Your Very Own Fish Locker!

Have you ever wanted just a little extra space to put those fish in you just caught?  Well, on alot of boats there is just the spot for that fish locker (not a livewell!) that you have seen on other boats.  I thought about this some time ago but never gave it a second thought until I was out on my salmon trip with SCPP.  In his boat he had a nifty fish locker right in-between the two helm seats.  Although the hull on his boat is a bit deeper than what mine is, I figured that this would indeed be the best spot, and only spot, for such a locker.  The first task was removing anything that was pinned down to the decking itself, which in my boat were the two front seats and the stern seats, easy to remove.  I then had to remove the decking front and stern to see what space, if any, I had below the decking, and to see where the supports/frame were for my particular boat.

It was the front area right between the two seats that had the space below it, the stern decking had the longest and skinniest gas tank below it that I've ever seen, good thing to NOT cut through or drill through.  So, once I was sure that there was space under the decking I measured the distance between all the support beams/frame and drew a Mickey mouse pic of same.  I also put the piece of decking back in place and measured and marked on it as well, exactly where the hatch would go.  Now, there is another reason that I wanted to put this hatch into boat, and it wasn't discovered until I actually had the decking off.  Moisture!   Even though the decking is made from "marine plywood", there were signs of premature rotting in various spots and there was even  mould in some areas.  Now, there aren't alot of anglers that use their boat as much as I do, especially year round, and I always try and ventilate it after each trip.  I open all the hatches in the boat and put a cover over the boat that ensures air flow throughout.  Apparently all this wasn't enough.  I would guesstimate that if I hadn't found the problem now, that the decking wouldn't have lasted another 5 years and it would all have rotted out.  Now I don't know if this is a problem on all Harbercraft boats but, you'd think that they could put in some sort of vents for that area under the decking that would allow ventilation.  With the moisture factor in mind, it also made me rethink just what kind of fish locker to have.

Most fish lockers consist of a lid/hatch and then a stainless steel box/liner of some sort that the fish are thrown into.  Although that was my initial thought, by closing off the area under the decking via a box/liner, all that moisture would still be down there, even if I left the lid open.  So, my plan, and just a plan at this point, is to put some sort of liner "down below" that will still allow proper ventilation with the lid left open, so a more open liner design.  That's for another article, lets get the hatch installed! 

The biggest problem, if one could call it that, is what kind of hatch, there are a alot in the market with various sizes and materials.  What will determine just what you need will be how much room you have where you want to install it, and what will not affect the structural integrity of the floor/decking that your installing it in.  In my boat I wanted a locker similar to the live well that came from the factory that was installed up in the bow.  It was nearly 3' long and almost a foot wide.  That however, was to long for the area I was working with.  Although I had the room to install that long of a lid, it would have severely affected the strength in the decking, in fact almost cutting that particular piece in two!  Not good, especially if you have a 200lb guy stepping on the lid!  As well, I only had so much space in-between the aluminum frame that was under the decking, and I didn't want to compromise the strength by getting to close to them either.  After checking out various models etc., I wound up getting a plastic lid/frame setup, one that was strong enough to support the big guys and also fit into the space I had available.  The one thing that was different from the locker I had up front was that this lid is not flush with the floor, but is slightly raised.  Because of the specific size I chose, I could not find a aluminum hatch that was the same and, that would not flex when someone stood on it.  This one I chose was designed for high traffic areas and lots of weight so the "inconvenience" of it being raised a little is insignificant, especially when it usually just me in the boat!

The end result of my project was real spiffy!  There is a ton of room under my floor and even if I didn't put some kind of liner/box below the hatch, I can still use it as a viable fish locker which can be easily cleaned out.  The hatch, even though not as long as I wanted, is wider, and there isn't much you couldn't put through it.  The raised lid is of course not as nice as a flush lid but again, its one of those things you get used to and before you know it I'll be stepping on it as though it wasn't even there.  The big thing with this installation, as with the Hydro Fin, follow the instructions!  Double check your measurements, double check where your putting the hole in your boat, use stainless steel screws for attaching the lid and, don't go storing your socket set or other stuff down there that could damage your hull from banging around!  I can just see some guy putting his cannon balls down there and the hull getting beat to crap from them banging around, its not for that!  Here's some pics that show just how easy and quick this thing is to put in and, if nothing else, it will save your floor from rotting out!!

3 Fit Lid

The finished project. I put a little silicone around the outer edge, that keeps the hatch from sliding or moving due to vibration and keeps all the screws where they should be.  There is just about 12" from the top of the hatch to the bottom of the hull, plenty of room to throw in the biggest fish you catch.  If you don't want the slime in the bilge, get one of those big garbage bags and put that in the hole for a box liner.  If your in a dryer climate and don't get as much moisture, this would also be a great place for storing soft stuff like extra life jackets or ropes.