Fishing in a canoe can be the kind of rustic experience that makes you want to leave it all behind.
Except that bringing some extra gear can make your fishing trip a lot better!
There are so many accessories for canoe fishing, from dry bags and waterproof speakers to coolers and fish finders, that you’re missing out if you choose to go fishing with just the bare bones.
I’ve learned to appreciate what a couple of extra accessories can do to transform a fishing experience. I’m not a hoarder, but I’ll admit I always think about the gear I want to bring when I plan a trip.
Here is my ultimate list of fishing canoe accessories:
1. Dry Bag
Source: Decathlon Group
If you want to bring your phone, electronics, documents, or anything else that could be damaged by water, you need a dry bag.
A dry bag is waterproof, so that even if you capsize and everything in the canoe goes overboard, your lunch, your change of clothes, your cell phone, and your money will be safe in the floating dry bag. You might be able to get by without one if you can avoid capsizing, but it’s a risk.
Dry bags come in all shapes and sizes, from waterproof fanny packs to massive backpacks with lots of pockets and compartments. The right dry bag for you will depend on how much you want to store in it, and whether you plan on keeping it on your body or just throwing it into the canoe.
The Decathlon 20l waterproof bag is a great size for me and holds everything I need. It’s comfortable to carry, and I can trust that everything inside it will stay dry.
A personal flotation device, or PFD, is necessary for everyone in a recreational watercraft, regardless of whether or not they’re a good swimmer.
Even on a calm lake or a shallow river, it’s possible to get into situations where a life jacket can mean the difference between life and death. If you take the dangers of canoeing seriously, you’ll keep a PFD on at all times.
That doesn’t mean you need to be hot, bulky, and uncomfortable while you’re fishing. Modern PFDs are made from breathable materials, are lightweight and not bulky, and still have lots of buoyancy to keep you safe in an emergency.
The NRS Chinook Fishing PFD is thin, comfortable, buoyant, and includes a lot of pockets for fishing. You can wear it like a vest and forget that you have a PFD on at all.
3. Canoe Storage Lift
Canoes aren’t the smallest personal watercraft you can get, and it can be hard to find space in a garage or basement without things getting crowded.
If you’re struggling to find a place to keep your canoe when it’s out of the water, consider hoisting it over your head so that you can walk underneath it. This frees up all of that space for the other gear you need.
The Canoe Ceiling Storage Hoist from StoreYourBoard is an affordable, durable, and high-quality pulley lift that makes it easy to hoist and store your canoe.
Source: Yeti Holdings
Nothing makes a difference on a hot day out on the water like a cooler.
Keeping food and beverages cold is convenient, allows you to stay out fishing longer, and makes the entire process a lot more relaxing. Ideally, you’ll want a second cooler to store your catch, especially if you are located far from home.
When choosing a cooler for your canoe, look for efficiency. You want a cooler that will keep items cold for days without a lot of ice, which is both heavy and expensive to carry with you in a canoe.
The Yeti Roadie 24 is a solid, waterproof cooler that can hold up to 18 cans and won’t let your drinks get warm.
5. Fishing Rod Holder
You don’t want to need to hold onto your rod all of the time. Not only will that get uncomfortable, but it also increases the risk that you’ll drop it and lose it.
A rod holder clips or clamps onto your canoe and gives you a place where you can anchor your rod, whether you are waiting for a bite or bracing yourself while reeling in a fish. Keeping your rod locked in the rod holder is one of the best ways to keep it safe.
Your fishing rod is probably your single most expensive piece of gear, and with some exceptions, fishing rods don’t float. Getting a rod holder ensures you’ll stay comfortable and you won’t lose your rod.
The KUFA clamp on rod holder is easy to attach to most canoe rails, has a firm grip, and is made of durable materials that will last.
6. Fishing Supply Organizer
There are lots of different fishing accessories for canoes, but if the idea of having lots of different pieces of gear scattered around sounds disorienting to you, consider the minimalist approach: you can get an accessory organizer that clamps onto the rail of your canoe and contains everything you need.
With a cup holder, a rod holder, and cell phone holder, and compartments for tackle, the Boat Tote organizer collects some of the most important fishing accessories into one easy console.
7. Tackle Box
Maybe the most essential piece of gear – you need a tackle box to collect everything you need to go fishing.
This doesn’t have to be specialized for canoe fishing. Your regular tackle box will work fine. However, if you have lures that are specific to the spots you fish in a canoe, it might be worth your while to have a separate tackle box.
8. Fish Finder
Some people prefer to fish without technology and rely on their instincts. I am not one of them.
I am as sportsman-like as the next fisherman, but I hate spending all day fishing without getting a bite, and I relish finding a great spot with lots of fish.
Rather than rely on superstition, memory, or guesswork, I use a fish finder.
The best fish finders for canoes are the kind that don’t require complex setups or attached transducers. If you can throw a cord into the water and watch the display on a handheld device, it’s simple and intuitive enough for canoe fishing.
The Lucky LCD Color Screen Portable Wired Fish Finder is simple and has everything you need to start following the fish, without any distractions or extras.
9. Emergency Whistle
Although no one likes to think about worst-case scenarios, it is possible to find yourself in a bad situation while fishing in a canoe, in which you need to call for help.
A strong whistle will travel much farther than your voice, no matter how hard you yell and scream.
That’s why it’s a good idea to bring an emergency whistle with you and clip it to your PFD or wrap it around your wrist so that it is always accessible. In the unlikely event that you need to get someone’s attention, all you need to do is blow the whistle.
Whistles are pretty standard, so you don’t need to worry about getting anything special. A standard plastic whistle will do, but make sure that it is intended for adults rather than children. It should be irritatingly loud when blown into hard.
10. First Aid Kit
Small injuries occur in nature, and having a first aid kit on hand can make it much easier and more comfortable to patch yourself up. A first-aid kit for fishing should contain the same kinds of items that you keep in a home first aid kit – bandages, gauze, anti-bacterial ointment, etc – but should also include remedies for bug bites and any local hazards like poison ivy or poison oak.
11. Canoe Barrel
Source: Canadian Outdoor Equipment
The alternative to a dry bag, a canoe barrel, is a large rigid container that is perfectly waterproof so you can store your valuables inside it.
A dry bag is a little bit easier to transport since you can throw it over your shoulder, but a canoe barrel is just as effective in keeping your stuff dry, and you can pack a lot into these containers. As a rule of thumb, if you want to access something frequently (your phone, for example), put it in a dry bag. If you only plan on accessing something when you need it, or at a specific time (lunch, for example), it is just easily put into a canoe barrel.
The 30L barrel from Recreational Barrel Works Inc. is the right size for me. It’s tough, durable, and easy to carry and store.
12. Waterproof speakers
I love listening to music and podcasts while fishing. Sometimes I even listen to podcasts about fishing while I’m out on the water. It’s kind of like having your friends with you on a fishing trip!
I have some friends who prefer silence and the sounds of nature, and at times I do too. At other times, I prefer AC/DC.
A waterproof Bluetooth speaker allows you to easily play audio from your phone or device. Make sure to find a model with a strong battery, so it will have enough charge to last you before it needs to be plugged in.
Amazon has some great waterproof Bluetooth speakers that are affordable and will do the job without taking up too much space.
13. Portage Yoke Pad
Portage is one of the most uncomfortable parts of canoeing, which is why I appreciate yoke pads so much.
A yoke pad fixes itself to the yoke of your canoe and fits between the yoke and your shoulders to provide additional cushion and support. It doesn’t make the canoe any easier to lift, but it does help with weight distribution and pressure.
The Level Six Helium Yoke Pad is soft and supportive and fits on any canoe. The grip-tex fabric keeps it from slipping, and the air mesh panels keep it breathable and prevent overheating.
14. Canoe Sails
If you’ve ever been out canoeing in high wind, you know how choppy and difficult conditions can be. Even when the wind is at your back, paddling can be a challenge.
A canoe sail harnesses the power of the wind and turns that into pure acceleration, to help you cut through the chop and get where you’re going.
Unlike the sail on a sailboat, you don’t have a lot of directional control. You can steer a little bit with a paddle, but you don’t have a keel like a boat, so the physics of canoe sailing is more like a kite and a kiteboarder than a sailboat.
Thankfully, that means they are really easy to use! All you need to do is attach the sail and let the wind blow into it and pull you along.
This downwind sail is sturdy, easy to use, and foldable, so it doesn’t take up too much space with your gear.
15. Padded Seat
One of the best canoe fishing accessories out there, in my opinion, is the padded seat.
Most canoes just aren’t that comfortable to sit in for long periods, whether you are paddling or fishing. They are rigid, and most of them are unsupportive.
If you are going to be fishing all day, you don’t want to develop a backache and cramps from sitting on a hard, cramped bench.
A padded seat can attach to the bench in your canoe and provide some cushion and lumbar support. This makes both paddling and relaxing more comfortable, which helps you enjoy your canoe more overall.
The Arlmont and Co. Premium padded canoe seat from Wayfair looks great, and more importantly, is very comfortable for both short and long canoe trips.
16. Trolling Motor
A trolling motor is a small, low-powered outboard engine that attaches to the canoe and propels it forward at a low rate of speed over a long time, so you can pull a lure behind the boat.
A trolling motor is a useful accessory to have even if you aren’t fishing with lures. They are not exceptionally fast, but they can help you if you get tired out and need some assistance getting home.
Trolling motors don’t require a lot of forethought or maintenance. Most are sturdy and electric, and their low output requirements mean they don’t need a lot of power, which is convenient.
Not all fishing canoes have a mount for a trolling motor, so before you go shopping, think about where you will put a trolling motor and what size you need.
The Endura from Minn Kota is an example of a reliable electric trolling motor. With 12V and only 30lbs of force, it doesn’t have a lot of muscle but it is plenty to move your canoe through the water for a long time.
17. Deck Spray Skirt
Source: North Water
In rough weather and chop, a deck spray skirt can stretch from your waist to the rails of the canoe to protect the contents from rainwater, swells, and splashes.
You won’t need a deck spray skirt in calm conditions, but you never know when the weather is about to change, and for ocean or whitewater canoes, a skirt is almost a necessity.
The Canoe Spray Deck from North Water is made from durable materials, is waterproof, and is easy to attach to the rails of your canoe. It will keep you dry, no matter what the conditions.
To say that a canoe doesn’t hold its position well is an understatement. The slightest current or breeze can carry away your canoe, which is why it’s important to have an anchor out while you are fishing. Otherwise, you would need to be constantly paddling or drifting away.
Luckily, you don’t need a big heavy boat anchor to stay in one place in a canoe. All you need is a pronged anchor that can grip the bottom, whether that is a riverbed, lakebed, or seafloor.
Canoe anchors are often small and retractable, so they are easy to store and take up less space.
The Extreme Max anchor is only 1.5 lbs and retracts for easy storage, but does a great job of digging into the bottom and keeping your canoe where it is.
19. Multi-Purpose Knife
For both safety and convenience, it’s a good idea to have a knife around while you are fishing. You may need to cut a fishing line, clean your catch, or just open an annoying package.
The NRS Pilot Knife from MEC is convenient to have around and safe to use. A blunt tip doubles as a screwdriver, you can clip it to your PFD, and you need to press on both sides to release it from its sheath, so it never pops out unnecessarily. It will be there when you need it.