Canoes have been used for fishing for thousands of years, all over the world, dating as far back as around 8000 BC.
And while today kayak fishing is more common and popular, canoes certainly still have a useful place in this recreational pastime.
In this article, we take a look at the best fishing canoes in 2023 on the market, with a buyer’s guide to help you decide which one is right for you.
Table of Contents
- Fishing Canoes – What to Look Out For
- The 7 Best Canoes for Fishing in 2023
- How to Choose the Best Canoe for Fishing
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Fishing Canoes – What to Look Out For
Before we get stuck into the reviews, let’s take a brief look at the main features you should bear in mind when you’re considering such a craft for fishing.
Grab a pad and pen, and make a note of:
- What it’s made from.
- The length and depth.
- Weight capacity and overall weight.
- Number of occupants (tandem/solo).
- Motor compatibility.
- Any additional fishing-friendly features.
That should be enough to prepare you for navigating the reviews, so without further ado, let’s bring in the contestants.
The 7 Best Canoes for Fishing in 2023
Old Town Discovery 158 Canoe
If the oldest canoe manufacturer in the world didn’t have at least one entry in this review, then heads would have to roll.
To kick us off, I’ve gone for the Discovery 158 from boating stalwarts Old Town, which is a practical, stylish, and durable vessel made from three-layer polyethylene.
The thwart and yoke cross pieces are made from ash, with vinyl gunwales for added strength. Designed for two paddlers, the seats have a super-comfortable nylon-webbing, with a shallow arch hull for efficient paddling and speed in calm conditions.
Available in a choice of colors – including a smart camouflage, you can enjoy a successful hunting and/or fishing adventure with one of Old Town’s best-selling canoes.
- Name to trust with canoe manufacture.
- Tough, durable construction.
- Balance of stability and performance.
- Built-in carry handles.
- Dog friendly.
- 1150 lbs weight capacity.
- No immediate fishing features as standard.
While you might have to add your own rod holders (follow that link for some great options) this versatile canoe from the best canoe brand in the world is still a top choice for keen anglers. And I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be the last Old Town product we come across here.
Old Town Sportsman Discovery Solo 119 Canoe
What did I tell you? Right on the heels of the Discovery 158 is the Old Town Sportsman Discovery 119, a solo craft designed with fishing in mind.
In fact, it shares some key similarities with the Sportsman kayak range, including the ability to use a double-bladed paddle, and a contoured, fully adjustable kayak-style seat.
As such, it’s easily one of the most comfortable fishing canoes out there, and features padded armrests with tackle trays and shotgun shell storage.
There’s even adjustable foot braces to further cement this kayak-canoe hybrid, which boasts a spacious hull for adding fishing crates, coolers, or even your four-legged-friend who’s along for the ride.
Suitable for hunting and fishing, it has a total weight capacity of 354 lbs, and the shallow arch hull provides an all-round performance experience in calm waters.
- Name to trust.
- Accessory track on forward thwart.
- Four flush mounted rod holders.
- Custom tackle box included.
- Built-in cup holder.
- Ventilated seating.
- Choice of colors.
- None to speak of.
Marrying practical kayak features with the comfort and space of a canoe, this is a top-quality craft from Old Town that ticks all the boxes.
If I were in the market for a new craft, I’d be hard-pressed to see past the Sportsman Discovery Solo 119 as one of the best solo canoes for fishing there is.
And as it shares a lot in common with traditional kayaks, you should also take a look at this review of the best sit-in fishing kayaks on the market.
Sundolphin Mackinaw Canoe
Sun Dolphin are perhaps more synonymous with manufacturing budget-friendly kayaks for beginners, but they also have a couple of accessible, easy-to-paddle recreational canoes in their extensive locker.
The Mackinaw is one such option, a 15.6-foot craft with a square-stern design, so you can add a trolling motor for effortless exploration and fish hunting with a two horsepower rating.
Made with a tough and durable, UV-stabilized polyethylene hull, the canoe features three comfort-molded seats, each with a drinks-holder built in.
The center seat even has a drinks cooler located underneath, while a dry storage hatch can hold your personal belongings and valuables. Rod holders are also included, and the boat is capable of a maximum weight capacity of 800 lbs.
- Affordable price point.
- Rugged construction.
- Bow tie-down eyelets.
- Protective rub rails.
- Ideal for families.
- On the heavy side.
You probably won’t find a better canoe at this price point, especially considering the features that Sun Dolphin has managed to pack into the Mackinaw.
One of the cheapest recreational fishing canoes out there. And for more from Sun Dolphin and other budget-friendly brands, check out this article on the cheapest fishing kayaks available.
Mad River Canoe Adventure 16
With humble beginnings in the early 1970s, Mad River Canoe has developed into one of the finest canoe manufacturers in the world – and the first to introduce Kevlar as a crafting material into the industry.
The Adventure 16 model offers 960 lbs of weight capacity, made from a durable polyethylene, with a minimal rocker and shallow-arch hull.
As such, it offers a comfortable balance between smooth tracking, speed, and stability, and includes two padded seats with adjustable backrests in addition to the center seat.
Offering loads of storage space, this 16-foot long craft is versatile enough for family excursions as well as fishing and hunting, and it can be adapted for use with a trolling motor if you so choose.
- Quality construction throughout.
- Bow and stern carry handles.
- Molded fishing rod holders.
- Cup holders.
- Padded seats.
- Choice of colors available.
- None immediately apparent.
Another quality canoe from another quality canoe manufacturer, the Adventure 16 comes with everything you need to enjoy a fishing excursion with all the family. It’s not a bad price point, either, considering what you get.
Esquif Mallard Hunting and Fishing Canoe
Esquif are a Canadian, family-owned and run company specializing in over 20 years experience in perfecting the humble canoe.
Of all the world-class options I could have gone for in their extensive range, I decided to include the Mallard hunting and fishing canoe here.
Made from a super-tough and durable material, it’s lightweight and efficient, making it ideal to quietly stalk the waterways you might not usually reach.
A square stern allows the addition of an outboard of up to two-horsepower, and it features comfortable webbed seating and central yoke.
Offering a maximum weight capacity of 600 lbs, the Mallard is available in a choice of color schemes, including an attractive woodland camouflage. Solid and stable, this is probably one of the best canoes for fly-fishing available.
- Durable, rugged construction.
- Premium quality materials.
- Easy to portage.
- UV resistant exterior.
- Compact size.
- Bow and stern carry handles.
- Ideal for grab-and-go canoeing.
- No fishing features as standard.
Beautifully designed and built by paddlers for paddlers, this is a top-quality hunting and fishing canoe that will have you going places and landing catches in no time.
Perfect for two people, you can also take a look at this article on the best tandem fishing kayaks for more craft perfectly designed for bringing along a companion.
Sea Eagle Travel Canoe
I scoured the internet looking for a genuine inflatable canoe, and I might have known it was going to come from Sea Eagle.
Claiming to be the world’s first high-pressure drop-stitch canoe, this is a very impressive design from the inflatable stalwarts.
This 16-foot long craft is super-stable, with a rugged and durable construction, and boasting a maximum weight capacity of 915 lbs.
Fully NMMA certified, it’s packed with features, including two removable comfort seats, front and rear spray skirts, D-rings for attaching gear and accessories, and bow and stern plastic molds to improve tracking.
Three chambers inflate for added safety and buoyancy, contributing to a world-class inflatable that might well offer the comparative performance of a hardshell – with unbeatable portability to boot.
- Name to trust in inflatables.
- Non-slip EVA deck pads for standing casts and reels.
- Removable skeg for improved tracking.
- Rated to class IV whitewater.
- Four open and close floor drains.
- Super lightweight and portable.
- Choice of packages and pumps.
- Highly rated.
- No rod holders.
As far as inflatable watercraft go, this has to be up there with the very best. Sea Eagle have knocked it out of the park with this one, a genuine inflatable canoe that’s been superbly designed and built with premium materials, and will give hardshells a run for their money in the water.
As a result, it’s probably one of the most stable canoes for fishing out there, and the fact you can take it for a turn on class IV rapids just adds to the excitement. This could well be the future of canoeing, right here.
Lifetime Kodiak Canoe
Famous for their budget-friendly kayaks, Lifetime takes a turn at adding a canoe to their extensive portfolio with the Kodiak, a 13-foot model that comes complete with two, single-bladed paddles.
A hybrid-design, it takes some of the best features from a kayak and implements them in a canoe, such as the pronounced bow for speed and tracking, molded seating with adjustable padded backing, and central rod holders built-in.
Capable of carrying up to three occupants, it has a weight capacity of 600 lbs, with a high-density polyethylene construction that should last for years to come. A transom motor mount bracket is also included should you wish to add an outboard, rated for a 40 lbs thrust.
- Solid, durable construction.
- Ditty storage trays.
- Beverage holders.
- Tracking skeg.
- Bow and stern carry handles.
- Stable, flat bottom hull.
- One of the heavier canoes out there.
Consistently producing affordable, yet tough and durable play boats and kayaks, Lifetime has made an accessible recreational canoe here that is highly versatile and offers plenty of practical features.
Sure, it might be on the heavy side, but if you’re looking for a super-stable craft for family fishing – this could well be it.
How to Choose the Best Canoe for Fishing
Below you’ll find a more detailed guide to choosing the right fishing canoe for your needs, including its advantages over a kayak, and why you shouldn’t dismiss it as a viable and successful fish-hunting craft just yet.
Canoes and Kayaks – What’s the Actual Difference?
First, it’s important to understand the differences between a canoe and a kayak, as they can often be misleading.
In British English, for example, the term is interchangeable, and so we should establish some key points as to what sets them apart – just to avoid any confusion.
A canoe is identified by its higher seating position, deeper, typically wider hull and beam, and by the use of single rather than double-bladed paddles.
Kayaks can be sit-inside or sit-on-top craft, whereas canoes are more like a stereotypical boat or dinghy with seating slats attached to each gunwale.
Kayaks also have braces to support the pilot’s feet while paddling, whereas a canoe commonly does not.
Canoe vs Kayak – Which is Better for Fishing?
When it comes to kayaks versus canoes for fishing, the kayak is undisputedly the more popular choice.
That said, canoe fishing offers a number of significant benefits, many of which might make you think twice before making a decision on the type of craft you purchase.
- More on-board space for gear and equipment storage.
- Higher weight capacities.
- Room for more people/animals.
- Easier to portage.
- Elevated field-of-view.
- Space to move and stretch out.
- Higher likelihood of staying dry.
For a more in-depth exploration of this debate, take a look at this article on which is better – a canoe or kayak for fishing?
What to Look for in a Good Fishing Canoe
Here’s a run-down of the main features covered in the article introduction, explored in more detail. When buying a fishing canoe, these are the things you need to consider.
Canoes are commonly made from one of the following materials, or a combination thereof:
Without doubt the most beautiful and attractive of all canoe materials, wood has stood the test of time when it comes to making these craft.
Unfortunately, it’s so ridiculously expensive that we’ve decided to omit such vessels from this particular review.
Lightweight and durable, aluminum makes for an excellent canoe material, capable of standing up to whatever the environment throws at them.
That includes the sun, as aluminum does very well when it comes to protection against UV damage.
However, an aluminum canoe will dent and damage eventually, and they can be a challenge to repair.
Arguably the most common of all modern canoe materials, thermoplastics have numerous advantages.
Highly durable and corrosion-resistant, they’re very strong and reliable, as well as being cost-effective to manufacture.
They are typically heavier than all other materials – with perhaps the exception of wood, and they will deteriorate and fade over time if left out in the sun.
Canoes utilizing fiberglass composites will offer outstanding performance in the water, with excellent speed and maneuverability.
They’re also lightweight and available in a variety of shapes and designs.
However, the downside of fiberglass is that it’s probably the least durable of all canoe materials, and it can get pricey if you require regular repairs.
Perhaps more commonly associated with special forces and Batman than canoes, Kevlar is a super-strong material, about 25% lighter than fiberglass, all while boasting impressive performance stats all-round.
But yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s the most expensive canoe material – outside of wood, of course. You’ll also find they’re not as common or readily available as thermoplastics, for example.
At the time of writing, inflatable canoes aren’t really a thing, and most that claim to be are actually just inflatable kayaks.
However, I did manage to track down one genuine inflatable canoe – from Sea Eagle – and I’ve included it in the review above. I highly recommend you check it out.
And take a look at these articles on the best inflatable kayaks for fishing, or the best inflatable boats for fishing if it’s a more portable option that you’re looking for.
A major advantage that canoes have over kayaks is they’re unbeatable for family trips. Depending on the type of canoe, you can fit the whole brood in there without batting an eyelid.
But do check to see how many occupants/paddlers a canoe can safely take on board before making your choice. Or, if a tandem canoe is capable of being piloted solo, if that’s what you’d prefer.
As well as considering the space available for occupants, you also need to make sure that the canoe has an adequate maximum weight capacity, which is how much it can hold before it might take on water or become unsafe.
Thankfully, canoes nearly always have a much higher weight capacity than kayaks, and as a result are ideal for longer trips with more gear and occupants on board.
Length and Depth
Canoes tend to be longer than most standard fishing kayaks, but where you’ll really notice the difference is in the depth from the gunwale to the canoe floor.
How deep a canoe is can have both positive and negative impacts on your experience.
High-sided vessels will be able to store more gear, and keep both you and your equipment protected from the elements, including waves and splash back from the water surface.
However, you are much more susceptible to being buffeted by the wind, which can make tracking a challenge, as well as being physically draining while attempting to travel any distance.
When it comes to length, a longer canoe will offer more space for belongings, as well as being able to accommodate more occupants (as mentioned above).
And much like a kayak, longer craft will improve tracking and speed, and are easier to paddle great distances – at the expense of maneuverability.
As a rule of thumb, longer canoes are better for multiple excursions, while shorter craft are better for calm river fishing, or anywhere you might encounter many obstacles you need to negotiate.
The beam is effectively the width of the canoe’s hull at the waterline, at its widest point.
The wider the canoe, the more stable it’s going to be on calm, flat water. Additionally, the more gear and equipment you’ll be able to take on board – such as one of these awesome kayak fishing coolers.
The trade-off is that you’ll be much slower, and it’s highly likely the craft will get into difficulty at the slightest sign of choppy conditions.
Narrower canoes with a slim beam are able to handle waves, as well as being easier to paddle.
However, for fishing and general recreation, narrow canoes are generally considered unsuitable, unless you intend on tackling whitewater and/or traveling moderate to long distances.
Canoes, like kayaks, come with a variety of different hull shapes. The canoe’s performance will depend on the type you choose and the conditions you’re paddling in.
Flat – Flat-bottomed hulls are maneuverable, with a high primary stability. They are often the preferred choice for many kayak anglers, thanks to how stable they are for standing casts in calm waters.
However, they’re not as strong as other options, and they are the slowest of all hull designs. As well as this, they are highly unpredictable in even the slightest chop.
Shallow-arch – Offering a nice balance between speed and stability in calm conditions, a shallow-arch hull is a good all-rounder.
But like the flat-bottom, this canoe hull design will get into difficulty when the white caps start rolling in.
Shallow-V – The most versatile of all canoe hull designs, the shallow-V (sometimes called a semi-round) has excellent final stability, and offers good speed and tracking performance, particularly in rough water.
However, as they tend to be on the tippy side, they’re not that suitable for fishing in calmer rivers and lakes, and landing a catch might be something of a challenge, especially when compared to a flat hull.
V-hull – Hulls with a pronounced V-shape are not often found in canoes, as they’re more commonly associated with whitewater or distance touring/ocean-going kayaks.
Again, like the shallow-V they’re not particularly suitable for fishing, so unless you’re in the market for a touring canoe, I would recommend you stick to the flat or shallow-arch hull for angling purposes.
The hull’s rocker refers to the shape of the hull from bow to stern. Imagine it like the curve of a smile.
The more pronounced this curve, the more maneuverable the canoe will be. The flatter the curve, the more stable.
Like kayaks, canoes come with a variety of different seating options.
Some offer super-comfortable cockpits with seats that provide excellent back support.
Others can just have a plank of wood, and as such, can be notoriously uncomfortable if you’re not prepared for it – particularly for the lower back area.
Choosing good-quality, comfortable seating is one of the most important aspects of any fishing craft, and I strongly recommend you take this into consideration before you make a purchase.
Some canoes come with fishing-friendly features as standard, such as rod holders, tackle consoles, or extra storage for your jigs and rigs.
But dedicated fishing canoes are certainly not as common as the hundreds of kayaks that have been specifically designed for the sport, so don’t expect them to come with all the bells and whistles at point of sale.
Still, there’s plenty of scope for you to customize a canoe for your next fishing adventure, so look out for those models that best support the addition of accessories at a later date.
If you’re thinking of adding a motor to your canoe to help you get around effortlessly – or as backup when you need it, then having a craft that’s compatible is key.
This is where you need to look out for a square-stern canoe, which is exactly that, a canoe with a squared-off stern rather than one that tapers to a point.
A square stern is going to allow you to add a trolling motor, or other such outboards.
Just make sure the canoe is capable of handling the horsepower or electric equivalent of whatever propulsion system you’re attaching, before you end up blowing yourself out of the water, or damaging your canoe.
Perhaps one of the most obvious downsides when it comes to fishing canoes – is that a good quality model doesn’t come cheap.
It’s unlikely you’ll find one that gives you much change from $1000 at the “budget” end of the scale, and the sky’s the limit if you want to go high-end.
That said, the chances are it will last you a lifetime, so look on it as a sound investment that will bring you and your family years of recreational fishing and canoeing pleasure.
Is a canoe or a kayak better for fishing?
Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and it comes down to what kind of experience you’re looking for.
Again, I would like to point you in the direction of this article, which explores the canoe vs kayak debate in much more detail.
Can you fish from a canoe?
Yes, you most certainly can. In fact, many anglers prefer canoe fishing because of the seating position, increased space, and higher weight capacities that a canoe typically offers.
Take a look at the video below for some top tips, techniques, and advice on successfully fishing from a canoe.
What’s the most stable canoe?
Like kayaks, canoes with wider hulls on the waterline will offer the best primary stability, so, as a rule of thumb, the wider the craft, the more stable it’s going to be in calm waters.
Bear that in mind when examining the canoes in the review above.
One major advantage a good canoe has over kayaks, is that they’re generally more stable if you’re looking to enjoy standing casts and reels.
Canoes are fun, family-friendly craft that can also be extremely practical for fishing and hunting.
Especially if you choose one of the best fishing canoes in 2023 included in the review above.
Let me know which vessel you’ve gone for and why, or if you have any canoe fishing experience you’d like to share with the community.
Tight lines everyone, and happy fishing!