5 Tips for Outfitting a Canoe for Fishing

By: Jane McGrath
How can you add more to a fishing canoe without making it feel overcrowded? See more fishing pictures.
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Just like fishing itself, the canoe embodies quiet elegance. For thousands of years, people have been discovering the simplicity and tranquility of canoe fishing. And canoes are especially good for maneuvering in rivers, as well as for accessing remote waters, ponds and portages where a larger boat wouldn't work.

Of course, the canoe doesn't provide all the comfort and conveniences of larger boats. If you don't outfit it well, it can get uncomfortable after a while. If you aren't careful, you can easily capsize while battling a fish. And many aren't big enough for a lot of gear.


But this also is the beauty of canoes: They force you to minimize to what's essential and make do with what you have. Who can imagine a better realization of Thoreau's call to "simplify, simplify, simplify"? Not to mention that a single-seater canoe is easy to handle for the solitary fisher on meditative excursions.

If you're in the market to buy a canoe for fishing, some are better than others for this purpose. Look for ones that will be quietest in the water and have good stability. Lightweight canoes will be best for portages. You can even find canoes specifically meant for fishing with comfortable seating, built-in pole brackets and dry storage.

If you already own a canoe and are serious about making it ready for fishing trips, you can rig it to fit your needs. It just takes a little bit of creativity and the following tips.

5: Consider Adding a Fish Finder

Just because you might be sacrificing space and stability in a canoe, you don't have to give up helpful modern technology. You could consider adding a fish finder to the side of your canoe.

These handy tools work by using sonar -- a technology developed for the purpose of detecting enemy submarines in war. Essentially, the technique involves emitting sound waves underwater and measuring the echo response. A transducer clamps to the bottom of the boat and sends information to the display on the boat.


It can be easy to rely too heavily on a fish finder device instead of enjoying yourself or even using other effective, time-tested techniques. But if used well, the fish finder can help you bring back a bigger haul. Keep in mind that good fish finders tell you a lot more information than just the location of fish. They can measure the temperature of the water and depth levels, and provide other details about the bottom. So, using your knowledge of fish behavior and preferred locations, the fish finder will help you scout out the best locations for casting a fly.

Fish finders come in many shapes and sizes (as well as costs). For a canoe, find a compact model with a display that clamps to the side of your boat. You'll also need one with a transducer that easily slips out of its clamp so you can take it out in shallow water [source: Mitchell].

4: Consider Waterproofing Options

Although you probably won't avoid getting a little wet, it's best to stay as dry as possible.
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If you're new to canoeing, you'll have to master the techniques of paddling and balance. While you're still learning, expect to tip it over a few times. And even those with advanced canoe skills have to be careful in dangerous weather and powerful wind. Make sure you wear a personal flotation device whenever you go out in your canoe.

The very real danger of capsizing is also why you must outfit your fishing canoe with an eye towards waterproofing. Invest in waterproof bags and cases. These are important if you plan to take any valuables with you. You can also keep a knife, live bait and fishing line in these. An extra set of clothes in a waterproof bag will also be welcome after capsizing on a cold day.


You can purchase waterproof cases from fishing equipment stores. There are cases and bags for every conceivable use, including first-aid kits, cameras, cell phones and iPods. But in a pinch or on a budget, you could even use heavy-duty zipper top plastic bags.

3: Secure Items to Your Canoe

Carabineers and bungee cords are handy for securing things to the side of the canoe (both inside and outside). Some canoe fishers like to use water bottles with screw caps attached with a loop top to clip to a carabineer [source: Allard]. It's important to keep an extra paddle or two in the boat. Some consider paddle leashes annoying because they can easily get tangled in a fly line. Instead, install enough paddle clips or bungee cord attachments in your canoe for all of your paddles.

Clipping things to your boat will not only keep them secure from falling out, but also will make the boat quieter. Gear rolling around on the bottom of a canoe can easily scare fish away. When considering where to secure items in the boat, also remember to think about weight balance. A good balance will contribute to the best performance and maneuverability for your canoe.


Most importantly, you need a rod holder to keep the rod secure and handy if a fish bites while you're paddling. They also help you avoid a tangled line. You can choose between a permanent rod holder or one that clamps to the side of the boat and is adjustable.

2: Add Stability with Anchors and Motors

When you're fighting with a fish on the line, stability is important.
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Because canoes tend to be more susceptible to wind and tipping, battling a fish in them can be a challenge. If you have a two-person canoe, your partner can paddle while you pull in the fish. If you're out by yourself, though, you'll need to master the skill by staying low and close to the center. But you can also make things easier by outfitting your canoe with an anchor or motor. Either of these can also be helpful when you're canoe fishing in a river with a quick current.

Plenty of anchor systems are available for purchase. But experts say you can easily make your own. One homemade option is to use ash wood with anchor hardware and secure it to the handle on the stern [source: Mitchell].


The other option, which is good for square-backed canoes, is to install a small motor. Of course, a motor will make noise that will scare fish, but you can choose to employ it once you're in the middle of battling a fish to maintain control of the boat.

1: Make Sure You're Comfortable

Fishing is all about patience and taking your time. If you quickly become uncomfortable in your fishing vessel, your patience will run thin. So, comfortable seating may seem like a luxury, but any serious fishers who have been out for more than a few hours know that it's very important.

If your canoe only came with a bare bench, you should consider installing a cushioned backed seat. Some prefer to kneel, however. If you'd like that option, you should install adhesive kneeling pads. Carpet is a nice addition for those who like to kneel, as well, and it will help soundproof your canoe.


With these tips, and a little of your own creativity, you can see how easy it is to turn your canoe into a bona fide fishing vessel.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Allard, Tim. "Outfitting Your Fishing Canoe." BassPro.com. (July 6, 2012) http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CFPage?catalogId=10001&langId=-1&mode=article&objectID=30095&storeId=10151
  • Gaston, Charlie. "How to Outfit a Canoe for Fly Fishing." Trails.com. (July 6, 2012) http://www.trails.com/how_41391_outfit-canoe-fly-fishing.html
  • Gray, Daniel A., Stephen Gorman. "Knack Canoeing for Everyone." Globe Pequot, 2009. (July 6, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=J7XSJKb3-lYC
  • Mitchell, Rickey Noel. "Orvis Guide to Personal Fishing Craft." Globe Pequot, 2007. (July 6, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=DT8a077uCFYC