A simple, neat and inexpensive way to keep killies alive and frisky
Let’s face it, we all have our favorite baits, both artificial and natural, which each of us believes will offer the best chance to score a fat summer flounder. From bucktails to live snapper blues, the list is as long as a warm summer day. For some, a squid strip and live killie combo is their first choice and one that’s hard to beat. That strip of pure white squid fluttering in the water across the bottom draws the attention of summer flatfish as it drifts by while the live killie frantically trying to free itself from the hook provides an attractant even the most finicky flatfish can’t pass up.
In recent years, killies have become hard to find at times, especially when the bite is on. Keeping them alive can also be a challenge. Floating bait buckets tethered to the boat are popular partly because they are relatively inexpensive and provide storage dockside for any killies leftover after a day of fishing. However, they spill water all over the deck when removed from the water and are a mess to clean scum and algae from after a season of use. They’re also often forgotten when repositioning the boat for another drift and get cutoff or wrapped in the prop. There’s also the possibility of scratching the hull paint or gelcoat. Battery-operated pumps placed in bait buckets work well but have the initial cost, need batteries, corrode, and require a stand-alone bucket which can easily spill in a rough sea sending your killies out the scuppers to freedom. Livewells are a viable option for keeping killies alive and frisky.
A fishing buddy once showed me a way to keep killies alive without the need for water, pumps or a bucket. His idea was quite simple and quite frankly took me by surprise. Utilizing a hard-sided six-pack cooler and a piece of 3/4-inch plywood cut to fit inside the cooler and wrapped in a wet towel he then placed a pint of killies in the cooler without water and to my surprise they stayed alive all day. The only problem was the towel needed to be washed or discarded and the piece of plywood held a distinct odor. There had to be a better way to accomplish the same task while also making clean-up at the end of the day a lot easier.
Here’s a version of my buddy’s killie cooler that’s easy to assemble and clean and does the same job. You’ll need a hard-sided six-pack cooler such as Coleman or another brand. Soft-sided collapsible coolers won’t work as well as they don’t hold their shape. You’ll also need a re-freezable ice pack to fit the cooler, a piece of 3/8-inch Plexiglas to fit inside the cooler and a chrome or ceramic drawer pull knob. Depending on the hardware you may also need to replace the machine screw and washers that come with the pull knob with a stainless steel hardware.
Assembly process is very simple. Drill a hole to accommodate the machine screw in the center of the piece Plexiglas. Install the chrome or ceramic knob with the stainless steel machine screw and you’ll also want to add a stainless steel washer to both sides prevent the Plexiglas from cracking. Round all edges of Plexiglas as well as the four corners with a piece of 180-grit sandpaper. Place the re-freezable ice block in the cooler and be sure the Plexiglas rests on it. When you head out fishing, place the frozen ice pack in the bottom of the cooler. Add killies but whether you buy your killies or catch them on your own be sure there is no water in the cooler. The killies will quickly become dormant when place in the cooler but will jump back to life immediately when removed and hooked. At the end of the day dispose of any baits you may have and wash all components with soap and water as you clean the boat.