Scotland and New Zealand are both an anglers’ paradise. Living in both countries has allowed me to cast my line into many beautiful lakes and rivers.
I’ve picked up lots of tips and tricks over the years, some so profoundly obvious it’s a wonder I didn’t learn them sooner. For instance…
Fish seek security near banks and shelters and sometimes you’ll get lucky fishing from the bank. But, and as many an angler can attest to, your chances are increased tenfold when you venture into deep water – which is where the trusty canoe comes in handy.
However, not just any old canoe will do. Fishing canoes need space for storing equipment, plus a little extra in case you want to take a buddy along. They should also track well and be fairly easy to manoeuvre – a fishing trip should be enjoyable, not exhausting. And above all else, it has to be stable.
It can be a difficult task finding a canoe that meets all these requirements – but there’s no need to fear, we’ve assembled a list of the best canoes for fishing along with a short guide of what to look for.
Our Top 5 Best Fishing Canoes
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What to Look Out for When buying a Fishing Canoe
Canoe construction has come a long way from the old days when animal skins, driftwood, and whale bones were bound together. Old Town Canoes still produce stunning wood canoes that have a timeless elegance about them, however, most modern canoes are made from roto-molded plastic.
Plastic has the advantage of being lightweight, extremely durable, and requires little maintenance (if any). High-density polyethylene, which is at least three layers thick, should be your go-to material if you want a canoe that is going to last.
Steadiness is crucial for fishing canoes. You need balance when you’re wrestling with your catch and if you plan on taking multiple passengers on board.
The curvature along the length (a.k.a rocker) and width of the boat affect how stable the canoe is in different water bodies. If you intend to paddle lakes and gentle rivers, you want the base of the canoe to be as flat as possible and have minimal rocker.
A good test is to turn your canoe upside down and lay your paddle across the hull width ways. Canoes that will be stable in calm water will have a hull parallel to your paddle and touching along its length.
How many people do you intend to go canoeing with? The number of seats, and consequently, the size of your canoe will depend on whether you plan on solo fishing trips or expeditions with the whole family.
Also, consider how you’re going to store and transport the canoe. 14 foot may not seem all that big in the shop or online, but wait until it turns up on your doorstep!
If you’re space-starved, don’t let it put an end to your dream of owning a canoe. Most are durable enough to be stored outside (just remember to chain it to something solid) and there are even inflatable canoes for city dwellers.
This isn’t usually an issue as most canoes have plenty of room and maximum capacities that well exceed those of a tandem fishing kayak. The typical 2-3 man canoe will have a capacity of 700 pounds!
With kayak fishing becoming increasingly popular, there are heaps of kayaking and canoe fishing accessories. However, you don’t want to short-change yourself and have to fork out for additional accessories.
As a bare minimum, a good fishing canoe should come with adjustable seats, dry storage compartments, carry handles, and rod holders. Some models also feature cup holders, storage trays, and built in chilly bins which are nice little extras.
So, What is the Best Canoe for Fishing?
We hope that our short guide has got you thinking about the size and type of canoe you want.
The below list if our pick of the best fishing canoes on the market. As usual, we’ve tried to include a wide variety to suit every budget. Paddle on!
Sun Dolphin Mackinaw Canoe
At 15’6”, the Mackinaw is a HUGE canoe. However, its large size is what makes the Mackinaw so attractive.
It’s very much a family canoe with seating for three people. Although, with a maximum capacity of 800 pounds, you could stretch to a fourth seat on the hull and even bring the dog along as well.
Tipping the scales at 100 pounds, you’re probably going to need to enlist the help of another to get the kayak in the water. However, there are solid carry handles at the bow and stern that makes transport easy.
Sun Dolphin also produces the Scout, which is a slightly more manageable 14’, but is still set up for three passengers.
Both models are available in the standard canoe shape and the SS versions, which have a squared off back end to allow a motor to attach.
The seats are comfortable and have moulded trays, cup holders, and flush-mount rod holders (front and back seats only). The centre seat also has the added luxury of a paddle stay, dry storage compartment and cooler box – perfect for those long, uninterrupted fishing sessions.
A high-density polyethylene hull that is resistant to UV damage ensures the long-term durability of the Mackinaw, and a two-year warranty shows the confidence Sun Dolphin have in their products.
The canoe is great for fishing with the 40” wide hull being incredibly stable. You can easily stand up and cast if your prefer.
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks - Discovery 119 Solo Canoe
Sometimes, a three person canoe is complete overkill. You have no need or desire for the added space, weight, and certainly don’t want the hassle that goes along with transporting a larger canoe.
If you would rather escape to the lake yourself, then the Discovery 119 solo canoe may be just what you’re looking for.
Having first been manufactured in 1984, the Discovery series has been in production for over three decades. It’s a long time fan favourite and trusted by many explorers and anglers.
At 11’9” long and weighing only 49 pounds, the Discovery 119 is a lightweight and nimble little canoe that is easily paddled by a single rider. It’s also incredibly stable making it ideal for anglers.
The body is constructed from three layers of polyethylene making for a robust vessel that will last for years to come. But thanks to an efficient design, the canoe isn’t all that heavy.
There is one seat made from nylon weave and is comfy enough. However, it is a little low and you may want to bring a cushion along if you prefer to sit upright with your knees bent instead of having your legs stretched out.
There’s plenty of space on board for fishing gear, camping supplies, and even your canine buddy, and with a maximum capacity 500 of pounds, you can bring it all.
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Saranac 160 Recreational Canoe
There’s heaps of choice with old town canoes with models to suit everyone and with some models available in different lengths. The Saranac is one of those models being available in 14’6” and 16’.
Being only slightly bigger, but having space to fit the whole family, we think the 160 model is the better choice. And although 16’ is long, the canoe can be easily manoeuvred by a single paddler.
The canoe will comfortably seat three adults and enough supplies for a week long camping trip. And with a 750-pound maximum weight rating, you won’t have to worry about overloading.
The Saranac 160 has three seats; two contoured seats with backrests, and a centre bench with a small cooler box underneath it and a dry storage compartment. All the seats have storage trays and the bow and stern seats also have cup holders.
There’s also a vertical rod holder if you need to free up your hands – hopefully, it’s to grab the net to help your mate land his catch.
The 160 has a wide hull and a low centre of gravity making it very stable. If all the riders are briefed on basic canoe riding practices, there’s virtually no chance of tipping.
It is well constructed featuring a tough thermoplastic hull that can stand up to knocks and scrapes.
Weighing in at around 80 pounds, the Saranac 160 is a little on the heavy side, however, easy grip handles at the bow and stern will allow two people to lift it easily. Or it could be mounted on the shoulder and carried a short distance by one (strong) person.
Old Town Next Canoe
We’re big fans of Old Town Canoes & Kayaks, which you can probably tell as this is yet another one of their canoes to feature on our best fishing canoe list.
Incorporating both kayak and canoe design principles, the Next Canoe truly is next generation. The hybrid design has the versatility and easy operation of a kayak, but retains the open, roomy feel of a canoe.
Fun, comfortable, and extremely easy to paddle, the Next Canoe is built with your comfort in mind.
A narrow body and low seating allow stress-free paddling with both single and double blade paddles. The flat body and slight rocker provide lots of stability in calm waters.
Three layers of Polyethylene molded in a solid construction give this canoe the durability to last for many years.
Yes, although the Next is a good solo canoe for fishing, it isn’t built for anglers specifically, and lacks a rod holder.
However, there’s plenty of space upfront to perch your rod and the lack of this feature is quickly overlooked when you consider the performance and paddling experience of this little beauty.
Mad River Adventure 14 Canoe
The Mad River Adventure is a great canoe for the family, recreational kayaker, or angler.
It's constructed from durable polyethylene making it sturdy yet light (75 pounds). You’ll have years of worry-free adventures in the Adventure 14 without maintenance ever crossing your mind.
Multiple stabilizing chines provide exceptional stability which is reassuring for any beginners and kids you take along.
A low arched hull and almost non-existent rocker make the Adventure 14 ideally suited for lakes and gentle rivers. A sharp entry point helps with tracking, and the canoe is easy to keep on a straight path.
Two seats with adjustable backrests and a third molded seat (which acts as sturdy chine) allow plenty of space for everyone to hop on board along with their coolers, fishing rods, and camping gear.
14’ is the perfect amount of space to accommodate everyone and still remain manageable. Carry handles at the bow and stern make transporting the canoe easy.
Few canoes can rival the craftsmanship of the Mad River Adventure 14 or match the incredible value.