How to Add a Live Well to Your Small Boat


Enhancements to a small boat improve the fishing experience. A live well allows the fisherman to keep bait or caught fish alive and healthy. While adding a permanently mounted live well to a small boat is not usually feasible, a portable live well may fit into the boat. Manufacturers produce live well commercial kits from coolers, or you can build it from scratch.

Things You'll Need

  • Water or beer cooler
  • Two 1 1/2 inch bulkhead fittings
  • Two hoses
  • One 12-volt submersible bilge pump
  • Caulking
  • Power drill with 1 1/2 inch bit
  • Drill a 1 1/2-inch hole in the side of cooler about two inches above the bottom. Drill another hole about four inches below the top of the cooler. Use a round water cooler or square beer cooler--whichever fits best in your boat.

  • Install a bulkhead fitting through each hole. This fitting has threaded components on both sides of the cooler that tighten together to create a watertight seal around the hole. Add some caulk for an added seal.

  • Attach hoses to each of the bulkhead fittings. Use hoses long enough to reach over the side of the boat and below the waterline. Actual length will vary depending on the planned position of the live well in the boat. Use hoses with threaded fittings that fit the bulkhead fittings.

  • Attach a submersible 12-volt bilge pump to the hose connected to the lower hole in the cooler. Connect the power supply for the bilge pump to the 12-volt power source of the boat.

Tips & Warnings

  • The water is pumped into the cooler through the bottom hole and drains from the top hole. With both hoses over the side of the boat, the live well continually circulates fresh water, keeping bait or caught fish alive.
  • Remove the hoses from the water while moving. The wake action can cause enough motion to damage the submersible bilge pump.

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  • Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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