By Peter Hinck
Soft coolers are being designed to fit inside, on the deck or in tank wells of a kayak. This has made it easy for paddle craft anglers to bring home even large catches. Improvements in insulation allow anglers to put in a day’s fishing and keep their catch fresh.
The night before a fishing trip, I put a frozen water bottle into the bag to chill the core of the bag. In the morning, I take the bottle out and replace it with other frozen water bottles or products like Blue Ice. Line the frozen bottles up so they cover the length of the bag. You can also use a bag of ice; simply open it and pour in the cubes. For a better chill, throw a bag of ice into the bag along with the ice bottles. If you are putting your personal drinks into the bag, make sure that they are cold before going in. This will help keep everything in the bag colder longer. Take care when transporting the bag in a car. Water may leak out. Not all bags are totally watertight. Bring a plastic cooler to put the bag into and keep water from getting onto your car’s carpet.
Care for Your Fish Bag
For the freshest and best-tasting fish, dispatch the fish before putting it into the bag. You can do this with a gaff, billy or ice pick to the head. If you are able, bleed and gut your catch, removing the gills and internal organs. Back on land you may need to drain the water and pick up another bag of ice for the drive home (especially if you have a long drive; don’t take a chance). It is well worth the few dollars it will cost you to keep your catch cold for safe eating.
Kayak fish bags have a hard life, subject to teeth, spines, salt water and the Florida sun. Proper maintenance is needed. First, when you catch a fish like a kingfish, you may want to quickly put a piece of duct tape around its mouth before putting it into the bag to keep the fish from ripping the inside of the bag. Fish with sharp fins like lionfish should have their fins clipped before going into the bag. After you take the fish out, rinse the bag with fresh water.
Then take a squirt of dish soap, a cup of vinegar and add some water into the bag. Close the bag, shake and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then rinse out the bag. The dish soap along with the vinegar will take out the fish slime and smell. If your bag has a zipper, clean it well and lube it after each use. Always open and air-dry your fish bag. It needs to be dry before you close it up and store it. Check your owner’s manual for more tips on cleaning and caring for your bag. Take care of your fish bag and it will take care of you.
NATIVE WATERCRAFT LARGE FISH BAG
The Native fish bag is triangular to fit most kayak tank wells. It is lined with a thermally reflective and tear resistant fabric, with a 400-denier, urethane-coated nylon. It has carry handles on the sides, a removable shoulder strap and a bungee on the top that lets you attach gear and nylon D-rings along the bottom that allows it to be leashed to a deck of a kayak. Dimensions: 36 inches by 19 inches and 8 inches deep. Retail price: $109. Nativewatercraft.com
ICE MULE PRO CATCH COOLER- MEDIUM
The Ice Mule Pro Catch Cooler has a Trifold Dry Top system that seals ice in and air out. It has a tough 1000-denier outer layer and a heavy duty inside layer. It has polar layer insulation with an IM Air Valve that allows you to add an insulating layer of air. The cooler comes with a padded carrying strap, multiple tie down clips and bungee webbing for gear. Dimensions: 32 inches by 19 inches and 9 inches deep. Retail price: $110.95. Icemulecooler.com
YETI HOOPER 30 COOLER
The Yeti Hooper 30 has a Dry-Hyde shell with a Hydrolok Zipper that has a waterproof, airtight U-Lock locking system. It has a RF welded seam construction, six reinforced D-rings tie down points, EVA foam bottom. The cooler is insulated with cold cell insulation (closed cell NBR rubber foam). It has double stitched primary handles, end handles, shoulder strap and a hitch point grid system the will fit their sidekick gear case. Dimensions: 22 inches by 12 inches and 16 ½ inches deep. Retail price: $349.99. Yeticoolers.com
RAW ACCESSORIES USA INSHORE FISH BAG
This 29-inch inshore fish bag is a great size for trout and redfish. The bag is lined with the Polar Basics Technology Shield. The insulated barrier is welded, ensuring a sealed lining. The bag has a stainless steel zipper. Dimensions: 29 inches by 16 inches and 2.5 inches thick. Retail price: $60. Rawaccessoriesusa.com
First published Florida Sportsman September 2015