8 Best Fishing Coolers: Reviewed For Keeping Fish Fresh

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Any angler knows that the best fish is fresh fish. If you plan to spend an entire day on the lake or rivers, though, you need to keep your catch fresh. This is where fishing coolers come in to play.

Having the right fishing cooler will ensure that you get home with the freshest possible fish, short of running straight home after every pull from the water. This article will cover the best fishing coolers, where we review and compare the various brands to find the perfect fit for you.

Preview

Product

Quart Capacity

Ice Retention

Check Price

YETI Tundra 45 Cooler, White

Yeti Tundra 45

37 quarts

Up to 5 days

Pelican Elite 35 Quart Cooler (OD Green)

Pelican Products Progear

35 quart

Up to 10 days

Reliable Fishing Products - 20' X 48'...

Reliable Fishing

Kill Bag

50 quarts (approx)

Up to 4 days

Coleman Steel-Belted Portable Cooler, 54...

Coleman Cooler

54 Quart

Up to 4 days

Igloo Super Tough STX-120 Cooler (EA)

Igloo Super Tough STX

120 quart

Up to 7 days

YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler,...

YETI Tundra Haul

37 quarts

Up to 5 days

AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler with...

AO Coolers

Original

8 quart

(approx)

24 hours

IceMule Pro Cooler- Matte Black, Large (23L)

IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack

24 quarts

24 hours


Why Every Angler Needs a Fish Cooler

Fishing coolers have a lot of benefits and advantages over the old way of keeping fish. You can leave the salt at home and make sure you have cold, fresh fish when you return.

  • Keeps fish cold and fresh for hours.
  • Your dinner is going in the cooler; you can keep your packed lunch in there, too.
  • Bring drinks, water, and refreshments to stay hydrated.
  • Store live bait longer.
  • Most coolers also make a great place to sit.

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing a Quality Fishing Cooler

When you are looking to buy a new fishing cooler, there are some factors you should consider before you pull out your wallet. Let’s take a look at those factors now.

Type of Cooler

The first thing you need to think about is what type of cooler you want to use. There are several types to choose from, with the most popular being a traditional ice chest. However, portable ice chests are also popular.

Portable chests may not be as large or durable enough to sit on for long periods, but they are easier to transport, especially at the end of a long day fishing.

You also have insulated fishing bags that can store fish and be placed on ice or on the shore until you are ready to go. The right option for you may depend on other factors below.

Cooler Capacity

The capacity is usually measured in gallons. This will determine the weight and carrying capacity of everything inside, including your ice. Don’t forget you should think about how many supplies you are bringing with you, such as canned drinks, lunch, and even bait. They will take up room on the way there, but maybe not the way back.

Most anglers plan to catch more fish than their license allows so they can choose from only the best. If this is more if a rarity for you, you may not need as large of a cooler as you think.

Level of Insulation

Insulation is a direct correspondent to how long the ice will last before melting. Obviously, the higher the insulation level, the longer and colder the chest will stay.

Other factors go into this, though, such as the ambient temperature, if the cooler is in the shade or direct sun, and even how often you go in and out of it to crack another cold one.

Size & Manageability

You want a cooler that is large enough to carry everything you need, plus your catch of the day. However, you also want it to be a manageable cooler in regards to weight and portability.

If the cooler is too heavy to move, you may find yourself having to drag it, which can ruin the cooler, compromise the insulation or even tip over and spill the contents. None of these are a great way to start or end your fishing trip. Make sure you can easily handle your cooler.

Durability & Construction

The cooler, aside from the rod and reel, will get the most use while you are out fishing. It needs to be durable enough to withstand the heat of the day, the weather and elements, and be rugged enough to stand up to your consistent use and abuse.

Damage Resistance

Coolers have come a long way since the 1990s. Now coolers have UV coatings to protect their shell from sunlight, and they have durable liners to prevent ice from melting as fast.

Most options will also have corrosion resistance so you can use them in or near saltwater. All of these things are great but will add to the price. Make sure you only pay for what you need.

Draining Convenience

One of the menial tasks with fishing coolers is the cleaning. Once you get home, the last thing you really want to do is manage and handle your equipment. To make this easier, look for a cooler with an extensive, convenient draining system.

The faster the water can drain, the quicker you can get your waders off and enjoy your meal.

Price & Warranty

Finally, the overall price is going to be a factor. Staying within your budget is relatively easy, but you may not always get all of the features you want. Know what to look for; when a deal is too good to pass up and when you are being taken for a ride.

If the cooler does come with a warranty, make sure you know what that warranty covers, for how long, and the process for making a claim.


8 Best Fishing Coolers Reviewed

Here we show you the 8 best fishing coolers, reviewed and compared to help you make that final decision. Scroll through the list and find your next perfect fishing cooler here.

1. Yeti Tundra 45

Our Top Pick

Quart Capacity

37 quarts

Dimensions

25.5 x 16 X 15.5 inches

Ice Retention

Up to 5 days

Material

Rotomolded Plastic

Insulation

3-inches PermaFrost

If you are looking for the best Yeti cooler for fishing, you just found it. Our top pick is the Tundra 45. With a 37 quart capacity, you will be able to keep ice for up to 5 days, and all of your fish, drinks, and lunches cool while you are out on the water.

This cooler is designed for camping, with a “bear-proof” design, T-rex handle locks, and easy carry rope handles. Yeti is known as one of the top cooler manufacturers in the world, and this cooler is just one of many designs that help them reach this designation.

This cooler features the Yeti patented Rotomolded plastic shell with extra-thick walls that contain their Perma-Frost insulation. Ice stays for days, fish remain cold, and you can continue fishing without the worry of spoiling your catch.

This cooler weighs 23 pounds empty, so it can get heavy when packed full of cans and fish. It does not have wheels, so you need to keep an eye on the overall weight and lift accordingly. However, the design and construction are solid, and this thing could probably survive being run over by a truck. Twice. If you need to drag it to get your haul to the truck, this cooler will stand up to that abuse.

It also comes in 8 color options, so you can find the right one for you while maintaining your boat fashion sense.

The 5-year warranty covers the cooler, latches, handles, and insulation. Should you ever have a problem with the cooler in those 5 years, a simple call to Yeti customer service will have you fixed right up. The Yeti price tag is present here, as with most of their coolers, but you truly get what you pay for with this model.

Pros
  • Easy to fill and store
  • Cleaning takes minutes
  • Light enough to transport in most cases
  • Warranty period is great
Cons
  • No wheels
  • Pretty expensive for the size

2. Pelican Products Progear

Best Kayak Fishing Cooler

Quart Capacity

35 quart

Dimensions

27 x 20 x 21 inches

Ice Retention

Up to 10 days

Material

Polyurethane

Insulation

2-inches polyurethane

The Pelican Progear is easily the best kayak fishing cooler on the market. Not only is it rugged and durable, but the overall construction helps it stay upright in your kayak, and it has a relatively small footprint for storing in smaller spaces.

The 35 quart cooler claims to hold ice up to 10 days. While this is achievable, it isn’t realistic in the real world. However, with that being said, if you fill it with ice and don’t open it very often, refill the ice after 24 hours and keep it closed as much as possible, 7 days of ice isn’t unreasonable to expect.

The best feature, though, is the warranty. Limited lifetime warranties on top-tier coolers are fairly uncommon, and the Progear has one. For as long as you own the cooler, Pelican will stand behind it. Dropped it off the tailgate? No worries, the worst that might happen is a cracked handle.

The cooler won’t float if it is full of ice, so keep that in mind when loading and unloading your kayak. However, a few dings, drops or dragging won’t affect the cooler (though it may shake up your beer a bit).

The thick walls of the cooler allow for the 2-inches of insulation to stay effective, even if you have it in the sun for several hours. While it might not be as overall rugged and durable as the Yeti model above, it still holds a special place in the list of coolers that can take a beating.

The worst part of the cooler is the plastic molded handles. They can become slippery with wet hands or ones covered in fish guts. Make sure you wash and dry the handles (and your hands) before transportation.

Pros
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Rugged construction
  • 3 color options
  • Long ice retention
Cons
  • No wheels
  • Plastic handles can get slippery

3. Reliable Fishing Kill Bag

Best Fish Cooler Bag For Avid Anglers

Quart Capacity

50 quarts (approx)

Dimensions

18 x 36 inches (other options available)

Ice Retention

Up to 4 days

Material

Vinyl-coated polyester

Insulation

Hand-stitched polyethylene

Reliable Fishing's Kill Bag is a handcrafted, UV resistant bag that stores easily, and cleans fast and holds a lot of fish. There are several sizes to choose from, each one designed to fit your fishing style.

The 18 x 36 inch bag will hold about 50 quarts of ice, which is a lot. However, this leaves no room for your drinks, lunch, catch, or anything else. It also makes the bag extremely heavy. The reinforced hand-sewn handles are fairly comfortable to carry for short distances. However, with a full bag and a long way to walk, it will start to pinch your fingers.

The entire bag is made from UV-treated vinyl polyester with a decent layer of polyethylene for insulation. The treads are waterproof, UV, and mildew resistant and designed to last a long time.

That being said, the bags only come with a 1-year warranty. Heavy use of the bags may result in needing a new one shortly after the warranty expires. If you are an avid fisherman, it is wise to purchase a couple of these bags. Not only can you evenly distribute the weight, but you can prolong the life of each bag, making them last much longer.

One cool feature that you will like is how easy they are to clean. Each bag also includes a drain plug to empty the water (though it isn’t the fastest thing in the world). Once the fish and ice are out of the bag, you can have it scrubbed clean, collapsed, and stored with your gear in just a few minutes.

The best part of a bag over a cooler is that you can toss it in your pack and take it with you instead of having to lug it to and from. A one-way full trip is enough; don't work harder than you have to.

Pros
  • Collapses for easy storage
  • Holds a lot of fish
  • Easy to clean
Cons
  • Simple 1-year warranty
  • Can leak at the seams

4. Coleman Cooler

Best Small Cool Box For Fishing

Quart Capacity

54 Quart

Dimensions

26 x 17 x 17 inches

Ice Retention

Up to 4 days

Material

Molded plastic

Insulation

2-inches polyethylene

The Coleman Cooler is a 54-quart retro-designed cool box. Arguably the most eye-catching and best small cool box for fishing. It even has sturdy edges and corners to allow you to sit on the lid.

The lid is both the strongest and weakest part of the cooler. When closed, the lid and cooler can support up to 250 pounds. That makes the cooler perfect for fishing from the shore or from a boat when you want (or need) to sit down for a while.

However, the hinges on the lid are easily the weak spot of this model. Too much back pressure can break them, resulting in a cooler that doesn’t seal properly.

It does come with a 6-year warranty, which is great, however, even with the stainless steel design, it doesn't cover the hinges. The carrying handles are covered, though, and with their comfort grip design and recessed contour, they are actually quite functional.

The cooler doesn’t have wheels, so you will need to carry it wherever you go, but the lightweight design is easily managed. Coleman even added a couple of inches to the height to allow for 2-liter bottles to stand upright, further helping top prevent leaks.

Pros
  • 6-year limited warranty
  • Easy carry comfort handles
  • 250-pound weight limit on lid
  • Extra height for large bottles
Cons
  • Hinges on lid are fairly weak
  • No wheels

5. Igloo Super Tough STX

Best Large Cooler For Fishing Boat

Quart Capacity

120 quart

Dimensions

38 x 18 x 18 inches

Ice Retention

Up to 7 days

Material

Molded plastic

Insulation

2-inches polyethylene

If you need a lot of space and are on your boat, you want the best fishing cooler for your fishing boat. The Igloo Super Tough STX is the model for you. With a huge 120 quart capacity, you can store food, drinks, and your catch without anything ever touching.

The large capacity cooler is capable of keeping ice for up to 7 days. However, seeing ice a week later is a bit misleading. It is possible. To accomplish this, though, you need to fill the cooler to the top with ice, close the lid and not open it again for 7 days. You also need to keep it in the shade and make sure it is adequately sealed.

While that makes the cooler pretty useless, you can instead just accept you won’t have ice a week later and understand 4 to 4 days is going to be average for a cooler this size.

Even though this cooler is large (over 3 feet long), it doesn’t have wheels. This can make portability an issue—plan on several trips to store all your gear, saving the cooler for last. The good news is that the handles are designed never to fail. They come with a through-bolt design and have a backing plate built on the inside of the cooler. No matter the weight, the handles won’t pull out or snap off.

If something does happen to the cooler, though, you have a 3-year warranty to back you up. Igloo customer service is a busy business, but once you do get through, they are quite friendly and appreciative of your business. Making a claim is fairly simple.

Pros
  • Large capacity for big fish
  • Fish ruler on lid
  • 3-year warranty
  • Handles won’t pull out
Cons
  • Getting ice to 7 days is difficult
  • No wheels

6. YETI Tundra Haul

Best Fishing Cooler With Wheels

Quart Capacity

37 quarts

Dimensions

25.5 x 16 X 15.5 inches

Ice Retention

Up to 5 days

Material

Rotomolded Plastic

Insulation

3-inches PermaFrost

Not to be confused with our top pick, the Tundra Haul from Yeti is the best fishing cooler with wheels. Finally! A cooler you can pull behind you. Leave it to Yeti to also design the cooler to be more attractive, functional, and not clip your ankles.

Easily the best feature is the wheel system. The solid rubber, no-puncture, never-flat wheels will roll over almost any terrain with ease. The ergonomic, steel handle is curved and swivels left and right. Not only does it make it more comfortable to pull, but it also prevents the cooler from knocking into your feet as you walk.

Of course, you get the Yeti quality everywhere else, too. The 35 quart design has 3-inches of insulation, keeping ice for 5 days without worry. The unfortunate thing here is that unlike the Tundra 45, the Tundra Haul only comes in 5 colors instead of 8.

However, it still offers the T-Rex handles, and “bear-proof” ruggedness you come to expect from one of the most expensive cooler brands on the market.

The 3-year warranty isn’t the best, but if something is going to go wrong with the construction or materials, it’s going to happen right away. After the 3 years, you will need to contain yourself from tossing the cooler over ravines. I know. No fun.

Pros
  • 3-year warranty covers the whole cooler
  • It has wheels
  • Rugged design stands up to anything
Cons
  • Expensive
  • The T-Rex handles are only rubber

7. AO Coolers Original

Best Fishing Cooler Bag

Quart Capacity

8 quart (approx)

Dimensions

14 x 7 x 12 inches

Ice Retention

24 hours

Material

Canvas

Insulation

Closed-cell foam

Find yourself looking for the best fish bag cooler? You just found it. The AO Coolers Original bag model will not disappoint. With 4 sizes and 4 colors to choose from, your day trip just got a lot better.

The cooler is made from TPU, which is the same, soft, no-scratch material you find in linings and water beds. It doesn’t sweat, it doesn't get slick, and it won't leak. What it does do, though, is keep drinks and your lunch cold for days. It will keep ice for 24 hours, which is plenty of time for you to finish that sandwich and 6-pack.

While not designed as a fish cooler, the larger sizes (36 and 48-can capacity) will easily hold a few fish and about 10 pounds of ice to get your catch home fresh and ready for the grill.

The design is ideal when on the boat, kayak, or canoe. They don’t take up much space, and the scratch-resistant canvas won't scratch your hull or sealant. The handles are also reinforced and don’t come undone.

The warranty for this little guy is 3 years long and covers everything, even the zipper on the outer dry-goods pocket. A day on the lake and a cold drink whenever you decide to grab it? What could be better?

Pros
  • Holds more cans and ice than appears
  • Many options to choose from
  • 3-year warranty
Cons
  • Gets a little heavy for one handed carry
  • Can float, but not for long

8. IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack

Best Fishing Backpack With Cooler

Quart Capacity

24 quarts

Dimensions

14 x 11 x 17 inches

Ice Retention

24 hours

Material

Canvas

Insulation

PolarLayer Foam and air

Have you left the kayak in favor of the ever popular stand-up paddle board? You can still take your cooler with you. The best cooler for sup fishing is the IceMule Pro. This insulated backpack cooler keeps your hands free, and it stands up on its own.

The roll-top design removes all zippers and gives you quick, simple access to the contents. You can even open it with one hand. One of the coolest features, though, is that the patented PolyLayer foam (its a polyethylene foam) insulation has an air valve. You can add air to the insulation layer for even more padding and temperature control.

Ideal for quick trips, this bag will hold ice for up to 24 hours, keeping your gear cold, your fish fresh, and your hands free. It is easy to clean, too, with a waterproof liner and simple collapsible design, you can clean it, store it and forget it. It takes up almost no space at all and will fit anywhere that is best for you.

The best part is that the cooler floats. Even when stuffed full (as long as you have air in the liner), the pack will float. You don’t need to worry about it rolling off your paddle board. Even if it does, you can retrieve it without getting in the water.

The warranty isn’t great, though. The only option is a 90-day return policy. It is a no-questions-asked policy, but after the 90-days, you are stuck with the cooler, no matter what.

Pros
  • Hands-free, floating design
  • Opens with one hand
  • Perfect for paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes
Cons
  • 90-day return policy only
  • Can get heavy

Sizing a Fishing Cooler for Your Angling Needs

Fishing coolers come in all sizes, from a couple of gallons to a couple hundred gallons. The right size for you will depend on various factors.

First, you need to think about where you will be fishing and the type of fish you are going after. Deep-sea fishing will need a larger cooler than off-shore at a small pond will. If you are fishing from the water, your cooler needs to be big enough for your items, but small enough to fit in your craft. 

For example, a kayak won’t be able to hold as large a cooler as a 14-foot fishing boat can accommodate. You also need to consider portability. The larger the cooler the more it will weigh when full. If you are toting it yourself, it needs to remain manageable at all times. 

The right size is a judgment call. Err on the side of slightly larger if you are between two sizes. Just make sure it fits your needs and space.


Fishing Cooler Price Guide

Why should you consider spending more for a mid-tier or top-tier cooler versus a cheap one? There are several benefits to the expensive coolers, but in the end, a cooler is a cooler. Here are things to factor into the price that you are willing to spend.

  • Expensive coolers have thicker shells and more insulation materials.
  • Expensive coolers also use plastic, but also come with steel handles and use rivets in construction.
  • Expensive coolers can keep ice for a couple of days, and cold water another day.
  • Expensive coolers can come with a lifetime warranty.
  • Cheap coolers are made from thinner, less rugged materials.
  • Cheap coolers use all-plastic construction, including the handles.
  • Cheap coolers will keep ice a few hours, and cold water for another hour or two.
  • Cheap coolers have less of a warranty, if there is a warranty at all.

Keeping Fish Fresh with Proper Storage

If you catch a fish and are going to keep it for food, there are a few simple steps to make sure the meat is fresh when you get home.

  • First, kill the fish immediately. The alternative is to place it on a stringer or in a live well.
  • Gut the fish, but do not fillet. Leave the head and scales on.
  • Stuff with crushed ice and wrap in a wax paper or tin foil.
  • Cover the wrapped fish in more crushed ice. If you don’t have crushed ice, lay on a small bed of ice cubes and cover with more layers of ice cubes.

This process will keep your fish until the ice melts. Depending on the insulation level of your cooler, this can be a couple days or more.


Tips for Cleaning Your Fishing Cooler

Cleaning your fishing cooler is an essential part of ownership. Failure to keep the cooler clean will result in mold, mildew, and highly offensive odors. Luckily, cleaning your cooler is a simple process. You only need a few materials:

  • Garden hose with sprayer
  • Baking soda
  • Scrubbing sponge
  • Bleach

Spray out the cooler with the hose, getting as much of the gunk, fish slime and debris out as you can. You can save mixing time and just sprinkle baking soda into the cooler, adding a few sprays of water and then using the sponge to scrub the inside of the cooler.

Rinse the baking soda out completely and add bleach to the cooler with more water. Some let the cooler soak, but if you clean the cooler after every use, this isn’t needed.

Wash the cooler with the bleach water and rinse thoroughly (usually twice or more) until you are satisfied the bleach is removed. Towel dry the cooler and store in a cool, dry place out of the sun.


Frequently Asked Questions

How long should a quality fish cooler be able to retain ice?

A good quality fish cooler will retain ice in ice form (not just near-frozen water) for up to 5 days. The average cooler will keep ice for 3 to 5 days, which cheap coolers may only hold ice for several hours

What company makes the best fishing cooler?

The best cooler company is going to be a debate. Just because a cooler costs more across a brand doesn't mean it is the best cooler for you. However, some brands stand out for various reasons that are considered among the best. Igloo, for example, offers a large variety of coolers in different sizes with some interesting features.

Like Coleman, Igloo is highly available for any budget, and both companies specialize in coolers for fishing. Yeti is known as the best because of its incredible insulation and construction. The prices prevent smaller budgets from owning them, but Yeti may be the best all-around cooler for the price when everything is broken down.

How long can I keep fish in a cooler before it goes bad?

This will depend on how much ice you have, how often you open the lid, and where the cooler is stored. A good quality chest with crushed ice stored in the shade and with minimal lifting of the lid can keep a fish for at least 3 days, sometimes up to 5 days. However, understand that the fish meat will slightly degrade each day, even on ice. You shouldn’t keep fish on ice for more than 5 days, even if the cooler is capable of doing so.

Do I need to buy a fishing cooler with wheels?

Wheels on a cooler is not a requirement. However, with the ice levels, amount of fish, or other items being stored, the wheels will help with portability and transporting to and from the truck.

Where can I buy quality fishing coolers online?

Almost every cooler manufacturer will have a website portal where you can order your cooler through them directly. The best alternative is to shop through Amazon. This will allow you to find all of the options available, not just current models or what a store has in stock.


Conclusion

Finding the right cooler for your needs is going to be something that can be a challenge. There are a lot of brands and options to sift through.

This article aimed to help you narrow that field down some. If you are still unsure which model to go with, look again at our top pick. The Yeti Tundra 45 is one of the best fishing coolers on the market, has ample size, and is easy to transport. You won’t regret the purchase.