30-Quart Kayak Fish Cooler

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Project by DustyMark posted 05-11-2019 04:54 PM 452 views 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch


This is a plywood cooler designed to fit on the back of my fishing kayak to keep my catch cold and fresh. I like to fish northern pike and the longer shape of the cooler lends itself to storing several of these longer-shaped fish. At 30” usable length, a 36” pike should fit inside…with some bending. It came in at 30 quarts volume and weighs 19.2 pounds. Look for my blog, on this site, for a more detailed description of the construction process.


I used a modified plywood stitch-and-glue construction method commonly used to build sea kayaks. 1” pink styrofoam provides an R5 level of insulation. The outer case is 1/4” Baltic birch plywood. The inner case is 1/8” Baltic birch plywood coated in 4-ounce fiberglass cloth that was soaked in epoxy resin. 1/2” thick white pine joins the plywood layers.

An extra layer of plywood is added behind handles and strap locations. This provides something for the screws to bit into.

Floor installed and fitting the ends and sides.

Side foam fitted.

End foam fitted.

Sides, ends, and top caps are installed simultaneously. This is a complicated glue-up.

Bead of epoxy eases seam transitions for easier fiberglassing.

Interior glassed.

Trimming green-cured fiberglass.

Lid frame.

Hinge supports glued in.

Final glue-ip of lid.

I used 5/16” thick weather stripping, with hollow channels in it, that compressed down to 3/16”.

Fitting the lid.

Achieved a 3/16” gap all the way around.

Two coats of marine enamel protects the epoxy from UV light damage.

Paint application tools.

Roll it on.

Tip it off.

Final Thoughts

This was a significant project made mostly from scraps. It turned out better than I thought it would. Finding that it also fit well in my Grumman Sport Boat was an added bonus! I may sew up a Reflectix liner to improve the performance of the cooler.

-- Mark, Minnesota

7 comments so far

View oldrivers's profile


1664 posts in 1925 days

#1 posted 05-11-2019 05:30 PM

Looks really nice, may you enjoy using it. You did a great job.

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View robscastle's profile


6011 posts in 2563 days

#2 posted 05-11-2019 07:23 PM

Well done good hunting, the rest is now in the blog!

-- Regards Rob

View therealSteveN's profile


2584 posts in 933 days

#3 posted 05-11-2019 08:46 PM

Nice box. Wondering if you have done a calculation, of what 30 quarts of fluid weighs in pounds

It gave me 62.5905 pounds. Plus 19.2 for the cooler itself. Not sure what you weigh, but most fishers I am familiar with top out around 300# if you add anything for water motion, paddling, etc. How much of a load is that kayak gonna be good for? Plus adding any NP, Muskie, or even Walleye your gonna be doing a wheelie in a boat.

Just bringing that up, make you sure you don’t do the blub blub blub dance.

-- Think safe, be safe

View LittleBlackDuck's profile


2500 posts in 1180 days

#4 posted 05-12-2019 12:38 AM

Hell D’M’, I thought I was looking at a build of a kayak (or a kayak if you spell it backwards)...

Then I realised it was a cooler that can be enjoyed by any land-lubber…

Cool post and I appreciate that some people make the effort to document the effort they made.

Thanks for the post… The next beer is on….......... you!.....

and if you store fish in the cooler… you’re fishing way too hard!

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View DustyMark's profile


372 posts in 2429 days

#5 posted 05-12-2019 03:52 AM

Thanks everyone! Used the cooler today in my Grumman Sport Boat and caught two northern pike with my fly rod. One was 20 1/2” which is a legal keeper and one was 23 1/2” which had to go back because of our 22-26” protected slot limit.

This little “snake” northern kept nice and fresh for about 8 hours in the cooler prior to filleting it!

Regarding the weight, I use 6-8 pounds of blue ice for a day trip and I doubt I’ll ever get over 20 pounds of fish in there for a total of 45-47 pounds. The deck will handle the weight and the kayak is super stable. This boat is rated for 400 pounds payload. Those are good cautions though!

-- Mark, Minnesota

View therealSteveN's profile


2584 posts in 933 days

#6 posted 05-13-2019 03:49 AM

Sorry I was thinking more “live fish box” than cooler, even though you said cooler. Reading comprehension whatsthat?

Glad it worked out. Where abouts are you fishing, and shooting waterfowl in a layout? Darned if the duck part doesn’t sound like Michigan, not sure if the NP’s are in Erie though. Lake Michigan sounds kinda deep, so maybe Wis, Minn?

-- Think safe, be safe

View DustyMark's profile


372 posts in 2429 days

#7 posted 05-14-2019 03:03 AM

No worries. My stomping grounds are northern Minnesota, west of the Duluth area. Kayak fished with the new cooler for the first time today and stability is fine…yes! Paddled across a little lake and then carted the boat for 1/2 mile to fish one of our favorite duck hunting lakes. I had one northern follow the streamer fly to the boat and it didn’t fall for the figure-eight trick. That’s the first time I’ve fished the lake and was surprised I didn’t see much action.

-- Mark, Minnesota

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