Canoe vs Kayak: Which Boat is Better for Fishing?

For many years my wife and I had four canoes, two aluminum and two plastic. Today we have none. Sold them all, including the high-end 12-footer with a middle saddle that was suitable for solo paddling (if you kneeled). Now we have a small fleet of kayaks, at least three of which are set up, and used regularly, for solo sit-down fishing. So that should tell you where I stand on the canoe vs kayak debate for fishing.

We sold our canoes more than a decade ago, as we’d been doing all of our paddling out of kayaks, and the canoes had long been sitting idle, dragged out only as a prop in a photo shoot or television show. When we went paddling and the should-we-do-canoe-vs-kayak-question came up, it was always decided in favor of the latter.

We do both general touring as well as kayak fishing out of recreational kayaks (as opposed to whitewater models). In more than two decades of kayak ownership, I’ve never felt a stability concern, which is something I cannot say about my experience in canoes, most of which had higher seats that provided slightly better viewing (into the water) but more of a tipsy feeling.

An especially important fishing consideration in the canoe vs kayak deliberation was how it dealt with the wind. I spent enough time in a canoe on windy days to hate how these high-gunwaled boats caught the wind and got readily turned and re-positioned while I was casting.

A great deal of fishing success, especially in freshwater and around shorelines and structure or cover, has to do with positioning. If you’re out of position, you’re often wasting your time. The lower-to-the-water and sit-in-the-middle nature of kayaks make them less susceptible to positioning problems. That’s a big difference between kayak and canoe fishing.

Kayaks can often be readily staked out if there is a lot of wind, and an array of peddle-powered kayaks has arisen to address the issue of getting into and staying in position while solo fishing from a kayak. For general paddling pleasure, kayaks with rudders allow for better steerage and thus tracking while solo paddling, not to mention that a rudder helps you get where you’re going faster as a solo paddler/angler. As an aside, I should note that two people can very efficiently paddle either a canoe or a tandem kayak, and that in both, the stern paddler can hold position fairly well while the bow paddler fishes. But most anglers prefer the freedom and versatility of a solo kayak.

None of this is to say that canoes haven’t been evolving, too. Some now have “kayak-style” seats, for example. And more are being constructed specifically for solo use and fishing. Still, for fishing, I’m in the kayak camp when the question is canoe vs kayak.


Ken Schultz

Ken Schultz

Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of ESPNoutdoors.com. He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar., and his writing has appeared on various websites for nearly two decades. His author website is kenschultz.com.