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January 22, 2010

Care for Your Catch Like a Pro

Fish for your table can spoil quickly unless you take preventative steps

More Than Just a Box

Recreational boats today offer three basic means to store caught fish. All depend on substantial insulation surrounding a fiberglass box. Here's what you should know to ensure you choose the best one for your needs.

Portable Coolers
No matter which manufacturer's product you choose, your cooler should be capable of keeping ice for at least 12 hours in bright sunlight. It should have an airtight lid, be constructed of weatherproof materials, and have solid metal hinges (not a plastic strap) and at least one recessed drain in the bottom. If you plan to carry it off the boat, handles on each side are a must. Optional features some suppliers tout include a nonskid rubber bottom to prevent sliding on and scratching the deck and recessed or "half" lids so that you needn't pull the cooler completely out from under an overhang.

Coffin Box
These typically fit on centerline forward of a center console. Boatbuilders who include this as an option often mount the coffin box atop an identically shaped under-deck fish or dry-storage box. These need to meet all the same requirements as the portable coolers mentioned above. However, you can frequently find additional accessories such as perforated, stainless-steel bait trays, dividers and deck tie-down systems in addition to the normal corner stoppers. Both the portable coolers and coffin boxes can be fitted with cushions, so they double as additional seating.

In-Deck Fish Box
Believe it or not, I have seen fish boxes with no foam insulation around them. That means your valuable ice will disappear fairly quickly. When shopping for a fishing boat, look to see if the factory insulates the boxes well with foam. That includes the tops! You can easily tell a better top by its thickness. Additionally, a thick, well-insulated top usually sports a glossy finish every bit as gleaming as the hull. A good top like this will be heavy, so be sure it comes attached to a substantial pneumatic ram to help you open it and keep it open.

Better in-deck fish boxes also feature tensioning latches and thick, soft gaskets around the lips. Drains should leave no place for any bloody, grimy water to gather and should drain directly overboard, not into the bilge. Additionally, make sure that the gutter around the top drains well, or accumulated seawater might enter the box and mix with your ice, causing it to melt prematurely.

Most boxes come equipped with macerator pumps that suck the water out and chop up any chunks in the process to prevent blocking the drain pipe. I usually replace these macerators with substantial diaphragm pumps that can run dry and pass an entire baitfish through with impunity.

Ice Makers
Numerous companies make a variety of ice-making machinery for the commercial fishing industry. However, among recreational fishing boats, Dometic Corporation's Eskimo 600 ice machine owns the market. The Eskimo 600 can produce up to 600 pounds of fresh crushed ice daily. It features automatic systems and sensors to keep it running smoothly with no effort on your part and pumps the ice from the machine directly into your fish box or storage bin.

This system requires either a 110-VAC power (available via a generator or inverter), a freshwater tank capacity of about 70 gallons (the unit uses 72 gallons of water per 24-hour day) and the space to mount either the self-contained (22 x 17.5 x 23 inches) or the remote, two-piece system (15- x 13- x 13-inch and 21- x 14- x 16-inch sections).

C.E. Smith (Bags)
Greensboro, North Carolina

Wichita, Kansas

Jupiter, Florida

Eskimo (Icemakers)
(Dometic Corp.)
Pompano Beach, Florida

Frigid Rigid
Fort Myers, Florida

Katy, Texas

Moeller Marine Products
Sparta, Tennessee

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Fairlawn, Ohio

Scepter Marine
Ontario, Canada

Todd Enterprises
West Babylon, New York

West Marine
Watsonville, California

Wise Premium
Springfield, Missouri

Yeti Coolers
Driftwood, Texas