Canoe Or Kayak For Fishing – Which Is Better & Why?

Canoe Or Kayak For Fishing

Due to the boom in the angling industry in recent years, choosing between a canoe or kayak for fishing has become increasingly popular.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know, and questions you should ask yourself before making the purchase. Let’s jump in!

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Why Pick A Canoe or Kayak?

A small vessel like a canoe or kayak can be a more cost-effective and hassle-free option compared to big bass boats that require gas and a trailer just to get to and from your favorite fishing spots.

Plus, fishing from a kayak or canoe immerses you in the action. There is something more intimate about sizing down your vessel and enjoying the simplicity of being right at the water’s edge.

The advantage to fishing from such a small, quiet watercraft is being able to sneak into shallow backwaters that larger boats cannot reach. Sometimes, these harder-to-reach areas are so seldomly fished, you may have the chance to hook into a giant.

I’ve identified 7 major factors to consider when looking at buying a canoe or kayak, and this is based on years of me fishing out of both vessels in a wide variety of conditions and locations.

Things To Consider

  • Type of Fishing
  • Transpotability
  • Navigation & Manuerability
  • Stability
  • Comfort
  • Storage & Accessories
  • Costs

Type of Fishing

Before you start shopping, it is important to think about what type of fishing you will be doing the most.

Are you fishing primarily freshwater or saltwater? Will you be doing overnight trips or just quick day trips? Are you fishing primarily by yourself, or with friends and family? Do you like a lot of accessories and gear, or prefer to keep things simple?

For example, a solo angler going to do some offshore saltwater fishing would be much more comfortable in a kayak, whereas a father and son trying to fish their local pond or river may enjoy the journey a bit more in a canoe.

You probably already have an idea of what kind of fishing you like to do. Keep that information in mind as we dive into the other factors of consideration.

Type of FishingRecommended Vessel
Small pondsKayak or Canoe
Small lakesKayak or Canoe
Small creeksKayak
Medium-sized LakesKayak or Canoe
Large lakesCanoe
Gentle riversCanoe
Swift riversKayak
Backcountry inshoreKayak or Canoe
Coastal offshoreKayak
ReservoirsCanoe
CanalsKayak or Canoe
Note: This is just a basic guide; exceptions apply

Transportability

Transportability is how easy the vessel is going to be to load on and off your vehicle, as well as transporting to the water. Both kayaks and canoes are capable of being loaded in the bed of a truck, on a car roof rack, or even on a small trailer.

If you are fishing alone, a kayak is likely going to be much lighter and less awkward to pick up by yourself.

Transportability
Kayaks are generally easier to load, unload, and transport than canoes.

Canoes tend to be longer, and heavier and a bit more awkward to carry. However, there are kayak and canoe carts used to easily transport and roll your vessel to the water’s edge.

Some journeys may require you to portage or get out to carry your boat around an obstacle. The weight and length of your vessel are important to factor in if you think you may paddle a waterway that will require you to get out and portage around a dam, a waterfall, a fallen tree, etc.

Always check the weight of your vessel before purchasing. Inflatable Kayaks can weigh as little as 35 pounds. Full-size tandem kayaks can weigh over 150pounds, and Canoes can weigh anywhere between 40 and 100 pounds.

Navigation & Maneuverability

When you fish from either a canoe or a kayak, you are the captain, the motor, the navigator, and the fisherman.

Therefore, choosing the right option to suit your personal needs can make the difference between getting frustrated and skunked, or having a fantastic day of fishing.

Between the two options, kayaks are arguably much easier to navigate across the water’s surface. Canoes have a reputation for being difficult to “track” or paddle in one continuous direction.

Paddling a canoe generally takes a bit more coordination since there are two oars instead of one long paddle with two blades.

Navigation and Maneuverability
Kayaks are generally easier to paddle & maneuver for beginners, but Canoes are very maneuverable with proper technique.

A kayak is also a better option for any water with a current, wake, or white water. Trying to maneuver a canoe with waves barreling towards you or changing direction quickly while paddling through a river rapid could be difficult, and even dangerous.

Windy conditions are also not optimal for canoeing, and you will spend all your energy trying to stay in one spot. When it comes to maneuverability, a canoe is best for slow-moving water on a calm day.

Mastering a canoe is a true skill, and although anyone can learn it does take some technique, patience, and practice to really canoe effectively.

Stability

No one wants to flip their boat and lose fishing gear, so making sure that your vessel is stable is very important!

Long days on the water can get uncomfortable if you are not able to stand and move around at least a little. Many anglers like being able to stand and sight fish or take a standing position while they are trying to land a trophy.

The kayaks of yesteryear typically were not wide enough to support someone standing on them, but many modern kayaks are made to be extremely stable. Sit-on-top fishing kayaks are great for standing and moving around due to their length-to-width ratio.

Some models are considered a hybrid between a SOT (sit-on-top) and SUP (stand-up paddleboard) with a large flat deck, textured non-slip material, and a pull-up strap or bar. Kayaks like this are made with a wide enough base or a tunnel hull to support the weight of a standing user.

As a rule, the broader the base or wider the kayak, the more stable it will be. Heaver kayaks are also more stable and help with weight distribution as you stand and raise your center of gravity.

However, the great thing about a sit-on-top kayak is that even if you capsize, the boat itself is virtually unsinkable (assuming you have your internal storage compartments secured).

Stability
Kayaks are generally more stable for one person.

Canoes do allow some room for mobility but are notorious for wobbling if you stand or move around too quickly.

They are made to be extremely durable, but if you tip over, recovering your canoe will prove to be a challenge. Always wear a life jacket in a canoe or kayak!

Comfort

As I previously mentioned, a long day of fishing can feel like an eternity if you are not comfortable on the water.

We also know that at times, confidence in your cast can make all the difference in landing a fish. It is hard to cast confidently if your seat is uncomfortable, you are cold and wet, or you are cramped for space because you have so much fishing gear.

Canoe Or Kayak For Fishing

A canoe can provide more room to spread out your tackle, bring a cooler, and still have space to stretch your legs.

Comfort
Both Kayaks and Canoes are comfortable vessels when properly fit with seatback cushions.

Anglers who target species like catfish or carp may prefer a canoe with more room to handle large catches, rather than awkwardly unhooking a beast from their lap. The seating in a canoe allows paddlers to turn around and face the opposite direction if need be.

Kayak manufacturers have added some great features to various models of their boats to provide the most comfortable trip possible.

Some kayaks may even rival a canoe in terms of comfort, including adjustable stadium seats complete with a backrest and extra padding.

They are a great choice if you do not plan to bring as much fishing gear, or mind if it gets a little wet. Kayaks are also much easier to embark and disembark, should you need to get off for any reason (such as a bathroom break!).

Storage & Accessories

There is no shortage of bells and whistles when it comes to the additions and modifications you can make to both a kayak and a canoe. The rising popularity of kayak fishing and kayaking, in general, has increased the demand for new, top-of-the-line accessories to “trick out” your ride.

Storage is also a huge plus for an angler who needs a place to keep extra gear such as a large tackle box. Some of the nicer canoes out there come with extras like storage compartments and cupholders and rod holders.

In a kayak, most of the storage space is below you in the hull of the craft. Kayaks are much more integrated with electronics and the latest & greatest in personal fishing technology.

Various kayak accessories are available in abundance from different brands and retailers like YakAttack, Railblaza, and Yakgear, just to name a few.

The track system included in most fishing kayaks make it easy to attach accessories like a camera, fish finder, cupholder, rod holder, small storage box, etc. Many also include a way to easily modify their rig to attach a trolling motor or a pedal drive system.

Storage & Accessories
Canoes typically have more open storage space but Kayaks have more aftermarket accessories.

This does not mean that a canoe cannot be customized to the same extent. Many anglers rig canoes with trolling motors, outriggers, and just as many accessories as any kayak fisherman.

However, it can be much more of a DIY project to figure out how to attach the additions properly without the built-in track system.

For larger items, such as coolers, big tackle boxes, tents, and even camping gear, the larger open hull style of a canoe takes the cake. You can easily fit a full-size cooler in the middle of most canoe models (and it can act as a seat if needed!).

Canoe vs Kayak Costs

Speaking of bells and whistles, a new kayak or canoe can turn into a real investment if you choose a higher-end model.  Luckily, there are many brands and models of small watercraft to provide anglers with a bevy of options.

Kayak Costs

An influx of various fishing kayaks has hit the market in recent years. Some of the most popular brands that will not break the bank include Vibe, Ascend, Perception, Old Town, and Pelican.

Not all of their models are stable enough to stand up and fish, but they usually include built-in rod mounts, dry storage, and a nice seat. A basic fishing kayak like these can set you back anywhere from $699-$899. The fancier the vessel is, naturally, the more expensive it will be.

Canoe Costs

There are different types of canoes, whether they be recreational, travel, fishing, or for solo paddling.

On average, canoes can be pricier than kayaks, ranging anywhere from $699 to $3000.

If you are looking for a bargain, shop stores with discounts and sales like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports, or Cabela’s.

Sometimes, unconventional avenues like yard sales, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, Letgo, or Craigslist can also provide a great deal on a nice kayak or canoe at a fraction of the price.

You can also try calling around to summer camps, county programs, and other recreational facilities that may be willing to sell one of their used canoes!

In the end, your budget is a big factor when choosing any canoe or kayak for fishing. Plan on a couple of hundred bucks, minimum to get on the water and get started. But remember, that is a fraction of the cost of a conventional boat!

Conclusion

I tend to be a bit more biased toward canoes because I like being able to twist and turn around in my seat, and I like the open floor plan for storage.

I’ve also been using canoes since I was a young kid, and I am very comfortable paddling them over long distances and even doing overnight camping.

Canoe Or Kayak For Fishing

But the truth is there is no standard answer when it comes to choosing between a canoe or kayak for fishing.

What’s best for you, may not be best for someone else. But if you consider each of the factors I discussed in this article, you will land on the most logical choice.

The important thing to remember is that fishing is about having fun, making memories on the water, and spending time with friends and family. Thanks for reading!

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