In Search of the Perfect Fishbox
What details makes an integrated fishbox the ultimate in fish stowage?
If you have a fishing boat, you’re probably familiar with the problems of an integrated fishbox. Some allow water to pool inside, others are poorly insulated, and few are large enough to get the job done when you catch big game fish. Are you in search of the perfect fishbox? Then look for these attributes.
DRAINAGE is incredibly important. If the box goes below the waterline, you’ll need a pump-out. Some boxes have bilge pumps mounted in a recess, which is a poor design—the recess will always hold a bit of water and fish slime which makes for a mess and nasty smells, and scales will clog the pump regularly. Macerated fishboxes are better, but macerator pumps tend to fail every few seasons and can be a perpetual problem. Better fishboxes have diaphragm pumps, which sound funny and are slow but can pump sand without locking up. The best rigs drain the old-fashioned way: gravity. They’re built above the waterline, and this fail-safe design is idiot-proof. Of course, this can limit the fishbox’s size. And speaking of size…
SIZE MATTERS. Bigger is better, but remember that length is more important than width. Since most fish are relatively long and narrow, a boxy box can’t hold as large a fish as a rectangular one. But there is a down-side to all that depth: it’ll take more ice to chill off the catch. Unless, that is, your box has…
INTEGRATED COOLING. An onboard freezer plate works well, but the ultimate in fishboxes is an ice feed. These are common only on large sportfishers, which have space in the engineroom for an ice maker, which is then plumed directly to the fishbox. All you have to do to fill it up is press a button. Talk about easy! And, speaking of easy…
GAS ASSIST STRUTS on the hatch are a must-have. Large fiberglass lids are heavy, and you’ll often be struggling to control a flipping, flopping fish when you need to open the fishbox. Not only will a strut or two make the hatch easier to open, it’ll also slow the hatch down when you close it. That prevents loud slamming noises, which can spook near-by fish. Spooked fish won’t bite, which means you’ll have no need for…
INSULATION, to keep the chill inside the box, where it belongs. Blown-in foam gets the job done, but a layer of foam laminated into the fiberglass works better. The hatch should be insulated as well (and gasketed and guttered to prevent water intrusion as well as escaping chill), and take note of where the box is located because this also has an effect on how long it will hold ice. Fishboxes located above an engineroom, for example, may be subject to heat from below.
Just how big a deal is it to have a “perfect” fishbox? To find out, I placed three 30 – 35 pound Yellowfin tunas, caught at the same time, into a regular Igloo cooler, a collapsible fish bag cooler, and an onboard fishbox that met most of the above parameters. Each was loaded with 40 pounds of ice. At the end of the day I took core temperature readings of the fish, and discovered that the Igloo fish showed 44 degrees, the bagged fish showed 49 degrees, and the boxed fish showed 39 degrees. That’s a substantial difference – so if you care about your catch, you’ll go in search of the perfect fishbox.
- Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including Boats.com and Yachtworld.com. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design who has won 28 BWI and OWAA writing awards.
- Connect with Lenny Rudow on Google+
Tags: cooler, coolers, fish box, fishbox, fishboxes, Lenny Rudow