Canoe vs Kayak Fishing: Pros, Cons & Which Is More Stable

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Updated June 27, 2022

Fishing is a tradition as old as time, but that doesn’t mean the sport has remained static through all these years. As new technology gives fishers an edge, they’re faced with a lot of decisions, including the decision between canoe vs kayak fishing. If you prefer the latter, read our best kayak list.

The decision between these two types of boats can be a difficult one to make, especially since each option offers a wide variety of pros and cons. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but we can help you out. And while we’re talking about being on water, take a look at our amazing review of 20 awesome swimming pools that you can’t swim in.

Once you know the difference between the two choices, you’ll be better able to make a decision based on your preferences and the features that matter most to you.

Canoe vs Kayak Fishing: Which Do Fishers Prefer?

StabilityLess stableMore stable
Gear StorageMore storage spaceLittle to no storage space (for sit-on-top kayaks)
ComfortMore comfortableLess comfortable
Fishing Accessoriesgreen-check-markgreen-check-mark
PriceMore expensiveLess expensive (unless buying hybrid, fishing kayak)

Canoes and kayaks are both very similar in many different ways. However, there are a wide variety of both kinds of boats—each with different sets of features—and some make for better fishing boats than others. New users should read about the best kayaks for beginners.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus mainly on sit-on-top kayaks and recreational canoes. Most paddlers agree that these types of boats are best for fishing when compared to other types. Read about more outdoor gear. Our camping and hiking gear section is also helpful.

Why Sit-on-Top Kayaks and Recreational Canoes?

  • Recreational canoes are the most popular, and they feature plenty of room for sitting and storing gear. They also give you a lot of room to move around and stand up or sit down as needed.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks, also referred to as SOT, feature open cockpits that are easier to get in to and out of at will. They also allow you to stand up or sit down freely, which is perfect for fishers who want to be more versatile and flexible.
  • Hybrid SOT kayaks are becoming more flexible, and combine an semi-open cockpit with more gear storage, better comfort and more stability. Many of the kayaks made for fishing feature a hybrid design.

Stability: Kayaks Keep You Stable

Canoe vs kayak stability for fishing
Kayaks keep you stable, even on rough waters.
  • Canoes sit higher on the water than kayaks. As such, fishing in these boats tends to be less stable. This is especially true if you prefer to stand while fishing. This isn’t to say that fishing in canoes is impossible. With practice and time, you can learn how to balance well in these vessels, even while standing and reeling in a big catch.
  • Kayaks keep your center of gravity closer to the water, which creates more stability overall. Sit on top boats typically have a wider beam, which allows for this added stability. This remains true even when you’re standing.

Dependability: Both Struggle on Rough Waters, But…

  • Recreational canoes are best used on calm waters. Since they sit so high on the water, any kind of rough condition can cause it to rock more than you might like, especially if you’re standing. Beginners may be more likely to tip when confronted with choppy waters or bad weather.
  • For the most part, kayaks can handle rough waters better than canoes. Unfortunately, sit-on-top still struggle more than others. However, while they still are best left on calm lakes or smooth rivers, sit on top kayaks are more stable than canoes.

Comfort: Canoes Let You Fish Longer

  • With the extra leg room and bigger seats, canoes are usually considered to be more comfortable than kayaks. These vessels also keep you higher than the water, which decreases the likelihood that you’ll get wet during your time casting your line.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks are usually more comfortable than other kinds because they offer more versatile footholds and more leg room. However, their seats are usually built directly into the vessel’s hull and can get a little uncomfortable, especially over longer periods of time fishing. You can also check out the best kayak for kids.

Storage Space: Canoes Store More

Pack canoe vs kayak
Canoes are stabler and sit higher in than water than kayaks.
  • Fishing requires a lot of gear, and canoes feature lots of room to store that gear. Of course, this storage isn’t protected from any water that may splash into the boat. This should be too much of a problem for advanced paddlers who can keep water from splashing in, considering the fact that canoes sit higher on the water.
  • Generally speaking, the availability of gear storage on kayaks can vary greatly. Just look at the best tandem kayak. Hybrid kayaks made specifically for fishing often feature more storage, but classic sit-on-top kayaks lack any kind of storage better than webbing on the hull.

Room for Fishing Accessories: Both Can Be Properly Outfitted

  • With the growing popularity of fishing directly on the water instead of on land, accessories for canoes and kayaks are becoming more available. Both types of boats are able to be properly outfitted with fishing accessories like rod holders, adjustable seats, and fish finders. However, unless you buy a vessel that has accessory rods built in, you’ll need to do some extra shopping.

Price: Sit-on-top Kayaks Are Cheaper, But…

  • Recreational kayaks tend to be more expensive than kayaks. However, if you’re looking to purchase a hybrid kayak made especially for fishing, you’ll likely pay more. Here is the best place to buy a kayak.

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