Best Fishing Canoes Under Review


Fishing on a clear, calm lake can be a wonderful experience that is made even better when you’re sat in a comfortable and stable canoe. Whilst waiting for the fish to bite, you get to feel the wash of wind and experience the calming qualities of a blissful, natural setting. However, the canoe you use for fishing can have a major impact on many aspects of your trip.

You could just use any canoe, but you may find that it could rock, roll and be totally unsuitable for carrying your required kit. Therefore, it is important to pick one that suits your needs and fits your intended activities. Here is our review of five fishing-friendly canoes that will hopefully give you an insight into this market and how each one may meet your needs:


Old Town Discovery 133 Recreational Canoe

MaterialRoto-moulded polyethylene
BrandOld Town Canoes & Kayaks
Length13 foot 3 inches (4.0m)
TypeSporting Canoe (solo pole, rowing or double)
Capacity800 lbs
ColoursCamo, Green or Red

This is a comfortable and durable all-rounder. It is made from three-layer roto-moulded polyethylene, making it lightweight and easy to handle on wilder rivers as well as being stable on flat water too.

It benefits from having comfy nylon web seats, and even a large centre or 3rd passenger seat that is well positioned for both rowing (with oar sockets attached) or if you want to use a pole.

There are also well designed and comfortable carrying handles, which do make a difference when portaging or racking after a long trip.

Things we like:

This canoe is very versatile, coming with an assortment of unique features. It can be used as a solo-canoe (paddle or pole), and the netted middle seat is a nice touch from the more typical style you see in composite boats. You can paddle it as a tandem and still fit in a decent amount of kit, even carry a passenger in the middle if you wish, but the clear benefit is the canoe’s versatility as you can also row it by using the inbuilt oar sockets.

Things we don’t:

The oar sockets are smaller than the average size associated with traditional rowing boats, meaning you can’t just use the standard oars from a row boat, but this added style means you can move to the bow seat if required.

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Old Town Penobscot 174

MaterialThree Layer Polyethylene
BrandOld Town Canoes & Kayaks
Length17 foot 4 inches (5.3m)
Capacity1450 – 1500 lbs
ColoursGreen or Red

This is the longest version of Old Town’s ‘Penobscot’ range. It’s length allows paddlers to have a long glide and has easy tracking whilst paddling along lengthy or multiple day trips. 

They claim it is an “aggressive” canoe, which is their own term for a specific style of canoeing, as the hull is designed specifically for paddlers to be able to push the limits of a trip and still be comfortable on a variety of water types.

Things we like:

Due to the added length, it does mean you can load the boat with gear and still have a nice, efficient and comfortable paddle over long distances. This means there is more efficiency with your paddle stroke, especially important on longer trips.

Things we don’t:

The length does need to be a consideration when thinking about carrying it on top of cars or trailers, but it does have the benefits of it being lightweight and has a built in yoke that helps if you are carrying it on your own.

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Sun Dolphin Mackinaw 15.6 Canoe

MaterialUV-Stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene
BrandSun Dolphin
Length15 foot 6 inches (4.72m)
Capacity800 lbs
ColoursHazelnut or Navy

This is Sun Dolphin’s more ‘specialised’ canoe range, with it being aimed towards paddlers that enjoy canoe-fishing. It’s a very sturdy and comfortable boat – good on a variety of water types. The three seats are moulded and have built-in-storage, plus a cooler that helps when you are using bait (helps with the smell too). The square-stern allows you to mount on a trolling motor.

Although this is the smallest model it can still comfortably house three adults and is still relatively lightweight when un-laden (95lbs).

Things we like:

There isn’t much of a visual difference between this and the other versions of the Mackinaw range, but the subtle changes make this a ‘canoe-fishing’ friendly model. With the integrated dry storage, drink holders and cooler, housing bait and storing essential fishing tackle is provided for. The comfortable and larger carrying handles are a real plus too, making for a more comfortable portage.

Things we don’t:

The stern seating position could be a little closer to the stern, but this is ‘knit picking’

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Mad River Adventure 14

MaterialThree Layer Polyethylene or wood
BrandMad River
Length14 foot (4.27m)
Capacity875 lbs
ColoursCamo, Flint, Red or Spruce

This has all the performance characteristics of a bigger canoe, but has the added bonus of it being light compared to the longer versions. The smaller overall size makes it very stable on the water and easy to handle on wilder water if you are paddling solo.

It’s designed for adventure, with padded moulded seats, adjustable backrests, plenty of space and a low-maintenance hull, making it a very versatile and capable canoe for both beginners and those that like the more adventurous paddling experience.

Things we like:

You don’t have to be adventurous all the time, it is perfectly comfortable on slower moving waters and glass clear lakes too. Its small size means it is far lighter than longer models, as well as being easier to portage and rack after a long day out on the water.

Things we don’t:

Perhaps a little less attractive than the more traditional canoes, which is hard for many hard-core traditional canoeists to accept, but the design gives you a smooth and comfortable ride no matter where you choose to paddle.

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Mad River Journey 156 TT

MaterialThree Layer polyethylene or wood
BrandMad River
Length15 foot 6 inches (4.72m)
Capacity1100 lbs
ColoursCamo, Red, Spruce or Turquoise

Built for stability and versatility, this canoe is great on tight and twisty rivers and even holds up in rocky conditions too. It is designed to be ‘at home’ wherever you choose to paddle.

Its hull is very sturdy and durable on the water, giving you comfort throughout a longer journey, with the performance not being compromised because of the ‘heavy feel’. You can also choose between wooden or composite versions too.

Things we like:

The benefit to choosing the Three Layer Polyethylene construction is that the canoe will hold up on rougher waters, rocky rivers and still be comfortable on glass-clear waters too.

Things we don’t:

There is an element of reassuring stability with a heavier canoe, but this does add difficulty when portaging or racking after a long day. There is no weight difference between the wood and vinyl versions of this boat, meaning you can choose which ever one suits your style the most.

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How to Choose a Fishing Canoe

Do you want a boat that allows you to participate in more traditional canoeing experiences, but is then stable on a more exposed piece of water? Or perhaps you just want a boat that can hold up to the rigours of more remote and isolated stretches of water and all that is associated with hunting or river fishing?

Perhaps you want to enjoy fishing one weekend and then a tandem trip along wilder rivers the next?

You must decide which boat is right for you and whether or not you’d benefit from a fishing-specific canoe or one that is versatile enough to cater for that and more. In order to pick the right boat, you need to consider how much kit you’ll need for a successful trip. Also, understand that different styles of canoe handle differently on specific types of water and specific activity.

Choosing the right vessel to fish from also throws up the old kayak vs canoe debate, and this will always come down to personal choice and how versatile you want your vessel to be. If you’re unsure you can read our article on the matter in greater detail where we highlight many pros and cons.

For example, if you are more inclined to do things like hunting, you would choose a canoe that blends into the environment, doesn’t lose too much heat from the transfer of energy into the water, has a decent carrying capacity for things like rods and keeps you stable whilst casting etc.

Advantages / Disadvantages

A square-stern solo canoe does have the added advantage of being able to fit a tolling motor. This can add speed and energy efficiency when used instead of paddling a very long way with a heavily laden canoe.

However, it does mean the trip may be a bit lonely, as you can’t tandem in a single-person canoe, but this is often the very reason why people get into this sort of trip in the first place.

Bigger canoes do have a bigger capacity for a fishing kit but remember that longer canoes are trickier to solo-paddle due to the compromised maneuverability.

It may be a compromise between agility and space, but having a canoe that is fishing-friendly, rather than a smaller canoe that is only suitable for one purpose, could mean that you get the chance to do different paddling activities with the same boat.

Things to Look for:

First and foremost, you need to think about how you’re going to carry all your kit and not have it floating on the water if the boat is a bit rocky on wilder waters. Many fishing-friendly canoes come with pole attachments, or you purchase these as an “additional extra”.

If you’re going to try a canoe camping trip think about all the gear you’re going to have to carry (make it as lean as you can) and choose your canoe size accordingly.

They are really worth having if you want a smooth and simple setup/dismantle and lower the risk of falling in whilst fumbling around for your kit whilst out on the lake.


Some materials (e.g. Aluminium) can be quite noisy when you hit the sides with your paddle or move things around in the boat, plus other composites can lose heat through the transfer of energy into the water.

Its best to use the right boat for the environment you are heading into. You need to think carefully about what you carry, especially if you need to paddle down wilder waters first in order to get to the more remote places that offer the best fishing spots.

Square-stern canoes also add the benefit of being able to bolt on a trolling motor, which of course may be a godsend if you’re venturing on a particularly long journey.


Hunting/adventure canoes are generally made of thicker material or have a foam core, as this can lower the heat loss from the transfer of energy into the water. This generally doesn’t make it too much heavier, as the materials used in making the canoe tend to be lightweight.

These boats can be used across a variety of paddling styles, but they might be a little less comfortable than others on longer journeys. Square-sterns paddle just like traditional canoes, the only real difference of course is that they cannot be spun around and paddled as easily whilst facing the ‘wrong’ way round.


The canoes that are fishing-friendly, or models that are specifically designed for the more adventurous canoeist in mind, don’t just have to be used for fishing trips. You can use the more robust models for a variety of trips, just keep in mind that some are slightly heavier or made specifically for the solo paddler.

Many people forget that there is a temperature transfer from the water to your body, meaning that if you are going out in the cold weather, you may get a bit chilly when sitting for a long period of time. Just remember that if you use an insulated-hulled canoe, it may be far heavier to portage and be a bigger struggle when racking it after a day’s fishing.

Some manufactures do claim that their less-specific models do allow you to ‘fish’ from them, but some are actually not suitable or comfortable for fishing. The best thing to do is figure out what your needs are and match the canoe by the specific benefits that the model offers e.g. movable seats, rod attachments, square-stern or foam hull.

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