|  First Published: May 2006

Technology constantly introduces new and better features to our marine electronics and livewell systems have evolved with the times. I can recall the days of clear plastic bins or eskies with aerators inside and buckets used for bailing water in and out.

Today, keeping the catch alive is a lot easier as many boats have built-in livewells as part of their custom fit out.

Livewell Advantages

There are a number of advantages to having a livewell in a boat. Tournament fishers, who must release fish alive, need a efficient system capable of maintaining or even improving the health of caught fish. Such a tank is also useful if you want to select a few fish for the table too. It allows you to release any unwanted fish at the end of the day and pick out the ones you want to keep.

Some bream and bass anglers believe that releasing caught fish back into the school they came from can distress the rest of the school and stop them from biting. Temporarily using a livewell to store caught fish and then transporting them a short distance away from the productive area could be the answer.

Livewells keep fish healthy when you want to take some photographs as well. You can also use one to show off your catch to your fishing buddies or admire it yourself without having to kill it.

If you’re like me and don’t mind some friendly competition, livewells can be used when fishing with your mates to keep your biggest fish or best limit of fish for the day.

Livewell Size and Design

ABT recommends that a livewell have a capacity of at least 60L and be fitted with an aerator or recirculation pump. This size is the minimum and larger wells are certainly more roomy and comfortable for the fish. A practical size really depends on the size of the boat and motor and the species being targeted. When transporting water, you have to remember that it weighs around 1kg for every litre. This volume of weight isn’t fixed either, as water has the ability to move about, shifting the weight distribution in the boat.

As a general rule, most serious tournament boats would have a 100-150L livewell these days. At around 400mm deep, this size is ideal for carrying four big bass or ten nice bream. When placed inside the well, it’s best if they fit comfortably but you don’t want there to be too much room. If there’s too much room, the water tends to splash around, which throws the fish about when you’re on the move.

Larger livewells often have dividers running down the centre. These have numerous holes that allow aerated water to penetrate the entire well. Apart from separating the catch, they have another important function. Dividers act as baffles, which slow the flow of water – stopping a sudden rush from one side to the other which makes the boat unstable. This increases stability while motoring and at rest.

Baffles help to stop water splashing around in the well but once you start moving, it’s hard to stop it splashing out of its container.

By placing the access hole or holes away from the edges of the container and having them smaller than the actual top of the livewell, water tends to hit the top and splash back down. The ideal set-up is to have an opening with a down-turned lip that pushes the water back down as it rolls and splashes up the sides. Access holes should be big enough to easily place fish in and remove them from the well.

Building a Livewell

There are prefabricated aluminium livewells on the market. These may be an easy option but if you’re good with your hands, you can build your own. When building your own livewell, you can choose its size, shape and position of it in the boat. Check out the attached information as a guide to building your own livewell and setting it up.

Plumbing a Livewell

Livewells require a pump to propel water into them. The best type of pump for this is the thru-hull style. They have a threaded intake that can be pushed from inside the boat through the transom, with a nut to hold it in place. Alternatively, the pump can sit in the bilge area and have a short hose running to it from a thru-hull fitting in the transom. Livewells also require an overflow and a drain; these can also be plumbed to run through hoses and exit the boat below the water-line through the transom area.

This type of system will fill the well with water from outside the boat. It doesn’t provide any form of recirculation or added aeration. It’s this area that has vastly improved in Australia in recent times. Anglers who are familiar with the American imported bass boats would be aware of the superior livewell set-up they offer. The materials used in these great livewells are now available in Australia. Flow-Rite Controls Ltd, a American company, now has a branch in Australia and they sell the widest range of livewell and baitwell products that I have ever seen.

Flow-Rite’s products include valves that sit in the bilge area and are attached to the fill and drain lines as well as the intake pump. These valves are controlled via a push-pull cable which has a control dial positioned within easy reach of the driver. This means that from the driver’s seat you can fill, recirculate or drain the water – all with the turn of a dial. You’ll also find that Flow-Rite sell a selection of aerator heads that propel air into the water as it’s pumped into the tank. It’s these fine bubbles of air that stay in the water for longer before rising to the surface, providing an oxygen rich environment for the tank’s occupants.

To see more about the products Flow-Rite has to offer, check out the fact box and livewell diagram provided. You can also visit their website at [url=http://www.flow-rite.com/]. For trade enquiries or your nearest stockist, give Flow-Rite Controls Australia a call on 0438 332 488.

Construction Guide

(1) Build your desired shape using any grade of plywood as the frame. At least 12mm thick ply will screw together best without bracing it. Structural strength will be achieved when it’s glassed and painted.

(2) Paint mixed fibreglass resin (1 to 1.5ml catalyst:100ml resin) inside the ply container reaching through the access holes. Mix around 500ml at a time to allow sufficient working time before the resin begins to gel.

(3) Add a full layer of chopped strand mat to the entire livewell and roll to remove air and spread excess resin. Add extra resin where needed, using a paint brush to wet the glass mat.

(4) Apply two more layers of mat and resin. Pay particular attention to joins and corners as they need to be strong.

(5) After the resin is almost tack free, brush on a thick coat of flow coat mixed with catalyst at the same ratio as the resin. This will produce a professional looking finish and waterproof the job. Extra resin and flow coat can be painted onto any other timber areas that will be exposed to water such as the underside of the access lid. When painting the underside of the lid keep it separate so that it doesn’t bond shut when the flow coat dries. Flow coat has a high build so ensure that there is enough room for the lid to close if you seal its edges.

(6) Acetone will clean up any mess. A pair of rubber or latex gloves is a must to protect the hands while carrying out the job.


Building a Plywood/Fibreglass Livewell

Material List (approx cost $150-$200)

 12mm plywood sheet

 Chipboard screws

 Butt hinges for lid

 4m of 450g chopped strand mat

 2L fibreglass resin

 1L flow coat

 50ml catalyst

 1L acetone (for clean up)

 Mixing containers (eg. 2L ice-cream containers)

 3 cheap paint brushes

 Fibreglass roller

 Rubber or latex gloves


Flow-Rite Controls Australia

Flow-Rite offers a huge range of livewell and baitwell fittings. These high quality components are used on boats like Nitros, Stratos and Haines Hunter Pro Strikes. Apart from their exceptional quality, they have one more attractive feature – they’re very affordable.

Flow-Rite offers five different system styles, all with different features. All parts are bought separately so you can design a system that suits your own needs.

Flow-Rite has their own Qwik-Lok connection system. This allows you to order flexible hoses with a simple but effective connection on each end for a hassle free and leak free set-up. The connections and fittings simply push together to form a secure seal. All Flow-Rite components can be ordered in either Qwik-Lok style or in the normal barbed style found on other brands.

The System 3 configuration is the one that caught my eye. It offers the following features:

Auto (off plane): Once the first fish is caught, simply place the switch into the auto position, turn on the aerator pump and forget it. Fresh water is continually blended with recirculated livewell water. This ensures a properly filled and freshened livewell at all times and any ammonia laden water is expelled through the overflow.

Auto (on plane): When the boat is on the plane, the valve will automatically close to prevent water loss and the pump will switch to closed recirculation. When the boat is brought off the plane, the valve automatically reopens to allow fresh water to be added to the livewell. Therefore, any water that was lost through the overflow while travelling will be replaced.

Recirculation: In the recirculation position, the valve switches to reuse the livewell’s own water, pushing it back into the well full of oxygen. This can be handy when the outside water is undesirable (eg. too muddy, too hot or contains chemicals). This position can also be used when using livewell additives before a tournament weigh-in or when trailering fish.

Empty: This feature is of course for draining the tank. When in the empty position, the valve only allows water to flow out of the tank and prevents it from entering. This is a handy feature when you back the boat into the water the following day or trip. It means you won’t have to take off carrying unwanted water in your livewell if you’ve forgotten to adjust the dial.

Pump-out: The ability to pump out a livewell can be achieved using a couple of methods. The easiest of these is to use an aerator nozzle called a pump-out aerator. These nozzles can be used to replace most aerator spray heads and bars on any livewell.

The pump-out aerator eliminates the need for a separate pump-out pump.

When the spray head is pushed in, the aerator will push water into the well. A venturi in the spray head mixes air into the water to provide optimum conditions for any fish passengers.

When you reach into the well and pull the spray head out, water is diverted through a pump-out line to outside the boat.

The pump-out feature is handy to quickly lower the water level of a livewell to catch fish to be released or for a tournament weigh-in. If you’re fishing a competition that requires fish to be carried to the weigh-in in a container or tournament bag, the pump-out water can be used to fill it.

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