Keep Your Fish Cooler Cold with Dry Ice

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Why dry ice is the answer to your cooler woes.Holly Lindem

Dry ice is nothing more than frozen carbon dioxide, and nothing less than the solution to many cooler woes—regular ice that melts too fast and creates a nasty fish-slime slush. Since dry ice sublimates, or goes directly from the solid to the gaseous state, it creates no meltwater. It's also extremely cold—almost minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

But dealing with dry ice takes some planning. Handle it with insulated or leather gloves, or it will burn your skin. Dry ice also expands to about 800 times its original volume as it sublimates, so cooler lids must be vented. And take care to crack a window if you drive with a cooler of frozen CO2. Here's how to turn your fishing cooler into a deep-freeze for the long run:

THE BASICS OF PACKING DRY ICE

--Two 10-inch-square blocks of 2-inch-thick dry ice (a standard 10-pound block) will keep 20 pounds of frozen foods frozen for approximately three days. To make dry ice last longer, fill dead air space with wadded newspaper or regular ice frozen in milk cartons.

--Dry ice keeps frozen items granite hard. Carry an empty small cooler to thaw out foods as needed.

--Beverages and nonfrozen items will remain cold for extended periods in a cooler with a 1-to-4 ratio of dry ice to regular ice. Wrap the dry ice in newspaper first.

--To ship game and fish, use dry ice exclusively to prevent water spoilage of trophies. Be careful to wrap the specimen in a towel to prevent the dry ice from creating freezer-burn spots. Or mix dry ice and regular ice to save on shipping weight.

--Dry ice is available in grocery stores in many southwestern states. Other vendors include ice companies and ice cream shops.