Man do I hate coolers! Unless you want to spring for one of the fancy ones like a Yeti and drop several hundred bucks in the process, you’re stuck with the standard models. You know – the ones that have cheesy hinges and latches that always fail. Always!
I’ve bought a zillion coolers over the years and have never had one last more than a season. Granted, I use the things daily and put them through more abuse the most, but still, it would be nice to get a little more service out of one.
The other aspect of ice chests that I’m not a big fan of is the space they take up – especially on a boat. Considering the fact that you need to keep fish on ice about 10 months a year around here, coolers are essential for keeping your catch fresh. Hanging a fish on a stringer or putting it in a boat’s fish box ensures that the taste and quality will be greatly comprised. So a cooler is a must…but what do you do when space is at a premium and a normal cooler is destined to eventually disintegrate anyway?
Get a fish bag, that’s what!
I switched about four years ago from a standard hard cooler to soft fish or “kill” bag and will never go back.
A bunch of companies make fish bags in sizes that will suite everything from kokanee to tuna and I’ve been quite happy with the one I purchased from Reliable Fishing Products. Kill bags are insulated and hold ice as well or better than regular chests, they don’t have latches and handles to break and save a ton of space.
My 20 x 48-inch bag holds ice and 8 Chinook salmon and fits inside my boat’s fish box, so it’s completely out of the way. It’s also a big space saver in my drift boat. One 7-pound bag of ice keeps fish cold even when it’s 100 degrees outside. It’s also extremely easy to clean and can be rolled up for easy stowage – try that with a 120-quart hard sided cooler!
When looking at fish bags, there are a few things to consider before you buy one. First, inquire about the insulation. You want one with quality “guts” so your fish stay cool. Next, check out and try the zipper. It needs to be strong, smooth and reliable. Also check out the stitching and reinforcements on the carrying handles (which are kinda like the strap on a purse). These need to be burly, as they will shoulder most of the weight when lifting fish in and out of the boat, truck, etc.
I also really like a bag that has a drain plug so you can easily let out any water and blood that accumulates in the bag. My first bag didn’t have one, and it was kind of a pain to have to lift the bag up on its edge throughout the day to drain excess water out though the zipper on the top.
Another thing to check out is the shape of the bag. Some are more flat and “envelope” shaped, while others have more of a “purse” shape to them in that they are wider on the bottom than at the top. I’ve owned both and prefer the Reliable I have now because of the 12-inch wide bottom, which gives me more carrying capacity for fish.
As I noted earlier, fish bags are super easy to clean. After each trip, I rinse mine out with some dish soap and water and, every week or so, I’ll spray it will a little bleach. Keeping it clean is essential so it doesn’t get a funky smell going – plus by keeping it clean I can also use my bag for “non fishing” situations as well.
Fish bags are great for Costco runs, backyard barbecues and big game hunting trips.
Trust me, once you try a kill bag, you’ll gladly say goodbye to your old cooler!