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Best Fishing Coolers: How to Keep Your Fish from Spoiling

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One of the most important things you can carry on your fishing trip is a quality fishing cooler.

A fishing cooler is the best choice for keeping your fish fresh until you get home.

Top Fishing Coolers

Best Fishing Coolers
Coolers can last you a long time so it’s worth investing in a quality one. Source

Many of the best fishing coolers will keep fish fresh and chilled all day, even in hot weather.

Fish that are put on the ice and kept chilled will taste better than fish that are kept on a stringer or in a live well where they can die.

Keeping fish chilled can often make the cleaning and filleting process much easier when you get home.

In this article, I am going to cover several of the best fishing coolers. I will also cover how to care for and clean your fishing cooler, and much more!

What Is a Fishing Cooler?

A true fishing cooler is a cooler with rod holders. These are excellent coolers for the beach, surf, or land-based fishing such as off of piers, docks, or seawalls. This is where a good deal of walking and gear transport is often required. The wheels make transport is a breeze.

The more common fishing coolers are flip-top coolers that double as a drink and food cooler.

There are many different brands if these coolers on the market, such as Yeti, Coleman, Igloo, and Pelican just to name a few.

Fish on ice in a fishing cooler
It’s best to keep your fish on ice as soon as you catch it if you plan to keep it.

Obviously, the more insulation your cooler has, the colder it will stay. However, there are a few other things to keep in mind.

  • Does the lid close tightly? This can make up the majority of cool air escaping from the cooler.
  • Is your cooler cracked or busted? This can compromise the insulations ability to shield the cooler temperature inside.
  • Does your cooler have ice only or is it ice water? If there is water in the cooler with the ice, it can actually act to speed up the rate your ice melts. This, of course, will cause the cooler to “warm up”

Later in this article, I’ll cover tips to make sure your cooler stays as cold as possible.

What Are the Best Fishing Coolers?

With so many great coolers on the market today, it is hard to pick just one that tops them all.

Igloo coolers and Coleman coolers have been around for many years and produce some long lasting reliable coolers.

More recent companies such as Yeti coolers and Pelican coolers also offer durable and reliable coolers. These are coolers that rival, and some say perform better, than Igloo and Coleman.

Yeti Fishing Coolers
Yeti coolers are some of the best ones on the market. They’ve been beaten up and still perform! Source

When it comes to fishing coolers, these are coolers made specifically with fishermen in mind. They can come in the form of seats and with rod holders.

True fishing coolers also often are made on wheels for easy transport on and off boats. This is also great for traveling to boat docks, piers, and the beach.

Today’s coolers are built with durability and longevity in mind. They are tough and with proper care, last a very long time.

Ultimately the cooler that has the best rating and the options you need will be the best fishing cooler for you.

How Do Fishing Coolers Differ from One Another?

Fishing coolers are designed with options a fisherman might need. Standard coolers will typically only have handles, a drain spout, and some models grace you with a few cup holders in the lid for your drinks.

The fishing coolers, however, have:

  • Rod holders
  • Seats that double as the lid
  • Wheels

These features allow the fisherman to easily transport the cooler while allowing it to help transport the rods. And in the case of pier fishing, it can be used as a seat.

They come in varying sizes from small to 150 quarts. Cases like the Grizzly 400 has a whopping 400 quart capacity with 2 inches of insulation.

How to Care for Your Fishing Cooler

You never want to store your cooler with the lid closed while still damp inside.

This is the perfect breeding ground for mildew.

Always wipe dry or sundry completely before storing. If your fishing coolers require more cleaning than a rinse, a mild soap should do the trick.

Yeti cooler used while kayaking
If you beat up your cooler, just be sure to take care of it when you get home. Simple cleaning prevents later disasters like mold. Source

You can use a soft brush, ideally, a dish sponge to scrub it. Just be sure to give it a thorough rinse after.

Pay special attention to the drain. Make sure it gets rinsed and dried well. Some people leave the drain open, but this can be the perfect home for spiders and dirt daubers.

If you store your fishing cooler over a long period of time, it is a good idea to open it up and let it air out occasionally.

How to Make Sure Your Fishing Cooler Stays Cool for Days

When the days get hot but the fishing is good, you want to make sure your fishing cooler is performing at its absolute best.

Here are a few tips to make sure your fishing cooler stays as cold as possible for days:

  • Chill the cooler before packing. A cold cooler keeps ice longer.
  • Freeze your food and drinks.
  • Use ice blocks instead of ice cubes.
  • Drain water on long trips but not on short ones.
  • Pack in layers.
  • Don’t trust food packaging.
  • Add an extra layer of insulation.
  • Keep it latched and closed.

Best Fishing Coolers Reviews

Best Igloo Marine Cooler

Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler

Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler (White, 128-Quart)
  • BONUS - Cutting board & food tray included
  • Stain- and odor-resistant liner
  • Threaded drain plug for hose hook up

Built to withstand the harsh, wet environments of life. Indestructible rust-resistant stainless-steel screws, lid strap, and hinged latch.

Ultratherm insulation in body and lid keeps ice frozen up to 5 days. UV protection shields from sun damage.

Threaded drain plug lets you hook up a hose for ultimate easy-to-drain performance. Also includes Four self-draining cup holders and lockable lid or tie-down loops.

The igloo marine ultra cooler has all the features of comparable coolers but at a much lower, more affordable price.

Pros:

  • Affordable with many same features as other coolers.
  • Maneuvers well on most all terrain.
  • Telescopic Handle makes it easy to carry along behind you at the proper height.
  • Has built-in cup holders with drains.

Cons:

  • White color can make keeping it clean very difficult.

Best Marine Cooler

Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Portable Cooler

Sale
Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Portable Cooler, 100 Quart
  • Large portable cooler ideal for boating and...
  • 100-quart capacity holds up to 130 cans
  • Insulated lid and walls provide 5 full days of ice...

Keep your food and drinks cold for the full length of your next boating excursion. With the Coleman 120-Quart Coastal Xtreme 6-Day Marine Cooler.

Specially designed for boating and fishing. This portable cooler combines a generous capacity with a rugged design. This design stands up to tough saltwater conditions.

Large enough to store up to 204 cans, the cooler offers plenty of room for beverages, food, and any catch you might haul on board. The insulated lid and walls offer up to 6 days of ice retention, helping ensure your catch stays fresh even during multi-day voyages.

Built to withstand years of rugged marine use. This heavy-duty cooler comes equipped with rust-resistant stainless steel hardware and UV guard sun protection. This resists yellowing and cracking. A threaded drain with an easy-to-clean valve allows you to empty excess water without tilting the cooler.

The smooth EZ-Clean lid easily wipes clean of grime and dirt, while the Have-A-Seat lid offers a comfortable place to sit and relax.

And thanks to its comfortable no-crush handle grips, this fishing cooler is easy to transport. Whether you are bringing whole meals on a boating trip or heading to your favorite fishing spot.

Pros:

  • Very durable lid.
  • Comfortable handle grips.
  • Holds ice up to 6 days.
  • Same performance as the more expensive brands.

Cons:

  • Not designed for one person to carry easily.

Best Fish Bag

Reliable Fishing Products Kill Bag

Sale
Reliable Fishing Products Kill Bag, 20 x 60
  • Heavy-duty marine grade vinyl
  • Washable, mildew, and UV resistant
  • High quality 1/2 inch close cell foam

This is a great alternative if carrying a larger cooler is not feasible for the trip you are going on.

Reliable fishing insulated fish bags are by far the very best on the market. They are made with the highest quality material and insulation. They have many great features, for example, the material is mildew and UV resistant. Also, they have a 12-inch gusseted bottom which allows them to stand on their own and hold more fish.

All of the bags come with a drain plug for easy cleanup and are completely collapsible for an easy stowaway. Why use bulky coolers or make your fish holds stink, there is no need for that with the reliable fishing insulated fish bag.

These bags hold more fish, alleviate smells, and are easy to clean and stow away. Because they have such high-quality insulation, they are able to hold ice for days.

This allows you to stay out longer knowing that your fish is fresh and safe. Reliable fishing products make 9 different sizes to accommodate all boats, no matter what the size. The sizes range from 18×36 to 30×90.

Pros:

  • Very easy to transport.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Hangs on the side of the boat for easy access.
  • Performs better than larger coolers in small boats.

Cons:

  • Does not have as much storage capacity as standard coolers.

Best Fishing Cooler

Igloo Trailmate Journey Cooler

Sale
Igloo Trailmate Journey Cooler, Charcoal/Acid Green/Chrome, 70 quart
  • Oversized never-flat wheels tackle Sand and other...
  • 70 quart capacity holds 112 cold ones and is...
  • Water-resistant storage keeps pocket-sized...

Best in class mobility and convenience. The Igloo Trailmate wheeled cooler has oversized10-inch never-flat wheels. These provide clearance and a smooth ride to help tackle the toughest terrain.

The ergonomic glide tow handle single button operation, triple point grab handle – reduces towing effort by 50%. Making your travel to the site easy and enjoyable. Bungee tie-down loops on top help you utilize the cooler to haul your towels, quad chairs, & more.

Once at your site you have accessory holders that add support to beach umbrellas or as fishing rod holders. You also have a media docking slot that props your electronic device so you can watch a movie, read an e-book, or listen to music hands-free while relaxing.

Oversized never-flat wheels tackle sand and other challenging terrains. With the superior traction and ground clearance of 10 inches.

Pros:

  • Maneuvers well for the size.
  • Can handle a large amount of equipment.
  • Has a large amount of inside storage.
  • Rolls well even in thick sand.

Cons:

  • Can have issues with the handle not extending properly.

Best Boat Cooler

Yeti Tundra 

YETI Tundra 65 Cooler, Charcoal
  • YETI RAMBLER BOTTLE GIFT WITH PURCHASE IS...
  • The YETI Tundra 65 is just as adept at keeping...
  • Will keep your ice... well ice thanks to up to 3...

Built to withstand the harsh, wet environments of life. Indestructible rust-resistant stainless-steel screws, lid strap, and hinged latch.

The insulation in body and lid keeps ice frozen for days. UV protection shields from sun damage.

Threaded drain plug lets you hook up a hose for ultimate easy-to-drain performance. Also includes self-draining cup holders and a lockable lid or tie-down loops.

This is one of my favorite coolers, to say the least.

Pros:

  • Quality is top-notch.
  • Easy to use latches to secure the lid.
  • Barefoot no-slip grip.
  • Easily anchor it to your boat.

Cons:

  • Most expensive.

Best Fishing Cooler with Rod Holders

Engle USA Cooler

Engel Cooler/Dry Box with 4 Rod Holders - 19 Qt - Tan
  • A cooler and a drybox with 4 rod holders. Its a...
  • Features a unique airtight EVA gasket around the...
  • Features a recessed central carry handle in the...

If you’re going to be taking out a few rods and reels with you for a day of fishing, it’s easier to carry them using your cooler than using your hands.

This cooler allows you can carry up to four rods at a time.

This is perfect for when you’re taking the kids fishing and you want to bring a cooler for food and drinks. Hopefully, you take to fill it with fresh fish for your supper!

Pros:

  • Four rod holders.
  • Keeps everything well insulated.

Cons:

  • No wheels.

Best Fishing Coolers Final Thoughts

Fishing coolers are an item that should be on every fisherman’s equipment list.

Whether you use it to bring your fish home or take your lunch to your favorite fishing place, a fishing cooler will pay for itself in the many ways you can use it.

Between the various brands, designs, and prices, it can be hard to choose just which one to add to your fishing gear.

Remember, coolers made today, like those made years ago, will usually last with proper care for years.

Although it may be an investment, it will pay for itself in the long run.


Best Fishing Coolers FAQ

Q: What is the best fishing cooler?

A: This really depends on the way you plan to use your fishing cooler. Usually, the higher insulation rating will provide the best temperature consistency.

Q: Why do you need a fishing cooler?

A: This can be to keep your fish cool and fresh, or to take your lunch and drinks along with you.

Q: How long does a fishing cooler stay cold?

A: On average, approximately 3 days. However, some models hold ice up to 7 days. To get the maximum cooling retention, make sure to “prime” your cooler as stated in the “how to make sure your fishing cooler stays cool for days section”

Q: How big does a fishing cooler need to be?

A: This depends on how you will be using it. Fishing coolers range in size from small, medium, large, and xlarge.

Q: What is the difference between a fishing bag and a fishing cooler?

A: A fishing bag can be hung on the side of the boat for easy access. They do stay cool for long periods of time. However not typically as long as a fishing cooler. A cooler offers more options such as a rod holder, seat, more capacity, and so on.

Q: What are fishing coolers made of?

A: High impact plastic with expandable foam insulation.

Q: How long can you keep fish in a cooler?

A: While it is always advisable to process your fish as soon as possible. Fish will remain fresh as long as there is visible ice in the cooler and they are cold to the touch.

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