Best Kayak Coolers for Fishing

Keep your bait, lunch and catch of the day cold with the best kayak fishing cooler for you.

The first question a new kayak angler asks is, “Where do I keep my fish?” That’s a good question, because bringing home the catch is an extremely satisfying experience, but a kayak is short on cold storage. Kayak anglers are concerned about weight and space, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for dinner. Luckily, the best kayak coolers are small but mighty.

How do you choose the best kayak fishing cooler?

The biggest challenge to kayak fishing is packing all the necessary fishing gear into a little plastic boat. Adding a big, bulky cooler would limit the other fishing essentials a kayak angler can carry. The most important consideration for the best kayak cooler is size and weight. Luckily, the latest generation of super coolers are engineered to efficiently keep contents cold. This allows anglers to use a smaller cooler, carry less ice and still keep their catch fresh.

Storing fish inside the kayak hull is not an answer. As the sun shines on the plastic boat, it turns the kayak hold into an oven, cooking the catch long before dinner time. On top of that, cleaning fish slime and blood out of a sit-inside kayak is a pain in the back, and you’ll never get all the gunk to run out the drain plug. The next time you open the kayak hatch, you’ll have an unpleasant reminder of your last trip’s success.

Keeping fish in the cockpit exposes it to direct sun, and also makes a mess. Using a stringer to dangle the catch over the side isn’t much better. First, the water temperature may slowly spoil your prize. Then, paddling or pedaling the kayak while dragging a pile of fish makes it difficult to travel straight or very fast.

The answer is to use a small kayak fishing cooler or kayak fish bag. Packing the cooler with ice, or pre-freezing the fish bag before the trip, will improve cold storage. The best bet is to find a kayak fish cooler that can do two jobs at once, such as hold rods or provide gear storage as well as keep both your lunch and your fish cold.

What’s the best kayak cooler for ice retention?

In direct sun, flying spray and hot wind, keeping fish ice cold is a big challenge. To the rescue is a new breed of super coolers that can keep ice frozen for days. Today’s super coolers are comparable in cold retention—the challenge is finding a kayak fishing cooler that will stand up to years of outdoor exposure and abuse.

Probably the most important feature of the Yeti Roadie 24 is the weight, at only 12.8 pounds, the cooler is 10-percent lighter while holding 20-percent more ice than the original Roadie. Whether you’re hitting the highway or the water, the Roadie 24 is a perfect companion for the best kayak cooler.

Best Kayak Cooler for Ice Retention: Yeti Roadie 24 Cooler

The Coolest Cooler

Yeti’s Roadie 24 features tough construction and unmatched cold storage. Yeti

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Yeti is one of the first companies to introduce a super cooler capable of keeping ice for almost a week. And the storied company leads the pack of fishing coolers by maintaining the highest quality and smartest construction. The Yeti Roadie 24 is a small, hard-sided cooler that takes up little space and still holds a lot of stuff. The 15-inch by 12-inch foot print is easy to fit in a kayak’s tank well. At 18 inches high, the Roadie still holds 24 quarts. Yeti’s famous Permafrost insulation is a high density foam that, combined with the sealed lid, is the key to the cooler’s cold retention.

The Roadie 24 is built the same as a kayak, with rotomolded plastic capable of being dropped, banged and slammed without complaint. Hinges and latches are the first to go on coolers, so instead of plastic hinges, Yeti uses a stainless steel rod passing through an integral hinge. Quick Latch closures are easy to operate with one hand, making it possible to open the cooler while holding a slippery fish. Rubber pads in the cooler bottom keep it from sliding around. The Roadie 24 doesn’t have a drain plug, so there’s no danger of melt water dripping in the backseat of the car. To lift and carry the cooler, a webbed strap and rubber handle can be slung over the shoulder.

Are you looking for a kayak fishing cooler with rod holders?

To get the most out of the limited space on a fishing kayak, anglers are looking for fishing accessories that can do two or more jobs at once. Since not every fishing trip is focused on keeping the catch, some anglers want the best kayak cooler that can double as gear storage. A kayak fishing cooler with rod holders is one obvious solution. Look for a cooler with sturdy rod holders, because like all things on a kayak, they will be subject to some hard knocks over time.

Best Kayak Cooler With Rod Holders: Engel Cooler/Dry Box with 4 Rod Holders

Gear and Fish Box

With room to carry four fishing rods, three tackle trays or 19-quarts of ice, the Engel Drybox/Cooler is the Swiss Army Knife of kayak coolers. Engel

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Engle’s 19 Quart Drybox/Cooler does two jobs in one. As a cooler, the polystyrene foam insulation and rubber gasket seal in cold air. Stainless steel latches and hardware keep the lid shut and air tight, making it almost impossible for cold to escape.

When keeping fish isn’t on the agenda, Engle’s 19 Drybox/Cooler serves as secure dry storage. Close the lid and latch it tight—the cooler is waterproof and dustproof, making it safe for tackle and electronics. Anglers heading out into rough conditions will feel confident knowing if the kayak flips over, their tackle is secure and protected.

The spaces between the four vertical rod holders and the storage section provide an easy way to secure the drybox to the kayak. The Drybox/Cooler is one of the lightest coolers on the market, so you won’t add much to your load.

Do you want to store fish in a kayak fish bag?

When fish is on the menu and space is limited—or if big fish or a lot of them are in your plans—look for a kayak fish bag. Insulated with pliable closed-cell foam and covered with vinyl, a kayak fish bag can be packed in a hatch or strapped to the bow until the catch hits the deck. They offer a lot of room for large fish—much more than a standard kayak cooler. To get the best cold performance, freeze the bag before the trip and pack it with ice until you pack it with fish. Again, make sure the bag you buy can withstand rough treatment.

Best Kayak Fish Bag: Reliable Fishing Products Kayak Bag

Room for Lunkers

Sturdy construction and reliable cold retention make Reliable Fishing Products Fish Bag perfect for big fish, or plenty of them. Reliable Fishing Products

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The best performing soft cooler is Reliable Fishing Products Kayak Bag. Constructed out of indestructible 18-ounce vinyl skin with a half-inch of closed-cell foam insulation and corrosion resistant zipper, the Kayak Bag is one of the best kayak cooler bags to keep fish cold and protected.

The tapered shape of the bag fits perfectly over a kayak bow or in a tankwell. Three D-rings on each side of the bag provide a sturdy location to lash the bag to the boat. With 70 quarts capacity, the Reliable Fishing Products Kayak Bag is the best way to carry a large catch.

An adjustable cord on top of the bag can be used to secure your paddle or other gear. The cord also serves to cinch down the bag so it takes less space. Back on shore, heavy-duty webbed handles make it easy to carry the bag to the car. The material is mildew- and UV-resistant to last years.

Do you have very limited space on your kayak?

If you want to keep fish, lunch or beverages cold, but you don’t have space on the kayak for a cooler, a floating cooler can be a solution. The problem with floating coolers is towing the cooler behind the kayak reduces efficiency and gets in the way of fishing—unless it’s designed to minimize drag. Look for a streamlined floating cooler for kayaks with a secure top that won’t allow water in or cold to escape.

Best Floating Cooler for Kayak: CreekKooler 30 Quart Outdoor Insulated Floating Cooler

Tie One On

Shaped like a kayak to pass easily through the water, the CreekKooler 30 Quart Cooler won’t hold you back. CreekKooler

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Made of blow-molded plastic and shaped like a kayak itself, the CreekKooler is designed to be towed closely behind a kayak, paddleboard or raft. Foam insulation keeps the cooler afloat and holds ice for two days. The large, screw-on lid is watertight and keeps in the cold. Four molded in cup holders on the top hold beverages while the 30-quart capacity can fit up to 30 cans or 20 pounds of ice. Heavy duty strap handles in the bow and stern offer a solid attachment for the tether.

Budget Kayak Fishing Coolers: What You Get for Less Than $60

Super coolers are hot, but the price tags aren’t always cool. If you want a budget cooler, look for one that is designed for kayak use (everyday department store coolers often can’t stand up to the rough environment on a kayak) and has decent insulation.

Best Cheap Kayak Cooler: IceMule Classic Cooler

Compact and Cold

Pre-freeze the IceMule and it’ll keep fish cold all day. IceMule

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The Ice Mule Classic is one of the few budget kayak coolers that can be stored inside the kayak. Designed around the same principle as a dry bag, the Ice Mule 15 Liter Classic uses a fold down top to keep contents cold without leaking melt water. The design allows the cooler to be folded up and stored in a kayak hatch or filled with fish and ice and strapped to the stern.

The exterior is constructed of tough and light MuleSkin ET while the interior is MuleSkin EV for waterproof ice retention. Between the layers, PolarLayer Foam keeps ice and fish cold for 24 hours. To further improve insulation, the Ice Mule has a valve that allows the user to add air and trap cold. Freeze the cooler before your trip and you can skip the ice.

Kayak Fish Cooler FAQ: People Also Ask

What size cooler fits in a kayak?

To fit a cooler into a kayak first consider the size and weight. The most logical place to stick a cooler is the kayak tankwell. The tankwell in most fishing kayaks is designed to accommodate a 25-quart cooler. Soft coolers are better than ever and can be folded to fit inside a kayak, or lashed to the bow or tankwell. A 15-quart soft cooler folded or rolled up should fit in a large kayak hatch. Or, strap a 70 quart soft cooler to the bow or stern. Measure the space in your kayak, then look up the specs for the cooler to make sure it will fit.

What cooler keeps ice longest?

Cooler manufacturers have made ice retention a science by perfecting every aspect of the design and construction for maximum cold storage. To find the best kayak cooler for keeping your catch cold, look for a roto-molded kayak with heavy-duty construction. High-quality foam insulation vacuum sealed inside the layers of plastic will insulate the contents without adding size or weight. To further trap cold air, the best kayak coolers for ice retention use a rubber seal between the lid and box with sturdy latches to create an air-tight closure.