canoe "drag" in river

Is there anything out there that would slow my drift downstream so I can fish without moving as fast as the current? I am thinking of an anchor of sorts that will slow me down but not stop me?

Maybe a tire, duffel-bag, body, or old basketball filled with sand? I would want it to be relatively quite too…rocky bottom.

Am I crazy or does this make any sense?

Thanks in advance.

Way back many moons ago…
when I was in the Navy we had sea anchors that came with the blow up life rafts.

They were a rubberized bag with a tripod rope that held them open when it was tossed over. If I recall rightly, they also had a weight attachéd to them.

It was to slow down the drift.

I just looked on West Marine’s site, while I was formulating this post and you can buy them.

Why not make one yourself.

My only concern would be one catching on a snag if the river is shallow. They were made for deep sea

Jack L

Sea anchors
work because they mitigate drift caused by wind, not current. If you deploy a sea anchor in a current, it will move at the same speed as the water/boat (unless/until it snags on something). Without wind, a sea anchor will not be effective and since rivers bend and turn with no relationship to the wind, I’m not sure there is any long term utility there.

A device that dragged along the bottom would work, but once it was snagged (and it would snag), you’d not be in a very good position and would probably have to cut the line to free the craft or risk capsize.

Only a small trolling motor seems likely to serve your desire here.


Good heads up !
Thanks for that good info, and you are absolutely correct.

Jack L

or a kite

Not crazy - makes sense

– Last Updated: Aug-20-15 12:36 PM EST –

rjd9999 gave a good explanation of why a sea anchor would be useless in your situation. You would need something that actually drags on the bottom, not through the water. Your idea of a sand-filled basketball sounds as good as anything, because it would be less likely to snag than many other items one could use. You could probably put an eye-bolt through the basketball's skin with a very big washer on the inside (better yet, tightly clamp the skin between big washers on the inside and outside). You could cut a slit for placing sand inside, then just "stitch" it shut with wire. For slowing down a canoe, I'm betting that the ball need not be chock-full of sand.

Oh, by the way, filling the ball with gravel would be better. Sand will eventually wash out unless the fill opening is absolutely sealed (and that's too much trouble).

One other thing to consider would be a very light anchor that's extra easy to deploy. It might not drag well, but it would make it easy to pause at any good-looking spot and then move on. It takes very little force to hold a canoe in place against wind or current (in current this will be true as long as the canoe is lightly loaded). I sometimes use a home-made anchor that weighs about four or five pounds. When the anchor is that easy to handle, frequently lifting and lowering doesn't seem like a big deal. In a typical small river, you can leave a constant length of anchor line attached to the boat at all times, so there's nothing to adjust each time you drop anchor.

thanks everyone
I’ve used a small anchor which was galvanized. It clanked along until it finally got hooked on something. I could feel it catch and then slip out. I finally broke an “arm” off of it and now it’s trash. I am using a larger version currently and it grabs-and-holds firmly.

The small one was loud too…I could “hear” it through the rope/gunwales.

I’m willing to deal with the occasional snag since it’s better than my current rig. I’ll give the basketball a try. They have “anchor bags” but I doubt they’d last more than a few hundred yards of dragging. I’ll report back on how it goes.

I’ll use sand and have a way to change volume since the effectiveness of this to allow me to drift will vary with water speed/depth. The Delaware is at 4k now and is low by me. At 10k nothing will slow me down. Like everything on the river it will vary based on the day.

Thanks again!

2 cents worth…
I think dragging anything behind a boat in shallow water with a rocky bottom is a mistake waiting to happen, and I would never even consider doing that.

As much as I hate boats with motors; I’d have to suggest a small trolling motor as the safest option.


a wreck anchor variation
a small 3 or 4 prong grappling hook made with soft enough steel that it will bend and straighten out so it won’t stay stuck. you could also put a second line on it to back it off the snag

and when you’re not busy futzing with it
you can actually get some fishing in.

Window Weight
I use to use a window weight, the cylinder type with a hole at the top for a rope. Might be hard to find these days. I’d tie it off to the carry handle and let it loose and it would slow us down so my honey could fish. It only snagged once when it got caught in a submerged tree limb. Mostly it just slide up and over stuff on the bottom. Every once in a while I’d have to add a second one, in those days I had about 10 of the buggers.


I have read about . . .
but never needed, dragging a chain on the bottom. Should avoid most snags. Let us know how it works!

Could not agree more!


– Last Updated: Aug-21-15 8:50 PM EST –

to NOT trying it! not something I would try on any river.

Okay, help me with the logic here.

– Last Updated: Aug-21-15 9:14 PM EST –

People drop anchor to fish in rivers all the time. Maybe they don't do so in the sort of whitewater you like to play in, but in all fairness, you did say you wouldn't try this in *any* river. So, why does the possibility of snagging a dragged item become such a scary thing when the reality of using a "true" anchor, in the kind of rivers where anchoring is safe and commonplace, isn't scary at all? I myself would favor a conventional anchor instead of trying to concoct a drag (I don't envision a drag as providing good consistency in hold-back force), but that's a whole other issue.

The logic as I see it is:
The OP wants to drift at a slower rate then the river is flowing.

A regular anchor will catch on the bottom and hold him in place.

He is hoping that some thing smooth, might just slide along the bottom.

From ninty percent of the rivers I have paddled there are too many snags on the bottom to accomplish that

Jack L

I agree with you Jack

– Last Updated: Aug-22-15 10:45 AM EST –

There won't be a consistent enough amount of drag for this to work well. The person will find themselves often having to lift the drag device to keep moving, which was the whole reason I had suggested a lightweight anchor which makes it easy to do exactly that.

What I don't agree with is the scary tone that went along with Dan's post, as if a person would automatically be putting themselves in danger simply by attempting this, on just about any river, since he was implying that when the device pulls you to a halt, you are in big trouble. There was a reason that I had asked why an accidental snag should be considered dangerous if it happens in a situation where an intentional snag (using a conventional anchor) is considered safe. The logic of that comparison is what I was asking about.

Basketball variant # 2
Cut a slit in the bottom of the basketball just barely large enough to work your regular anchor up inside it.

Cut a small hole in the top just large enough to pass the line through.

Feed the line thru the bottom, out the top, and pull your anchor up inside the bball.

sea anchor
A sea anchor works fine at sea. On a river it moves with the current not slowing down the boat at all.

Power boats use an engine or motor to slow down and backtroll.

Drift boats use oar power mostly to hold against the current.

There is no good answer for a kayak.

I tried drag anchors…
As an avid angler on Ozark streams, which are fairly fast in places, I wanted to be able to do exactly what you want. My solution was a time-tested one here in the Ozarks, a length of heavy chain, covered with a bicycle inner tube to keep it quiet. I worked well much of the time. With about two feet of chain, you could let it all out onto the bottom to stop the canoe in current, or just let part of it drag to slow but not stop the canoe.

However, it required a bit of engineering. You want the rope attached to the anchor to come off the very back end, the point, of the canoe, or else the canoe turns partially sideways and starts feeling really squirrelly in stronger current. And since I was using it in a solo canoe with myself sitting in the middle, I had to install an eyebolt for the rope to run through at the point of the stern, and an anchor cleat where I could easily reach it, with the rope running from the cleat back through the canoe to the eyebolt. This is reasonably safe because you don’t tie the rope to anything, and can lift it out of the cleat and let it all go through the eyebolt and out of the canoe if the anchor snags in fast water.

Eventually, though, it became just too much of a pain to put up with. The biggest drawback was that you could never lift the whole chain out of the water without stopping, getting out of the canoe, and lifting the whole thing out, because the eyebolt stopped the chain with about half of it still in the water. And you had all the extra rope lying around in the boat and getting in the way. I finally decided that I could do without a drag anchor.