Gear, Advice

Stop Buying Ice For Your Fishing Trips

We all know that keeping our catch cold will help ensure quality for what hits the table.  However always buying bags of ice at the grocery store is inconvenient and gets expensive.

I’ve discovered a better way to keep my catch cold.  It is cheap and keeps things cool all day.  It has been quite an improvement over buying a bag or two of ice each trip.

Coolers Are Misnamed

Some people seem to think that if they simply put their stuff in a cooler that someone it will get cold.  Guess what coolers don’t actually have any cooling components in them.  All they are is an insulated box which slows down the transfer of heat outside to your food and drinks inside.

If you put room temprature food, drinks or fish in the cooler then it will remain at room temperature.  You need to add something cold – like ice – to bring and keep that temperature down.

Block It Out

I’m sure you’ve seen, or maybe even used, those Blue Ice packs.  You throw them in the freezer, then later take them out and put them in the cooler.  These are reusable ice packs.  Unfortunately, they aren’t cheap, especially if you need many of them.

We can make our own reusable ice packs with a container and regular tap water.  The results compare favorably with Blue Ice, but are much cheaper and non-toxic if it leaks.

Initially I used the half gallon plastic milk jugs.  After the milk was gone, I’d rinse it out, fill it 90% full of water and throw it in the freezer.  However, I found that these weren’t very durable.  Eventually they will develop leaks.

What I use now is juice bottles.  When I go to the store I look for ones which are:

  • Made from heavy plastic
  • Have a good shape – the more rectangle like, the better

I’ll then buy a couple bottles and take them home.  Getting rid of the juice is no problem, as the family loves it.

Then I’ll do the rinse and fill with water.  With these sturdy containers you can fill them almost completely full, and not have a problem with the ice expansion.

DIY Reusable Ice Containers
DIY Reusable Ice Containers

One nice thing with these containers is if they break or develop a leak, then no big deal.  Just throw it away and buy more juice.

Keep It Cold

When it is time to go fishing I get some of the containers out of the freezer and transfer it to the cooler.  Depending on how long the trip is I might just get a couple, or many more.

How you arrange the ice in the cooler has an impact with the cooling.  Remember that heat rises, and cold sinks.  So if you put all your ice at the bottom then the stuff you put on top will not get as cold as it otherwise would.

I like standing the bottles up, so I can put food, drinks and fish next to the ice.  I’ll do a pattern, working from one end of the cooler to the other.  A couple containers of ice, then food and drink, then a couple more containers of ice, more food and drink, and so on.  That the ice is spread out across the cooler.

If I have room, and the stuff in the cooler can have weight on it, then I’ll lay some ice on top.

As I catch fish, I’ll put them in a heavy duty garbage sack, and then put the sack in the cooler – moving stuff around to ensure the fish will be near some ice.

More Ideas

If I’m doing a long camping trip then I’ll also do things like load the cooler with frozen food, or frozen drinks.  This is like adding ice without needing any extra room in the freezer.

On these long trips I’ll also take a second cooler which stays in the car or campsite.  I’ll just pack it completely full of ice.  Then as the trip goes on I can transfer the previous day’s catch into it, and replace any melted ice in the main cooler.

How Do You Keep Things Cold?

Is there anything you do to help keep your fish cold during your fishing?  What do you think of this idea?

3 thoughts on “Stop Buying Ice For Your Fishing Trips

  1. Have you ever used dry ice in your cooler? I have talked with some folks that use it for extended trips. Typically they will wrap it in a towel or something to keep it separated from food so as not to “burn” it. But it keeps frozen food in a cooler frozen for a longer period, and there’s no water when it melts. Seemed like an interesting thing to try.

    1. Never tried it. Part of the reason I went to the bottles was to avoid the cost & inconvenience of buying ice.

      Seems to me that dry ice would be best for longer trips. Might have to be careful due to pressure build up as the dry ice sublimates.

  2. I do similar but put salt in the water to the pint it will not dissolve any more. This lowers the freezing level to the bottle of ice is very close to 0 degrees, rather than the 32 degrees of normal ice.

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