Best canoes for trapping?

My brother has fallen in love with my 15’6" bell canoe. Now he has me searching for a canoe for him. It will mainly be used for trapping beaver in small creeks and rivers. If there are any trappers on here I would love to hear about what set up you are using. He will usually paddle solo with about 200 lbs of gear. He thinks he wants to stay under 15’ if possible because a lot of the creeks don’t have much turning room. Any input is appreciated. Thanks, Marlon

Maneuverability isn’t necessarily related to length…

Does he want a solo, or does he need the capacity of a tandem?

General Thoughts

– Last Updated: Oct-14-10 1:40 PM EST –

I'll work my way up to my final point with some comments. Personally, I would find 200 pounds to be a huge load to carry in a solo canoe, and I wouldn't enjoy manhandling so much mass around at all. Is that load correct? I can't imagine carrying that many traps at a time, but maybe if the beaver are plentiful you could have some outings where the carcasses added up to that much weight. For carrying anything close to that much weight on small rivers and creeks, I'd opt for something with a fair amount of rocker. I'll illustrate my reason for this. All of my small-creek paddling has been done in three solo canoes (all in Royalex), the Wenonah Vagabond, the Mohawk Odyssey 14, and the Nova Craft Supernova. The Vagabond didn't have any rocker (yes, it's supposed to have 1.25 inches, but the Royalex versions are zero-rocker boats) and making it zig and zag around tight curves and among fallen trees was not much fun. The Odyssey 14 has a little rocker, and is a wonderful boat for those situations. However, with about 50 pounds of camping gear on board, much of that nimbleness is lost, at least with a small guy like me providing the propulsion (I don't have arms like Popeye). The Supernova has plenty of rocker and remains nimble (though there's plenty of "momentum" to deal with once it starts to swing around) no matter what the load. I have a Bell Merlin II, but I seldom paddle it on twisty rivers and I consider it to be completely unsuitable for the conditions you describe (I only mention that as an example that cruising designs aren't a good choice in this case).

I don't think that a good trapping canoe would have as much rocker as a Supernova, but a canoe with rocker approaching two inches at each end would be ideal in my book. That should be enough to make slow-speed tight turns and pivots pretty easy. I know a couple people here who will say to lean the boat to the rail when turning, but leaning to the rail isn't practical for the average person with average skills, especially in ice-cold water with the current about to pin you against a tree if you don't complete the maneuver in time, and I bet that's the sort of situation we are talking about. A more "practical" degree of lean applied to my Wenonah Vagabond when carrying a load accomplished almost nothing, and doing so doesn't help "enough" when carrying a moderate load in my Odyssey 14. That's why I think a decent amount of rocker will help a lot when solo paddling twisty rivers with 200 pounds of gear on board. Symetrical rocker is a really nice thing to have for tight manuevers in small rivers too, especially when sneaking through tight spots at various orientations to the current and when going backward, but some of the big name makers don't offer it, and it's a feature you can live without if you can't get it (and it's fine when cruising along). I don't have any practical experience paddling a tandem canoe by myself, but I'd expect that you could get by with less rocker in that case, and that leaning the boat would help quite a bit even when carrying a load.

If I were going beaver trapping with my boat choices, I'd take my Odyssey if the load were up to 80 pounds or so, and my Supernova if the load were heavier than that. The Supernova is rather squirrely for a boat of its size, and for a boat with similar load-hauling and maneuvering capability, with symetrical rocker, which needs a whole lot less attention to detail when maintaining control, I'd recommend the Mad River Freedom Solo (formerly known as the Guide). Many others here could give some very useful advice, and I'm surprised no one else has chimed in.

Heeling a boat only helps if the

– Last Updated: Oct-14-10 1:38 PM EST –

stems have some rocker so they can be freed to start the skid. Its of no use with a lightly or no rockered boat at all especially with the stems sunk under a heavy load.

I am not familiar with beaver traps but suspect that the load may extend well above the gunwales. That precludes heeling the boat at all.

You will be happier with a rockered boat under the conditions you describe. You might also consider a small tandem. You might look at the OT Camper 15 or the Disco 119. I don't know if you have to stand at all in the boat. Your brother may well want to sacrifice speed for stability.

It may or may not be that you are looking for a working boat for trapping. For sure I would stay with Royalex ..where there are beaver there are dams and dragging with that load is hard on any boat.

I don’t know much at all about trapping.

– Last Updated: Oct-14-10 1:46 PM EST –

But I do know a little bit about soloing a loaded canoe on twisty streams.

I'm pretty confident that if I were to take up such an endeavor as described, I would be doing it in my 16' Nova Craft Prospector. If the streams are as small as the ones I see beaver sign regularly on, I would be poling not paddling.

My experience especially from tripping with a load this summer suggests that this canoe, or one like it, gets more stable with that kind of load and still remains very maneuverable with a pole. Adding that much weight to a smaller canoe will make it more likely to drag in the shallows than a bigger canoe. Check out what the early trappers used for river travel and I think your brother will find it enlightening....a large (as in - not solo size) canoe propelled by paddle and *pole*.

Learning to pole isn't really hard if you are motivated. I would think your brother is properly motivated via the trapping goal. Have him look into instructional material from Harry Rock.

I appreciate the advice
I am going to let him try out my 15’5" loaded with gear and see how it feels. He won’t always have a 200 pound load, but he has to carry a lot of steel traps and heavy weights when he does an initial set up. The weight of the beaver on a typical trip is between 100-250 lbs. This should not be a problem because they float and we usually tie them up and pull them behind us. One of his main concerns is royalex or poly cracking in the cold weather. He will also be getting in and out a lot. He does wear chest waders so wet entries won’t be a problem. I like the poling idea as much of the trapping is in shallow water. I need to try that out myself sometime. Thanks again for the advice.

cold weather cracking is not an issue
Its something to consider only for wood gunwaled boats.

I have a couple of Royalex boats and one of them spends all the time outside and the other in the unheated barn.

Of course we cant use them at thirty below zero,By the time whitewater season starts it is March and the temp gets to forty during the day and of course below freezing at night. We hit lots of rocks and other things and no one boat breaks or explodes because of the cold (or warm as we see it)

Odd-shaped canoe called Venus Flytrap

Wenonah Prospector 15
Seems to me this would be the perfect canoe for trapping. Isn’t that sort of what these boats were originally designed for? Plenty of capacity and rocker.


Call Me Crazy
But an OT Disco 158, that’s 15’ 8" long, is a thought to munch on. Cheap if buying used or actually new, handles well in small streams, believe I’ve been there with mine, handles a load well, and is stable as well with it’s width. Just heavy. Can’t kill unless you took a shotgun to it. Just my .02, can’t hurt to chime in with a cheaper but very tough boat.


Not crazy at all.

– Last Updated: Oct-15-10 1:20 PM EST –

It actually makes a lot of sense, now that it has been pointed out that they usually tow their trapped beavers behind the boat, because that suggests there must not be any reason to worry about manueverability on this river. If that's the case, the main reason to have a more maneuverable canoe would be reduced to making the whole job of paddling more pleasant. But you are correct, even if river conditions were a bit more difficult, this boat could be adapted to do the job.

In any case, I must suggest to the original poster to put that beaver cargo in the canoe where it belongs, since it's ALWAYS a lot more difficult to tow something in the water than to carry it in the boat.

A Shotgun won’t kill a Disco.
A Deer slug would put a little hole in it. Maybe two little holes if your aim was good Buckshot would just bounce.

Only way I know to kill a Disco is lots of gasoline and a match.

But carrying a Disco might kill you!

I picked up a dicovery once
When I was trying to pick out my first canoe. That made me decide to buy a royalex canoe. I paddled a Mohawk nova 16 a few hours yesterday. I think it might be a decent choice for him. I thought it paddled nicely and wasn’t too heavy. I haven’t done any poling so I didn’t know if it would work for that. As for pulling the beavers behind us, we have only been walking the banks so far and they are too heavy to carry. We would throw them inside the canoe unless weight becomes an issue. The nova felt narrow but stable. Any thoughts on this canoe?