Choosing a canoe (or maybe a kayak?)

I’m looking for some recommendations for a fishing canoe or kayak. Here are my criteria and what I’ll be doing with it:

  • Will mostly be fishing by myself, but occasionally will want to take my kids (ages 10,8,6). So, it must be maneuverable enough for one person to handle but big enough that my kids can occasionally go on short trips with me.
  • $1000 or under (which ruled out most kayaks that I could find).
  • Something good to fish out of (obviously!).

In doing research, I’ve been interested in the Old Town Saranac but unsure how easy to maneuver with only 1 person that would be. And I’ve been intrigued by the Old Town Next, but despite it’s 13ft frame, appears to only hold 1 person. I’m open to these and any other suggestion. I appreciate your help!

It makes a big difference what kind of water you going to be in (moving vs. quiet, flat vs. waves, windy vs. still, etc.). For quiet, flat, & still, get a tandem canoe. There are plenty of them on craigslist, if you can stand to wait until the right one comes along.

Thanks, for the most part it will be quite/flat/slower moving rivers and lakes.

How about this? In your price range with free shipping. Entry level, but seats three and looks like it would be fine for fishing on flat water.

Thanks! I hadn’t noticed the MadRiver’s before. I think I like the 14ft one a bit better and that makes it very similar to the Saranac in terms of weight/other specs. So right now it seems my 2 best options are the Saranac and Mad River 14…only downside is both are a bit heavy (but certainly doable) for a 1 person loading/unloading and even though they are both tandem boats, I’m assuming 1 person will have no problem maneuvering either in the water?

Fishing is more practical out of a canoe or sit-on-top (SOT) kayak rather than a sit-inside kayak (SINK) with a deck. Paddling alone as well as with an occasional guest is going to be difficult in most kayaks with their fixed seats designed for either single or double use—and the same is true of the (cheapo) Old Town Saranac and Mad River Adventure canoes, whose seats cannot be moved without compromising the structural integrity of the boat. To solo a boat, you should be roughly centered.

My recommendation would be a USED standard tandem canoe made of Royalex or 3-layer (NOT single layer) polyethylene, with web or cane seats hung from the gunnels with bolts. Those seats can be moved, removed, or added. When going solo, some people paddle the canoe backwards from the front seat, some like to add a center seat (permanent or temporary), and some replace the stern thwart with a kneeling thwart (if you like to kneel in the canoe).

With a canoe modified this way, you can go alone or take one or possibly two passengers.

Thanks melenas. I did see that the Saranac and Mad River both had middle seats, so maybe that’s not as much of a problem for those? In regards to your recommendation, do the web or cane seats matter that much? I’m thinking I’d like a seat with a back as that would be more comfortable when I am actually fishing. Is there a canoe similar to what you mention, with movable seat backs vs. benches?


you’re right, I didn’t really recognize that middle console as a seat in the Saranac and Adventure, so 1-3 people could indeed go.

I’ll stick with my recommendation, though, for other reasons. The boats you’re looking at are very heavy (ACK lists different weight than MR website) and will be difficult for you to transport, and the molded-in seats and consoles take up quite a bit of space. If you still like them, I’d buy used: those models are ubiquitous on craigslist.

You can buy backrests for canoe seats, including in web or cane. Search Google Images to see what’s available. Also, didn’t mean to dismiss all plastic canoe seat, just those in those models.

Don’t waste your money with a single layer poly canoe. They are junk. That middle seat/cooler just adds weight and is not properly placed to use as a solo seat, and makes single person portaging impossible.

15 feet is a bit small for 4 people. Get a used 16’ or 17’ Royalex or 3 layer poly as stated in a previous post. You can always find Old Town discoveries (169,158) on Craig’s list, and often 16’ Mad River explorers. Royalex is lighter than 3 later poly. Aluminum is a better choice than single layer poly.

I have a 17’ Mad River Explorer, It worked great with me, my wife and 2 kids. I soloed it for several years before getting a dedicated solo canoe.

You seldom see back rests on experienced paddlers canoes. They add weight and make entering/exiting a pain.

I agree with the advice by melenas and cannonball. Also, one completely different option that might work for you is a tiny rowboat. The only new ones I see nowadays are plastic, and that might work, but older aluminum versions show up on the used market around here. I’m getting into the realm of being an old fart, and when I was a kid, seeing dads and their kids out fishing in such boats was quite common. It’s harder to car-top little aluminum rowboats though. Do you have space for a 12’ to 14’ boat on a trailer? Oh, and 14’ feet would be better if all three kids go with you (14 feet would be too short for a canoe or kayak, but not for a rowboat). I’m not sure about where you live, but finding a used one plus a trailer for the price you mention wouldn’t be at all difficult around here.

Avoid the OT Saranac and MR Adventure. Those poly hulls are crap. The molded seats look nice but their main purpose is to provide rigidity to the cheap hull. They also waste room (if you ever go camping, that will be key) and prevent you from kneeling if you choose.

If you are ocassionally bringing kids a tandem is a must. As someone suggested a MR Explorer or OT Discovery or Penobscot would be decent choices.

I like my Explorer for fishing and it handes pretty well solo when I flip it around and paddle from the bow seat. The only time I had difficulty was on very windy days.

Also a Nova Craft Bob Special, PAL, or a Wenonah Spirit II would also be good, as would pretty much any mfrs. version of the Prospector. They would mostly be over your price point new, but you can certainly find one used that is in your price range.

I’ve actually found a very affordable Wenonah Fisherman online. My only concern is how easy is it to paddle solo? And, is it pretty easy to add a 3rd seat when I do bring my kids? Any thoughts on this boat and those concerns?

@nickmanderson said:
I’ve actually found a very affordable Wenonah Fisherman online. My only concern is how easy is it to paddle solo? And, is it pretty easy to add a 3rd seat when I do bring my kids? Any thoughts on this boat and those concerns?

The Fisherman is not ideal because 14 ft is very small for a tandem. It’s a stable boat and with young kids it can work. If you get a good deal on it then it is far, far better choice than one of the poly hull boats such as the Adventure and Saranac. Go for it.

Flip it around and paddle from the front seat and it should handle quite well solo. Hang a temporary seat or get a cheap beach chair for one of the kids to sit in.

When the kids get older then you will need something longer but I think it will do what you want it to do for now. Though not the best choice I think it is a very good one considering your price point and needs right now.

One last thing…I have a small electric trolling motor. Do you think I could easily attach something like that to the Wenonah Fisherman and use solo?

There are canoe brackets for trolling motors that you can buy (see LL Bean, Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops), or you can make something yourself. Check out Youtube. I’m sure you can find a number of videos on how to make one.

the very things I like about my mr adventurer 16 make it a poor choice for fishing. middle seat is poorly designed, probably hard to paddle and fish from there, ,. The bow and stern seats are higher than they need to be but are built the way to provide hull rigidity- So the initial stability probably isn’t the best for fishing, but the boat does have good secondary stability- not enough room for camping equipment - it;s crowded even in my 16 ft model- you can’t run the boat backwards (solo) kneeling

poly tends to do some shape shifting but it is low maintenance and abrasion resistant, it can really take some abuse,and the boat is economical although heavy to load

everything has its plus and minuses but for flatwater fishing you can do better with your stated budget

the adventurer does fine in moving water and even in ww you can heel it some and overall Iike the hull shape and the way it paddles

Thanks BrianSnat. I guess my question was specific to the Wenonah fisherman because you mentioned sitting in the front seat when I am solo. In this scenerio, I would be sitting in the back with the motor…just didn’t know if it would not track correctly with me in the back with a motor when I was solo.

@nickmanderson said:
Thanks BrianSnat. I guess my question was specific to the Wenonah fisherman because you mentioned sitting in the front seat when I am solo. In this scenerio, I would be sitting in the back with the motor…just didn’t know if it would not track correctly with me in the back with a motor when I was solo.

If you are sitting in the back seat solo then you will need some weight up front to trim it. A cooler packed with ice, sandwiches, drinks, etc up front that can double as a place to keep your catch or perhaps a cinder block or a boulder found near the launch wrapped in cloth to protect the boat . Some sort of heavy weight up front and you will be fine with running a motor from the back seat. But even with a trolling motor you are probably better off sitting in the front seat and flipping the boat around, then no need for extra weight up front.

Just be aware of one thing when rigging a canoe with a motor. Most canoes come with just enough flotation to keep from sinking if they flip. Most electric motors are quite heavy (30 pounds or more?) and the battery to run it could easily be 60 or 70 pounds. What’s more, local regulations almost certainly require that the battery be solidly attached to the boat, and of course the motor must be clamped to the boat to function. So, what happens if you flip? Your boat sinks. I know, swamping or a capsize is not likely, but this is something you at least should know. Some people would opt to include some extra flotation, just in case.

On that note, if you need weight for ballast, it makes far more sense to use water than such things as boulders or concrete blocks (which is what most people would mean by “cinder blocks” if they actually knew what they were, since cinder blocks are specifically designed to be extremely lightweight and thus provide minimal weight in comparison to their overall bulk). A container full of water becomes weightless when submerged, and thus will not contribute to all that other mass which is trying to sink your capsized canoe!

Am looking for kayak or canoe for fishing and hunting. Maybe square stern. Want boat 11’ or less and 50 lb or less. Any thoughts.