Canoe choices for solo backwater fishing

I’m working on an article for a magazine on canoes for backwater (marsh/mangrove) fishing, and need some feedback on solo canoes.

There’s a personal stake in this also. Currently I own an OTC Guide 147. Awesome boat. Hull tough as nails, stable enough to stand up and fly fish or push pole, yet not so wide that paddling is a pain, in fact, it paddles quite well, and tracks great. Problem is, like most canoes, it’s great for two persons, but not easy for solo use. So I’m considering a solo as a 2nd boat.

So far, what I’ve found is that recreational solo canoes seem to be THE choice for most fly rodders. So-called “sporting canoes” seem like good options, but are heavy (over 80lbs) and too limited to their use. My polling found that over 95% of Gulf Coast fly anglers who own canoes never even considered such boats. Their ultimate boat sounded much like a shorter version of my OTC Guide: usually 12-13 feet, about 31-34 inches in width, double-ended.

So far, the OTC Pack and Mohawk 13 appear to be the most common choices for this type of fishing. The Lincoln Hideaway would fit that category as well. Perhaps the best choice might be the OTC Discovery 119K, because of it’s polyethylene hull, more able to withstand oysters. But OTC has discontinued the 119K.

So the questions are:

  • are there other boats in this size/hull group?
  • does anybody currently make a polyethylene canoe in this size/hull group?
  • are there private/custom PE boat makers that could make this type of boat?


The Wenonah Sandpiper would probably be considered in the same group. In weight and paddling characteristics it’s pretty similar to the OT Pack.

However, in the paddling and fishing you are describing, I don’t like those choices all that much. I would choose a canoe that’s a little longer and better tracking. The Pack and Sandpiper, which I have had a lot of first hand experience with, are terrible tracking canoes, and since you’re talking flatwater where tracking is more important than maneuverability, they would seem to leave a lot to be desired. In Royalex, I’d have to go with the Wenonah Vagabond over the shorter canoes. I also think that the slightly greater durability of the poly canoes is not really a good trade-off for the lighter weight of the Royalex.

Cannot answer your direct query
but I use my Old town Penobscot 16. I dropped a solo seat in it. Much better boat for getting there. Comfortable to stand in, cast in. I fly fish exclusively. At 58 pounds it’s a great $800.00 boat. I have paddled shorter boats and am either missing a lot on technique or just impatient. They cost me more time to get to various fishing holes on lakes. I bet a shorter boat would shine in narrow running waters though. Good luck with your article too!

Yes, longer tracks better
I agree with all comments thus far that longer tracks better. The Pack is a poor tracking boat compared to my 14’7" Guide, for sure, which is why the Pack is recommended for a double-bladed paddle.

However, with paddlecraft there’s always a tradeoff in several hull/shape characteristics. For coastal fishing, the biggest problems are wind resistance and final stability. Tracking is important, too, but must be balanced by some manuverability.

If I could design the ideal canoe for these situations, it would be about 12-13 ft long and low ends for low wind resistance, low rocker and moderately rounded hull for better tracking and good final stability, along with some chines in the hull. It would be about 32-34 inches wide for ease of paddling, with adequate stability. The hull would be polyethylene or some formulation of, or if Royalex, a thicker skin, so it could support standup fishing, and take punishment from shallow water obstacles.

What do y’all think about that?

Bell Angler might work
I solo out of a bell angler with a center seat dropped in at 14’6" and 58 lbs it handles quite well in almost all conditions.

Buffalo Canoes
try this company they make royalex canoes that are thicker than your normal royalex and they come in various sizes.