The great advances in “over the top” marine coolers are steps forward in keeping cool on your boat; well, maybe? There’s always the old Igloo, or whatever in marine white plastic, lined with some kinda insulating foam for about $18–50 bucks depending on the size, at Walmart, Kmart or the dollar store. These items aren’t too chic, but are very functional, cost-effective, and you can stand on them if you weigh less than 300lbs. and don’t dance and fall off; hopefully in the water so you don’t break an arm or, in my case, an ancient hip. That said, let’s review the new, high-end, “styling” models the Young Turks can’t live without!
Got $300-plus bucks? You’re about in the game for the new “super saver” ice chest, which is really all they are. These items are handsome, in fashionable pastel booty colors, robin’s egg blue and moss green and pretty in pink—pink!? The colors are fun but, then again, who really cares—must be “somebodies” out there because they sell. In a jam in the jungle you can take a fire extinguisher from a burned-out chopper and cool a tub of beer with the compressed gas, that’s another story, though.
Cost-wise these cooler are very effective if you want to keep that $3- OR $4-worth of ice from totally melting on an extended trips to the Everglades, say 2-3-4 days, sounds good. Well, only about one crew in thousands ever ends up on those kinda trips, as far as I know, and I’ve been here fishing for thirty-five years. $3–$4 ice into $300 = 100 trips; better do some serious fishing! We got an ice house trailer here that sell 20lbs. of ice for $2, a good deal, I got three one-gallon rectangular cranberry juice jugs that I keep frozen, they last two days and cost about a penny to fill and freeze. An aside, this water is potable in a jam, just keep the caps on tight, “no worries, mate”! The old timey Mullet and net fisherman used to have a huge plywood box chock-full with ice if they planned a 24–48 hour trip, 200lbs. of ice covered with wet burlap, that’s about right. So if you really plan long trips the new-fangled ice chest might be a good idea. You’ll probably eat your catch at a camping platform or carry MRE (meals ready to eat = LRRP rations). Think like the English: room temperature water is a better hydrator than ice cold stuff. Suffice to say the cheapy old Igloo 48-60 qtr. jobby, will fill the bill in 99% of the cases. Sure the cheap ones eventually crack, maybe blow outta the trailer, and get stinky, but so will the fancy pants items, if somebody doesn’t sell ’em or forget ’em.
Most skiffs and leisure boats, for that matter, come with a cooler set constructed much like the high-end cooler. Just remember to pull the plug after tripping and hose out the melted bread, lunch meat flotsam, spilled beer, and escaped stinky shrimp; a drop or two of Clorox will finish the clean-up; just leave the lid ajar to ventilate the cooler.
These coolers now can come set-up as livewells. I must have missed something—an aerator on a bait bucket—mine is lined with Styrofoam; an O-tab or a modified cheesy old Igloo cooler does the same thing. A six-packer with an ice pack and a damp rag to cover your live shrimp will last most of the day, you’ll be well roasted here in southwest Florida before you shrimp croak. Besides, redfish love stinky shrimp!
After all is said and done, I’d save my trip money for fuel, a new batch of braided line, and a nice lunch on the water with mom and the kids. I’ll save my money for wrinkle cream, Italian ice, deep cycle batteries, and the like. “Old School Rules”; well, maybe!
Capt. Ron Kowalyk: 239-267-9312