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Canoe versus kayak: which boat is better for fishing?

For many years my wife and I had four canoes, two aluminum and two plastic canoes. We don’t have any today. Sold them all including the high-end 12 foot paddle with a center saddle that was suitable for solo paddling (when you kneel). Now we have a small fleet of kayaks, at least three of which are set up and regularly used for solo sitting. So this should tell you where I am in the canoe versus kayak for fishing debate.

We sold our canoes more than a decade ago as we had all paddled in kayaks, and the canoes had sat idle for a long time and only pulled out as a prop on a photo shoot or TV show. Whenever we went paddling and the question of whether to canoe versus kayak came up, it was always decided in favor of the latter.

We do both general tours and kayak fishing with recreational kayaks (as opposed to whitewater models). In more than two decades of kayaking ownership, I’ve never had a stability problem, which I can’t say about my experience with canoes, most of which had taller seats that gave a little better view (into the water), but more of a tipsy feeling.

A particularly important aspect of fishing when considering between canoe and kayak was dealing with the wind. I spent enough time in a canoe on windy days to hate the way those haunted boats caught the wind and quickly spun and repositioned during the casting.

Great success in fishing, especially in fresh water and on shorelines, and in structure or cover, has to do with positioning. If you are not in the right position, you will often be wasting your time. The fact that kayaks are deeper in the water and sit in the middle makes them less prone to positioning problems. This is a big difference between kayaking and canoeing.

Kayaks can often be easily pegged out in high winds, and a number of peddle-powered kayaks have emerged to address the problem of getting on and holding in position when solo fishing with a kayak. For the general paddling pleasure, kayaks with oars allow better steering and therefore better tracking when solo paddling, not to mention having an oar will help you get to where you are faster as a solo paddler / angler. That being said, I should note that two people can paddle either a canoe or a tandem kayak very efficiently and that in both cases the stern paddler can hold the position fairly well while the bow paddler fishes. But most anglers prefer the freedom and versatility of a solo kayak.

None of this means that canoes have not evolved either. For example, some now have kayak style seats. Others are specially built for solo use and fishing. Still, I go fishing in the kayak camp when the question is canoe versus kayak.

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