Best Fishing Canoes Reviewed: Solo, Tandem, and Square-Sterns Compared

Best Fishing Canoes

Best Fishing Canoes – Bass boats might dominate the local lake weekends, but many anglers are now discovering the benefits of fishing from a canoe.

You can access water too shallow to fit larger boats and reach spots that are unpressured for fish. Additionally, you can save thousands of dollars by not buying the large outboards, batteries or electronics.

Have you been intrigued? We have everything you need to know if you are thinking of buying a fishing kayak. Below is a buying guide and reviews of some our favorite fishing canoes:

Here’s a quick look at the top fishing canoes today:

Tandem Fishing Canoes

  • Old Town Discovery 133 Recreational
  • Mad River Journey 156– The Best Tandem Fishing Boat for Money
  • Wenonah Spirit II Ultralight with Aramid – Best High-End Tandem Fishing Canoe

Solo Fishing Canoes

  • Golden Hawk 12’9″ Traditional
  • Old Town Discovery 119The Best Solo Fishing Boat for Money

Square-Sterned Fishing canoes

  • Esquif HeronBest Square-Stern Fishing Canoe
  • Grumman 16′ Square Ster

The Best Fishing Canoes – Reviewed

Tandem Fishing Canoes

Old Town Discovery 133 Recreational

Material: Three-layer thermoplastic polyethylene (thermoplastic).

Length: 13′ 3″.

Weight: 78 lbs.

Depth: 14″

Beam: 39″

Capacity: 800 lb.

Old Town is a legend in the world canoeing.

The Discovery series is known for its tough, no-nonsense durability, and the 133 is no exception. The three-layer thermoplastic shell can withstand hard impacts and even dents in the sun.

The 133 is 13′ 3″ long and can hold two anglers with their gear. It also includes tackle bags and boxes, as well as plenty of rods, reels, and coolers.

The 133 is stable thanks to its generous beam. It has been a favorite of many river and lake anglers over the years. It has a large draught which allows you to paddle in very little water and reduces the need for portaging.

The center point has plenty of depth, and 14 inches is a good compromise between keeping you dry and not becoming a full-blown sail in the wind. However, you can expect some effect when it’s breezy, especially on open lakes.

The 133 is a great choice for fishermen who paddle long distances to their honey-holes. It’s compatible with Old Town’s after-market transom and allows you to operate a trolling engine!

The canoe has three web seats, but no back support. This could be a problem for anglers over 50 or with lower back problems.

The 133 is only 78 pounds and measures more than 13 feet long, so it will be quite a heavy load for one person. You can load this canoe onto your car or SUV roof if you are strong and have good technique. But you will probably need a friend!

Overall, Discovery’s canoe is a great tandem fishing boat that has proven to be a good performer on calmer rivers and lakes.

Pros

  • Extremely tough
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Plenty of room for gear
  • Very stable
  • Compatible with an after-market Transom

Cons

  • Web seating is not for those with bad backs

Mad River Journey 156– The Best Tandem Fishing Boat for Money

Material: Triple-tough, TT polyethylene (thermoplastic).

Length: 15′ 6″.

Weight: 83 lbs.

Depth: 14.5″

Beam: 35.25″

Capacity: 1100 lbs.

Mad River canoes are well-known for their quality, and they compete directly with Old Town in price and quality.

The Journey 156 can take a beating but will still look great on the outside. These canoes are viewed by many 156 owners as a badge to their pride.

Anglers who choose to fish with the 156 have plenty of space. It measures in at 15′ 6″. The Journey 156 is the best choice if you want a large cooler and a lot of gear. According to my experience, you can bring almost anything!

The canoe paddles very well, much better than the Discovery 133. This is to be expected considering its water-line length of svelte beam. It’s not as stable as the paunchier 133, so if you are concerned, this may not be the best option.

The Journey 156 shines on long paddles.

It has a lot of depth which keeps you dry even when water threatens to splash on the gunnel. However, it might not be the best choice for open water or breezy days.

The Journey 156, like the 133 has web seating as standard. This is not the best choice for anglers who have trouble with their backs. However, you can get rotomolded plastic seating for either bow or stern.

This canoe is quite long and can be difficult to load and unload. You can also carry it on your roof, but it is quite difficult.

This canoe is a great choice if you are looking for speed, huge carrying capacity, or plenty of storage space for your gear.

Pros

  • Extremely tough
  • Massive space for gear
  • Very stable
  • Quick
  • Ridiculous capacities

Cons

  • Web seating is not for those with bad backs
  • This canoe is close to the limit of car- and SUV-top transport

Wenonah Spirit II Ultralight with Aramid – Best High-End Tandem Fishing Canoe

Material: Aramid fabric with aluminum plating

Length: 17″

Weight: 42 lbs.

Depth: 14″

Beam: 35.5″

Capacity:

The Wenonah Spirit II is the perfect choice for anglers looking for the best in fishing gear.

Wenonah produces high-end canoes. The Ultra-light with Aramid is one of their best. This canoe is made from Aramid fabric which is also used for lightweight body armor and reinforced with thin aluminum panels where needed.

It is also extremely light. It measures 17 feet in length and weighs only 42 pounds. This makes it difficult for one person to carry, but easy for two. It’s the best choice if you fish streams that require portage.

Be aware that this is a large canoe to carry on the roof! Make sure to plan accordingly and have the proper equipment for your vehicle.

The Spirit II, as you would expect from a vessel this long, has plenty of space. It is also, like the Journey 156, an excellent choice for expedition fishing. There’s plenty of room for your big cooler, tackle, and even two large anglers.

Spirit II glides through water like a dream. This is due to the Spirit II’s large displacement, light weight and long waterline length. It also has just enough rocker. This is due to the fact that stability can be affected by thin lines.

Expert paddlers won’t notice but most anglers will.

Two web seats are available with all the usual comfort features.

The Spirit II Ultra-Light canoe is extremely capable and well worth the money if you are prone to portaging a lot.

Pros

  • Amazingly tough
  • Amazingly light
  • Massive space for gear
  • Very stable
  • Very fast

Cons

  • It’s expensive!
  • Web seating is not for those with bad backs
  • This canoe is close to the limit of car- and SUV-top transport

Solo Fishing Canoes

Golden Hawk 12’9″ Traditional

Material: Fiberglass composite with an aluminum core

Length: 12′ 9″.

Weight: 55 lbs.

Depth: 13″

Beam:

Capacity: 750 lb.

The Golden Hawk Traditional is a great solo canoe for anglers. It offers stability, plenty of space and a lot of capacity.

The 12’9″ Traditional is a favorite among anglers, hunters, trappers and other fishermen. It’s bomb-proof as proven over the years in real-world conditions. The Fiberglass composite and the tough aluminum keel can withstand impacts with rocks and stumps without adding much weight.

It is also very compact, so it has plenty of room for gear. This is why outdoor enthusiasts love it. You can still fit more: a cooler, a couple of tackle bags, two or three rods, or paddles.

Although the Traditional’s lines aren’t fast, they provide great stability and depth to keep your dry.

The canoe’s capacity is impressive for its size. With normal loads, it draws very little water. This allows you to slide into places where there is only a small amount of water between you and the bottom.

The Traditional is short enough to be carried on a roof, and weighs in at 55 pounds. This makes it easy for one person, or two, to load onto a roof.

Wooden plank seating can be difficult on the back and butt.

Pros

  • Extremely tough
  • Fairly light
  • Massive space for gear
  • Extremely stable
  • Crazy capacity

Cons

  • If you have a long distance to paddle, slow down
  • Plank seating doesn’t make it easy for people with bad backs

Old Town Discovery 119The Best Solo Fishing Boat for Money

Material: Three-layer thermoplastic polyethylene (thermoplastic).

Length: 11′ 9″.

Weight: 49 lbs.

Depth: 13.5″

Beam: 31″

Capacity: 500 lbs.

It’s not surprising to see an Old Town added to our list. In this instance, the exceptional Discovery 119. This little canoe is a great option for solo anglers.

The 133 is made from the same durable, three-layer polyethylene that the 133. It’s been used countless times with little to no impact on its performance. It can take it, no matter what you do!

This shouldn’t really be a problem. The Discovery 119’s length is just over 12 feet, so it’s maneuverable. However, its beam and great stability make it slow. This is to be expected and it’s not a bad tradeoff for anglers.

There is plenty of space, both forward and aft from the center web seat. You can store gear such as dry bags, tackle boxes and a small cooler for solo trips or long days on the water fishing for fish.

This canoe weighs in at 49 pounds and is easy to transport. It’s a great choice for solo anglers who have to drive to the water with their canoe.

The web seating is, as you might expect, a pain in the back. But that’s not the only problem with this little canoe.

Pros

  • Extremely tough
  • Surprisingly, it’s very light
  • Massive space for gear
  • Extremely stable
  • Capacity:

Cons

  • If you have a long distance to paddle, slow down
  • Plank seating doesn’t make it easy for people with bad backs

Square-Sterned Fishing canoes

Esquif HeronBest Square -Stern Fishing Canoe

Material: T Formex (thermoplastic laminat)

Length: 14′ 6″.

Weight: 69 lbs.

Depth: 14″

Beam:

Capacity: 800 lbs.

Esquif canoes are a top-quality brand in Canada. As more anglers become familiar with their products, Esquif is becoming a popular choice.

The Heron is one of the most sought-after birds on the market.

The Heron is made from tough thermoplastic laminate and can withstand a lot of abuse. It was designed to be used by northern anglers and can withstand larger waves than others. This makes it ideal for fishing in the Great Lakes and other bodies of water where chop or swell can be a problem.

The combination of a wide beam and high guns will provide excellent stability and keep you dry.

The Heron is a good paddler, but it’s not as fast as the Journey 156. The Heron can even outboard 3HP, making it a formidable boat on open water.

The Heron is the ideal choice for anglers who have to travel long distances to get to their fishing spots. It can be equipped with a small outboard and flies effortlessly across the water. From Louisiana’s bayous to Oregon’s Lake of the Woods, it is as square-stern as you will find.

This canoe has plenty of space for both anglers and their gear. You won’t have to worry about your rods, tackle bags, or coolers getting lost.

You can expect the standard web seating and all that it entails.

The Heron is a big bird at 14’6″ and 69 lbs. The Heron is heavy, so I would probably either trailer it or put it in the truck bed.

Pros

  • Extremely tough
  • Very seaworthy
  • Amazing space for gear
  • Extremely stable
  • Excellent capacity

Cons

  • Heavy with outboard
  • Plank seating doesn’t make it easy for people with bad backs

Grumman 16′ Square Ster

Grumman 16' Square-Stern - Burgundy

Material: .125″ aluminum alloy

Length: 15′ 7″.

Weight: 75 lbs.

Depth: 13.25″

Beam: 36.25″

Capacity: 650 lbs.

Grumman 16′, a time-tested model, is the best friend of long-distance anglers. The aerospace company that built the B-2 stealth bomber is responsible for this product. It’s safe to say they are very familiar with aircraft-grade aluminum construction.

The Grumman is made from an aluminum alloy of.125 inches thick. It can absorb heavy impacts well and has been proven time and again by anglers as well as sportsmen. It is tough, tough and tough.

The 16′ Square-Stern is very stable and handles well under human power. This is a great comparison to the Mad River Journey 156.

This is not the place where this canoe shines.

The 16′ can be driven by a smaller outboard of 5HP or less, and is a great choice for long trips to your boat launch. Although the Grumman may not be as adept on open water as its Huron counterpart, it is still capable of running inshore reds in the Florida saltmarshes.

It has plenty of storage space and a reasonable amount of capacity for a canoe that size. However, again, I would give the Huron my nod.

You can expect aluminum plank seating at the bow and square-ish seats in the stern.

This is not a canoe that I would like to transport much, just like the Huron.

Pros

  • Extremely difficult
  • Very seaworthy
  • Great space for gear
  • Very stable
  • Excellent capacity

Cons

  • Heavy with outboard
  • Plank seating doesn’t make it easy for people with bad backs

Materials for Common Fishing Canoes

Wood

Canoes were traditionally made of wood or bark. However, strip-wood canoes still exist if you have the funds!

You won’t find a better material to build a canoe than wood strips.

These canoes were hand-built by master craftsmen, even though wood is not an ideal material for space travel. Experts in canoeing say that a wooden canoe is faster and easier than any other canoe.

Wooden construction has obvious disadvantages: high cost and poor durability when compared to modern materials.

We won’t be reviewing wood canoes as they are too costly for the value you get.

Aluminium

Aluminum canoes are made from lightweight, durable aluminum or aluminum alloys.

Aluminum canoes are tough as nails. I have used them on rivers and lakes and they are strong and durable.

Outfitters have a long tradition of aluminum canoes.

They are immune to UV damage and can be left out in the sun for years without any concern.

They are also surprising light for their size.

Aluminum has a downside. If you do puncture it, an expert welder will be needed to repair it. It’s also very noisy when hitting the gunnel using a paddle. This is a minor problem.

Thermoplastics

Canoe construction uses a variety of plastics. Some are filled with foam to increase floatation. Plastic canoes are among the most popular and well-known canoe designs. A good thermoplastic canoe is bomb-proof and can withstand impacts from rocks or stumps like it was never there.

Plastic canoes are as tough as nails!

These types of canoes use inexpensive thermoplastics, which helps to keep costs low. However, the final product is heavier than aluminum.

That is the main drawback of thermoplastic. Also, long-term UV exposure can weaken plastics. This is why these canoes should be kept out of direct sunlight!

Fiberglass composites

Fiberglass canoes can be shaped by hand. The fiberglass fabrics and resins used to make them allow for very precise lines. These canoes are light and quick to use, and, if well made, they’re also very easy to transport.

A fiberglass canoe that is well made can go up to 30 minutes.

My experience shows that fiberglass composite has limited impact durability. This material is very durable and I have a lot of experience.

It’s incredible on clear rivers and open lakes.

Kevlar/Aramid Composites

Kevlar is tough material and is used to make bullet-proof vests as well as body armor. Kevlar is also extremely light and can be used to make very lightweight, durable canoes.

Kevlar composite is lighter and stronger than any other canoe.

As you would expect, it is a case where you can pick two: strong, cheap, or light. A kevlar composite kayak will cost you more, but it will be a joy to use every time you pick it up.

How to Choose a Fishing Canoe

Depth

Depth refers to the distance between the top of the gunnel and the bottom of a canoe. It basically tells you how high the sides are.

Two things are most important in depth: how dry your gear and your canoe will stay, and how much wind will blow your canoe.

You will have more trouble fishing in the wind if you fish at a deeper depth.

My experience is that the wind can push you around on lakes. It can be a nuisance.

Beam

The measure of the width of your canoe at the waterline is called beam.

Larger items, such as coolers, can be accommodated more easily by beams with a wider beam. However, wider beams can mean slower canoes so this is a trade-off.

Seating

There are many seat options for canoes. These range from simple planks to molded seats.

You should be aware that canoes are more difficult on the lower back and butt of a good kayak, or bass boat than a good kayak, so you need to consider this.

Give any canoe you’re thinking of buying a long sitting and see how comfortable it is. Fishing all day will be difficult if your back hurts after just a few minutes.

Capacity

Canoes were originally designed to transport heavy loads in shallow water. They can carry a lot of weight.

Remember that sometimes you might have more than one angler and all their gear. This can quickly add up!

Maneuverability

The canoe must be as short as possible to make it maneuverable, but it should also be shorter so it doesn’t track in straight lines (tracking).

This is due to the keel design as well as the curve from bow (rocker)

More maneuverability is a plus for smaller waters. For long trips, however, it is essential to have better tracking.

Transport and weight

Every time you take a canoe out of the water, its weight is important. It doesn’t matter if you are dragging it along the beach, on a slope or carrying it across a section of river.

However, length is also important as weight and length both work together to increase encumbrance. A 70 lb. canoe will be easier to handle than a 70lb. A canoe 9 feet in length will be easier than a 70lb. A canoe 12 feet in length is better.

These numbers are important for anglers who will be transporting their canoe on the roof or in a truck.

Take the time to assess your fitness and strength. Is it possible to lift your single canoe and store it for transport? Is it possible to lift the tandem by yourself and your fishing partner?

Is the length of your canoe appropriate for your mode of transport?

You must be careful: A mistake can make your canoe useless!

Fishing canoe types

Solo canoes

Solo canoes tend to be smaller, lighter and more compact than their tandem counterparts. They are designed for one paddler to sit close to the stern. However, they can be quite maneuverable and may lose some speed.

If you prefer to fish alone, solo canoes are an excellent option.

Tandem canoes

Tandem canoes can be used for up to two people and are usually larger than singles. Because they can carry more gear and are longer than solo canoes, they are able to track faster and have a better range of motion. They are less maneuverable when paddled by one person.

You can paddle a tandem solo, but you have enough room for two.

Square-stern canoes

The square-stern canoes can be used to carry a small trolling motor or outboard engine.

A square-stern canoe is the best option if you have to travel long distances to reach your fishing spot.

These are great for long trips!

Last Thoughts

We hope this article helped you narrow down your options for a fishing canoe. If not, we would love to hear about it!

Leave a comment below.

Lewis
Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.