Having a cooler than not only looks cool, but stays cool, is an important piece of gear for many different outdoor activities.
When your fishing keeps you out on the water all day on a hot day or even for multi-day trips, having a quality cooler is important for storing food and maybe even bringing home pounds of fish for fillets.
Comparison of the Best Fishing Coolers and Bags
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What is a Fishing Cooler?
While any insulated cooler can technically be used for fishing, there are now products on the market catered specifically towards anglers and hunters. Generally speaking, most outdoor enthusiasts use coolers that fall into one of two categories. Traditional chests and insulated bags; both of which serve anglers well and are versatile enough for other types of activities.
Insulated Chest Coolers
Insulated Chest are the traditional go-to cooler for any activity, particularly fishing. They come in a variety of sizes and can accommodate large amounts of stuff. They serve a dual purpose as a great sturdy sitting surface (a nice addition on some boats). However, most are big, bulky, and take up a lot of room in and out of use. I use ithem for both food/drink and storing fish.
However, if you are storing uncleaned fish, it is often better to have a dedicated fish cooler so you don’t have to scrub out that fishy smell all the time. Better yet, consider a fish bag to compliment your food cooler.
Insulated Fish Cooler Bags
Insulated Fish Cooler Bags are a much more portable and packing-friendly option for casual anglers. It can do nearly as good of a job, if not better, at keeping its contents cold than a chest cooler. They are generally flat in profile and as such, are great at holding whole fish. The flat profile doesn’t quite allow them to free-stand and thus, using it as a food cooler isn’t as ideal. However, they can still be a dual purpose option and are very packable in use and are easy to store when not in use.
Key Features of Our Favorite Fishing Coolers
Selecting a cooler for fishing can very much come down to a set of personal preferences. Taking into consideration many different variables such as size, features, rod holders, extra storage, wheels, etc, it is easy to get lost in the spectrum of choices. While most of the choices come from these sorts of “personal preferences”, there are a few things to take into consideration.
Insulation is perhaps the biggest consideration and directly relates to ice/cold retention ability. If you need a cooler for multi-day excursions, consider getting something with over an inch of insulation. However, for quick day trips, you can get away with a lighter weight and more compact option with less than one-inch thick insulation.
Drain Plug is another feature to consider. Decide whether you need one or not. Generally, smaller models don’t have a drain plug and larger ones do.
Size and Portability
Size and Portability are other big factors. What size you choose depends on your needs. If weekend camping excursions with the family are common, try looking at a 50 or 65-liter at a bare minimum.
If day trips are more your style, you will likely benefit more from a size of 50-liters or less.
Review of the Best Fishing Coolers
Now we are going to switch gears and take a look at the models on our list.
Let's start with the best insulated cooler bags, then dive into the the best fishing coolers of the year.
Best Overall Bag:
Silver Horde KatchKooler Deluxe
What Recent Buyers Report
The buyer response for this KatchKooler is very positive. Most of them have been using it to carry larger fish like salmon and keep their catch fresh for long hours. The build quality has been reported to be good for both the bag and the straps. The bag is foldable so its huge size isn't too big of an issue unless loaded down with fish.
Why it Stands Out to Us
The first impressive feature of this cooler is its flexible and lightweight design. It’s not like those bulky boxes that require large amounts of space since you can fold it when not in use. The zippers are very sturdy and ensure the catch stays fresh. The seams have been stitched firmly to ensure it doesn’t tear when weighted down.
The closed-cell foam design offers insulation and keeps ice intact for about a day. Plus, the size is big enough to store large fishes like salmon. It also keeps your catches from absorbing other odors that taint the flavor of your fish.
This is a flexible, easy to carry, and lightweight cooler that can be folded down and kept in your backpack. Cleaning it is a breeze as it only requires a quick rinse and then let dry. It has an insulated design to keep your catch fresh and is durable enough to last multiple fishing seasons.
CANYON Insulated Fish Cooler Bags
Canyon Brand coolers have made a reputable name for themselves in recent years. This company is a made in America company based out of Flagstaff, AZ; the hub of all Grand Canyon River activity. Canyon developed their brand for river trips through the Grand Canyon desert. As such, they became well-versed in properly insulated coolers that are highly functional and packable.
In addition to the hard-sided models that gave Canyon Cooler their reputation, they produce several other insulated cooler-type products. One of which is a fish cooler bag meant for anglers to easily store whole, dead fish in for quick preservation on ice.
This fish bag is well-insulated with one-inch of foam and features a reflective white, heavy duty, fiber-laced outer fabric that remains waterproof, keeping your boat clean and your inner contents safe. Heat-sealed seams mean no stitching to soak up blood, grime, and odors. Additionally, it has two sewn-on 2” webbing handles to make transport and carrying simple.
One of the best features is the wide range of availability in size. This bag comes in nearly a dozen different sizes that hold anything from small trout and bait to large swordfish up to eight feet in length. Canyon Cooler designed a bag specifically with storing whole fish of all types in mind.
Canyon Cooler, an American-based company, has developed a reputation for building insulated coolers built to take a beating and keep stuff cool in some of the harshest environments out there. If you are looking for a fish cooler bag, particularly a very specific size, this comes highly recommended and is a safe bet with a lifetime warranty.
Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Portable Cooler
A simple, no fuss, no fancy, working-class cooler. Despite the Coleman Coastal Extreme series looking like any other you can pick up at Walmart, it features higher building standards, making it more suitable for rugged outdoor use. It doesn’t look too fancy though. This is what helps keep it at a nice budget price. It’s a simple molded plastic cooler like most people are used to and it gets the job done.
This large 120-quart capacity cooler is an excellent for multi-day camping or a big boat. With it being this size, you will have plenty of room for food and drinks to coexist with whole or filleted out fish in there as well. Coleman claims this is able to retain ice for up to six days at 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Being a Marine-rated cooler, it features corrosion-resistant and heavy-duty hardware to stand up to years of abuse. Being so large, you will appreciate the integrated drain plug.
This serves an excellent role as a large chest cooler for weekend or boat getaway that is still affordable. You don’t have to spend big money on a big name brand cooler. Conversely, buying a cheap option at your local store is not a good long-term investment. This Coleman cooler fills the middle ground with a well-built yet affordable chest cooler.
Best for the Money Bag:
Reliable Fishing Products Kill Bag
This plus-sized fish bag is great to have on your boat and is able to fit pounds and pounds of whole fish in it. The heavy-duty, marine-grade vinyl is waterproof, mildew-resistant, UV-resistant, and easily washable. The insulation comes from flexible closed cell ½” foam, protected by durable vinyl inside and out.
Unlike other dedicated fish bags which are flatter in design, this cooler bag features a gusseted bottom, allowing it to free-stand. This, in my opinion, also makes it a good candidate for a food/drink cooler. The overall size is approximately three feet by one foot at the base. The top opening is larger to making loading and unloading your catch easier.
For a high capacity fish bag that conveniently free-stands in the bottom of your boat, here is your answer. With a flat bottom, wide mouth, and durable design; it is a great addition to your boat if you plan on taking fish home.
Best for the Money Cooler:
YETI Tundra 65 Cooler
From the name that started the recent cooler fad, YETI is now a product synonymous with insulated coolers of all types. However, one of the designs that started it all, the classic Tundra 65, is one that can now be found in the backs of vehicles nationwide.
The attractive Rotomolded construction is not only what gives it the iconic attractive look, but it is a serious coat of armor that is virtually indestructible. The Tundra line also hosts the T-Rex Lid Latches made of heavy-duty, yet flexible rubber to ensure a quick and tight seal of your lid and don’t have to worry about breaking it.
It is tough to name all the great features of the Yeti Tundra line but here are a few. An Interlocking lid system keeps it airtight and cool. Tie down slots allow you to secure it to a boat, truck, or raft while still being able to open and close it. It also has lip grip handles along with rope handles which allow for different carrying configurations. These are just a few of the features that make the YETI Tundra a great choice.
Whether you are loading food for a week-long excursion, stacking up walleye in your boat, or cooling food and drinks for a weekend BBQ, the YETI Tundra 65 is sure to impress. There is a reason it is one of the most popular coolers out there right now.
How to Clean and Care For a Fishing Cooler
For normal cooler use, a quick rinse before and after is good general maintenance. Most are designed with slick and resistant plastic on the inside to aid in cleaning.
If you are using your cooler for whole dead fish or it had something spoil inside of it, a little deeper cleaning might be in order. Any sort of disinfectant and/or degreaser is a simple way of cleaning it. Give it a good scrub down and final rinse and you should be good to go. Baking soda also helps to absorb any unwanted odor.
Now it is time for you to make the decision on whether you need a fish bag or a chest cooler to add to your gear arsenal. While fish bags are an excellent tool to have for storing fish, they don’t serve many other purposes. A hard chest cooler can be the best of both worlds but is generally bulky and heavy. The one you end up with will hinge on your own preferences and needs. Armed with a little knowledge, the decision should be easy.