View Full Version : Livewell made out of a Cooler - please share pics and ideas

05-17-2019, 08:41 AM
Unfortunately, my boat doesn't have a built-in livewell.

I've got a livewell made out of a 48 quart cooler with the Marine Metals Products Super Saver Kit which is a kit that came with a 12 volt pump, hose, and brackets.

It's worked pretty good the past 4 years, but I've been wondering if there's a better way. The only issues I have are that it gets tough on a hot day (when temps are 90+ degrees) to keep fish alive for very long, and it doesn't seal closed very well so when the lake is windy/rough a bit of water sloshes out while driving down the lake and always seems find my shoes to make them good and wet.

I'd appreciate it if you guys could share your cooler livewell pictures and any tips of what has worked well for you.

florida guy
05-17-2019, 01:09 PM
OK here goes.
If you don't have a hose connected to the drain of the cooler, you'll have to put one one to keep the water circulating in the cooler. You may need a second pump. This will keep the catch alive.
Run a good sized bead of silicone caulk around the bottom of the lid and the mating surface on the cooler. That should give you a watertight seal.
Get 3 cam lock latches and secure them to the cooler, one in front, and one on each side.
Cinch them down when you move. That should pretty much do it.
The key is to bring water in and send it out.

05-17-2019, 03:02 PM
The cheapest and easiest fix is buy the cooler ice packs or fill water bottles with water and freeze them. Add them in the cooler to keep the water temp down and add some kind of fish care product to the water. This will help keep the fish alive longer, with out changing the set up you have. But as Florida Guy said the silicon around the lid really helps. Some real latches will help keep it sealed and by doing that will keep the hot air from getting inside and heating up the water along side of keeping the water in.

This is the set up I have on my skiff. I use a 100qt cooler and have a pump inside to aerate the water. Then I got a second pump, and stuck it to the transom of the boat. This way you can still run your boat with out removing it. Run the hose up the transom and in by the motor. I ran mine under the back deck to the cooler so I can pump fresh water in. I put a over flow drain and used a hose ran along ride the intake hose back out. This way you can pump in new water and the system will push the waist filled water out. I added 2 switches to the boat and left a lead of wire off the switch, I cut the battery clamps off and put male and female connectors on the wires. This way you can turn on what pump you want to when you need to and be able to pull the hole system out of the boat when its not needed. It takes me a few min to put it in or take it out of the boat.

05-18-2019, 09:19 PM
The silicone caulk idea sounds like a good one, but I use a ratchet tie down strap and the lid can't open. A sign to change the water is when the fish seem less active when I splash the water a bit. A 12v water pump over the side of my boat and a long hose does well pumping fresh water in fast. I hook it up to a small motorcycle battery. To take deoxygenated water out, it's just easier for me to use a plastic bucket that holds a gallon or more to dump the water overboard.

Most important is water/air temperature and quantity of fish. The higher they are, the more often the water needs changing. Frozen water bottles or freezer packs melt too fast and I still have to change the water after 3 hours. I've had fish still living in 80 degree water after a day on the water but only because the water was changed often. Aerators never worked for me especially with more than a dozen fish in the cooler.

Chris Langer
05-19-2019, 03:38 AM
The live well in my Jon is a custom built one made from a small cooler. It has dual pumps with the interval and duration controlled by a custom
built Raspberry Pi control box. The on and off times are programmable from a touch screen to save battery life. One pump brings in new water and aerates and
another removes slimy water. A float switch with a small stilling well is read by the program to know what the water level is
The control box is a topo map viewer and GPS unit.

here's some videos on this equipment
YouTube (https://youtu.be/7sEMhnXp0Kk)
YouTube (https://youtu.be/zcfVZphEbgc)


05-19-2019, 05:49 AM
Now that's what I call a livewell!!!!!!! Nice design!

05-19-2019, 07:03 AM
My "livewell" began as a bait tank, which I use to hold bream and shad, because I always put fish I plan to eat on ice. When I fished in a local tourney I used it to hold those fish, and it worked very well, since the requirements are the same. It has can recirculate and aerate water, and also pump fresh water in from the lake and dump the old, but requires two pumps. The plumbing system looks like it was designed by a drunk, but it works... At some point shortly, I plan to add a filter... Then, it will be perfect!
If you are fishing in really hot conditions, you need something additional to cool the water, as said above...
My tank is a fifteen gallon white bucket that I got from a restaurant supply store, with a lid. However, I rarely need to cover it carrying ten gallons of water... The bucket works for me better because of the smaller footprint in my boat, where floor space is limited....
I got the idea from watching YouTube videos. There are a lot of ways to get there, but all of the requirements are the same.
I do think having higher sides is an asset...
In this pic, the dump and pick up hoses are not attached, because I was fishing for just a few hours at night.
Good Luck...

05-19-2019, 07:08 AM
Might as well mention that you can tie up more than $100 on one of these in a hurry...

05-20-2019, 12:17 PM
Might as well mention that you can tie up more than $100 on one of these in a hurry...

I can definitely see that!

Best I can tell is that my 48 quart cooler is a bit on the small side, and that I need to replace the water more often.

On second thought, I think on hot days I might just be better off tossing the fish on ice rather than trying to keep them alive....only drawback is that I lose the option to cull.

05-26-2019, 08:16 AM
Saw this on utube and tried it.
My fish cooler (ice, not live well) has a hollow lid as do most except the new high dollar ones. Trick was to drill several holes and fill the lid with expanding foam like Great Stuff. Match the hole to the size of the nozzle and drill several holes around the inside to allow for expansion so you don't warp the lid. Let sit for a day and pop off the excess.

I put a 10# bag in it last Wednesday at noon. It sat in the boat 24X7 and still had ice Friday evening. This is a basic 15 year old Coleman cooler.
Thinking I can dump water in it and hook my Marine Metals 12 volt dual bubbler and with some frozen bottles I'd be good to go.

Hint. Add a good amount of salt to your water bottles to lower the freeze point and get longer lasting ice, just don't try to drink it. LOL

PS our day time highs were in the mid 90s everyday.

05-26-2019, 10:07 AM
Great tip! thanks for posting!

05-28-2019, 03:47 PM
In my old boat I made the livewell from a 48 quart Coleman cooler. I plumbed it to the transom on put in a pump. I drilled out the drain and installed a drain kit. I made the plug into an over fill tube. Worked great all summer long. I added a timer which would cycle on every 7 minutes, run for 1 minute and shut off. Repeat until I turned the timer off. Usually while loading the trailer for the trip home I would hear the pump running and turn it off on the trailer.

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