Chosing a canoe or kayak

Hello all. I’m looking for a good canoe for fishing lakes and larger rivers. I want to be able to take my 5 year old daugter with me without worrying about fishing her out of the water constantly. But I’ll need to be able to load and unload it by myself most of the time. I have access to Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain and a couple of smaller local shops. My price range is around $500. I’ve looked at the Old Town Guide 147 at Gander Mountain ($550) and even the Field and Stream Kay-noe at Dick’s, which I understand is a repackaged Old Town model. Dick’s is advertising a Field and Stream Sporter 14 foot that looks pretty good.

I was originally planning on a SOT kayak, but I think the 5-year old will nix that plan. I have no real paddling experience and to be honest, I’m a bit confused by all the reviews and options. I’d be very happy to have some guidance from a more experienced person!


This Old Town link …
… if you haven’t already considered the different things about canoes that make them different , is a good basic info. source . It may aid you in understanding canoe design features .

If you are wanting a “new” canoe , your options to aquire all the best of features may be limited at $500.

Things you will probably want to consider and make various compromises on are , canoe weight , stability , speed and effeciency , manuverability , load capacity / volumn , maintenance , construction materials , stiffness , and of course price .

Many have suggested shopping for “used” as opposed to new because you may be able to get more of the most desired features for the same dollars .

The guide 147 is around 74 lbs. according to Old Town . For someone loading , unloading and carrying by themself , lighter is better of course . 74 lbs. could be a bit of a strain , because canoes can be awkward to carry and lift alone if too heavy for you .

solo canoe?
If you have no experience paddling, a SOT would be the easiest to paddle. There are some that are tandem and can be used solo. Native watercraft makes a canoe (they call it a kayak) that can be used solo or tandem.

Another option is to get a solo canoe and paddle it with a kayak paddle. You can set up your 5 year old to sit at bow or stern.

Thanks for the tips! Old Town’s website was very informative. I had looked at it, but never gotten past the boats themselves. I am going to look for a used one and see what turns up. I’ve done some more looking though, and I’m leaning toward Mad River’s Adventurer 14. It’s still heavy, but it sure has a lot of features for the money and sounds to be pretty stable from the reviews I’ve read. If anyone has any experience with one of these, I’d love to hear about it.

I looked at the Mad River Synergy kayak as a possibility as well. I could probable figure a way to carry my daughter, but it would be a bit precarious. It’s almost as heavy and more expensive than the Adventurer as well.

Thanks again!

Let me save you the leg work

– Last Updated: Jul-30-08 9:04 AM EST –

and tryal and error. Get yourself a 14' tandem canoe. Paddle it "backwards" until the child is old enough to paddle, then turn it around. Not that she'll paddle much but at that point she will be big enough to ballast the bow. 12' is too short to fish from even with even a small second person and 16' is getting too long to maneuver effectively alone and also heavy.

Get as light as you can. Get a royalex one if at all possible or a light FIBERGLASS one. Lots of folks call all synthetic canoes "fiberglass" but they are plastic. And heavy. Take my word for this: 60 pounds is not much heavier than 30 pounds but 69 pounds is no different from 75 pounds and both feel like 100 pounds. Stay away from the light weight aluminum ones for now. IMHO they will not long suffer the abuse of a novice paddler and a 5 year old child. The Sportpalls are GREAT fishing canoes but too thin-hulled to take a lot of bashing and banging. The full-flavored aluminum ones are a mixed blessing. The smaller ones are light enough and are, of course, super durable. But they are loud and noisy and are regarded by modern paddlers as something of a design compromise. I have hear the opinion that they do not handle as well as the full-sized aluminum canoes and those are WAY too heavy. I think that they are classic and durable and extremely utilitarian. You will not look cool paddling a battleship canoe.

Get WIDE and flat. You are talking about a 5 year old in a pond. Unless you are going to glue the kid to the seat you want a LOT of (initial) stability. and a lot of space for your fishing gear and her "kid stuff", coolers, whatever. And BRING it! Canoes are meant to be loaded. They sit in the water better and handle better, especially in the wind. Tie every thing to something and tie something to the canoe. Otherwise you will loose it when the canoe tips over. Keep all those ropes short and tight though. You don't want to get the little one tangled in them should you go over and THAT is the downside to initial stability: once you start to go over, you go over. Other, more experienced paddlers will make a big deal out of secondary stability and it wold be an important consideration if you planned to take the canoe out into fast flowing or very choppy water but this makes the canoe much more "tippy" and as a new paddler a tippy feeling canoe is a self fulfilling prophecy.

Kayaks get a LOT of press. Fishing-kayak this and fishing kayak that. Balderdash! They call them "fishing" kayaks for a reason: because you can't fish from a regular kayak. They are lower to the water, narrower and harder to get to equipment. You have to be pretty well organized to fish from such a platform and a kayak has to be RIGGED for fishing. You NEED to buy and attach a bunch of things that are nonsence on a canoe just to keep your stuff straight and out of the way. They make tandem kayaks but these are universally very heavy and if you are doing this alone, heavy is bad. Beyond that, they are designed for two people to paddle, not work from.

Buy your child a PFD that costs at least as much as the canoe. Yours should be about $10 cheeper. WEAR IT AT ALL TIMES. I hope you guys have a lot of fun and catch a lot of fish!

Still Searching
Are you still searching for a canoe or did our already purchase one?

I reviewed the OT Sport 14 footer, same as the Field and Stream at Dick’s, on this website.

Here is the link:

Happy paddling!

More to think about
Great, now I’ve got more to think about! I hadn’t even considered Sam’s. Dick’s here in Knoxville never has that darn Field and Stream canoe. It looks great in the photos, but that’s as close as I’ve gotten to one! I looked up the equivalent Old Town model and I don’t see it listed on their website. What does it weigh?

Again, thanks to everyone for the advice!

Listen , the Old Town Guide 147 …

– Last Updated: Jul-30-08 8:04 PM EST –

........ is just what you would want in all aspects of stability , etc. , except it weighs in at about 74 lbs. . If you can deal with that as a compromise , then it's a good one for you . If you can find a simular canoe hull in say Royalex@ or even a kevlar blend for simular price used , then that is the way to go because it will be maybe 15-20 lbs lighter .

I second everything Mr.Grumpy said , but just for clarity , never fasten the kid to the boat , right ..

ps., moving the canoe about on the land is easily acomplished with one of those wheel things if it's a bit heavy to carry . The only problem would be how high you have to lift to load and unload or storage and there are several ways and accessories that almost can defeat that intirely also ..

Don't think you have too or would be destined to power lift or he-man the canoe , that is not the case at all , it can be done reletively effortlessly even with a hundred pound canoe ..

pss., the Old Town Guide 147 has been a staple of many state park and livery rentals . WHY ??
Because it is a very forgiving canoe and can be horsed around in . You'll appreciate the ABS gunnels too ...

Try Ebay
Look around on ebay you may find a good deal if you are willing to drive a bit. I bought an Old Town discovery 16 on Ebay for $250 a year ago. Yes it is heavy but I can handle it on my own well enough and you can not hurt the thing. Very stable and a lot of room. I had mine loaded with 500 pounds of people and stuff going into whitecap ping waves and it rode like a charm and didn’t take on water. Note unless weighed down and another paddler to help don’t attempt to go out in any wind as you will me blown around and almost uncontrollable. I also have a Sit on kayak also from Ebay (new $300 below msrp) and I love it, however for a new paddler the canoe is much more versatile

OT SPort Canoe
My OT Sport canoe is not found on the OT website. It is made by the same company though – Johnson Outdoors.

The canoe weighs 84 pounds. It is quiet heavy, but I have found it to be stable in the water. I have also found it great for my kids to paddle in. Yes, they paddle. My 8 year old can pull me, my youngest daughter/her sister (5) and our stuff with no probme at all.

I posted some pics of my OT Sport under the forum posting Pics of My Canoe.

I enjoy it.

By the way, not only check Ebay, but also Craigslist – that is where I got mine for $350

They grow up fast
Take it from me, your 5 year old will be a 10 year old faster then you can blink and you will need a 14 foot boat.

I purchased an Osprey 140 and I am very glad I did. It was a great deal more expensive than your budget, $1300 but I will never out grow it.

I take my nephew out and for the first three of years I paddled it backwards with him facing me. That allowed me to bait his hook and get the fish off without one of us going for a swim. We now paddle forwards and he does everything for himself. “I’m not a baby uncle Dan”.

There are also times that the wife and I go cruising or I solo out on the big lake (Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho) which would be difficult in anything smaller.

Good luck on what ever you chose.


The munchkin
starts kindergarten next week! It doesn’t seem possible.

Anyway, I think after all the reading and advice from you folks I’ve narrowed it down to the OT Guide 147 or the Mad River Adventure 14. The OT is just a great looking boat and I’ve heard alot about how stable it is. The Mad River has alot of neat molded in features (storage, rod holders) that I won’t have to buy separately. They’re only $50 different in price and about the same weight. I do like the gunnels on the OT, which will make attaching accessories much easier. I think it has a keel as well, which I understand will keep me heading in a straight(er) line.

Again folks, I really appreciate all of you that took the time to offer advice. I’m really looking forward to hitting the water and having some fun.

They both weigh 75 pounds!

– Last Updated: Jul-31-08 10:45 PM EST –

and the seat designs make it impossible to paddle them stern-first which will make them handle very, very badly either solo or with a five year old child in the front.

I urge you to not get what is most convenient but what is best for your situation. There HAVE to be some specialty paddling shops near you that would stock or be able to get something that handles better and is easier for you to horse around on dry land.

What about the Angler from Mad River: now THAT is the ticket (may be BIG ticket: I didn't look up the price).

What’s the advantage
to paddling one backwards? I’m sure I’m showing my full ignorance here, but I don’t get it.

Weight distribution
The “front” seat of a canoe is more amidships than the back seat which is very much to the rear. If you sit in the back of an unladen canoe the front sticks way up out of the water. This makes the canoe handle poorly. It harder to turn and harder to track straight. If there is even the slightest bit of wind you will get blown all over the place. You can literally be blown in circles by even a moderate breeze. The longer the canoe, the worse these effects are. By sitting in the front seat (facing backwards) you now make the center of gravity more neutral. It doesn’t eliminate the effects of the imbalance but it reduces them to, in some cases, almost neglegable amounts. I would guess that a 5 year old child in the front seat would not be enough to ballast the bow (the weights should be pretty close to equal) but by the time she’s 8 or 10 you can paddle “forward” with her helping in the bow position.

Again, the effects can be mitigated by a number of skills and tactics. I assumed that you wanted a tool to take you and the child fishing. If you want to become a “canoeist” you can do all kinds of things. You can, for example, kneel on the floor of the canoe all trip to keep the weight centered. Personally, I’d rather paddle backwards.

I’ll chime in
Gonefishin, I think you would be much happier with your choice if you do not settle for one of the heavy specialized boats at a “new” price, and find a good used boat instead.

Most of the respectable canoe manufacturers have a model that fits your needs without being too heavy and without sacrificing versatility. My Wenonah Fisherman, for instance (which would suit your stated needs perfectly, I think) that I picked up in “like new” condition for $600. It’s a good example of the design idea, and I’ve seen similar boats from other makers that run about the same in price. Do a little research here and on the manufacturer’s websites, and then watch Craigs list and your local papers. Something will turn up. But I agree with Mr. Grumpy - don’t settle for something you might not like later if there is any reasonable used market in your area.

The built-in fixtures and bucket seats look cool, but they do limit your ability to carry the canoe and to adjust your trim (front to rear balance).

Thanks, Grump!
I appreciate the info. Makes sense. You’re right, I just want to be able to get where the fish are. But I can’t discount the convenience factor. I have precious little time to recreate and right now I’m spending all of it looking for a canoe! I travel a lot and I’m lucky to be at home right now to be able to look. I’d rather fish as shop any day! Having said that, I am keeping an eye on Craig’s List and e-bay, but haven’t come up with any winners yet.

Meanwhile, the search continues…