How Do You Keep Fish In A Canoe?

Fishing from a canoe can be among the most effective, efficient, and enjoyable fishing methods. This type of fishing can be relaxing or exciting depending on how you do it, but all canoe fishing methods have one thing in common: storing caught fish while canoe fishing is difficult. How do you keep fish fresh in a canoe?

To keep fish fresh in a canoe, the best option is to use a soft cooler with plenty of ice. A hard-shell cooler, an insulated bag, and live fish boxes can also work well. Keeping the fish in a mesh bag in the water can also keep the fish fresh if the water is cold enough. 

There are several methods to keep your catch fresh and safe while you are canoe fishing. The trick is to find the method that works best for you. Not every technique works for every canoe, and not every method works in every region. Let’s explore the best ways to keep fish safe and fresh in a canoe. 

How Do You Keep Fish in a Canoe?

Canoe fishing is an excellent and effective fishing method. This method will allow you to catch many fish quickly if you use the right techniques. This means that if you are catching fish to eat, it is critical to know how to keep your catch fresh while on the water. 

Fish can spoil surprisingly quickly, especially if they have not yet been gutted and cleaned. Decomposition sets in quickly, especially in hot and humid environments and when the fish are kept in the sun. These circumstances are common while on the water. 

What if you catch fish early in your day and plan to fish until dusk? You need a way to keep the fish fresh all day and prevent them from spoiling before you can get them home for processing. 

The good news is that there are several easy and cheap methods to keep fish fresh while you are canoeing. Let’s identify and explore the best methods of keeping fish fresh and safe during canoe fishing.

man fishing on a river from a canoe

Use A Soft Cooler

The best and most favorite method of keeping fish for canoe anglers is to use a soft cooler. 

Soft coolers are ideal fish storage containers when fishing from a canoe. It is best to use a large enough cooler to accommodate several fish and plenty of ice to keep the fish as fresh as possible. 

There are several sizes of soft coolers available, which means you can easily find the right size cooler for the fish you want to catch, the number of fish you intend to keep, and the right size cooler to fit your canoe. 

Using a soft cooler is ideal because the cooler can be pushed into areas of the canoe where it can be out of the way. The soft shell of the cooler allows it to be placed in smaller locations and in areas of the canoe where a hard-shell cooler simply cannot fit. 

A soft cooler can conform to any shape within the canoe and can be squashed to fit into storage areas easily. 

A soft cooler is far more convenient and versatile than a hard shell cooler. These coolers usually have straps, buckles, and other accessories that can be clipped or tied onto the canoe to keep them secure. 

These coolers are inexpensive and can hold plenty of ice and many fish. There are many options available, which means you can easily find the right soft cooler for you and your canoe. 

These coolers are very good at keeping fish fresh for long periods of time. They are easy to move, easy to empty, sanitary, versatile, and useful. There are no better coolers to use for keeping fish in a canoe. 

green colored soft cooler bag

Use A Hard-Shell Cooler

If you do not have access to a soft cooler, a hard-shell cooler is the next best option. 

These coolers are slightly less practical for use on a canoe, but they are extremely thermos efficient. They will keep your fish fresh and cold for extended periods of time. Good coolers that are well insulated can even keep fish on ice fresh and safe for multiple days if necessary. 

These coolers are more difficult to use in a canoe. They are not recommended for small canoes, but if you are using a larger canoe with plenty of space on board, using a large hard-shell cooler full of ice is an excellent way to keep fish in a canoe. 

Be sure to secure the cooler, do not overload it or make it too heavy, and ensure that the ice does not melt too quickly or that the extra weight of the shifting water in the cooler is likely to destabilize the canoe. 

If you are careful with it if you use it well, and if there is enough space in your canoe, a hard-shell cooler can be the perfect option for keeping fish in a canoe. 

blue and white hard shelled cooler box

Use An Insulated Bag

Insulated bags are another well-used method for keeping fish fresh in a canoe. Insulated bags are not as effective as soft coolers, but they do work well, especially in cooler weather, and they are very easy and convenient to use on a canoe. 

These bags are available in multiple sizes and can be easily brought in a canoe. The major advantage of these bags is that they are collapsible. This makes it far easier to bring multiple bags with you, and you can fold them flat until you need them, which means they use very little space until deployed. 

Insulated bags are affordable, they can fit into canoes very easily, and they take up very little space. These are excellent for keeping fish in a canoe. 

Use A Live Fish Box

Live fish boxes are another good option for keeping fish in a canoe, especially if you want to keep the fish alive. Keeping fish alive is the best way to keep them fresh, and using a live fish box is the best way to do this. 

There are multiple live fish boxes of various sizes available at various price points and different levels of quality. However, these boxes are ideal for canoes, as they are compact and effective, and they can keep fish fresh for extended periods. 

These are best used for keeping fish alive, but you can also use a live fish box packed with ice to keep fish fresh in a canoe for a day on the water. 

bait fish in a livewell

Use A Goody Bag

Another option for keeping fish fresh in a canoe, especially if your canoe is very small, is to use a goody bag or any other type of mesh bag to keep the fish in the water. 

This method is ideal for small canoes, as the fish will not take up any space in the canoe, and the cold water will keep the fish fresh for a long time. 

This method is best used in very cold waters. If the water is warm, it will not preserve the fish, and they will begin to spoil, even while in the water. 

This is a good method for cold water and can save significant space within a small canoe, especially if you keep large amounts of fish at once. 

Another great option is to use a fish stringer which you can read more about in this article.

two white mesh bags on a green background


There are multiple ways to keep fish fresh in water, but the best methods are to use ice and coolers. These methods will prevent the fish from spoiling for a long time, even for several days. Soft coolers and hard coolers are always the best options for this if you can keep them in your canoe. 

Every angler has their own preference for keeping fish in a canoe, but if you explore the options, you are sure to find the best solution for you and your requirements. 

Tommy Bull
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