Kayak Catch Coolers | 8 Ways to Keep Fish Fresh

Calcutta Kayak Catch Cooler
Photo courtesy of Calcutta Outdoors

Fishing is unique among sports in that it can be done for fun, or for food. Some of you might argue hunting falls into the same category, but we’ve never seen somebody release a bear after shooting it. Catching a fish is the reason most of us hop into a kayak in the first place. But what do you do after you’ve caught a fish? If the answer is “Eat it” then you’d better have a way to keep it fresh. Raw fish goes bad in just two hours at room temperature. So without some ice and a way to hold it you’re looking at a disappointing meal.

Kayak catch coolers offer anglers an easy way to keep ice cold and fish fresh. These bags are custom tailored to kayaks. They’re designed with a multitude of features that make transportation, storage, and cleaning quick and easy. Thick foam and durable liners offer sufficient thermal insulation for anything from a day trip to overnight camping trips. Whether you’re targeting bonitas or bass the collection of kayak catch coolers below will keep your keepers fresh for dinner.

Wilderness System Insulated Kayak Catch Cooler

WS Kayak Catch Cooler

If you’re familiar with Wilderness System (WS) accessores then you know that their gear is typically big, rugged, and well built. The WS Insulated Catch Cooler is no different and offers angler’s a voluminous bag with easy transportation. Sporting the signature orange and grey aesthetic the WS catch cooler features two separate insulated cavities. The smaller cockpit-facing pouch is great for storing bait, lunch, or keeping a few beverages frosty. The larger compartment offers ~1.5 cubic feet of space for both fish and ice; which is more than enough for a dinner’s worth of catch. Interior pockets in the large compartment offer an easy way to store ice packs vertically.

WS Kayak Catch Cooler

TPU coated 420 denier nylon fabric provides waterproof durability. 6 D-rings surround the perimeter of the cooler for securing to your hull. Padded adjustable straps on the bottom permit this cooler to be worn like a backpack. This feature may not seem important; but it’s a drastic improvement over hand straps and greatly increases the bag’s versatility. The WS Catch Cooler is equally adept at keeping fish fresh on angling outings, or preserving vittles on extended camping voyages. This cooler is a great option for sit on top paddler’s seeking a multi-functional bag for big fish and long trips.

Precision Pak YakCatch III

Precision Pak’s Tournament Fishing Cooler is a premium kill bag that’s especially great for offshore fishermen. At 42″ long it’ll keep all but the largest pelagics on ice. 420 D nylon fabric and 0.18mm PEVA reflective liner sandwich closed cell foam to provide ice-keeping insulation. The front opening is kept closed with a heavy-duty 1.5″ velcro strip rather than a zipper. Velcro permits quick one-handed opening: which is great for getting big fish on ice quick. A longer zippered opening runs the length for quickly accessing the dry-pod.

The dry pod is a smaller tapered bag that fits inside the outer shell. It’s perfect for keeping food and beverages cold without having your lunch right next to your catch. Sure, a little fish slime never hurt anybody, but we’d prefer it stay off our salami on rye. The Precision Pak YakCatch III is a straightforward kayak kill bag with a stylish, reserved aesthetic. Offshore anglers and pescatori should definitely consider this fish bag for supplying their next feast of seven fishes.

TCYC Deluxe Kayak Catch Cooler

If you’re going after bigger fish you don’t just need a bigger boat. You’re going to need a bigger bag also. The TCYC Deluxe Kayak Catch Cooler is a large cooler bag that’s great for offshore anglers going after bigger prey like mackerel, bonitas, or yellowtail. At 42″ (large version) long this kayak catch bag offers up plenty of space for larger prey and ample storage for ice.

One of the nicer features of the TCYC bag is it’s internal ice bag. Ice can be kept in a removable inner tube and fish are stored around it. Separating the ice from catch offers superior insulation and an opportunity to keep a few cans and snacks along-side your fish without fear of cross-contamination. The main compartment can be accessed by the full zippered front opening or the quick access top zipper. The top port is super useful for loading ice while the front lid is better suite for loading up that future dragon roll.

All in all the TCYC kayak catch bag is an excellent option for bringing home the otoro. Both the medium and large versions are feature laden sport bags that will keep fish fresh and beers cold.

Hobie Fish Cooler

Hobie is one of the oldest kayak fishing brands out there. And arguably one of the most comprehensive and experienced in both their boat and accessory ecosystem. So it should come as no surprise that they’ve got a complimentary lineup of kayak catch coolers that fit nearly every make and model of Hobie yaks.

Like all Hobie kit the Hobie Fish Cooler is well built and doesn’t come cheap. Half inch closed cell foam provides long lasting insulation and everything is kept tight with YKK zippers. If you don’t know about YKK zippers, just know that they’re gold standard in keeping things zipped. The bag is constructed out of vinyl coated polyester and has D-rings at each corner as anchor points.

Perhaps the best aspect of the Hobie fish bag is the fit. There are multiple models that will snugly tuck in to most Hobie fishing kayaks. So if you’re running a PA-14, Outback, or Revolution and looking to bring home the sushi then the Hobie Fish Bag is your best bet.

Opah Fathom 3

The Opah Fish bag isn’t a dedicated kayak catch cooler per se; but it’s such an awesome bag we had to include it Simply put, this kill bag is killer. Opah produces a line of incredibly well built high end fish bags; think of them as the Yeti of fish coolers.

There are seven different sizes available in their Fathom line ranging from the 13 gallon Fathom 3 all the way to the gargantuan Fathom 7 which is 7′ long and holds 121 gallons. Each bag is made from mildew resistant marine grade 18 oz vinyl and has 2″ of closed cell foam that provides enough insulation to keep ice for 4 days. Interior pockets and a waterproof fillet bag helps to keep everything where it’s supposed to be. And compartments are secured with silky smooth YKK zippers.

The larger Opah bags might be a tad too big for most kayaks, but the Fathom 3 could easily fit into the rear tankwell of most 12′ fishing kayaks. If you’re headed out for bigger game or looking to keep fish fresh on overnight expeditions then the Opah bag is an excellent option.

Calcutta Fish Bag

Bow mounted tapered kayak fish coolers are great for long trips out. But they can be overkill if you’re just going out for a short paddle. They also occupy valuable deck real estate and have the propensity to catch a hook if you’re not careful. Sometimes simpler is better, and that’s where the Calcutta Fish Bag shines.

The Calcutta Outdoors Pack Fish bag is an affordably priced fish bag that does exactly what you need it to – keep fish cold. At 40″ x 16″ it’s the perfect size for most keepers and a 20 lb bag of ice. Thick insulation, welded seams, and a tapered zipper keeps cold fish cold. And the nylon strap is great for hauling from boat to shore. It also folds up in thirds when not in use which makes it great for permanent storage in a junk drawer or hull hatch.

Calcutta Outdoors kayak catch cooler is a great bag; we love the skull and crossbones Calcultta graphic and the ruler is handy too. Aside from fish bag’s Calcutta also sports some awesome apparel and fishing gear. Born out of a Florida tackle shop and with over a quarter century of experience the Calcutta crew knows a thing or two about making great gear – be sure to check them out.

FeelFree Fish Bag

FeelFree Kayak Catch Cooler

Feel Free has garnered a reputation for providing quality kayaks at affordable prices. And their kayak accessories follow suit. The FeelFree Fish Bag is made of ripstop polyester and comes in medium and large sizes. The medium size has an internal volume capable of holding around 12 gallons and the large around 18. The removable “slime liner” will makes clean up a breeze and is handy if you’re storing lunch.

The FeelFree Fish bag wins our vote for the best kayak fish cooler design. The bright camo colorings offer an eye-catching design that fits in perfectly with fishing models like the Mokken and Lure. This bag is great for FeelFree paddlers and budget conscious anglers looking for a great deal. Be sure to check out FeelFree’s site from time to time; they occasionally have sales on their kayak catch coolers that can’t be beat.

Viking Chill Pod

Viking Chill Pod

Viking Kayak’s chill pod is a unique take on kayak fish storage. It’s a modular solution that’s designed to fit into the rear tankwell of the Viking Profish Reload, 400 and GT kayaks. Rather than fabric the chill pod is made from HDPE – the same material Yeti Coolers and most rotomolded kayaks are made of. There’s no fear fish spines or stray hooks are going to puncture the insulation like you might have with fabric bags. Placement behind the seat makes loading easy; just open the lid and slide your catch in. The bread-bin style lid can be easily opened with one hand and secures with a bungee.

If you’re running any of the aforementioned Viking models than the chill pod is a no brainer. It perfectly compliments Viking’s offshore fishing style and looks awesome. In fact we hope more kayak manufacturers follow suit with modular kayak coolers because of their ease of use and great aesthetic. The only tradeoff with the Viking Chill Pod is that you’ll have to relocate your kayak crate. Not a huge concern since most offshore anglers don’t use high-profile crates anyways. The Viking Chill Pod retails for $239 and is widely available worldwide.

Overview on Kayak Catch Coolers

There aren’t many feelings better than preparing a killer home cooked meal for your friends and family. And when you’re the one who caught the fish? Mamma mia, essere al settimo cielo! All those days you got skunked suddenly don’t seem that bad. And if you’re lucky you’re spouse might even encourage you to go again (but don’t hold your breath).

Kayak catch coolers are a great piece of gear to help you make your next sushi dinner a reality. They’re indispensable for hauling home fish. And they’re handy for keeping brewskies and vittles cold, in case you’re doing some “light fishing”.