I'll be going on an multi-day deep sea fishing trip where we are expected to catch between 150lb to 400lb of fish each (Yellow Fin, Ably, Dorado). I'll have a 3 day drive back home across the Midwest. Last time I looked into this about 15 years ago, it seemed like it was easy to buy/find large styrofoam ice chests (like 3 ft long.) Now it seems these are nowhere to be found.

What are people doing to transport fresh or flash frozen fish or any meat really on a plane / vehicle / boat where maybe dry ice is involved? Am I stuck with buying Igloo coolers at $50 each? Or are these foam ones I used to pay a few dollars a piece for still available and I'm just not looking in the correct place?


4 Answers 4


You can still buy those coolers at area grocery stores. If you're headed out of San Diego (where I'm at), I could give you the names of specific locations.

There are also processors that will be waiting for you at the dock (in every major sport fishing location I've seen) that will chop and paper your catch. I think you could go from there, to a grocery store, and then get some dry ice (if you want that route) and cheap foam coolers.

It's worth noting that the foam coolers are rightly losing their appeal as they are viewed as disposable, and they generate considerable waste.

  • Ill buy what used reusable ones I can find. We are leaving point loma actually. Me and 5 others, private charter, 2 nights. Id love to know what places sell these. As all of us are out of state, and we've called around the usual places (walmart, costco etc) and cant find them.
    – maplemale
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 1:53
  • 2
    I worked as a captain for a couple boats out of point loma sport fishing and H&M landing; it's going to be a great year for you. I was just in the downtown (~10 minutes from Point Loma) Albertsons (albertsons.com/pd/stores/CA/San-Diego/…), they have some in stock.
    – Eric
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 15:04
  • So, after calling pretty much every retail and grocery store in California, i have determined none of them carry these anymore. I did however find out I'm searching the wrong terms. And that "Fish Box" is what actually want. I found this company and have ordered 6: mrboxonline.com/33x16x1225-quart-tough-foam-cooler-p-7979.html
    – maplemale
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 16:40

When I was younger, we would use a plastic garbage bag and put in the depression for your feet in the back seat. This was back in the days of rear wheel drive and drive tunnels going down the center of the car so the depression would easily hold 5 or 10 pounds of ice and 24 cans of cool beverages. The bag would keep the melt water from leaking into the car.

As you are planning on dry ice, you could use a similar solution with even less risk of leaking melt water. You don't need a cooler, you just need to keep the heat transfer to a minimum. Put a plastic bag in a cardboard box (I recommend double bagging, with heavy contractor bags, just in case) put the dry ice in with the fish and wrap everything in a blanket or sleeping bag.

Coolers are portable device for containing and transporting. You don't need to transport, everything stays in your car. You just need to contain the cool and any fluids.

BEAWARE dry ice in a closed car for more than a few minutes can raise CO2 levels to hazardous or fatal levels (ref by @Chris Mendez)

The expansion rate for dry ice is 845; 10kg of dry ice sublimes into about 5.4 m3 of carbon dioxide gas

  • A cooler also provides insulation, which the wheel well of your car will not.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 14:59
  • On long those ideas then, Get sheet polystyrene, cut it to the size of the footwell, or line strong cardboard box with it, and then bags to contain the ice/dryice, and you have a cooler.
    – user5330
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 1:52
  • @mattnz there is no reason this need to be limited to the footwell of the car. A box in the trunk or back seat would work just as well. Thought during warm weather keeping it the part of the vehicle that is air conditioned would make the ice last longer. Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 13:57
  • 1
    Just be careful not to recirculate the AC air as it could potentially build up levels of CO2-- dryiceinfo.com/safe.htm Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 11:03
  • @ChrisMendez thank you I have updated my answer to include your warning and reference. Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 11:31

Go to the local supermarket butcher, ask if he has any shipping styrofoam coolers from incoming meat suppliers.

Same as the cheapo ones, but Much more sturdy.

  • Tried that. They really don't have / use these.
    – maplemale
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 16:46
  • Too bad, a lot of prepackaged meats come in these heavy duty styro container. Just like the cheapo ones you buy in the store but much heftier.
    – Escoce
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 18:10
  • ya... maybe it's just that they won't give them to me. But the 3 stores I called, all said no-can-do.
    – maplemale
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 19:21

Ask around, like your mates at work and neighbors and see if you can borrow some coolers. You may also be able to rent a decent sized one from a commercial catering company. You will need to decide if you want dry ice or normal ice for keeping the fish cold on the way home.

Another possibility is to borrow a small freezer that will fit in your car (consider how big is the car, and how big can the freezer be?). Use a 12V-mains pure sine wave inverter to run it while driving and power it when parked for the night from an AC outlet.

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