Best Outboard-Capable Fishing/Hunting Canoes

The top 3 options for lightweight, affordable, and double-duty vessels you don't always have to paddle

by Lake-Link Staff

Fishing kayak sales have skyrocketed over the past decade, especially designs with foot pedal drive and/or and electric trolling motor capabilities; even models with Minn-Kota Spot-Lock electronic anchoring.

Lake-Link staff was there at the start of the kayak fishing scene, working with Johnson Outdoors' Old Town and Kayaks, one of the first companies to offer kayaks designed specifically for anglers-from weekend warriors to those who want a mini version of a big bass boat complete with the latest fish-finding technology, Spot-Lock enabled trolling motor, and power-driven shallow-water anchoring.

Yes, it was a fun 10-plus years exploring everything from off-grid Canadian waters, backyard ponds, small to large rivers, and even a trip to Louisiana's Gross Savanne Lodge and Illinois' fish-filled private lakes of Peoria's Giant Goose Ranch.

However, for those of us with large families, we wanted to take the same approach to getting away from the crowds and to untouched fish without having to buy a half-dozen kayaks.

That took us back to canoe fishing, a relic of a youth spent with a simple Ugly Stick and a small folding tackle box-a few "rubber worms", a spinnerbait, and a topwater or two.

What we've discovered over the past couple of years fishing out of canoes is they can offer the same flexibility as kayaks but with more room for additional anglers, gear, and the option of running a small outboard motor to reach spots much faster than in a kayak.

Are fishing kayaks great? Absolutely. But there's a time and place for a kayak and other situations where motor-capable square-stern canoes offer more versatility.

What follows is our list of the Top 3 Outboard Motor-Capable Fishing/Hunting Canoes and one kayak that will hold some gas-power on its square transom, too.

Esquif Cargo

  • Dimensions: 17' long; 44" width; 16" depth
  • Weight: 95 pounds
  • Outboard rating: 3HP max. but will handle twice as much, user liable, of course - and with smart weight distribution throughout the boat
  • MSRP: $2699
Based in Quebec, Canada, Esquif doesn't a huge presence in the U.S., but north of the border, Esquif vessels are go-to canoes for serious outfitters and guides.

Don't want to baby a Kevlar canoe and fish like you need to? Then the company's T-Formex material is perfect. Heavier in weight than Kevlar and carbon, it is built to last a lifetime.

A massive 17-feet in length, the Esquif Cargo will easily accommodate four people. Light and maneuverable for its size, the square-stern Cargo was designed for carrying large loads in and out of remote wilderness destinations. Need to haul a butchered moose, bear, or whole deer out of the bush? No problem with the Cargo.

Plus, it's super stable, making it the perfect platform for fishing or hunting, even standing and slinging a fly rod.

Agile and quick, the Cargo is rated for an outboard up to 3HP, although we run a late '70s Mercury 7.5 HP short-shaft in open water and quick river current, and substitute an air-cooled Briggs & Stratton 5 HP for skinny river waters and running marshes and swamps that could easily clog up the intake of a water-cooled outboard.

For fishing small lakes, ponds, and quarries we ditch the weight of an outboard and use a Minn Kota 55-pound thrust EnduraMAX transom-mount electric trolling motor with 36-inch shaft, Minn Kota trolling motor handle extender (to allow sitting in the second seat forward the stern for better weight distribution fishing solo) and a NORSK Lithium 12V 80Ah battery that weighs 25 pounds. We've made three fishing trips up-current on the Mississippi River on one battery charge. Lithium is definitely the way to go for longevity and reliability.

In terms of transport, we started out hauling the Esquif Cargo around hanging out of the back of an F-150 with an orange flag off the back, but then fell into a used jet-ski trailer which makes loading and unloading the canoe easy with the outboard on, just like any other watercraft.

Other times we load the canoe on the top of the truck onto a Thule bar system and run ropes from the bow and stern to the front and back of the truck. We've had zero issues transporting the boat via rooftop at 70 mph on the freeway. The only issue with the Thule system is you need extra-wide rooftop bars or the Thule Portage Canoe System doesn't meet the Cargo's width requirements. So we don't use the Thule Portage system, opting for load-stop triangle attachments, straps, all rigged to standard-size Thule roof-top bars.

Looking ahead, we are super excited for a trip to Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA)/Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario in June-taking the Esquif 60 miles up a river via jet boat and then paddling back even farther in the bush-well beyond the reach of a week-long paddle.

Best Outboard Motor Options

Meyers Boat Sportspal S-15

  • Dimensions: 15' 3" long; 44" width; 15" depth
  • Weight: 67 pounds
  • Outboard rating: 5 HP max.
  • MSRP: $1808
Like Esquif, Meyers Sportspal has origins in Canada. The company then sold its rights to manufacture and market the canoes in the United States and production was moved to Emlington, Pennsylvania. After a fire, the company moved to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In 1978, the manufacturing facility was moved to Blissfield, Michigan, and shortly after was purchased by Meyers Boat Company and production was moved again to Tecumseh, Michigan. Sportspal came under its current ownership December 11, 1991, which is located in Adrian, Michigan. The company not only builds canoes under the Sportspal brand, but also produces Meyers semi-v and jon boats, Michicraft canoes, and Snark sailboats. Meyers Boat Company also owns the subsidiary companies of Seacycle, Waterbike, and Walden Kayaks. Bottom line: Meyers Boat Company offers affordable, American-made marine products that stand the test of time.

Best Outboard Motor Options

2020 CLIPPER Mac Sport

  • Dimensions: 18' long; 40" width; 17" depth
  • Weight: Ultralight, 77 lbs.; Kevlar, 82 lbs.; Fiberglass, 98 lbs.
  • Outboard rating: 5 HP max.
  • MSRP: $2350
Like Esquif and Sportspal canoes, Clipper vessels are manufactured in Canada, where many canoeists, anglers, hunters, and guides utilize them in the backcountry.

The MacKenzie Sport 18' is about size, capacity and versatility. The MacKenzie Sport 18' works great with an outboard in the 3- to 5 HP range.

Adding a third or fourth bench seat can increase seating to four or six. Load it up with 1500 pounds of gear and you will still have 7 ¾" of freeboard. Motor into your fishing or hunting destination, set-up camp, then paddle quietly to nearby fishing spots or blind locations.

Features include wood web seat (stern), adjustable sliding bucket bow seat, contoured yoke, flotation tanks, bow and stern thwarts, adjustable stern brace, and foam core.

Best Outboard Motor Options

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