Canoe or Kayak for Fishing – Which is Better?


There’s little doubt that actually getting out onto the water helps you catch more fish.

But you need the right kind of vessel in order to do that – and boats aren’t always a practical (much less affordable) solution.

That’s where canoes and kayaks come in – tried and trusted by fishermen and hunters for centuries.

But which is better?

In this article, we explore the pros and cons of each and finally decide between a canoe or kayak for fishing.

All aboard!

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

Canoe or Kayak – Too Long, Didn’t Read

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of which craft is better for fishing, we’ll tell you which one is the winner – just for anyone who’s in a rush.

Drum roll, please…

It depends on personal preference and physical ability. Kayaks offer more features, canoes offer more comfort.

Sure, that might be a cop out answer, but that’s the results of our findings. Some folks prefer canoes for fishing, others prefer kayaks – and that’s just the way it is.

Read on to find out more and decide which camp you belong to.

two fisherwomen on inflatable kayaks fishing at lake

Canoe vs Kayak for Fishing – The Differences

At first glance, it’s not always that easy to tell the difference between a canoe and a kayak, especially with some more of the modern, hybrid designs we see today.

Let’s briefly touch on their differences, and perhaps it will help us come to a conclusion on which is the most suitable for your fishing needs.

Fishing Canoes

Canoes have been used for centuries for hunting and fishing, and are identified as narrow craft with a deep hull and no top deck.

Seating often comes in the form of wooden benches, but traditionally canoeists would have simply kneeled. Of course today, comfort seating is available, and you sit high up with a more commanding view of the water compared to that of a kayak.

Canoes are typically larger than kayaks, and can be piloted by a lot more people. This is done so by using paddles with a single blade, which enters the water on alternate sides in order to propel the craft forward.

Essentially, the way the vessel is piloted is the main difference between the two craft.

They’re usually made of wood, but durable polyethylene is becoming more common as manufacturing technologies improve. Inflatable canoes are also available if you’re short on storage space, and can be an excellent lightweight option to simply throw in the back of your vehicle.

Below, you’ll find a sample review of a recreational craft that can easily double as an effective fishing canoe.

Old Town Saranac 146 Recreational Canoe

This is a recreational family canoe from the oldest kayak and canoe manufacturers in the world.

Old Town has been getting us out onto the water since 1898, and they’re up there with the very best at doing just that. This beautifully designed and practical canoe has been made from thermoformed polyethylene for superior abrasion resistance and long-life, and it comes with contoured bow and stern seating, which includes storage trays and adjustable backrests with both.

A center bench contains extra storage solutions, and it can double as an additional seat for a third passenger.

And with a 750 lbs weight capacity, you have plenty of scope to load this baby up with people and gear for your next fishing trip.

Pros
  • Name to trust.
  • Fishing rod holders.
  • Molded carrying handles.
  • Very stable in the water.
Cons
  • Paddles sold separately.
Takeaway

A beautiful recreational kayak that all the family can enjoy, as well as lending itself to fishing purposes. Plus, it’s made by Old Town – easily one of the world’s market leaders when it comes to both canoes and kayaks.

Fishing Kayaks

Like canoes, kayaks have been around since Adam was a lad, and are designed for all kinds of uses, including recreation, exploration, and – of course – fishing.

They’re characterized by a long, thin hull, and can be either sit-in or sit-on-top variety. For fishing kayaks, sit-on-top is more commonly preferred, as it’s much more stable and offers the ability for standing casts.

Kayaks can be made out of all sorts of materials, but PVC and polyethylene are the most common. However, like canoes, inflatable fishing kayaks are becoming more and more popular, so follow that link to check them out.

Again, the big difference is in the seating and paddling position. A kayak uses a double-bladed paddle and will usually have a foot brace where you plant your feet while in motion.

A sample fishing kayak review has been included below.

BKC TK219 Tandem Fishing Kayak

The Brooklyn Kayak Company offers some excellent options for fishing kayaks – and they’re all at affordable prices, too.

I’ve gone for this tandem option to keep the playing field as level as possible when going up against the Old Town canoe.

A sit-on-top design, it has adjustable seating and comes with two aluminum paddles.

No less than six rod holders are at your disposal, with two paddle parks and a bungee cord storage well to the stern.

Two, watertight storage hatches are also located within easy reach of each crew member, so you can keep valuables safe when you’re focussed on landing a monster catch.

Pros
  • Name to trust.
  • Flush and articulated rod holder mounts.
  • Great price for what you get.
  • Choice of colors available.
Cons
  • Seats aren’t the most comfortable.
Takeaway

You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with this excellent tandem yak, which has been specially designed with fishing in mind thanks to all those useful rod holders and storage options.

Check out this review for more awesome tandem fishing kayaks, as this sport is much more fun with a buddy or loved one along for the ride.

What to Look Out For – Fishing Kayak vs Canoe

Now you can pick out the basic differences between a fishing kayak and canoe, let’s explore them further to help you choose which one is right for you.

fisherman preparing for kayak fishing trip

Size and Weight

Canoes are traditionally larger and heavier than kayaks. While this offers a notable advantage when it comes to storage and crew (more on that later) it puts them at the back of the line for portability.

Kayaks are much lighter for the most part, and their smaller size ensures they’re easier to transport and store when not in use.

As mentioned, it’s worth considering inflatable versions of both if storage space is in short supply, or you just need something that’s much more lightweight than a hardshell.

Stability

The jury is out when it comes to which craft is more stable, and it really depends on the type of hull.

However, I don’t care what anyone says, when the wind and the chop gets up, a fishing canoe can still rock all over the place, and a lower center of gravity in a sit-on-top fishing kayak just feels more stable.

This makes the kayak a winner when it comes to stand-up casting, too. While this is still perfectly possible in a good canoe, it’s not going to be nearly as comfortable as a sit-on-top fishing kayak with a dedicated standing deck.

And if it’s standing casts you’re interested in, you can also check out these stand up paddle boards for fishing – which are likely to still be a better option than a canoe for this purpose.

It’s also worth considering your footwear when on board either vessel, and so take a look at the best fishing shoes on the market to find something that will help keep your feet firmly planted in place.

Seating Position

This is where a fishing canoe can really come into its own – and one of the main reasons why it’s still preferred as a fishing craft – particularly by the older generation. A canoe is simply more comfortable to sit in.

Canoes are also much easier to board than kayaks – which is ideal for anyone who isn’t getting any younger – as well as any four legged friends you might want to bring along on the trip.

You can still get some very comfortable seats for fishing kayaks, but when they go head-to-head, canoes will generally win this round for overall comfort.

And when it comes to your field-of-view, the seating position in a canoe naturally has you up much higher, so you can get a great vista of the surrounding waters.

Kayaks typically will have you sitting closer to the brine, unless you’re choosing a vessel that has one of those deluxe chairs that’s similar to an actual fishing chair you’d use on a bank or shore.

And don’t forget to pick up one of these fishing headlamps if you want to really improve your view when you’re out there fishing through the night or in low light conditions.

I call these people “legends.”

fisherwoman on inflatable kayak at lake with fishing tackle and net holding pike

Storage

This is a bit of a tricky one as both kayaks and canoes can lay claim to having the best storage options when it comes to fishing.

Because let’s face it, we all want somewhere to stash a good fishing cooler for holding our beers or our catch.

A canoe has the advantage of size, and there’s plenty of space in which you can just throw your gear on board. You can simply sling on one of these fishing backpacks, and you’re good to go.

However, a decent fishing kayak will offer excellent organizational possibilities, with water tight storage hatches, bungee cord webbing, tank wells, under-seat storage, and other clever gear carrying solutions to maximize space.

Not to mention for keeping your gear protected. Canoes don’t usually come with waterproof storage options, and you might need to add something yourself if that’s what you’re looking for. Try these saltwater tackle bags for some extra protection in harsh conditions.

Either way, you might also like to try using one of these compact telescopic rods when you’re kayak or canoe fishing – just to maximize all the space you have at your disposal.

Fishing Features

In order for a kayak or canoe to be truly fit for fishing, then they need to have some extra features to help make life easier for anglers.

This includes fishing rod holders, which can be mounted just about anywhere on the craft, depending on how you’re fishing and your own personal preferences.

For example, if you’re using some of the best hooks for catfish, and you don’t need to set the hook, you can afford to leave your rod alone in a flush mounted holder – which is also good for fishing while trolling.

However, if you like to have more action and stay attentive to your rod, then perhaps an articulated holder on the deck is more to your style, something close to hand where you can get right at it as soon as you feel a strike.

Aside from that, you should also consider how accommodating a craft is when it comes to customization.

If you want to add mounts for GPS units, fish finders, net holders, or other extras – I would say that both canoes and kayaks are capable of this – but you’ll often find a fishing kayak is more suitable and ready to go.

Check out the video below for advice on how to customize your fishing kayak.

Tracking and Speed

When it comes to fishing from either craft, tracking (how straight you move through the water) and speed aren’t usually high up in your list of priorities.

That said, it’s worth noting a common misconception that a kayak is faster and truer than a canoe. The simple fact is that the longer the boat, the faster it will go.

How many people are paddling also comes into play, but the general rule of thumb is it all depends on the length of the craft and the shape of the hull. This affects how much water needs to be displaced as it moves forward.

Kayaks can turn much faster than canoes – which might make a difference if you get into difficulty depending on the conditions and environment.

But either way, as you’re not likely to be making slalom whitewater turns or racing your mates when you’re hunting for fish, it’s something of a moot point.

Paddling and Propulsion

As mentioned, this is probably one of the most obvious and notable differences between a canoe and a kayak.

Kayaks will use a double bladed paddle, whereas canoes will use the single version. However, for some single-occupant canoes, a double paddle is recommended.

Unless you’re piloting a solo canoe, they are much harder to control unless there are two of you. Even then it can be tricky to develop the technique, and you need to work well together as a team in order to achieve success.

Top tip – never get into an argument with your co-pilot about which direction you need to go in. This is where solo craft – both canoes and kayaks – offer a significant advantage.

It should also be noted that kayaks are more accommodating of trolling motors and peddle drives – which are great when you want to give your arms a rest, lazily float down the river, or offer a bit of extra zip to get you to the next spot.

Weather and Water Conditions

Safety is a big factor when choosing the right type of craft, and you should always make sure to wear an approved fishing personal flotation device whenever you venture out on the water – no matter the vessel.

Aside from this, you need to consider the weather and conditions in which you’ll be fishing in. For example, when deciding between a canoe or kayak for lake fishing.

Depending on the hull shape, canoes are generally more stable than kayaks and as such they’re not as good when you’re caught in the chop.

Remember, the more “tippy” a kayak is, the more suitable it is for rougher waters.

Canoes are best suited to calmer rivers and lakes, where you won’t be required to make sharp turns, or tackle rogue waves.

Check out this article for the best ocean fishing kayaks if you prefer more of a challenge in trickier conditions, as you’ll want something that can handle the waves and swell.

Generally speaking, however, there’s a higher chance you’ll get wetter in a kayak – given the fact that you’ll be closer to the water.

Unless you’re fishing from something with a closed deck and/or a spray skirt, you’ll likely take on more water in a sit-on-top kayak than you would in a canoe.

But in the worst-case-scenario event of capsizing, there’s a chance a canoe will sink if it takes on a lot of water, so don’t take it out if the weather is even remotely bad.

Top tip – don’t forget to protect yourself against the good weather and pick up a decent fishing hat to keep those UV rays at bay. This is essential when you’re out on the water – no matter the type of craft.

Cost

The price point is always going to be a big factor when it comes to choosing any fishing craft, and you can really spend as much or as little as you like here.

The good news is that there’s no real difference between canoes and kayaks when it comes to cost – all things being equal, of course.

But high-end models will set you back well over $1000, either way, and don’t even think about looking at hand-crafted canoes if you’re not willing to part with a small fortune.

Other Considerations

Let’s touch on some final factors to consider that you might have overlooked when choosing the best canoe or kayak for fishing.

Perhaps the most obvious, is the social aspect. Canoes are generally designed to fit more people/animals, and are better suited for families and/or excursions with pals.

While kayaks do offer some excellent tandem options, they just don’t have the room or weight capacity that a canoe equivalent can offer.

How long do you intend to stay out on the water? Are you going to be camping overnight somewhere? Do you need to pack extra provisions?

If that’s the case, a good canoe might be the better option – simply for the fact that they offer more comfort and room.

Which brings me on to my final point – your own physical ability.

This is an important consideration when choosing between a kayak and a canoe – no matter the activity you need it for.

Are you going to be able to carry it? Are you physically capable of getting into it? And are you going to be comfortable while doing so?

If you’re not as young, nimble, or strong as you once were, I would highly recommend a canoe over a kayak for fishing.

fisherman wearing camouflage with kayak going toward the river

FAQs

Is a canoe or a kayak better for fishing?

With all things equal, in a nutshell, a good fishing kayak offers more practical features than a fishing canoe. However, a fishing canoe is just so much more comfortable.

It really comes down to personal preference and limitations. Alternatively, you could always try one of these float tubes instead.

Are canoes good for fishing?

Yes, they can be very good for fishing – so long as you’re using them in calmer conditions, and you’ve brought along a friend to help you paddle the thing.

Do canoes or kayaks tip easily?

It depends on the vessel. Craft with a narrow, V-shaped hull are tippy – and are used to tackle whitewater and/or waves.

Flat-bottomed canoes and kayaks offer more primary stability, and are more suitable for fishing calmer waters. As such, they’re generally the preferred variant when it comes to fishing.

Suit the type of craft to your chosen activity, and you won’t go far wrong.

Can you stand up in canoes or kayaks?

So long as the canoe or kayak is designed for that, there’s no reason you can’t stand up in them.

Just make sure to choose a craft that has a flat, stable hull. Don’t try to stand up in whitewater kayaks or canoes, or touring versions for that matter.

Look out for vessels that have a specific standing point on deck if you’re unsure. You’ll most commonly find these in high-end fishing kayaks, where balance is a key component.

Which is more comfortable – a canoe or a kayak?

Again, all things being equal, a canoe is the more comfortable – no question.

Even in the best sit-on-top kayaks, you might still get the odd dead leg and/or cramp, but as it offers more space to move around, a canoe is more comfortable – especially for longer trips on the water.

Summary

In the battle in the canoe or kayak for fishing, there are more plus points for modern-day kayaks, but for overall comfort, a canoe is hard to beat.

As it stands, it comes down to personal preference, but I hope this article has gone some way into helping you choose the one that’s right for you.

Feel free to stick your oar in and let me know which craft you prefer and why in the comments below.

Tight lines, everyone!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Recent Content