Best Fishing Canoe for 2020 – Reviews & Buying Guide

Fishing from a dock, shore, on the deck of a big boat is enjoyable. But, there is something extra about fishing from a canoe. Is the thrill of carrying it to the water, secure all your gear, and start paddling until you find the perfect spot. 

It might be the primitive and ancient feeling that you start to sense as soon as you get it. Or it might be the overwhelming peace of the nature surrounding you; we don’t know. But what we do know is that fishing from a canoe is one of the greatest experiences that any angler could ever face. 

Best Fishing Canoes Comparison Table

CanoeLengthWidth (Inches)Weight (pounds)Capacity (Pounds)Seats 
Old Town Penobscot 164 Touring16’4’’37.57512502
Sun Dolphin Mackinaw 15’6’’42958003
Mad River Adventure 1414’37758753
Old Town Saranac 14614’6’’36797503
Sea Eagle TC1616’38619152
Old Town Discovery 199 Solo Sportsman11’9’’32.5563541
Pelican 15.515’6’’37.5818003

There are a handful of canoes in the market. In theory, you can use any to fish. However, some are better than others. And that is the reason why we bring you this review. Here we present seven of the best fishing canoes you can find in the market today.

Best Fishing Canoes Reviews

Old Town Penobscot 164 Touring Canoe 

Old Town Penobscot 164 Touring Canoe (Red, 16 Feet 4 Inches)
  • Old Town's Penobscot 164 Touring Canoe is  a...
  • Nearly plumb ends, a shallow arch bottom and...
  • The Penobscot 164's features include nylon mesh...

Old Town canoes and kayaks make some of the best craft you can find in the market. And the Penobscot 164 touring canoe is not an exception.

The canoe has three layers of polyethylene, making it durable and lightweight. But the best thing is the design, which we will see in just a moment. 

Construction and Design

The Penobscot 164 is a touring canoe. It has a shallow arch hull, which means that it is stable and maneuverable. Plus, the straight canoe profile yields some water protection without tempering with the paddling.  

Thanks to the hull design and length, the Penobscot tracks well, which is a common feature among touring canoes. 

Inside the canoe, you will find two seats, one at either end. Both have a nylon web construction, which is more comfortable than they look. However, they lack back support. So, it might get a little uncomfortable after some time fishing. 

The Penobscot 164 lacks dedicated cargo areas. But it has enough space to bring all the gear you and your companion could need.

At either end, you have an in-built polyethylene carrying handle. Both are durable, and the location allows efficient and easy transportation.  

Unfortunately, this fishing canoe doesn’t come with any extra. Therefore, you have to purchase each one separately. 

Main Features 

  • Three-layer polyethylene construction. 
  • Aluminum gunwale.
  • 2x seats. 
  • Weight: 75 pounds.
  • Length: 16’4” .
  • Width: 37.5 inches.
  • Capacity: 1250 pounds. 
  • Hull Profile: Shallow Arch. 
  • Canoe Profile: Straight. 

Pros:

  • Versatile. 
  • Durable built. 
  • Tracks with ease. 
  • Huge cargo capacity. 

Cons:

  • Expensive. 
  • It doesn’t have any extras. 
  • It is hard to maneuver. 

Sun Dolphin Mackinaw 15.6-Foot Canoe 

Sun Dolphin Mackinaw Canoe (Navy, 15'6")
  • Ideal family recreational canoe with comfortable...
  • Storage compartment and cooler under center seat
  • Bow and stern tie-down eyelets and built-in...

Sun Dolphin has the reputation of making durable, reliable, and, most importantly, affordable fishing canoes. Like the previous one, the Mackinaw has a polyethylene construction with UV protection. 

Construction and Design

One curious thing about this canoe is that the supplier gives no description of the hull profile. 

Nevertheless, we can tell you that this canoe has a straight profile and flat hull. Therefore, it is most suitable for calm waters. Of course, this is not a surprise as Sun Dolphin Catalogs it as a recreational canoe. 

But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t go fishing with it, as it has plenty of room to accommodate three anglers. So, this canoe is an attractive candidate if you are looking to fish in the local lake with a couple of friends. 

The Mackinaw 15.5 has three plastic seats. Each one has a drink holder, and the central chair has an inbuilt cooler and watertight hatchet. Plus, you have plenty of room to place your gear.

Sadly, there are no rod holders. However, there is a SS version of this canoe that does have. And, it comes with a square stern to increase stability. Plus, it gives you the possibility of adding a trolling engine! The rest is quite the same as the basic Mackinaw model.

Main Features 

  • Polyethylene construction. 
  • Polyethylene gunwale.
  • 3x seats. 
  • Weight: 95 (104*) pounds.
  • Length: 15’6”.
  • Width: 42 inches.
  • Capacity: 800 pounds. 
  • Hull Profile: Shallow Arch. 
  • Canoe Profile: Straight. 
  • Trolling engine*.
  • Rod holders*.

* SS version.

Pros:

  • Cup holders.
  • Watertight hatches. 
  • Rod holders (SS version).
  • In-inbuilt cooler.
  • Ideal for beginners. 

Cons:

  • The seats are hard plastic, thus, uncomfortable. 
  • Heavy. 
  • Only suitable for calm waters.

Mad River Adventure 14 Canoe 

The Mad River Adventure 14 is another option for those looking to stay below the $1000. It has a polyethylene construction. So, as you should expect, this fishing canoe is both lightweight and durable. 

Construction and Design

At first glance, the Mad River Adventure 14 looks more like a kayak than a canoe. However, don’t let looks fool you. 

It features three molded plastic seats. Two of them have an adjustable padded back for and foam cushioning for increased comfort. Additionally, each one has two drink holders, which is perfect for anglers that like to drink a cold one while waiting for a bite. 

The canoe features a shallow arch hull. Plus, it has a flared profile, which makes it difficult to paddle. But will keep you and your gear dry. 

The Mad River Adventure 14 multi-chine hull makes it stable enough for mild rough rivers. Plus, the short size makes it very responsive. However, it is not the best option for beginners, as it tips easily. 

Sadly, the canoe has neither rod holders nor storage compartments. However, like all canoes, the deck is completely open. Thus, you have plenty of space to take some gear with you. 

Lastly, this fishing canoe has two carrying handles at each end. Plus, inbuilt rod holders in the middle.

Main Features 

  • Polyethylene construction. 
  • Polyethylene gunwale.
  • 3x seats. 
  • 6x cup holders.
  • Paddle holder.
  • Weight: 75 pounds.
  • Length: 14′.
  • Width: 37 inches.
  • Capacity: 875 pounds. 
  • Hull Profile: Shallow Arch. 
  • Canoe Profile: Flared.
  • Back support. 

Pros:

  • Cup and paddle holders.
  • Lightweight. 
  • Decent carrying capacity. 
  • Comfortable seats. 

Cons:

  • It is not the best option for beginners. 
  • It is heavier than other longer canoes in this review. 

Old Town Saranac 146 

Old Town Saranac 146 Recreational Family Canoe
  • One of the finest recreational canoes around

You shouldn’t be surprised if most of the fishing canoes you see in the market are from the Old Town brand. They are one of the oldest boat manufacturers in America. Their designs are both beautiful and old-fashioned. 

The Saranac 146 has a single-layer polyethylene construction. It is quite resistant to both abrasion and shock. 

Construction and Design

Old Town sells this vessel as a recreational canoe. But, since it has inbuilt rod holders at the bow and center seat, you can use it for fishing as well. 

The flat hull and straight profile make it stable and easy to use. As a result, this is a perfect all-round canoe. You can use it to go for a paddle in the local lake, to fish or hunt, or to take a trip through the river; you name it! Just keep in mind that this canoe is not suitable for rapid rivers. 

Two of the seats have a molded padded bottom and adjustable backrest. The central bench has neither, which makes it a little uncomfortable. All of them have the same sturdy plastic construction. 

You also have cup holders in each seat. Plus, the central bench has a 6” hatch for your wallet, phone, or anything similar. Additionally, you have a bigger compartment where you can keep some cold drinks.

There is plenty of space to accommodate up to three anglers and their gear at the same. Plus, it is a very light fishing canoe. You can easily carry it and the equipment with the help of a friend.

Main Features 

  • Polyethylene construction. 
  • Polyethylene gunwale.
  • 3x seats. 
  • 3x cup holders.
  • 2x rod holders.
  • Paddle holder.
  • Weight: 79 pounds.
  • Length: 14’6”
  • Width: 36 inches.
  • Capacity: 750 pounds. 
  • Hull Profile: Flat. 
  • Canoe Profile: Flared.
  • Back support. 
  • 6” central hatch.
  • Central compartment. 

Pros:

  • It has paddle and rod holders. 
  • Lightweight. 
  • Affordable. 
  • It has two comfortable seats. 
  • All-round canoe. 

Cons:

  • The seat distribution is not symmetrical. Therefore, the stern seat has less space. 
  • It has the lowest carrying capacity thus far. 

Sea Eagle TC16 Inflatable Travel Canoe

Sea Eagle TC16 Inflatable Travel Canoe Basic Package
  • Exterior: 16' x 38' / Interior: 15'2" x 25" /...
  • Hull Weight: 61 lbs. / Weight: Capacity: 2-3...
  • Tube Dimensions: Gunwales 20" High at Bow & Stern,...

It’s time for something different from the rigid models we’ve reviewed so far. We don’t like inflatable fishing canoes. But with the Sea Eagle TC16, we had to make an exception. 

Little can we say about the materials Sea Eagle used to build this marvelous canoe. But one thing that we can tell you is that they did a super job!

Construction and Design

It is surprisingly long for an inflatable fishing canoe. But it is strong enough to carry up to three anglers! You can even stand up to cast and maneuver the rod. And, since the deck has a non-slip EVA covering, you can move without fear of slipping. 

The Sea Eagle TC16 has three separate inflatable sections. So, if one part has a hole, the canoe will still float. However, its built is puncture resistant, which means that such a situation shouldn’t happen. Plus, according to the fabricant, this canoe is class IV whitewater rated, which means that you can confidently use it under any circumstances. 

The TC16 has a flat hull with a flare canoe profile. This means that you will have a hard time paddling, but, at least, you won’t get wet. They tried to solve this by fixing the seats to the floor; thereby, increasing stability and easing the rowing. 

Both the bow and stern have a sturdy, molded plastic construction. So, in other words, they are not inflatable, which increases their durability and performance. 

The seats are notably comfortable and have adjustable back support.

Sadly, there are neither holders, of any kind, nor dedicated storage compartments. Consequently, you have to place everything directly on the 16-feet deck. But this isn’t so much of a problem since it has enough room.

When not in use, this 16-feet fishing canoe fits in a 40″ x 24″ x 16″ bag. Therefore, it is the most portable boat that we’ve reviewed thus far. 

Main Features 

  • Plastic construction. 
  • 2x seats. 
  • Weight: 61 pounds.
  • Length: 16′.
  • Width: 38 inches.
  • Capacity: 915 pounds. 
  • Hull Profile: Flat. 
  • Canoe Profile: Flared.
  • Back support. 

Pros:

  • Extremely portable. 
  • Comfortable. 
  • It has a decent carrying capacity and enough room to place your equipment. 
  • Tracks with ease.

Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • It tips easily if unbalanced. 
  • No holders of any kind.

Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman Canoe 

Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman Canoe (Photic)
  • Combining the best of both worlds, Old Town...
  • Enjoy new and unique features like two flush mount...
  • The Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman offers an open...

Now a little something for those anglers that like to go fishing alone, with only the rod as a companion. The Old Town Discovery 119 is a superb fishing canoe that has nice extras that none of the previous ones have.

The three-layer polyethylene construction is the only similar thing with the rest of the options. Keep reading if you don’t believe us. 

Construction and Design

Let’s start with the seat. It only has one right in the middle of the canoe. It looks a lot like those premium and comfortable fishing kayaks chairs. Thankfully, this time, the appearances aren’t deceiving. The seat has enough cushioning to provide excellent support to your back. Plus, you can adjust it to your convenience. 

Each padded armrest has a flush-mounted rod and shotgun shell holder. And, in the middle of the seat, you have a convenient cup container. 

Behind the seat, in the thwart, you have another couple of rod holders. And between the pole and the stern, you have sufficient space to place a thermal bag or tackle box. 

Towards the bow, you have an adjustable footrest. It is the only canoe that has one in this guide. Beside it, you have another thwart with an accessory rack to place your fish finder or GPS. 

The Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman Canoe has a shallow arch hull with straight sides, which means that you can use it on a wide variety of waters; nothing too rough, though. 

Main Features 

  • Polyethylene construction. 
  • Polyethylene gunwale
  • 1x seats. 
  • Weight: 56 pounds.
  • Length: 11’9”.
  • Width: 32.5 inches.
  • Capacity: 354 pounds. 
  • Hull Profile: Shallow Arch.
  • Canoe Profile: Straight.
  • Padded seat with back support. 
  • Rod and cup holders.
  • Arm and footrests. 
  • Accessory-ready rail. 

Pros:

  • It has a lot of useful extras, such as holders. 
  • The carrying capacity is more than enough for solo angling. 
  • Stable, fast, and maneuverable. 
  • Lightweight. 

Cons:

  • Pricey. 

Pelican 15.5′ Canoe

Lastly, we bring you the Pelican 15.5′ fishing canoe. It has a RAM-X polyethylene construction. According to Pelican, the canoe has a better resistance to abrasion and hits. However, we can’t confirm nor deny it. 

Construction and Design

The design is quite simple, which is something that some people might like. You have three molded plastic seats. Only two of them have an inbuilt rod and cup holder. In the central bench, you have a small area to place your keys, hooks, or other small objects. 

There are no dedicated compartments to store your equipment. However, as most fishing canoes, you have enough room in the deck to place your gear. So, this should be too much of a problem. 

The Pelican 15.6′ has a sharp bow and stern, which allows it to glide effortlessly through the water. Plus, the flat hull profile grants sufficient stability for anglers of all skill levels. 

Main Features 

  • Polyethylene construction. 
  • Polyethylene gunwale
  • 3x seats. 
  • Weight: 81 pounds.
  • Length: 15’6’’.
  • Width: 37.5 inches.
  • Capacity: 800 pounds. 
  • Hull Profile: Flat.
  • Canoe Profile: Straight.
  • Rod holders.

Pros:

  • Easy to use. 
  • Ideal for family trips. 
  • It has enough capacity to carry three anglers and their gear. 
  • Shock resistant.

Cons:

  • We think it is a little bit expensive for what it brings. 
  • Though stable, it is not suitable for moderate-to-rough waters. 
  • The seats are uncomfortable, and they look brittle. 

Our Winner

No one wants to break the bank searching for the right fishing canoe. Especially if you only plan to use it a couple of times every once in a while. 

With that idea in mind, we have chosen the Sun Dolphin Mackinaw as our best fishing canoe. It has a fourth-largest carrying capacity. But it has inbuilt cup holders and a cooler. Things that you don’t find in the Old Town Penobscot or Sea Eagle. 

It sits on the heavy side of this review. But if you are looking for a fishing canoe, it is quite likely that you are going out with a friend. In this case, the weight is not much of a problem. 

Thanks to its shallow arch hull and straight canoe profile, the Sun Dolphin Mackinaw is perfect for both beginners and seasoned anglers. 

The seats are a little uncomfortable, yes. But they are better than the Old Town Penobscot and Pelican we reviewed in this guide. 

Plus, along with the Old Town Saranac, it is the only canoe that has a dedicated hatch for your wallet or keys. 

But the best thing is the price. It is one of the cheapest canoes in this guide and has an outstanding performance in the water. 

Buyer’s Guide: Which Canoe Should I Buy?

Opening your wallet is the first thing that you should do before buying anything. And fishing canoes are not an exception. Besides, setting up your budget will remarkably reduce the list of possible candidates. 

Once you’ve set the budget, it’s time to start asking yourself how, where, and with whom you will be using the fishing canoe. This way, you will rule out any option that doesn’t fit your criteria. 

Even after doing this process, it is very likely that you end up with more than one suitable candidate. That is why we’ve taken that time to highlight what to look for when buying a fishing canoe. But first, let’s review some terms related to the canoe structure that we will use throughout this section. 

The Canoe Anatomy Explained 

Canoe construction is quite simple, and it has almost remained unaltered for hundreds of years. Of course, the materials are different. And the way canoes are constructed has changed. Plus, you can rig it to your liking. But the principle and general structure are quite the same. 

To make things easier, we will divide the fishing canoe into two sections: The inside and outside. 

The Inside Section

It is where you sit and place your gear. This section is long and narrow. Inside it, you will find a seat close to either end.

Next to each seat, you will find a pole fixed to each side of the canoe. These are the thwarts. Their function is to fence the hits and keep each side stable. 

In the middle, you will find a long pole that is known as the yoke. You can use it to lift the canoe and transport it. 

Some fishing canoes also have handles on each end that you can use to transport it. 

The front-most section is known as the bow. And, the rear end is known as the stern. Each one has a similar build, and they both have a remarkable impact on performance. For example, the first section that touches the incoming water is the bow. Thus, its shape affects how easily the fishing canoe glides through the water. Naturally, the sharper it is, the easier it will be to cut through the water. In contrast, blunt bows offer more buoyancy at the expense of movement resistance. 

In contrast, the stern determines how stable the glide is and how easily the fishing canoe tracks. 

So, in conclusion, fishing canoes have an open deck design. And everything sits inside it.

The outside section

It comprises everything from the outer face of the gunwale to the keel line at the bottom of the fishing canoe. You might also know it as the hull.

The Hull Profile

Depending on the type and shape of the hull, the fishing canoe performance is different. Here, we bring you a summary of each one. 

  • Round Bottom: As the name indicates, the hull is round. Therefore, they have poor primary stability. 

However, rounded bottom fishing canoes are very unlikely to capsize. Plus, you can go faster with this hull profile. 

In conclusion, fishing canoes with a rounded hull are ideal for long trips through calm to moderate-rough waters. 

  • Flat Bottom: This hull sits on the opposite side from the round bottom. So, as you might expect, they have incredible primary stability. 

But, they lack secondary stability. Therefore, you can’t use this type of fishing canoe on rough waters, as you will be more likely to capsize. 

However, fishing canoes with a flat hull are extremely easy to use, making them perfect for beginners. 

  • Shallow Arch Bottom: The middle between two extremes is often the best option. This one offers some of the stability of the flat hull. Plus, some of the speed and maneuverability of the round bottom.

So, no question why this is the most popular hull design for fishing canoes. 

  • Shallow Vee Bottom: It is another middle-ground option. Just that this time the keel, the line where the two sides meet, is sharper. As a result, it increases stability and tracking, at the expense of speed.  

Canoe Profile

The canoe profile refers to the shape of its sides. Tumblehome, flare, and straight side are the most common profiles you will find. 

  • Tumblehome: The sides turn inward. Therefore, it is easier to paddle because you have more room to do so. 
  • Flare: It is the opposite of tumblehome. That is, the sides grow to the outside of the canoe. Therefore, it prevents the water from getting inside. The downside is that paddling is harder. 
  • Straight Side: If you don’t want to get wet, but you don’t like to have such a hard time paddling, you should go for a straight side fishing canoe. It has neither drawbacks nor pros. 

Length

The distance between the stern and the bow is what we know as length. It has a tremendous impact on both maneuverability and portability. Thus, you should think carefully about how large you want your fishing canoe to be. 

Longer fishing canoes are less portable and more massive than smaller ones. As a result, they are harder to control in the water. But have more room for your legs and gear. Plus, they track quite easily. So, if you want to navigate through narrow side channels, you should purchase a smaller fishing canoe. 

How you plan to transport the canoe or store it once you finish, is relevant too. For instance, if you have a big pick-up truck, the length, and thereby, the portability is not your principal concern. The same applies if you have a large storage room at home. Bear in mind that longer fishing canoes typically need a personalized rack to hang them. 

Width

Length and width determine the fishing canoe size. The latter determines how stable the canoe is and how much gear it can carry. 

Some suppliers will give the width measurement on three sections of the canoe: The gunwale line, waterline, and the widest point, which is known as the beam. The first indicates the separation between the two sides of the boat. The waterline, as the name suggests, refers to the width where the water reaches when the fishing canoe is fully loaded. 

Lastly, the beam indicates which is the maximum width of the canoe. It is the most significant width measurement. 

Fishing canoes with a broad hull are more stable than slimmer models. Plus, they can bear more weight. However, the downside is that they are slow. Thus, a large fishing canoe is the best option for long fishing sessions in calm waters and with a lot of gear. 

Primary and Secondary Stability

All hull profiles are stable on their own. So, what you need to understand is that there are two types of stability. 

The primary stability refers to how stable the boat is in calm water. As we said before, fishing canoes with flat hulls have the highest stability of this type. 

In contrast, secondary stability refers to how resistant to capsize the fishing canoe is. Or if you prefer how stable it is while you are navigating through harsh waters. 

Weight and Portability

As we explained before, a bigger canoe is less portable than a smaller one. Not only because of the dimensions but because they are typically heavier. Furthermore, it is crucial to check the fishing canoe weight before any purchase, especially if you like to go fishing on your own. You don’t want to end up buying something that you can carry to the water. 

Capacity

Size matters, don’t let anyone tell you that it doesn’t. Naturally, bigger canoes can handle more weight. Still, they are heavier than smaller versions. 

As a rule of thumb, we suggest buying the fishing canoe with the largest carrying capacity possible in the adequate portability range. In other words, if there are two canoes with the same weight and dimensions. You should purchase the one with the highest capacity possible. Of course, this applies as long as the budget allows it. 

The reason for this is simple; it is better to have that extra capacity and don’t need it than needing it and not having it. Besides, keep in mind that the fishing canoe has to handle the combined weight of your gear, companions, and yourself. 

Number of Seats

While fishing kayaks usually accommodate up to two anglers, some fishing canoes have enough room for three or even four anglers. But not everyone likes to go fishing with too many people. 

So, think about the number of people that you wish to fish with and purchase the fishing canoe accordingly. 

Material

The built quality largely depends on the fishing canoe material. Polyethylene, wood, fiber, and aluminum are the most common material found in canoes. 

Wood fishing canoes are heavy and expensive, yet they have beautiful looks. But let’s face it, appearances are the least of our worries when we are fighting a fish. So, wood is not an option in this case. 

Fiber fishing canoes are light yet brittle. Plus, they are quite expensive. So, unless you are fishing on calm waters without any obstacles, fiber canoes are not an option. 

Aluminum is durable and can withstand more abuse than any other material. The problem is that it is heavy. Therefore, if you aren’t near the fishing spot, you are better off with another construction. 

Lastly, we have polyethylene. Most of the fishing canoes you can find in the market have a plastic construction. It is not as durable as aluminum. But it should be enough for the average angler. Plus, it is lighter. Additionally, it is considerably cheaper than fiber and wood. So, don’t be surprised if the vast majority of the fishing kayaks you find in the market have a polyethylene construction. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s better for fishing: canoe or kayak?

Well, that answer is a little bit tricky. It all depends on the situation. Most people prefer kayaks over canoes, while others think the opposite. Our recommendation is this, for solo fishing, go for a kayak. For fishing with friends or family, go for a canoe. 

If you wish to know more about canoe versus kayaks fishing, you can check our guide here.

Is the hull design that important? 

Yes, it is. If that wasn’t clear enough in the buyer’s guide, we say it again here. The hull profile has a direct impact on performance. It determines how stable the canoe is, how fast can it go, how easily it tracks, and how much weight it can handle. 

Our recommendation is to go for a shallow arch or flat hull profile.

Are longer canoes better? 

Longer canoes track better and typically can handle more weight. Thus, they are better for long trips with a lot of gear and passengers. In contrast, shorter models are more maneuverable and easier to carry. Thus, they are better for solo fishing or to navigate narrow creeks.

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