Need Advice on Canoe Choice, Please

Greetings! I’m new to canoeing and am looking for advice on my first canoe purchase, please. I have a wife and two young boys (currently ages 2 and 4) and I’m looking for a good, multipurpose canoe to take the family out for recreation. I’ll sometimes have my wife along and sometimes it will be just me and the boys. I hope to fish, paddle, and occasionally take the canoe for overnight camping. I live in Kentucky and will generally be limited to fairly calm waters like lakes and slow-moving creeks. Here are my criteria, I think, and I’m asking for advice on what make and model canoe is right for my family:

  1. Stable enough that an excited four year-old won’t put us all in the drink.

  2. Easy-to-medium portage difficulty for one man. I have a small pickup and will be transporting and loading/offloading on my own. (My internet searches have led me to the conclusion that lighter generally means more expensive and this will, of course, impact #3, below.)

  3. I’d like to spend no more than $650 or so on the canoe, not counting accessories.

    I thank you all in advance for your kind assistance.

Basically, you are looking at buying a
used canoe if looking for light weight. With four people, you’ll want at least a 16 footer. Mohawk makes an ok canoe and their prices for new canoes are reasonable. Also check out the Old Towns. You may want to post on the Advise, Suggestions forum. Its more active than the fishing forum and those guys know their canoes. Also, you can get good advice on seating for the kiddos.

Sportspal Canoes
Hi, I’m sort of in your boat (pun intended). I’m pushing 50, but I have an 8 year old son.

Three years ago, I wanted to buy something small, light, and cheap to fly fish from. So I started to do my own research. After about a year and a half, I settled on a canoe.

Then the question became: which canoe? That is not an easy question. The choices seem virtually endless. People who are into canoes tend to focus on speed and performance. What they consider stable is not what I consider as stable.

Then weight. Generally, light meant expensive. However, a guy who use to work with me, bought a Sportspal Canoe from a local bait shop and fell in love with it.

It is by far among the ugliest canoe out there, but the model he bought (the S-11) it was perfect to bass fish from small lakes. His canoe is a small, light, and cheap canoe that is perfect for one guy to fish from.

So I thought–great–this is perfect for me. But then, my son said that he wanted to fish with me, and an 11 foot canoe wasn’t then the answer.

So back to the drawing board I went. I posted on this board a question, got a ton of replies, and then spend the last year checking out each suggestion.

But now, I’m back to the Sportspal. But this time, I think I’m going to buy the S-13. This is a square transom canoe, that is 13 feet, 2 inches in length, but weighs only 57 pounds.

I came to realize that the Sportspal is a pig to paddle. So, what the hell, I’m going to strap on a small gas outboard, and enjoy the hell out of it.

As to stability, there is none more stable. I tried to tip over the 11 foot double ender, and I couldn’t do it. It is so wide, that the 13 foot version is like a 16 foot version of a more conventional canoe.

Yea, it isn’t fast, or have great performance characteristics. But I’ll worry about it for my next canoe. What the Sportspal canoe is–is a stable platform for people who want to fish, hunt, or just float down a still water river.

In my case, hell will freeze over before my wife would ever step foot into a canoe. To her, the word “outdoors” means the enviornment between her car and the door of the mall.

As to your needs, I would look at the Sportspal 15 foot canoe. It will have enough room you your entire family, dog, and gear, with room to spare. As to cost: the 15 foot version will be a tad over budget, but you will not find a better deal anywhere else.

I am a father of two boys ages 4 and 8 whom I am introducing to fishing.

I recently bought a Mad River Orion TT from Springfield Creek outfitters in Northern Minnesota (I live in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada). Price was about $600 US funds and I think the boat is a factory second. I can’t see anything out of sorts with it other than one of the decals has been silk screened inverted.

The canoe is a little heavy (85 lbs) but is very stable. Spring Creek has neat little outriggers that weigh about 10 lbs are fantastic for fishing, and have kept me dry more than once when my boys start jumping around while someone has a fish on the line. The other bonus is I can fish standing up in the canoe when these things are employed. Sit in a canoe for 4 hours and you’ll get an appreciation for the need to change postures.

When I bought the canoe last fall they weren’t shipping them but were thinking about making the service available. The only reason I am mentioning Spring Creek is there pricing was the best I could find on the net. In 6 months of googling I couldn’t find a single used one of these canoes and it had the spec’s I was after (not a big paddler, I trip about 30 miles into the bush every spring).

The boat paddles decent for a flat stern but it really is suited for a motor. They say it’s rated for electric trolling only but my little two horse Johnson (about 25-35 lbs) doesn’t seem to bother it any. It comes with 3 seats which is nice too.

The poly body is super tough and insulates you from the cold of the water. I am not sure if that is relevant to a person in your neck of the woods but our lakes here are sub 60 degrees in the spring.

Hope this helps.

The trick is to surf the net and obsess for months to make sure you get what you are after.


Most square stern canoes are pigs to
paddle. If you are going to strap on a motor, why not go ahead and get a john boat or semi-vee. It’ll give you more room for fishing and actually handle better with a motor. Of course, then you may need a trailer. But, lugging even a 3 hp motor around, heaving it in and out of the trunk, truck bed, or SUV cargo area, is no fun and defeats the pupose of a light small craft.

Check the Old Town Guide 147
at sporting good stores. It will do you right for a few years.

Sportspal is the way to go
Hello. I want to agree that Sportspal is the way to go for family fishing and camping. Unsinkable, remarkably stable, very light. I would recommend against the square stern models. If you want to use a trolling motor buy the motor mount that attaches to the double ended model. You can fish three large adults surpisingly comfortably out of a 15 footer. You will not be disappointed if you buy a Sportspal.


Old Town and Mohawk
Those are two canoes I’ve paddled that would do what you want done.

Both make any number of models. I’d think you’d want one without rocker or very little rocker (ends higher than the middle when the boat is sitting with the people side up) and fairly wide.

Old Town Discovery 169 has been a staple of family paddlers for years.

Wenona Spirit 2 Kevlar flex-core
I purchased one of these and it doe’s it all from family fishing on small local lakes with a 3 year old and a 5 year old the wife and of course myself and even a dog or two sometimes.

Also use the same canoe for BWCA trips and love it for that also.

My two cents.

Good luck


Old Town Stillwater
I looked around for an Old Town Stillwater. Nobody in my area keeps them in stock but you may find one. They are a really nice canoe and they are lightweight.

Old town Osprey
Look for something light (i know that means $) but it will also make it more enjoyable to go. We load ours on top of a SUV (both of us are short need to have a ladder to tie straps) but because it is 56 lbs not a problem. If we would have opted for the heavier model doubt we would still be paddling and definetly not take to coast to paddle bays. The royalex has held up well this last year of begiiners running over trees, oyster beds & rocks.

If at all possible find someplace that will let you try out different models before you buy.

Good luck and happy paddling.

Try Kelly’s Canoe & Kayak
in PA. They stock the OT Stillwater series. They also offer a 10% discount off the canoe price if you buy $150 worth of accessories. Easy to do.

I use
a 17 ft. alouminum cargo canoe, very stable and you can carry a huge load. farlie easy to paddle too