There’s nothing worse than taking your pontoon boat out of storage after the winter, pulling the cover off, and seeing that critters including rodents, racoons, squirrels, birds, mice and rats have got into the boat and had their own party. 

Not only will they leave droppings, but they can also build nests and even chew up and destroy the carpet, vinyl seating, and any upholstery. You can see an example below where a guy’s pontoon boat was destroyed by mice.

pontoon critters and pest prevention

This is what could happen to your pontoon boat over winter if mice, pests, and critters manage to get inside. (Image credit unknown, found when shared on Facebook.)

Rats, mice, and racoons will love the warmth and darkness that a covered pontoon boat offers, whilst I have even heard of birds getting as they are attracted to certain types of sunscreen and tanning lotions.

How to Keep Mice Out of Your Pontoon in the Winter

The key here, for not just mice, but also rats, racoons, and other pests, is to create a scent barrier that will stop them from finding somewhere comfortable to nest for the winter – which in most cases ill be the seating, storage, and upholstery which they will chew to pieces.

What you will need to do is prepare your pontoon for this threat is by adding some form of pest deterrent and control.

Step 1: Moth Balls for Pontoon Pest Prevention & Removal

The most effective way to do this is to salt your pontoon’s decks, seats, and storage lockers with moth balls. Moth balls have a pungent odor that critters and pests hate, hopefully deterring them from getting in. You buy them online at Amazon.

I place around 4 to 5 boxes during my winterisation process, all around the boat. I drop them into the seats, compartments, literally everywhere, and plenty one the floor too. Your boat will smell a little pungent when you next take the cover off, but with a few drives out the smell should disappear.

However, there is also a specialist pest deterrent product on the market, that will work (and smell) even better. It’s called Eco Defense mice repellent (view on Amazon) and helps to naturally eliminate mice for good.

It smells great too, certainly far better than your standard moth balls do.

But that’s only half the battle plan.

Step 2: Use Laundry Dryer Sheets

You will get even better results by combining the moth balls with scented laundry fabric softener sheets (also known as dryer sheets).

Place them into the bottom of your lockers, storage areas, and under the seats. You don’t need hundreds of sheets, just place one every couple of feet on the deck.

By doing so you should then have a possum, racoon, mice, rats, and squirrel free pontoon boat that will look just like you left it once you remove the cover after winter. It will also smell a lot better as well and won’t have that musty odor that some boats get after being stored.

Step 3: Secure Your Boat Cover Tightly

Finally, make sure that your pontoon boat has a really good cover on it. I have reviewed 5 of the best covers here. When you pull your cover on, make it as taut and tight as possible, looking to eliminate as many gaps and cracks as you possibly can.

You will never get your pontoon boat secured completely from critters and pests like Fort Knox would be, but the steps above should prevent pests, rats, and mice from getting into the boat and chewing the seats, carpet, and electrical fittings including wires and cabling.

Step 4: Place Solar Light Rope at the Base of your Trailer Wheels

Rats and mice don’t like bright lights so one very effective way to discourage them climbing up into your boat is to use those rope lights that people use in gardens.

Wrap them around the base of your trailer wheels and leave them switched on at night, and you will hopefully be rodent-free next time you take your boat cover off.

Step 5: Stopping Rats Climbing Up Mooring Lines When Docked

You might have your boat on the water, and still get rats and mice coming on board. They are very clever, and can climb up mooring lines, or even drop down on the moored boat from overhead utility lines.

The best and easiest product to completely discourage and stop rats getting into your boat is a very simple device called the Rat Guard (view Amazon prices). It’s a circular gadget that can be placed onto already deployed mooring lines, and creates barrier that even large water rats cannot get past.

Easy to clip on, and simple to use, if there is any risk of rats getting on board your boat, get some of these to prevent in happening in the first place. It will save you thousands of dollars in the long run, as rats will destroy anything you have on board.

How to Discourage Critters in the First Place

If you can make sure that you clean your boat thoroughly before you store it away for the winter, then you half way there to protecting it from winter mice invasions.

That includes making sure that there is no food debris left on the boat. Check for things like chips crushed into the carpet and vinyl and clean up the deck space including corners as well as you can.

Handy Hint: For more tips on how to winterize a pontoon boat, click here.

Definitely never, ever, store any food on the pontoon boat when it’s in storage. This is the biggest mistake that can lead to pest invasions when the boat is covered up for months on end.

Don’t leave anything like blankets, clothes, or bags on-board. These make for excellent nesting material for rats and mice, and they will soon chew through them and make themselves a warm home for the winter.

If your pontoon boat is stored in a garage or lock-up, it will also be worth setting up deterrents in the floor spaces and entrances. Whilst you might think your garage is critter-proof, they always tend to find a way to get in.

Depending on your ethical point of view, you could lay down poison specifically designed to get rid of rats and mice or opt for something friendlier that won’t kill the pests.

Use an Ultrasonic Pest Repellant Plugin Device

A more humane solution that will also mean you don’t have to release captured rodents once trapped, or clear up blood and guts depending on your trap type, would be an ultrasonic rodent repellent.

This can be plugged into an electrical socket in your garage or storage area and works due to the ultrasonic waves that it emits. Rats, mice, and other rodents hate this type of sound (which is inaudible to humans by the way) and won’t want to enter near your storage area… meaning you prevent them from getting anywhere near your pontoon boat.

I have used the Gizmomate Triple Action rodent repellent plugin device, and it’s worked a dream. You can check it out on Amazon and read some of the excellent reviews by clicking that link to see for yourself.

Alternative Pest Control Solutions

I also asked some pontoon boat owners I know if they have any other solutions for stopping mice and pests getting into their boat and nesting during the winter months. Below is a selection of their answers, some a little funny, but mostly very useful!

“We’ve been using moth balls for 25 years and have never had any problems. We place moth balls on several plates in and around the inside of the boat, with some dryer sheets. It works for us very well.”

“We bought spearmint packets that are mouse deterrents. We have had very good result, mice seem to hate mint.”

“I pulled the cover off one season and say some small black and brown droppings which looked like they had been left by rats or squirrels to me. I now set rat traps out. It makes a bit of a mess, but I get them before they can do too much damage.”

“Why not just keep your boat in the water! Or install a pontoon boat cat, the more feral the better if you ask me!”

“I think they detect the smell of suntan lotion as some tanning products have the odor of coconut. I think critters think that it’s a tasty snack. We wipe our seats down with 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water before storage. The only damage we have ever had since doing that was a life jacket that we forgot to remove once which I think adds credibility to my suntan lotion theory.”

Make Sure Your Insurance Policy Covers Pest Damage

I have previously written at length about how much insurance costs for pontoon boats. If you don’t have insurance with adequate cover, then make sure you get that now.

Many insurance companies will have caveats regarding pest damage, so make sure you ask this question when you take out a new policy or renew your existing one. The better pontoon insurance companies will have this type of damage covered as standard but it’s definitely something you should check.

Handy Hint: Click here to find out how I cured a cockroach infestation on my pontoon boat.

For example, I know a pontoon owner who had a Progressive Insurance policy on their boat who had the seats chewed and torn up by critters. Progressive said that they would not pay out on the damage because there wasn’t a fitted cover on the boat when the damage occurred.

His pontoon has an aftermarket upper deck retrospectivity fitted so the original cover no longer fitted properly. The insurance agent referred him to the paperwork and contract where the fitted cover was required in order to be eligible for such damage claims. A huge lesson was learned here. Don’t fall into the same trap.