27 Reasons Canoe Fishing Is Cool | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A person releasing a crappie in the water from a canoe. Photo by Lisa Ballard

Go back to your roots with canoe fishing

“Let your life be the counter friction to stop the machine,” H.D. Thoreau

In his book Canoeing in the Wilderness, Henry David Thoreau, the nineteenth-century philosopher and avid canoe-angler, waxed about the joys of fishing from his canoe and cooking his catch over a campfire. “Wherever there is a channel for water,” he reflected, “there is a road for the canoe.” So what if his campfire once got away from him and burned 100 acres of pristine New England woodlands. The fire is not the point. It’s the canoeing, the camping and the fishing that mattered most.

I agree. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a modest fleet of human-powered watercraft from which I pursue the piscine. The space under my deck is crammed with paddlecraft. I have a couple of sit-inside kayaks, a Hobie sit-on-top, a tandem pedal boat, standup paddleboard; I even have a rowboat and a couple of inflatable kayaks. But the boat that gets the bulk of the action is a 17-foot, Old Town canoe.

That canoe is my go-to rig for island camping with fishing rods. My son and three step-children each learned to cast from the old canoe. Whenever a friend shows up who wants to get out on the water, it’s more sociable to take the canoe. The fishing is easier, too, if that friend is willing to paddle while I cast, or vice versa.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kayaks. They’re faster. They slice through rough water and wind better. My Hobie is more stable and doesn’t need bailing if it starts to rain. Fishing solo is easier in a kayak, too.

But my favorite way to fish is in the canoe. The open cockpit has room for a boat-load of stuff. I can easily pack a week’s worth of clothing, food, a tent, several rods, extra sunglasses, a good book and every lure that I own. When I fish with my father, he insists on taking a his cold-war-era tackle box full of vintage lures. I insist on taking the canoe.

I bring cushions to keep me comfortable. I can sit and paddle or kneel when I need more stability. Best of all, when the fishing is slow, I put my feet up and catch some rays.

My rod rests easily, too, without high tech rod holders. I simply lean the rod against the bow or stern. I find canoes more casting-friendly than kayaks because the seat is higher off the water.

Moving the canoe is easy. Just flip it over, lift the thwart onto your shoulders and walk to the put in. This makes it easy to reach hidden fishing holes or hop from one lake to another. 

Taking a photo of the trophy catch is simple. Your fishing buddy doesn’t have to stop fishing to paddle over and capture your triumph. Instead, the photographer is as close as the other end of the canoe. Unless your fishing buddy is a dog. My dog, Percy, loves to go fishing with me in my canoe. He can lie down or run around without disturbing the peace. 

Most important, canoe-fishing is about the experience. Time disappears on the water, conversation is good and the stresses of everyday life melt away. As Thoreau once said, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not the fish they are after.”

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