Best Fishing Coolers In 2021 | Keeping Fish Fresh for Long!

When going for any outdoor activity, it is essential to carry the necessary tools. This is not different from angling. There is a need to prepare well to avoid any inconvenience that can come up. While strategizing on the best accessories such as fish finders, rod, line, reel, and lures for the kind of fish you set to catch, think about how to keep them fresh. Remember, fishing can be done for long hours even for days, and therefore proper storage is crucial. This is where coolers come in. It keeps the fish long enough and helps you carry food that will remain fresh even in hot weather. 

There are various choices when it comes to coolers that can be used during fishing activities. You can go for an insulated fishing bag, ice chest, or traditional ice chest depending on needs and preferences. With many choices available, it may be hard to pick one. Here we have done thorough research and presented the six best fishing coolers that have been tested and proven to work well. First, let us look at the summary of these coolers.

Not sure which one to buy? Please keep reading to understand each one of them.

Top 6 Fishing Coolers In 2021 (Best Picks)

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Best Fishing Coolers

6 Top Rated Fishing Coolers

Before buying one, it is important to understand deeply the features of each type and how it will benefit you. Below is an in-depth review of each one of them that will help you make informed decisions.

01- YETI Tundra 45 Cooler

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The 3-inches permafrost insulation ensures YETI tundra equipment keeps ice for long. With this product, you can keep up to 26 cans with its 45-quart capacity. Product’s design, durability, and performance make it stand out among others. No fear of this equipment sliding on the boat because of a secure fit and can even serve as a seat. This shows how strong it is and the assurance of long-lasting services.

YETI tundra is suitable for the heavy-duty ice chest and can keep your drinks, food, bait and fish ice-cold and fresh for seven days plus. Extreme weather elements cannot damage the cooler since it is bear-proof well-made. Precisely, this model is worth the price for devoted fisherman and outdoor fan.


  • Permafrost insulation which keeps it icy for long’
  • Bear-proof built which makes it durable and sturdy
  • T-rex latches for heavy-duty
  • Roto-molded construction which is indestructible
  • Fat-wall design for maximum ice retention


  • Brand: YETI
  • Model: YT45W
  • Weight: 27.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 45-Quarts

02- Coleman Cooler

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The Coleman cooler comes in style and purpose. It has steel-belted and can keeps ice for up to 4-days even in hot temperatures. If you are style-conscious, then this is a perfect choice as the cooler is generally designed with class.  You do not have to worry about running out of storage as the cooler can hold up 85 cans with its capacity of 54-quart. 

The stainless steel material makes it durable, and you will are guaranteed quality services. Using it is relaxed with the comfort-grip still that allows controlled lifting and carrying. Apart from taking it on your fishing trips, the cooler can be of great use during other outdoor activities such as camping. The food will be kept fresh, and you only need to warm it. Let us take a look at its outstanding features.

Key Features

  • A 54-quart capacity that can hold 85 cans
  • A retro design which makes it visually appealing
  • Made of stainless steel which makes it durable
  • Steel handles with comfort grip 
  • Keeps ice for up to 4-days in high temperatures


  • Brand: Coleman
  • Model: 3000003096
  • Weight: 19 pounds
  • Capacity: 54-quart

03- Igloo Polar Cooler

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You may need to go for more days to fish in waters. Then you will need to carry igloo polar cooler since it retains ice for up to 5-days with the capacity of 120 quarts. This super insulation is supported by an ultra therm body with a lid fitted with UV inhibitors to protect against sun damage. The top is further secured by double snap-fit latches to ensure sufficient cooling. The reinforced handle is strong enough to hold the cooler while drainage and hose hookup is enhanced by a threaded plug. Definitely, it is the best cooler for the long haul and can withstand shocks, and you can even sit on it when relaxing. Just ensure the lid is well secured.


  • A 120-quart capacity that can hold up to 188 cans
  • Keeps ice for up to 5-days
  • Threaded plug for easy hose hookup and drainage
  • Snap-close lid with tie-down loops for safety
  • Reinforced handle that is strong to handle the storage capacity


  • Brand: Igloo
  • Model: 44577
  • Weight: 18.2 pounds
  • Capacity: 120-quart

04- ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box

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This is an ideal cooler for those who not only want to keep food and drinks inside but valuables as well. It doubles up as a dry box that keeps electronics, cameras, and emergency kits safe from water damage. The lid features an airtight EVA gasket, which ensures extended ice retention time and prevents water from getting inside. You will feel comfortable walking around with it as the flexible shoulder strap and convenient carry handle make it portable. No worry about odor and stain as the cooler comes with a non-absorbent surface that is simple to clean. They come in four different sizes, and you have the pleasure of choosing one according to storage needs.


  • Compact and lightweight
  • Four sizes to choose from
  • First-class molded polystyrene foam insulation
  • Handle, and adjustable shoulder strap that makes it easy to carry
  • Non-absorbent surfaces which make it odor-resistant and easy to clean


  • Brand: Engel
  • Model: UC13T
  • Weight: 4.5lbs
  • Capacity: 13-quart

05- YETI Hopper Portable Cooler

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This cooler has cold cell insulation that keeps it icy and holds up to six cans. The wide-mouth opening makes it easily accessible and contents visible. Nothing can leak as the zippers are of high quality, and the equipment is waterproof. The punctures, mildew, and sun rays cannot get to this kit because of dry hide shell. FDA-approved material makes up the liner, thus safe to keep edibles in it. Never worry about the valuables such as the phone, wallet, and keys since YETI sidekick dry takes care by keeping them free from water. The hopper is made in sizes that are easy to clutch and go on any adventure.


  • Coldcell insulation that keeps it icy for long
  • Leak-proof zippers and wide-mouth for easy accessibility
  • Sturdy material to ensure the cooler is durable
  • Waterproof and resistance to damage
  • 2.8lbs making it portable 


  • Brand: YETI
  • Model: Hopper
  • Weight: 2.8lbs
  • Capacity: Holds up to 6 cans

06- Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler

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This cooler has a 20-quart capacity, which can hold up to 15 cans. Insulation from 2-inches of polyurethane provides effective ice retention, which is further enhanced by 360 degrees freezer-grade gasket. The carry handle is over-molded for comfort, and 3-inch locking latches to secure the cooler. Bottle opener made of stainless steel is attached to make hassle-free when opening your favorite drink while out on an expedition. Pelican cooler also features molded-in tie-down slots, reinforced lockable hasp, and anti-shear hinge system. Additionally, there are non-skid rubber feet and four self-draining cup pouches.  


  • 2-inches of polyurethane insulation for long ice retention
  • Tank-like design for durability, leak-proof and waterproof
  • Come with cup holders and bottle opener for convenience
  • 13 portable pounds


  • Brand: Pelican
  • Model: 20Q-2-TANORG
  • Weight: 13 pounds
  • Capacity: 20-Quarts

What to Look For When Buying a Fishing Cooler

You cannot wake up one day and buy a product without considering crucial factors.  The one selected should keep cold for long, easy to use, durable, and serve other needs as well. Here are the things that should be considered when shopping for the fishing cooler:

  • Insulation

The best cooler that can be taken out for fishing should be well insulated. The level of insulation will determine how long the ice will be retained and, therefore, the time the content stays chilled and fresh. The projected fishing hours will determine the level of insulation needed. The one that can hold ice for long enough, under sweltering temperatures, to keep food, fish, bait, and drinks fresh should be the top of the list. 

Top-rated coolers have thick insulation of up to 3-inches, tight seals, freezer quality gadgets, and tightly locking leads that can retain ice for more than a week. This kind of cooler fits those who go for fishing or any outdoor activity for an extended period. However, those who go out to fish for a day should buy portable coolers that can retain ice for 24 hours. When you feel that the equipment is not working as expected, ask yourself the following question:

 Is the lid sealed tightly? If the cover is not closed well, the cold air can escape allowing the warm to get in. This will melt the ice to make it less effective in keeping the content chilled and fresh.

Does the cooler have a crack or is busted? Cracked or broken equipment can affect the ability of the insulator to keep the cooler interior temperature. A repair can be done or replacement with a new product for proper functionality.

Does the equipment use ice water or only ice? The water inside will make the ice melt faster, reducing its effectiveness in keeping the content cold and fresh. This means the cooler with ice only can store content frozen for a long period. Drain water when necessary especially for extended fishing trips.

  • Draining capability

Melting of the ice is inevitable, and therefore ease of emptying the cooler should be considered. The best one should not leak when the cooler is drained. Those that feature pronounced draining systems, such as the holes at the bottom of the equipment or recessed channel, should be prioritized. Hoses can be attached to some products to allow drainage. Ensure this type of cooler has a drain plug that is tightly sealed when not in use to prevent leaking. Proper drainage mechanism makes it effortless to empty without having to tilt or lift it. 

  • Built design

The construction of the cold box matters a lot when it comes to durability and effectiveness. The materials used should be tough enough to withstand the unforgiving outdoor elements, falls, and rough landscape. Additionally, the handles, hinges, latches, straps, seams, and the built itself should be sturdy to carry heavy load without breaking down. Roto-molded coolers are the best and consideration should also be made for those that have heavy-duty plastics chest fish boxes. 

The material used in coolers should be UV and corrosion-resistant to prevent the quick weakening of the equipment. Look for those which are bear-resistant found in top-rated brands. If you go for insulated fishing bags fishing, look for those which are made using high-density and robust material such as canvas and nylon to ensure they endure scratches. 

  • Portability

You will need to keep moving the cool box/bag around. Therefore, one that is portably manageable is the best. The size and weight should not hinder its functionality. If you need to use it while walking a significant distance, then a lightweight insulated bag will be the best pick. Coolers for heavy-duty should have wheels and robust handles for stress-free handling.

  • Capacity

Interior capacity should be considered when shopping for a cold box/bag. It differs from the general outer size as thicker insulation will reduce the inner volume. Those planning to go out for several fishing days need big storage capacity, while if it is just for some hours, a smaller one will be perfect. Typically, for a weekend fishing trip, the 45-quart size will be enough. 

  • Size

Buying a big cooler that will not fit available space will be a waste of money. Consider the outer measurements and the weight of the product with your needs and storage space. Get a compact cooler that is lightweight that can make carrying easy. Those which are designed to hold more content are big and heavy and therefore ensure they fit space available. The bigger ones should have wheels for more accessible transport when moving it in or out of the boat.


Q: How do I ensure that the fishing cooler retains ice for long?

During hot weather, you will want to enjoy fishing by ensuring the cooler is maximally working. A few tips can make it stay cold for long. These are;

  • Close and latch it well
  • Insulate more using an additional layer
  • For longer trips, drain water
  • Put ice blocks instead of ice cubes
  • Freeze drinks and food before putting in
  • Keep the cooler away from direct sunlight

Q: How do I take care of the fishing cooler?

First, never keep it with the lid sealed while still clammy inside. Mildew will start breeding inside, which can reduce its effectiveness. Before storing, sundry, or wipe it dry and keep the top open for a while. Using a mild soap is okay if there is a need to clean it more rather than rinsing. Dish sponge may be used to scrub but should be rinsed thoroughly afterward. The drain plug should be clean carefully and seal later, as well.  Open the cooler once in a while if stored for an extended period.

Q: How does fishing coolers differ from each other?

Each one of them is designed with anglers in mind. Traditional ones have handles, drain plugs, and limited cup holders for drinks. The modern ones, though, come with wheels, rod holders, and a lid that serve as seats as well. The additional features of the advanced products make it more portable and helpful. The other difference is the capacity. They come in a different size, and you need to pick one according to the intended purpose.

Q: What makes the perfect coolers for fishing?

 The features that match the fisher’s need will make the cooler perfect. That means what is ideal for you might not be perfect for the other person as the desires vary. However, there are things that everyone should consider. Insulation, durability, and ease of transporting should be the top features that make a perfect cooler. Features such as size, time of ice retention, and capacity will vary from one person to another, depending on the purpose and needs. 

Q: Is the cooler necessary when fishing?

As much as the rain gears are available, many anglers still prefer fishing in spring and summer. Warm weather can make caught fish go bad faster. Coolers are therefore necessary for those who intend to store the fish on long trips. It will keep your fish cold and fresh for a reasonable time, depending on which one you buy. 

They are a good option as it does not change the fish flavor like salt and UV light. The bait can also be kept in it to make it more attractive to the fish. Furthermore, drinks and food can be kept fresh to be taken while on a fishing expedition.

Q: Which is the best option between a robust fishing cooler and a portable bag? 

The best will depend on the means of transport to fishing place, time to be taken on fishing trips, and method of fishing. The robust product will be perfect for long trips or boat fishing. Short excursion, kayak fishing, and need to walk for long distances will call for a portable bag. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each and make a choice.

Advantages of portable bag

  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Easy to carry while on foot
  • Storage and packaging is easy

Disadvantages of portable kit

  • Short time ice retention ability
  • Not durable compared to sturdy ones

Advantages of sturdy cooler

  • The long ice retention period
  • Keep content fresh for long even in extreme temperatures
  • Superior durability

Disadvantages of sturdy cooler

  • Heavy and cumbersome to carry
  • Requires large space

If you are not sure, then consider having both. It can help during different types of fishing excursions. 

Features of Best Fishing Coolers

# Product Name Features Info
1 YETI tundra 45 cooler 45-quart capacity
Permafrost insulation
Roto-molded construction
T-rex lid latches
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2 Coleman Cooler
54-quart capacity
Retro design
Stainless steel hardware
4-days ice retention
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3 Igloo Polar Cooler
Reinforced handle
120-quart capacity
5-day ice retention
Double snap-fit latches
Ultratherm insulated body
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4 ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box
Serve as drying box as well
Central carry handle and shoulder straps
Non-absorbent surfaces
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5 YETI Hopper Portable Cooler
ColdCell insulation’
Hydrolok zipper
Hitch point grid
Leak-proof and waterproof
Holds up to 6 cans
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6 Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler
Polyurethane insulation
20-quart capacity
3-inch locking latches
Over-molded carry handle
Non-skid rubber feet
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Final Word

Just like any other fishing equipment, coolers are necessary for every zealous angler. The uses are not only for keeping the catch but also for storing food and drinks fresh while on trips. The good thing is that various companies have come up with different models that are designed to meet the needs of every angler. However, it could be hard to pick one without thorough research. 

This review article has been compiled to make work easier for you when buying the best fishing cooler. The ones reviewed here have been keenly selected, and picking one depends on your needs and budget. The factors that have been highlighted are essential in getting the equipment that serves you better and longer. Check that your preferred equipment has all the features such as proper insulation, appropriate size, required capacity, portable and well-built design for effectiveness and efficiency. 

Last update on 2024-04-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API