Square stern canoe advice needed

-- Last Updated: May-19-14 8:42 PM EST --

I'm thinking of buying a square stern canoe to fish out of.

What do you guys recommend in an aluminum square stern canoe? Brands? Minimum floor width or beam? I want 2 people to be able to fish out of it. I'm thinking 15' or 16' max. length, would be used with electric trolling motor. Thanks.

The only 2 worth considering

– Last Updated: May-23-14 7:51 PM EST –

Dear JIM,

If I were you and I wanted a square stern canoe to use primarily as a fishing vessel I would look first at an older used Grumman Sport Boat and then an Old Town Discovery 15.

I owned a Grumman Sport boat and I regret selling it. It was a great boat for my wife and I and a cooler with lunch and drinks plus our fishing tackle.

It moved well with a 40 pound thrust trolling motor but I have to tell you it is extremely awkward to have to reach behind you and run a typical trolling motor from the stern seat in a canoe. They make trolling motors that are only 22 inch shafts or you can cut down the shaft on a 30 or 36 inch shaft motor.

The boat is not too heavy to car top but a trailer is definitely an advantage. The specs and the weight of the Grumman Sport boat and the Old Town Discovery 15 are virtually identical, both are roughly 15 feet long, the Sport Boat is 15'6", both are 42" wide, both weight about 120 pounds, and both will take a 5 HP short shaft.

Neither boat is worth a crap as a paddle craft if you are looking to cover any appreciable distance, even on a river. However, both are equipped with oarlocks and with a set of 6 1/2 or 7' oars they move great. You can paddle them in a pinch, but making headway upcurrent or against the wind is a challenge with a paddle.

Don't confuse the Grumman Sport boat with the typical Grumman 15 square stern canoe. The "real" Sport boats were built in the 1970's and earlier. Mine was a 1974 and it didn't have a dent or a loose rivet in it after 40 years. The Sport boat is .080 gauge aluminum and the newer square sterns are .050 gauge. They are lighter but they are frail and tinny. The Discovery is a 3 layer poly boat and rugged as an old grizzly bear. You can hammer either of the boats I recommend and not hurt them.

Check your area craiglist for used versions of either of these boats, you won't be disappointed.

Edited to add - You may find an Old Town Discovery 17 used and that is another boat to consider. I see the Old Town's in 15 and 17 foot versions every year on galvanized trailers selling for between $ 600.00 and $ 1000.00 depending on condition and equipment. They are easily worth that much. The Grumman Sport boat if it is in nice condition will probably cost you a little more unless you get lucky. I rarely see them w/o a trailer for less than $ 650.00 to $ 750.00.

Good luck finding a boat that works for you!


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

Thanks goobs. I didn’t think anyone was going to respond!!

I do not want a poly canoe because of the PITA to store it outside.

Storing poly outside
Dear Jim,

Storing a poly boat outside is easy.

Just get it off the ground on sawhorses or cinderblocks so that it has airflow underneath and throw a tarp over it if you are really anal about the sun bleaching it.

Put one of those foam pool noodle floats on the top of the hull and then tarp it. The pool noodle will help with air flow and keep mildew away.

I have a 15 year old Novacraft Prospector leaning against the back of my garage since the snow collapsed my cheap plastic sawhorses. She ain’t pretty to look at but she floats and doesn’t leak.

Poly is pretty much indestructible unless you make an effort to destroy it.


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

I don’t want to keep it on sawhorses. I want to keep it on a trailer. I’m an old fart with a bad back.

Build a PVC frame
Dear Jim,

If you keep it on a trailer just build a frame out of 3/4 inch PVC water pipe and then cover it with a tarp.

When I speak of a poly boat I am not speaking of something like a Pelican or Coleman or the cheap Old Towns at big box sporting goods stores. I use poly and royalex interchangeably and I probably shouldn’t.

Those cheaper single layer boats get warped and sway backed if kept in the sun. A good boat like the Old Town Discovery series will fade in color but it will take decades for the sun to seriously damage the canoe unless you live in the AZ desert or somewhere else that is very sunny and very hot.


Tim Murphy

For two people - go long
16’ is long enough. I wouldn’t want to fish regularly out of a 15’ canoe with two people unless those people are quite respectful of one another and have a lot of body awareness. The seats are fairly close in a shorter canoe, and the rods are kind of long. At the end of the rods are pointy things. That’s not a great combination from my perspective.

I have had a 16’ squareback and now have a 17’ squareback. These aren’t performance boats. They’re utilitarian things to get you to fish. Go big. Go stable. Either something like the Old Town Discovery squareback with HUGE initial stability, or something like an Esquif Heron or Cargo (what I have) or something that seems like a short version of an Adirondack Guideboat where you have adequate initial stability and good secondary stability as well to help you get down river people side up.

  • Big D

Thanks Big_D. I was hoping you’d reply. I was looking into the Old Town Rogue River square stern canoe. What is your opinion of it? Quality, stability, etc? The only problem is storing a poly canoe outside(out of the sun, etc). I want to keep it on a trailer, on the north side of my garage, so it would get sun in the early morning and before sunset.

My other choice is to try to find a used aluminum square stern.

Don’t know it.
I’ve never used a Rogue River. I like everything of Old Town I have used. And no matter what you get in swuare stern, you’re not going to get high performance canoeing. Square sterns to fish from are all about stability - mostly initial stability - and comfort. You’re much better off worrying about whether you can fit your stuff in sensible places than whether you’re going to be able to take on edge during turns. That’s the kind of things you fish from slol canoes to get.

Aluminum is hot, loud, and sticks to every rock and ledge it comes across. On the other hand, it’s durable, easy to repair, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying as the crunch of an aluminum canoe against the gravel of a river launch just before dawn when the mist is swirling in the little shafts of light breaking through the trees.

Thanks again. If I buy one, it would only be used for fishing, using a trolling motor. What’s concerning me is storing it outside, because I cannot store it in the shade. Is there a special cover I can keep on it that will not cause mold? I also read poly canoes should not be kept on a trailer, it will distort the hull. Is that true?

Canoes and trailers
Dear JIM,

Don’t buy the Rogue River Old Town canoe. It’s a poly boat piece of junk available for sale cheap at big box sporting goods stores. They sell them for a reason, because they are cheap.

I didn’t give you bad advice the first time, I gave you advice based on having spent the money and having used the products.

Buy a used Old Town Discovery boat in 15 or 17 foot length. You can store it on a trailer until the cows come home and you won’t hurt it.

You also won’t want to bail water and dead skeeters and other critters out of it when go to use it so throw a tarp over it. Make a frame out of PVC pipe and a couple of couplers that you can buy everywhere on Earth.

3/4" PVC pipe is flexible and you can make a support for the tarp out if it easily. I’ve used it to support a boat cover while it sits outside on a trailer for 2 years now and it WORKS FINE!

That will get the tarp away from resting directly on the boat and eliminate the possibility of mold forming under the tarp.

Honestly, if you are worried about your boat getting moldy you might not need a boat. I’m not trying to be a wiseguy, but if your boat is just going to sit, let it sit in someone else’s yard and stick to bank fishing.

I have used everything I am writing to you about. I use the things I write about often, not as often as I’d to because I have a job, but often enough.

I’m not trying to give you bad advice. Sometimes you just have to buy something and try it out to see if it works for you.


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

That’s kind of what my cover is like
I used 2x4s instead of PVC, but same concept. I bought a Danuu cover for the canoe. It’s not water proof, but is water resistant. I have a riser on a couple sawhorses and stretch the cover over it to make a roof that sheds most of the water. It could be better, but it keeps most of the leaves and water out.

My Esquif has been on a trailer since I bought it and I haven’t noticed any deforming yet. Some canoes are going to deform and oilcan regardless of what you do.

I think Tim’s advice on a used Disco 169 is good advice. The OT Discovery boats have probably helped more people to get to fish than any other canoe model out there. They’re suitable for mild river or flatwater paddling. They take power well just by clamping a 2x4 transom with some C-clamps. And they are ubiquitous in Craig’s List. They are not square back, however. If that’s a deal breaker for you, then something else would be good.

I’m not real picky about my boats. I know a good boat when I paddle it, and they’re a joy to paddle, but the critical thing to me FOR A FISHING CANOE is comfort. The plastic seats don’t look that comfortable to me. Also, in some of the pictures I looked at, it looked like it might have a tube running down the center of the canoe, and further that the tube runs in a recessed area of the hull. That’s going to make that canoe pretty much a lake canoe like that. If you took that to the limestone karst rivers I paddle, the rocks and ledges would wear the plastic down on that area in a few years. It would not add much to initial stability, but it would make the boat a lot harder to turn. Not sure I’d like that very much. There was something similar in a Coleman Scanoe I had once and it was a bit of a pain in the butt.

  • Big D

Thanks guys.

Goobs, does your PVC frame sit inside your boat or on the ground?

Inside the boat
Dear JIM,

Once you get a boat take a look at it and figure out where you can set the frame up. You will need a couple of sections of 8’ X 3/4 inch PVC pipe and a 4 way connector.

Set up a frame that runs lengthwise down the canoe and join the two sections of pipe in the middle. Drop two sections off the 4 way connector to hold the frame to the sides of the canoe and just cover it with a tarp and lash it down.

It will keep rain and leaves and debris out and allow air to circulate under the tarp.


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

Golden Hawk square back canoe
The best square back fishing canoe is by far the Golden Hawk.

The motor transom is raised above the waterline so the rear of the canoe has a normal tapered shape, making it easy to go backwards.

The Golden Hawk has a wide flat bottom so it is exceptionally stable. Around here, guys use them for duck hunting and beaver trapping because they are so stable

Best of all, the Golden Hawk is easy to power by paddle. It is a real canoe with a transom rather than a motorable craft that looks like a canoe

The Golden Hawk has a solid keel about 1" that runs the full length of the canoe. This makes it excellent at tracking straight and efficient in high winds/waves in open water. However, it has almost no horizontal rocker making it inappropriate for beginners in fast water. (It does have exaggerated lateral rocker for advanced paddlers)

Sounds good for flat water.
The lack of rocker and the keel make it sound not so great for streams and shallow or ledgey rivers.

Correct. The Golden Hawk is not a swiftwater river canoe. It performs best on openwater or slow rivers

Solar Canoe
I to wanted a square back canoe. I wiped out my shoulder so I can’t paddle very much anymore. As I was healing up from 4 surgeries I was building the canoe. As you can see below I got a bit carried away… LOL



Square transom
Unless you want to dedicate a boat strictly to fishing, put a motor mount on a regular canoe. Then you can have a decent paddling canoe without the motor.

Dual transom
I would also suggest a regular canoe but with added dual transom.

I am a novice canoeist, old and an experienced fisherman. I put a trolling motor and a tiller on the dual transom. I find I am constantly steering and with a trolling motor it gets very tippy and un comfortable for the front seat when i have to twist my torso to get to the handle. But with a tiller with a long handle it is very easy to steer with only finger movements. I put a small bungi on the handle to hold position and keep it on the gunwale. I have seen a broom stick holder for the wall mounted on the gunwale also. It works great for sneaking up on critters and birds because you dont have move much to steer. Or just tooling around lazily it very easy to steer.

It’s easy to make let me know if u need help I am all set up to make some cool parts for the rudder I can help you for free I have lots of time to kill right now.