So along with the new rechargeable aerator from Engel, I have been testing out their Live bait Drybox/Cooler. The live bait coolers are based on Engel’s regular drybox/coolers except for a couple of changes. On the lid, there is a pluggable hole for the aerator airline. As well as a spot that is molded into the plastic for hanging an aerator. The coolers are made of injection-molded PP copolymer that is insulated with High-Grade molded Polystyrene Foam. The cooler also features an airtight EVA gasket seal, carry handle, shoulder strap, and self-stopping hinges. The fittings and screws used to secure them are all stainless steel. The drybox/coolers come in four different sizes; 7.5qt, 13qt, 19qt, and 30qts.
All four sizes of the live bait drybox/coolers come with a shoulder strap, removable net lining, and 2×2 gen 2 portable air pump. As well as a few stickers and some reading material. The instructions recommend using the straps when moving around a full live bait cooler though. So I’m guessing the plastic handle built into the lid might not be able to support the weight of the whole cooler. This particular live bait drybox/cooler is the 30qt model, which is the MSRP on Engel’s website put at $124.99. That is before any shipping and handling.
If you look around online you can find them for sale from other retailers for less though. I bought this one from another seller for $97 after shipping. So you can definitely say these are at a premium price point compared to other live wells out there.
The basic 2×2 Portable Air pump that the cooler comes with can either use battery power or 12volt power from your car or boat’s cigarette lighter. That way you can run the pump overnight without eating up all your D batteries. It also should be noted the pump does not come with D batteries, you have to buy your own.
The 2×2 gen 2 portable air pump is a pretty nice unit. Similar to other portable units available out there, it opens up completely to install the batteries. The airflow is pretty good on high as well. The ability to be able to use that 12v adapter to not use the D batteries is very nice as well.
Of course, because Engel claimed this dry box/cooler was water and airtight I had to test it. Even with having that hole in the lid for the airline once you install the plug into the hole their claims are actually true. Even when filled partially with water and flipped upside down the cooler did not leak.
Cold Retention Test
Engel has it printed right on the lid of the cooler that it can keep things cold for at least 2 days. So we got to test it out and see if the drybox/cooler actually does. So without pre-chilling the cooler, I filled it up with ice and left it in the back seat of my truck for a couple of days. I opened it a few times a day to simulate real-life use of it.
After 24 hours in the back of the truck, there is a substantial amount of melt water. But the cooler still has a good amount of ice left in it.
48 hours after the start of the test the cooler is still cold. There isn’t much ice left but there is still ice left in the cooler. That would all melt by the next morning, but the water was still cold by then. So yeah their claim of keeping cold for 2 days is true and then some.
Live Shrimp Test
To test the intended function of the drybox I grabbed a few cold water spot prawns from one of the tanks at work. The test was to last 8 hours and see how well the shrimp hold up. The whole point of having an insulated live well is to keep your bait from getting too hot. The higher the temp, the lower the O2 content of the water. The lower the O2 the more live bait will die. I’m testing three things here, how well does the drybox keep the water cold, how much help is the live bait net, and just shrimp longevity in this volume of water.
To start the test, the live well cooler was filled with 7 gallons of cold saltwater from the shrimp tank. The temperature started at 41.5F, 4 spot prawns were perky and added to the live well. They immediately clung to the net material.
2 hours into the test, the spot prawns are still in good condition. Even when the live well is moved around because the prawns can grab the netting they arent getting beat up. The water temperature has gone up to 42.8F.
4 hours into the test, still no changes besides a slight increase in water temperature. No signs of stress in the spot prawns. The water temperature has gone up to 44.2F.
6 hours into the test, again no changes besides the water temp going up. No signs of stress in the spot prawns. The water temperature has gone up to 46.8F.
8 hours of the test, which is about a shorter day on the water. The spot prawns were still fine and put back into their cold water. The final water temp was 49.3F when the test was finished.
After testing the box for a few weeks I got to say I like it. I had seen these live wells around for a while and always thought they were too expensive for what they were. But I understand why people like them so much. They are very well built and convenient to use. After the shrimp test, I left the drybox/cooler covered in salt residue just to see how it holds up. I haven’t seen a spot of rust on any of the fittings after a week.
Just as a small cooler to keep in the truck it’s a nice option. The watertight seal keeps me from having to worry about having meltwater sloshing around and soaking my carpet. On the water, I don’t have to worry about my bait cooking in the sun. It means less time I’m adding new water to my live well and more time fishing. While I’m not going to tell everyone to go buy one immediately. But if you have the means and use live bait often, go for it.