Best paddling vessel for fishing?

-- Last Updated: Aug-13-09 3:37 PM EST --

Ever since I got into paddling SOTs 9 years ago, I've been aware of SOT manufacturers' and kayak fishing websites' claims of the SOT being the best and ideal paddle-powered boat for fishing. I never really thought about whether I believed these claims or not, all I knew was that I did enjoy fishing from a SOT, it was a cheap way to get on the water and a good way to get back into the shallow flats where the redfish were tailing.

Over July 4th weekend I bought my first-ever canoe, and in the few outings I have taken it on so far, I've become convinced it is a far superior boat than a SOT for fishing. It can still get into all the same places as a SOT, but it can carry far more gear than a SOT. I can bring an actual real ice chest, a tackle box, a couple of rods, a net, etc. Plus, the roominess of the canoe lets me move around to get to my gear, unlike a SOT where I have to awkwardly twist around to get anything behind me in the milk crate. I find in general it's more comfortable sitting up on a canoe bench with my legs below me for a few hours than sitting down on a SOT with my legs out in front. I don't get the numb butt in the canoe I get in a SOT. I've also found I prefer being in a canoe when landing fish - especially the stingrays I seem to have a penchant for catching. It's just not fun to worry about one of those ending up in your lap. The SOT will still be my prefered boat for fishing on the Gulf of Mexico side, but on the Galveston Bay side I'm going to be in a canoe from now on.

It depends on the water
I like your analysis of the benefits of each an SOT and a canoe.

In my home water, SOTs, SinKs, canoes, and catarafts (aka ‘toons) are all popular and all have strengths and weaknesses. As with just about anything else, folks will exercise their own judgment on what is most appropriate for them.

My go to paddle crafts are my 17’ tandem canoe rigged to row (so I can solo it easily) and with a 2.5hp outboard (so I can go upriver easily and float back down). The other is my Dagger Approach, a 10’ SinK that is either an aggressive recreational kayak or a watered-down whitewater kayak (I think the former is most appropriate). I love both these craft.

When someone else is rowing and trailering, I love the catarafts and whitewater rafts with rowing frames. If I’m rowwing, I want my canoe. It’s work getting one of those big inflatables down river, but I don’t think there’s anything more comfortable or better suited for fishing rivers. So long as you can sucker someone else into the work.

  • Big D

Which canoe did you buy?

Don’t snicker
But I went super-cheap - a Pelican Dakota 3-person. I just wanted something inexpensive so my wife, 11 yo stepson, 2 yo daughter, dachshund and I could all get on the water (between the canoe and a 1-person SOT). I was actually replacing a tandem SOT I had bought long before my daughter came along but had been lost in Ike, and then it dawned on me a canoe would be a better option, and I bought it the week I made that decision, as I wanted to be able to get everyone on the water for 4th of July. Otherwise I would have waited and bought something used with a better performance reputation.

fishing early this AM on a offshore reef, about 3/4 mile out. Squirrelly currents, semi exposed rocks, small swells combined with “sneaker” boat wakes from far off powerboats/ships… Not a place I would want to be in opne canoe in. The SOT, on the other hand, was reassuring in when caught by breaking “sneaker” wakes on the reef…

I agree that “cheap” is good tho’… :slight_smile:


No snickering here
Fat and slow is good for fishing canoes. Performance canoes can mean wet anglers for those of us who fish rivers. Getting snagged on riverbottom during a retrieve can be like having the anchor line come suddenly taught. A wide, slow canoe with gobs of initial stability is very helpful in such a circumstance. Performance canoeists may scoff, but we fishermen just aren’t looking for the same characteristics as a performance canoeist.

Those fat, heavy, slow canoes seem to be less effected by the wind and provide more controlled drifts. You get better hooksets. You have HUGE amounts of initial stability so you can stand to boat scout a fishing hole easily, or even cast many times. I fished for years from a Coleman Scanoe that did just fine and is about the quality level of your Pelican. I was able to stand and fish even through a class I riffle - no problem. Your Pelican’s not a “performance” canoe, but it performs well in the characteristics that matter most to a fisherman.

  • Big D

Thanks, good validation of my purchase

Your analysis…
is correct as far as it goes. I’m probably the biggest fan you’ll ever find of canoes for fishing. But under some conditions, and if you’re looking for a craft for some ways of fishing, the canoe may not be the best choice.

However, in my opinion, under any and all conditions that are suitable for a canoe, the canoe IS the much superior craft. Everything a kayak can do, a canoe can also do either as well or better, and the canoe can also do some things a kayak cannot.

The biggest reason that kayaks have become so popular among anglers is a combination of low price, ability to handle solo, and easy learning curve. I’d venture to say that most anglers who love kayaks so much have never spent any time in a good solo canoe.

I somewhat disagree with Big D…I think that once you get used to fishing from a reasonably good canoe, you will not want to go back to the Pelicans and Colemans, unless standing up in the canoe to fish is very important to you, or unless you want to carry a LOT of stuff (or people) and don’t mind really going slow between good fishing spots. You don’t have to, nor would you want to, have a really high performance canoe, but a good rec canoe or a decent tripper/tourer type canoe will be a lot more pleasant to paddle and handle while fishing than the plastic barges.

But the drawback to such canoes IS the steeper learning curve. Until you get proficient at handling them, they will be frustrating to fish from. But once you DO get some proficiency, they are a real joy to fish from.

"I somewhat disagree with Big D"
There’s a first time for everything… :slight_smile:

  • Big D