Soloable tandem canoe for fishing

Dear Board,

I am looking for a tandem canoe that I can fish from solo on local lakes.

I own a Novacraft Prospector 17 which is a nice canoe for two people but a little large and heavy for me to use solo for a fishing trip since it’s SP3 and weighs in the mid to high 80 pound range. I can handle it myself, but it’s too much like work for me to do it often.

I am looking for something smaller and lighter that is commonly available used. If I can get something that weighs 70 pounds or so I’d be much happier.

I am looking for a MR Explorer 16, and Old Town Penobscot 16, or Discovery 158, and canoes along those lines.

I’d appreciate hearing from people that have soloed those boats as fisherman and what they thought of them. If you have used something else that you would recommend I am open to suggestions.

A little background might help. I’m in my 50’s, fat, and out of shape. I will fish for anything that swims. I am not an experienced canoeist, but I can get around and keep the boat bottom down at all times without a struggle.

What can you recommend?


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

out Wenonah’s Solo Plus and Fisherman.

Discovery 158

Wouldn’t most average width 16’ tandems
work, as long as they meet your weight requirements?

With my limited experience, I’ve only soloed my own Royalex Bell Northwind from a kneeling thwart while fishing and it works well (enough). I don’t typically stand up to fish, but have done it on a few occasions.

I haven’t paddled either, but isn’t your Prospector pretty stable and the Penobscot a bit less so? That may be a factor.

Never had any issues with a Penob16

– Last Updated: Aug-02-14 9:49 AM EST –

I don't know your weight/size Tim but the P16's midships of the canoe is so stable = was always easy to flycast from while on a high pedestal, or even when kneeling on pads. Much more stable than from the stock seat, but if you keep still the stock seat can be fine.
EDIT: But I don't really see where 1' will make a difference if Royalex. Personally I'd go composite..same size = ~17'[+].


Yes mid ship P 16

– Last Updated: Jul-22-14 8:39 AM EST –

Very stable from a low center of gravity mid ship. Kneel or put in a low position seat. But all canoes are like that really. A camper 14, though not many around, may work well too. I've soloed both my Camper 16 and Penobscot 17 fwiw. Both mid ship and set down low.

I wouldn’t go too far away for a 158

– Last Updated: Jul-22-14 4:21 PM EST –

A lot of the old used ones anyway have oil canned. And they are not as light as a Royalex boat. The size is great though. Different if you know it's in really good shape with no oil can issues.

I’m looking to do the same
I’m looking to get I to canoe fishing. I currently use my tandem sit in kayak and it works well. I usually solo, but like to take the wife sometimes and it is crowded. How did your 17 ft prospector handle wind in open water when soloing?

That Prospector 17 has decent specs
It’s a little wide, about like my Camper 16. A Penobscot 17 is a bit narrower and the 16 narrower yet. But really if weight is the issue, the specs are great on the prospector, ditch the SP3 and buy one with composite material. Invest the money, it’s the last canoe you will ever buy ! You can get that canoe in any number of different materials and various sizes as well as the weight. The 17 you can buy all the way down to 43 lb. There must be 8 choices of material in that same boat. And it’s a shallow arch boat with moderate rocker, so lake or river ready I’m guessing. Just sayin.

Paddling OT Penobscot 16 solo

– Last Updated: Aug-15-14 9:46 AM EST –

I just turned 50 and decided to get something more comfortable to paddle than a sit inside kayak, so I got a royalex Old Town Penobscot 16. At 58lbs it's easier to load, but can still be a pain if not handled properly. I've paddled it solo several times now facing backwards from the bow seat. I use a 230cm kayak paddle and it seems to work just fine. Facing a headwind in a canoe is always a struggle, but not impossible. I recommend planning paddling routes accordingly. Paddle out against a head wind and return with a tail wind, or better yet avoid the wind when possible.

Bob Special
Since you are familiar with Novacraft canoes with your Prospector, have you considered the Bob Special? I realize not as fast, but certainly easy to handle off water and soloeable with a bit of ballast in front.


Oil can shmoil can
It doesn’t hurt a thing for fishing from a 158.

If you haven’t bought a boat yet, Front Royal Canoe (you can Google it) has some Disco 158s from their rental fleet on sale at a great price.

It’s a bit of a drive from the So Central PA you have in your profile, but not too far for a good deal on a boat. I’ve driven up to Marysville more than once for the same thing at Blue Mountain Outfitters.

  • Big D

I’m waiting until Spring
Dear Big D,

Those do look like good prices but I think I’m going to hold off until Spring before I do anything. I may just look for a cheap trailer instead.

That way I could use either my Discovery Sport 13 or my Prospector more often and more easily than having to lift them onto the roof of the Suburban.


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

Of all the royalex tandems…

– Last Updated: Oct-07-14 12:00 PM EST –

...the only one I would get for fishing lakes is the Penobscot. Probably the most common canoe in it's class (under 60lbs, tandem, royalex, 16'+) other than the OTC Camper, it can be found used without too much looking. I had one and fished from it, standing and sitting. It's more tender than a NC Prospector (I have one and have compared them closely), but a much more usable lake craft. The prospector gets pushed around by the slightest breeze unless moderately loaded (two people or one person with a full camp). The Penobscot isn't nearly as sensitive to that - and it's faster.

I would also forget the Camper for primarily lake use, unless you can arrange to have all breezes turned off at your desire. It is just as light as the Penobscot, but almost as much of a handful in a breeze as the Prospector. Worse, if the waves come up.

My preference for lakes though is with composite canoes. Why bother with the weight and reduced performance of a RX canoe when there is no issue of crashing into rocks?

Depending on where you live and assuming you are not overly large, probably your best bet is to look for a used fiberglass Mad River Malecite - or a kevlar one if you can afford it. There are more modern composite hulls out there (Wenonah Escapade, Bell Northwind and others) in the same class, but the Malecite IME is the one most likely of the bunch to be found used because it's been around so long - and it's still a very good performer. You may even find one with a third solo seat near the center, as it is a common option. I paddle mine solo and tandem, fish from it sitting and standing, and don't have any desire to replace the one I have (a kev version - my first was fiberglass) for lake use. I do usually use a solo canoe when paddling alone these days - but if I can only have one canoe along for lake use, the Malecite is my go-to.

edit: I should clarify my opening statement. It's not that I wouldn't get any other tandem for fishing lakes - but for paddling and fishing solo, the Penobscot is the one rx canoe I know works so well. I suspect, but don't know, that the Wenonah Adirondack (as well as others of similar shape and dimension that I haven't tried) would be similar in performance.

The Wenonah Fisherman…
…that somebody mentioned can be a decent option if you are not a large person. I had one for a while and my wife and I (totaling about 290 lbs together) had no problems with it. Pretty easy paddling for it’s width, although slower than a 16’ canoe. Not bothered much by moderate breezes. At 58 lbs in royalex it was easy to carry. Not bad solo, but it’s width made it hard to do so from the center. I made it work by paddling backwards from the bow seat with some ballast in the other end to trim the boat. It was very easy to stand and fish from when solo.

I never paddled one, but my educated guess is that the Wenonah Heron would be a big step up from the Fisherman without gaining any significant weight. the Fisherman seems to be far more common on the used market though.

canoe fishing

– Last Updated: Feb-06-15 2:15 PM EST –

All of them.

Turn the boat around and paddle from the bow seat. Put some ballast in the bow. Bring a dog and train him to sit where you tell him to.

I frequently fish with an 18 foot OT Guide 18 made of wood and canvas. It is about 95 pounds so I use a trailer to load it solo.

The difference in paddling a Nova 17 and some other 16 is not that much. Use what you have. Stop worrying about a new boat.

I solo a Bell Northwind
Your situation sounds a lot like mine, Goob. I solo my 16’6" Bell Northwind in Royalex (60#)from a kneeling thwart on local lakes and slow rivers for fishing. Picked it up used for $600 this past summer.

It works great. Stability, both initial and secondary is superb. Easy to edge and paddle straight. Good glide. Besides the secondary stability, the best feature is its low profile, making it manageable in the wind. Not even remotely comparable to the old Grumman I used to use. What a nightmare in the wind that one was!

The Bell is a great tandem with lots of capacity.

Now, I’m looking for a kayak to expand my paddling experience and be more mobile/versatile.

Paddled, fished from and explored with
a Penobscot_16 for decade+…a good hull to be in on a long trip. Spring Creek’s yoke with wide foampads is great, but so is some quarterback shoulder pads = makes any canoe a breeze to carry. Explorer_16s and Malecite’s = the same. I’d keep the 17’ tandem but get in shape for anything solo. Get your body and paddle strokes in shape and everything will seem easier. Not sure what you’ve intended on spending…Ted Bell’s carbon/kevlar or Swift’s “infused/kevlar”…tremendous canoes but need some skills from the paddler to get the most of the hulls/materials…