9 Best Canoes for Fishing (And How to Set Them Up!)

fishing canoe
canoe for fishing

There are few activities quite as relaxing as going fishing. If you’re going fishing in a canoe, you want to ensure both maximum practicality and maximum relax-icality.

We put together a list of the 9 best fishing canoes. There are a lot of options out there when you’re looking for a good fishing canoe, and we wanted to help you narrow down your search.

Not only will we look at the best fishing canoes that are out there, but we’ll also take a look at how you can best configure your set up for maximum performance and comfort! Let’s get started!

Best Fishing Canoes on the Market

  1. Mad River Journey
  2. Grumman 17′ Double Ender
  3. Wenonah Spirit II
  4. Sun Dolphin Mackinaw
  5. Sun Dolphin Scout SS
  6. Lifetime Kodiak
  7. Sea Eagle TC16 Inflatable
  8. Old Town Saranac 146
  9. Old Town Discovery 158

There you have it. After talking to all my fishing buddies and from my own experiences, these 9 canoes are at the top of my list for fishing. There’s nothing like being out in the middle of a lake with a sturdy, comfortable, and highly functional canoe that will allow you to focus on nothing but fishing.

1. Mad River Journey 156 Fishing Canoe

We’re starting off our list strong with the Mad River Journey 156! This is an excellent all-around canoe, but its strengths make it particularly suited to fishing.

The Journey 156 is 15’6″ long, which makes it perfect for two passengers and all their fishing gear. It’s also small enough that it could be handled by one experienced angler.

It weighs 83lbs. which is actually a little heavier than average, even considering its size. You should have no problem carrying this if there are two people. Plus, the yoke makes it even easier to carry this canoe!

This is also an incredibly durable canoe. You won’t really have to worry about taking too much damage over time! Plus, the flared profile means it handles really well even in rough water.

This is also a well-priced canoe. In fact, for its size, you probably won’t find a lot of canoes at this price. If the price is really important to you, this is one canoe you should really look into!

You’ll find that this is a great canoe for fishing for its durability, size, and great stability. It’s really just a very well built canoe overall!

The Set-Up of the Canoe

This canoe is lacking some of those extra features we talked about earlier. What’s nice is that with plenty of extra space, you’ll be able to easily make up for that.

For example, you need a cooler? Well, it’s not built-in, but you do have plenty of room for a cooler or two along with all of your fishing gear. There’s no need to worry there!

It would be nice if there was like a cup holder or a better place to rest your rod, but this canoe follows more of a traditional style. There are some great clip-on or screw-on holders you can find out there though.

The seats aren’t easy to take out if you want to turn this into a solo canoe, but it actually is fairly easy to add a third seat. This is a great idea if you want to bring one of your children out on the lake with you!

Mad River does make a canoe that is built to have a trolling motor attached, but it is unfortunately not this one. If you’re looking for a good canoe to throw a trolling motor, keep scrolling down a little bit!

This canoe does easily take a sail kit. If you’re interested in adding in some sailing to mix things up between fishing trips, or if you want to get out to fishier waters, that’s a great option for this canoe!

Overall, you’ll find you have plenty of options to get this canoe all set up and ready to go for your next fishing adventure!

2. Grumman 17′ Double Ender Fishing Canoe

You may remember using a Grumman canoe, or a canoe like a Grumman, at summer camp all those years ago. This is an all-time classic canoe that has withstood the test of time. What a classic!

This canoe is a beast, but it’s a beautiful beast! As you can already tell from its 17′ length, there is plenty of space in this canoe. You can easily fit 2-3 people plus gear without a problem!

The Grumman 17′ is definitely more of a classic canoe. It doesn’t come with any coolers, fancy seats, or any of those other additional features. This may seem like a bummer, but it leaves you plenty of room for customization!

A huge perk about this canoe is that it will survive forever! In fact, I just read a story about a gentleman who bought an old Grumman 17′ that was originally sold in 1976! He said it still works great!

For a canoe of this size, you’ll find that the Grumman 17′ handles like a dream! This is especially noteworthy if you’re maneuvering narrow streams or other waterways on your fishing trips!

This canoe also comes at a decent price depending on where you get it from!

The Set-Up

Like I mentioned earlier, this canoe has tons of options for customization. If you’re like me, the first thing you’ll look into getting a more comfortable seating arrangement!

This is a great canoe, but you’ll definitely be sore if you spend all day out on the lake. Even the old “sit on your flotation device” trick won’t work here. It’s worth it to get new seats set up.

You can throw a trolling motor on this canoe, but it does take some work. There are some great forums out there discussing how to do that. For the sake of space, I’ll leave that bit of research up to you!

It might also be nice to get some clip-on cup holders or rod holders. Or both! As I said, this canoe was not built for comfort. Anything to make the experience less back-breaking will be worth it!

Overall, this canoe is very reliable. That having been said, it does take some customization to make it comfy enough!

3. Wenonah Spirit II Fishing Canoe

The next canoe we have on the list also happens to be 17′ long! The Wenonah Spirit II is the best selling canoe that the Wenonah brand has to offer!

That’s right, Wenonah sells more Spirit II’s than any other canoe they have right now. It’ll become very clear as to why that is once you hear more about this gem!

The first thing to know about the Spirit II is that it was built to be mobile, agile, and versatile. As an overall canoe, this might be the best pick on this list.

One of the coolest features this canoe has to offer is that there’s a variety of materials the hull can be made of, and you choose whichever one you want! You can also choose from a variety of core options!

We might as well call this the Burger King of canoes since you can have it your way!

You can easily have 2-3 passengers in the Spirit II plus gear. There’s plenty of storage space, although there are no built-in coolers or anything like that. However, there are two very comfy adjustable seats!

You’ll also get a great price on this canoe!

The Set-Up

When I think of setting up this bad boy, I really just think of some cupholders! That may be because I love my fishing juice, but I really think it’s nice in general.

By the way, my recommendation for the best fishing drink is a lemon San Pellegrino. Can’t be beaten!

What could be fun to do with this canoe is attaching a sail. Especially on the lighter models, this could be a great fishing canoe for larger lakes. It’s incredibly stable which lends itself to bigger lakes anyway.

Speaking of bigger lakes, if you’re going to be way out there, you might think about just bringing a cushion. The seats are actually really comfortable, but there’s no option to lean back. A cushion is also a pillow!

In addition to the cushion, having a rod holder for fishing on bigger lakes is really nice. That way you can fix your sandwich while keeping your line in the water.

Visit our Canoe Page for More Great Tips

4. Sun Dolphin Mackinaw Fishing Canoe

Now we’re getting into our two Sun Dolphin canoes! These two canoes are some of my personal favorite fishing canoes. There’s one feature in particular that sets them both apart big time!

And what is that feature? Well, I’m glad you asked! It’s the square back that both of these canoes have! A square back? You may be wondering what that is good for.

The square back makes it beyond easy to throw a trolling motor on these canoes. That makes these excellent fishing canoes! Of course, there are some other features worth noting as well.

First of all, there are built-in coolers, cup holders, and item holders. Now that is luxury! While there’s plenty of space if you need it, you’ll probably fit a lot of things in the built-in storage space.

On the Mackinaw, there are also three really nice seats built-in. In every way, this is the ultimate comfort canoe for a group of two or three!

Of course, all of these additional features add some extra weight to the canoe overall. With two or three people though, it should be easy to carry. Plus, all that weight adds some stability to the boat!

The Set-Up

The obvious setup piece that you absolutely must have is a trolling motor! It’s so easy to attach, I can’t even imagine why you would get this canoe and not get a trolling motor!

Having a trolling motor just makes everything so much easier! I mean, It obviously takes out the most challenging part of canoeing: the paddling. If you’re looking for leisure, this canoe plus a trolling motor is what you need!

Other than that, I have to say there isn’t much to add to this canoe. I mean, you basically buy everything you could possibly when you buy the canoe itself!

5. Sun Dolphin Scout SS Fishing Canoe

Our second Sun Dolphin is the Scout SS. There are a lot of similarities between the Scout SS and the Mackinaw, but there are also some pretty serious differences.

The main similarity is the square back. Again, this is what makes these canoes so excellent for fishing. You can easily attach a trolling motor that will make your life so much easier.

Just like the Mackinaw, you get three molded seats that are very comfortable, plus you get top-notch rod holders! However, this is where the differences begin. While the Scout SS does fit three passengers, it’s also a bit smaller than the Mackinaw.

There are some benefits from the smaller size. The canoe is lighter, and that makes it much easier to transport. This is especially true is you’re going on a trip with only two passengers.

The weakness, of course, is that there isn’t room for as much storage. There aren’t built-in coolers or anything like that. There is still plenty of room to bring a cooler and anything else you might need!

Really the decision you have to make is whether you want more comfort or easier upkeep and transportation!

The Set-Up

Really, this canoe has a really nice set up already! The seats are nice, the rod holders are nice, and then you have plenty of space for anything else that you may need to bring with you.

Of course, the main set up piece you need is the trolling motor! I mean, that’s literally the reason for getting this canoe. In fact, it’s the main reason for getting any Sun Dolphin canoe!

Again, this is a super solid canoe. You could easily bring a cooler and clip on some cup holders and you’d basically have a smaller version of the Mackinaw if you wanted to! You can’t really go wrong here!

6. Lifetime Kodiak Canoe

This is another classic canoe. Just like the Grumman 17′, you may have seen this canoe at summer camp as a teenager. The Lifetime Kodiak canoe is a solid canoe, literally and metaphorically!

Comin in at just 13′, this canoe weighs 96lbs. That’s a pretty solid canoe! The idea here is that you’ll have this canoe for life! Thus the name: Lifetime Kodiak!

Everything about this canoe is centered around durability. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is a great canoe for you! Just be ready to carry a lot of weight with you.

The Lifetime Kodiak also has backed seats which is super nice for fishing. You’ll really get to relax while you’re out there on the water! Plus, there are molded-in cupholders. My favorite feature!

I would recommend putting two passengers in this canoe, but you technically can fit three. It might be worth it to have three even just for the additional paddling power. This is one stocky canoe!

This canoe isn’t overly expensive, but definitely not the cheapest one out there!

The Set-Up

There’s a couple of things you could do here. One of the nicest things about the Lifetime Kodiak canoe is that it comes with a motor mount bracket, so you can attach a motor if you’d like to!

The seats are also easy to switch out, but I really don’t see why you would want to. Plus, the seats are adjustable, which is great for transportation, balance, and added legroom!

Overall, this would be a great canoe to experiment with since it basically is the Nokia of canoes. A solid choice overall! (pun intended)

7. Sea Eagle TC16 Inflatable Fishing Canoe

We now come to our first, and only, inflatable canoe on this list. I’ve got to tell you in advance, I love this canoe. Not only is it super innovative, but it also is actually a really great canoe!

There are some in the canoeing community who are suspicious of inflatable canoes. If you fall into that category, then you have got to try this canoe! It will totally change your perspective!

Naturally, it’s super nice to have a canoe that can literally fit into your trunk! You won’t have to worry about losing this canoe on the highway or having it stolen!

In terms of answering concerns, this canoe does just that. It’s incredibly stable, tracks above average, and is actually less vulnerable to damage than most solid canoes.

You can easily stand up in the TC16 without any problems. You’ll even find that it’s easier to get into this canoe on the off chance that it tips. I’ve even heard of people duck hunting out of these canoes!

It’s worth mentioning that this is an expensive canoe, but the performance makes it worth it!

The Set-Up

Being inflatable comes with some pros and cons in terms of set up! There is a lack of accessories like cup holders, rod holders, or waterproof containers. It’s also harder to use clip-on attachments, and you definitely shouldn’t use screw-on attachments!

The plus side is that this is a very comfortable canoe. Not because it’s squishy, because it certainly isn’t that! It’s because of the material the canoe is made out of!

Plus, as a 16′ long canoe, there’s room to fit anything you might want to bring, even with three passengers. This canoe is definitely worth your interest!

8. Old Town Saranac 146 Fishing Canoe

We close out our list with two Old Town canoes. Old Town is the leading canoe brand right now, and there are some obvious reasons for that. Their designs are brilliantly simple and simply brilliant!

For the Old Town Saranac 146, not only will you get a high-quality canoe, but you’ll also get a lot of additional features that are really nice. This is my favorite canoe on this list to go solo fishing in!

The Saranac 146 comes with the very best seats on this list, cup holders, and rod holders. There are also nice paddle rests as well as a nice storage area for any of your valuables!

This canoe comes in at 14’6″ and weighs 79lbs., a pretty decent size! It would be easy for two people to carry, and most of our stronger readers could probably handle it themselves, even if they have to put it in some carrying wheel!

Overall, this is an excellent canoe that comes at a decent price!

The Set-Up

I’m not really sure what set up you would want to do here. If you’re going solo in this canoe, it might be worth it to put on a motor with a motor bracket just to get the additional ease.

Other than that, there’s plenty of space, there are nice commodities, and the canoe can really perform!

9. Old Town Discovery 158

The final canoe on our list was made with the spirit of canoeing in mind! The Old Town Discovery 158 is a formidable fishing canoe that might be one of the best on this list!

This canoe really is just like the ultimate classic canoe. It doesn’t have a lot of add ons, but it doesn’t really need them. This canoe compares best to the Spirit II.

This canoe is 15’8″ and weighs 87lbs. It’s very durable and handles better than most canoes on this list. There are two webbed seats that are pretty comfortable!

Overall, this is a great canoe! It’s definitely a little more expensive than a lot of canoes on this list. Of course, that’s because of the high-quality materials made to use this canoe.

The Set-Up

One of the nice things about this canoe is that you can do almost anything you want to do with it! Because of how stable this canoe is, I think I would try a sail on this canoe. But, as I said, it’s really open to just about anything!

Really, if you’re planning on longer canoeing trips, it might be nice to get some canoes with backs. Of course, you could also get a pad and do some solo, kneeling canoeing!

I would say just go for it! Whatever you want works great!

Things to Keep in Mind

It’s important to know what you’re looking for before you buy a new canoe. I mean, let’s all be honest here: canoes can be pretty expensive. Even “cheaper” canoes can cost a good amount of money.

It’s good to have an idea of what you’re going to use your canoe for. In this case, it looks like you already know exactly what your canoe will be used for! Fishing!

So, when you’re looking into buying a fishing canoe, what exactly should you be looking for?

Well, there’s not necessarily one right answer. If there was, then we wouldn’t need to make a list of 9 canoes! Still, there are some general things you should be looking for.

The first thing you want to be looking at is the hull of the canoe. There are 4 really common kinds of hulls. There’s flat, round, shallow arch, and shallow vee.

When it comes to fishing canoes, you want maximum stability from your hull. This means you’ll want a flat or shallow arch bottom. Both of these designs give you maximum stability.

There are few things that will ruin a fishing trip faster than flipping your canoe.

The second thing you’re going to want is plenty of space. Even if you’re going fishing by yourself, you’ll want space for all of your gear. Plus, what if you finally catch the big one?

The third thing you’re going to want to look for is what I like to call “features”. This includes cup holders, rod holders, built-in coolers, and anything like that.

Fishing can really be an all-day activity if you come prepared. Pack some food, bring some drinks, make sure you have enough bait, and you’re all set to go! This makes extra features very important!

Tips for Fishing From a Canoe

I love taking my fishing boat out for the most part, but some days, there’s nothing more I enjoy than taking one of my canoes out on the water to catch a few. It gives a different experience that I love, but it comes with challenges over your typical fishing boat. 

There are many other things you must consider when taking a canoe out on the water to fish. For one, you have to focus on not letting your canoe tip over. Been there, done that, and let me tell you, it was no fun. Thankfully, I’ve honed my skills, and that never occurred again. 

While I prefer to stay seated in my canoe while casting, some people prefer to kneel on the seat for more stability. Kneeling will lower your center of gravity and allow for closer contact and control with the canoe. For further comfort, you can purchase knee pads. 

Another option is to stand. Standing in a canoe should only be attempted when the canoe is anchored and not moving for obvious reasons. First, rise to a crouching position and slowly raise yourself by placing your hands on both sides of the canoe. Ensure you are standing in the canoe’s center to prevent it from tipping. 

Second, you need to learn how to row your canoe correctly so you can avoid going in circles. Once you know the proper technique, you’ll get faster and faster at rowing and get a good arm workout in the process. We have a great article, “How to Paddle a Canoe Solo Without Going in Circles,” for some great information and techniques. 

Lastly, your space will be much more limited on a canoe. Organization is key when bringing your fishing gear. My biggest tip is only to bring what you need and leave the rest at home or in the truck. I typically will get my bait prepared and out where I can easily access it so I do not have to dig in my tackle box time after time. 

Related ReadingHow to Fish From a Canoe: 15 Helpful Tips


And that’s our list! The 9 best canoes for fishing and how to set them up. Let’s reflect on some of the things that we learned as we discussed these excellent canoes.

Lesson 1: is that not all canoes are made equal, and not all canoes are made for the same reason! For example, having an inflatable canoe will give you a much different experience than a solid one.

Of course, all of the canoes on this list are high quality. In fact, we think they’re high enough quality to group them together as “the best”. Still, you might find that you like one canoe better than another.

Lesson 2: is that not all canoes cost the same! While this list wasn’t made to do a price comparison, we did bring up cost frequently enough to note how important pricing is!

A lot of outdoor activities are expensive. This is because the elements are totally unforgiving. A rock doesn’t care how much your new canoe costs. It’ll crack a big hole in your new boat all the same.

So while you might turn your nose up at expensive canoes, it may be a good idea to pay the price for the best out there. Otherwise, your new toy might not last very long.

Lesson 3: at the end of the day, you should get the canoe you like best. There are a lot of people who will tell you what canoe you HAVE to get, but those people aren’t going to be paddling for you!

It’s important to get a canoe you like and feel comfortable with. It’s with that lesson in mind that we’ll conclude this list!

We hope you found this information helpful! We wish you the best of luck in your canoeing shopping and adventures!

Happy boating!

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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