Best of Both Worlds
Explore & Fish in a Canoe or Kayak
Published: June 18, 2010
Running fully rigged bass boats for more than 20 years has made me pretty spoiled.
Photo by John Neporadny, Jr
I rely on my outboard motor for navigating to my fishing holes and count on my trolling motor to keep my boat positioned in the right spot or for fishing down a bank. Even though I have all this mechanized equipment making my favorite pastime a lot easier, I still enjoy getting in a canoe and returning to a primitive form of fishing during the summer.
Where To Paddle
If you want to stay in shape and fish remote spots that are hard to reach with most standard fishing boats, then a canoe or kayak is the ideal vessel for you. If your cabin is located near a stream or on a lake with nearby feeder creeks, a canoe or kayak will allow you to navigate in these shallow areas without worrying about tearing up a propeller or lower unit on your outboard motor. These small crafts also allow you to skim over weedy areas to fish small pockets in the vegetation, whereas a trolling motor tends to bog down in thick weeds.
An ideal body of water for fishing from a canoe or kayak is a shallow stream, although you can use these boats to great effect on small lakes.
Fishing from a canoe gives you more open space for your rods and tackle, although the newer kayaks on the market now have storage areas and rod racks for your equipment. If you prefer fishing with a partner like I do, you may prefer a canoe, since most kayaks are single-person boats (though tandems are available).
What To Paddle
Canoes can take you to remote fishing holes that are nearly inaccessible for motor-driven boats. A lightweight canoe is easy to transport to your favorite fishing spot.
Photo by John Neporadny, Jr.
Aluminum canoes are the most durable but are also the heaviest. Plastic and fiberglass models are quieter when you scrape the bottom on rocks or if you drop something on the floor of the boat, which minimizes spooking fish. Ultralight or Kevlar models are the lightest and can be quite rugged, however they will likely cost you the most cash.
Picking the right canoe or kayak for fishing depends on whether you want more stability or maneuverability. The most stable canoe has a wide flat bottom, but moving around with this model is like paddling a barge. So if you want a canoe that you can push faster and maneuver easily, you should consider a model with the design of a kayak, with a longer, narrower hull and a more rounded bottom.
Tipping is tougher to do in a kayak, but it can happen in a canoe if you make a wrong move. As a precaution, I usually tie down my tackle bag, cooler and other bags with bungee cords to prevent losing my gear in case my canoe does tip. Kayaks generally include these types of bungee tie-downs fore and aft.
Prep Your Canoe For Fishing
I prefer paddling for the exercise, but you can mount a trolling motor on a canoe, especially if you have a square-back model. I would recommend a 12-volt, 30-pound thrust transom-mount trolling motor, which should have enough power to push a lightweight canoe almost anywhere.
Whether you paddle or troll, the most important feature you can add to a canoe is a well-padded seat with a back. I have a Cabela’s seat with straps and quick-release buckles that securely attach to any canoe. Even if you fish for only a couple of hours in your canoe, this seat will prevent you from waking up with a sore back the next morning.
Although I just store my rods on the floor, some rod holders designed specifically for canoes are available. They can either be permanently attached to the gunwale, or temporarily attached via a clamp.
I prefer stowing my lures in a Plano soft pack tackle bag, which holds three or four utility boxes and has several side pockets for carrying pliers, utility knives, sunscreen and other necessities. The soft-side tackle bags are quieter in a canoe. Heavy-duty or lightweight dry bags are also a must to keep valuables such as wallets and cell phones dry since the floor of a canoe frequently gets wet.
Kayak - Ideal For Anglers
Kayaks offer greater maneuverability, better stability and quieter approaches to your fishing hole than a canoe. The boats also are equipped with more comfortable seating.
Kayaks also offer more rigging options. Some models have a rudder, which can help the kayak maintain a straight course in a crosswind. Some other features you can add to your fishing kayak include a depth finder, compass and rod holders.
The soft pack tackle bag is also ideal for kayaks because the bags can easily conform to any nook and cranny, whereas storing a hard plastic tackle box in the small storage areas of a kayak can be like putting a square peg in a round hole.
If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box solution, the ultimate fishing kayak appears to be the new Hobie Mirage Pro Angler with its Mirage Drive system (www.hobiecat.com). This pedal-driven kayak allows you to maneuver the boat with your feet and leaves your hands free so you can hold your fishing rod the whole time.
If you want to fish hard-to-reach spots and enjoy a little exercise, then a canoe or kayak is the perfect option to help you catch more fish.
Although he has been spoiled by the comforts of bass boats, John Neporadny likes to “rough it” in a canoe and float streams during the summertime.