takes an hour or so, and your livewell pump will do a lot of the work for you. To properly clean one livewell, all you need is:

  • 0.5-1 gallon distilled white vinegar
  • 32-ounce bottle of hydrogen peroxide
  • Scrub brush
  • Handheld vacuum or shop vacuum with hose
  • Water hose

Note: If your livewell is particularly dirty you might be tempted to use bleach or other harsh chemicals to clean it, but don’t do it. It will be very difficult to get all traces of such aggressive cleaning products out of your livewell when you’re finished, and what remains could cause additional stress or harm to your fish. It’s simply not worth the risk as this is the exact opposite of what you want from your livewell.

Once you’ve gathered your materials (the vinegar and peroxide can be picked up at your local grocery store or pharmacy for around $10), you’re ready to start cleaning. Here are the steps:

  1. Remove any screens and drop them into the livewell.
  2. Vacuum out any loose dirt and debris.
  3. Start filling the livewell with clean water, inserting the plug to keep the water from draining. Fill the livewell at least three-quarters full.
  4. Pour all of the the vinegar and peroxide into the livewell. Then turn on the recirculating pump to thoroughly mix the water and cleaning agents.
  5. Use the brush to scrub all parts and surfaces of the livewell, including the screens and the well side of the drain plug.
  6. Let the recirculating pump run for at least 30 minutes. Then turn it off and drain the livewell.
  7. Reinsert the livewell drain plug and refill the well at least three-quarters full with clean water.
  8. Turn on the recirculating pump on once again and let it run for at least another 30 minutes.
  9. Turn off the pump and pull the plug to drain the livewell. Replace the screens and any other loose parts. If you’re not going to use the livewell again right away, consider towel-drying the inside of the livewell for even greater protection against creeping mold, mildew and foul smells.

Doing this once or twice a year, coupled with a quick washdown and recirculating a well full of clean water for a few minutes after each use, should keep your livewell clean, odor free and working properly throughout the boating season. The same general procedure and schedule will also work for fish boxes (substituting vigorous rinsing for the recirculation steps) and baitwells in boats so equipped.

For more detailed information about the workings of your particular livewell, and for troubleshooting livewell issues, consult your boat’s owner’s manual.

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Quick Tip: How to Clean Your Livewell
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