Canoe vs Kayak Fishing: What’s There To Know?

With the advancement of fishing kayaks there now seems to be a bit of confusion as to what type of vessel is best ‎suited for individuals that enjoy going solo on extended outings. The fact is, there are many differences between a canoe and a kayak that might impact your decision, but at the end of the day, it’s usually up to your preference.

A canoe is regarded as one of the oldest types of boats still in regular use. It was constructed from a hollowed-out tree trunk and used for fishing and hunting by early men. They are characterized as having rounded bottoms, clinker-built (overlapping planks),‎ and a pointed bow and stern. When riding in a canoe, you usually sit on your knees, or for larger vessels, as if you were sitting in a chair.

A kayak is a water vessel with precise lines for transporting one or more people in a seated position. Rather than sitting on top of the boat, you are sitting inside it. They are designed to become a part of your body when paddling due to your legs being positioned inside the hull, which provides excellent stability.

The primary difference between a canoe and a kayak is that instead of sitting inside the body of the boat you are actually seated inside the cockpit.

When it comes to fishing in a canoe and a kayak, there are a few other differences based on their design:

  • In a canoe, you have room to store your gear within the boat, but with a kayak, most of your supplies must be stored on top of the boat.
  • A canoe and a kayak require different levels of balance, where a canoe is a bit more forgiving, kayaks can be more difficult to handle.
  • Canoes are often larger than kayaks and can easily accommodate more than one person.
  • Canoes use a single paddle, while kayaks use a double paddle. This means it’s easier to move about (and faster) with two people in a canoe.

At the end of the day, choosing between a canoe and a kayak for fishing is really up to your preference and your budget. If you already have a canoe sitting in your garage, you might want to take it out fishing to see how you like it before dropping a nice chunk of change on a new kayak.

Regardless of your preference for watercraft, we’ve got some tips, tricks, and gear suggestions for both canoes and kayaks!

Kayak Fishing: Paddle, Pedal, or Motor?

kayak fishing
Image Credit: Olena Sergienko

There are a few different kayak propulsion methods out there, and they each have their benefits and their consequences.

Typically, if you’re out kayaking just for fun, you’re going to be using a paddle. They’re light, cheap, and super easy to use. Plus, they’re a good workout!

But, if you’re kayak fishing, using a paddle might not be your best option. First off, if you’ve thrown out some lines and have your rods mounted on the sides of your kayak, it might be difficult to paddle without getting caught on your lines.

That’s why some people prefer to use pedal-driven or motorized kayaks.

Pedal kayaks have, as the name suggests, a set of bicycle pedals attached to fins or a turbine underneath the kayak. These kinds of kayaks are good for small lakes or ponds, not so much for rivers or streams.

Despite being much more expensive than a regular kayak, pedal kayaks are a good leg workout and are easy to control.

Motorized kayaks are good for large bodies of water, and are essentially just smaller motorboats. Like the pedal boat, they’re more expensive than a regular kayak, but they’re good for older folks who might not have the energy to paddle out into a large body of water.

Kayak Fishing Gear

What do you need for kayak fishing? Well, there are a few things that every good kayak fisherman needs to bring with them. It varies depending on where you’re fishing and what you’re looking to catch, but these essentials will get you started:

  • Personal floatation device (PFD) – we suggest a lifejacket, but a buoy works as well
  • Fishing rod holders – These devices clamp onto the sides of your kayak to hold your rod, sometimes more than one rod at a time
  • Kayak anchors – Good for places with strong currents or winds.
  • Kayak transportation – Roof rack on your car, a trailer, or a hand-drawn kayak cart
  • Survival supplies – You should always bring a bag with survival essentials with you while you’re in the great outdoors
  • Bungie cords and waterproof storage – Use bungies to keep items secured to the deck of the kayak, and your waterproof cooler or bag to keep your essentials dry

Kayak Fishing Tips

If you’re new to the hobby of kayak fishing—or even if you’ve been doing it for years—here are some helpful tips that will surely improve your experience!

  • When you cast your line from your kayak, don’t get worried about the sway of your boat. Kayaks are designed for stability, even if you’re leaning to one side. Make sure that you loosen your hips and let the kayak sway while you throw out your line. Fighting the kayak or trying to keep it straight will only cause you more problems.
  • Paddle with your torso, not your arms. When you paddle your kayak, make sure you’re twisting at the waist instead of pulling with your forearms. This will help you conserve energy and produce much stronger strokes.
  • Choose your rods carefully. Seven-foot rods are usually best for kayak fishing, and you can really improve your chances of success by using multiple rods. Along the same lines as rod selection, choose the right lures for what you’re trying to catch.

Canoe Fishing Gear

canoe fishing
Image Credit: Jawad Shareef

A lot of the time, the same gear you use for kayak fishing can be used for canoe fishing. You’ll still need the right bait, tackle, and rods, of course, but there are a few items you should definitely invest in to make your canoe fishing experience more enjoyable:

  • Canoe Anchors – Foldable anchors for canoes can range anywhere from 1 to 5 pounds, so depending on the strength of the current where you’re fishing, you’ll want to get the right weight.
  • Spray Deck or Spray Skirt – These nylon skirts are designed to stretch over your canoe–or your kayak!–so that you don’t accumulate water in your vessel from rain or splashing with your paddles. They’re very useful for canoes since canoes have a larger open area.
  • Trolling Motor – These lightweight, low-power motors will keep your canoe moving at slow speeds so you can troll or drift lines from your canoe.

Canoe Fishing Tips

Most of the canoe fishing tips you can find online are similar to the advice given to kayak fishers as well. However, here are a few important aspects of canoe fishing you need to consider:

  • If you’re fishing in a shallow area, try not to disturb the water very much. Move forward slowly, with a small, gentle stroke of your paddle. Fast movements and deep strokes can scare off any fish that might be in the area.
  • Make sure to secure your gear to the inside of your canoe. In the event that your canoe tips over while fishing, you won’t lose your gear if it’s bungeed inside your canoe.
  • Kneeling in your canoe can give you greater stability than if you were sitting or standing. Kneeling lowers your center of gravity and will keep the canoe from rocking as much when you throw your line.

Are They Really That Different?

Canoe and kayak fishing are similar in a lot of ways, but they do have some significant differences:

If you’re looking to fish in a smaller body of water like a pond or a small lake, we recommend using an ultra-lightweight boat like a canoe.

There just isn’t enough room for anything else. You’re going to want to be able to access your gear easily, and you’re probably not all that comfortable with an extra person sitting in the boat.

 If you’re trying to catch bigger fish like catfish or carp, using a canoe might not be your best option. A canoe’s width and weight will keep it from moving quickly and efficiently through deep water.

Instead, we suggest using a kayak in these situations.

If you’re trying to catch smaller fish like perch or crappie, both canoes and kayaks work well. The choice is pretty much up to your budget and your preference of fishing.