Most days in the summer, we wouldn’t think about going fishing without bringing along a Coleman cooler full of ice cold drinks, lunches and snacks.
Matter of fact, I usually have at least one other smaller cooler full of ice in the boat, as well, reserved specifically for live bait such as leeches and crawlers.
Once winter arrives, however, the last thing most of us think about putting into the sled or toboggan is a cooler, and that is a big mistake. In fact, I rely as much or more on my coolers in the winter, as I do in the summer.
The same big cooler is ideal for storing and keeping dry your sonar units, tip-ups, and spare clothing. Plus, when you use a cooler, your equipment doesn’t roll around inside the sled and break. It is precisely why we pack all of the television gear into large insulated coolers when we’re filming in the wintertime.
I use a smaller cooler, on the other hand, to store live minnows and especially, freshly thawed dead baits when I am ice fishing for giant northern pike. Thanks to the thick insulation in the cooler walls and lid, my bait never freezes.
And a large Coleman-style cooler is ideal for storing any fish you catch and keep for dinner.
The worst—absolute worst—thing you can do when you catch a fish is to throw it on to the ice and allow it to freeze. When you get home, you have to let it thaw in order to clean it, and the freeze/thaw process breaks down the cells, making the fillets mushier and less firm than they otherwise would have been, had you kept the fish fresh.
It is why, anytime I intend to keep fish, I use a small portable Rapala ice fishing shovel to line the bottom of the cooler with a layer of fresh snow. Then I put my fish on top it, layering on more snow as the day and the catch, progresses.
The fish never freeze, even when the temperature dips well below -30 C, so when I get home in the evening my fish are as fresh as the minute I caught them. Filleting them is fast and easy and I can treat my family and friends to the finest meal fit for a king or queen!
If you are still not convinced, check out this week’s Fish Talk With The Doc video clip that I recorded for the Fish ‘N Canada television show. And trust me, if you take your Coleman cooler with you the next time you go ice fishing, I guarantee you’ll find so many uses for it, that you’ll never leave home again without it.