Ownership of fishing kayaks has seen a dramatic increase in popularity in the fishing community and has made fishing more accessible to many people who cannot afford to buy large boats powered by expensive engines.

But if you are interested in kayak fishing, will any kayak work for this activity, or do you need a specialist fishing kayak. What are the differences between dedicated fishing kayaks and recreational kayaks pertaining to fishing from the craft?

Fishing kayaks are shorter and wider than recreational kayaks. This makes them a more stable platform for fishing, even standing, and fishing. Fishing kayaks have more storage space for gear and for fish. Recreational kayaks are more maneuverable and easier to paddle and can also be used for fishing.

Essentially, kayak fishing is fishing from a boat, and a recreational kayak is a boat. So, is it possible to fish from a recreational kayak, or does this pose some issues that will make a fishing kayak a better proposition?

You may have access to a recreational kayak and wonder if you can use it for your kayak fishing or whether you need to go out and buy a craft that is more purpose-built.

Recreational Vs. Fishing Kayaks For Fishing

Fishing kayaks are a fairly recent addition to the fishing industry and were actually developed when people began fishing from recreational kayaks and needed a more purpose-built vessel.

This means that people originally started fishing from kayaks using recreational kayaks, discovered the shortfalls of these boats for the purpose, and tweaked the design to produce the fishing kayak.

Essentially, this indicates that you can most certainly fish from a recreational kayak, but you may run into some of the shortfalls of this boat for fishing. It will, however, give you a good indication of whether you would enjoy this style of fishing or not before you go out ab buy yourself a dedicated fishing kayak.

Fishing V.s Recreational Kayak

Recreational Vs. Fishing Kayaks: Kayak Size

Recreational kayaks are generally built larger than fishing kayaks. This is because recreational kayaks are built for fun and recreation and are generally considered to be multi-purpose. This results in them being built with a balance in mind between speed and agility, basic fun cruising on the water, and general recreational activities.

Of course this will depend on which kayak you purchase. If you are jumping in a White water or rodeo boat then they will be considerably shorter!

Also in recent years kayak manufacturers have realized that their customers may be more interested in the fishing side than the kayaking side of the sport and may not have the skills of a true kayaker. So they have added modifications for steering and propulsion as well.

Now is it possible to buy fishing kayaks with fittings for trolling motors, or pedal power and ones with rudders or more stability. This is in addition to the live wells, fish finder fittings and rod holders.

Fishing kayaks are built specifically for fishing needs which have resulted in their design being shorter and wider than recreational kayaks. The shorter length allows the fishing kayak to get into tighter places, and it is easier to turn the nose of the boat to negotiate these tighter locations to better reach some fishing spots.

Recreational kayaks ( canoes and sea kayaks) are easier to keep moving in a straight line because of their additional length, which produces less drift when you are paddling.

Fishing V.s Recreational Kayak

Recreational Vs. Fishing Kayaks: Weight

Recreational kayaks are generally lighter in weight than fishing kayaks. This is mostly because recreational kayaks have less built into the structure of the boat. Most of the weight comes from the materials for the main structure of the kayak.

Fishing kayaks can be a little heavier than some recreational kayaks because much more material goes into the construction of the kayak. This is to cater to all the additional gear storage and fish storage space that are built into a fishing kayak.

This additional material adds weight to the kayak, making them heavier than some recreational kayaks, even though they are structurally smaller.

However, because fishing kayak manufactures are aware of this, they choose the material for construction much more carefully, and they focus on weight reduction as part of their designs, whereas recreational boat materials generally are not selected with the same attention to  detail. This may also add to the price.

Recreational Vs. Fishing Kayaks: Stability

Fishing kayaks are designed with stability as a prominent feature to be stable to provide a solid fishing platform for the fisherman. Stability is purposefully designed into the boat so that the fisherman will be comfortable in moving around to cast, fight the fish, and land it in the kayak.

Many sit-on kayaks are designed to be stable enough for the fisherman to even fish from a standing position to be able to cast over reeds and other obstacles and to get a better angle when fighting the fish.

The shorter, wider design of the fishing kayak contributes to making this kayak more stable than a recreational kayak.

Recreational kayaks are not built to stand up in, and because they are built for more speed, the hull design is not conducive to the same level of stability as a fishing kayak.

This does not mean that it is an impossibility to fish from a recreational kayak but that you will in all probability only be able to fish from a sitting position. You may also have to work a little harder for balance while you are casting your bait or lure and when reeling in a fish. Especially if you are ocean fishing for larger species.

Fishing V.s Recreational Kayak

Recreational Vs. Fishing Kayaks: Storage Capacity

Let’s face it, we fishermen love our gear! Have the fun of fishing is trying out new lures, baits, and gadgets to catch that elusive big one!

Designers of fishing kayaks are aware of this quirk about us fishermen and have incorporated additional storage capability into fishing kayaks. There is space to store fishing tackle and gear, as well as a place to store your catch. Some fishing kayaks even include live wells where you can keep your catch alive for competitions where a live weigh-in is required.

Recreational kayaks may have some storage space, but it will certainly be less than a fishing kayak and not purpose-made for a fisherman’s needs. With a little ingenuity, however, you could make these compartments work for you if you have no alternative but to fish from a recreational kayak.

Recreational Vs. Fishing Kayaks: Bells And Whistles

Recreational kayaks are designed to be multi-purpose, which results in them not being designed with a particular activity in mind. Fishing kayaks, on the other hand, are all about fishing, and as a result, many additional features are built into these kayaks to make fishing from them easier and more convenient.

Fishing kayaks have features such as rod holders, paddle clamps, fishfinder mounts, comfortable seats for hours out on the water, bait tanks, fish tanks, and even anchors to secure your kayak in a fishing spot. They also have options for trolling motors, pedal systems and rudders.

Fishing kayaks are designed to have all of these extras within easy reach so that you can access them from the position of the seat rather than having to take the kayak to shore to access some of the compartments.

All of these design features of the fishing kayak are great to have and certainly make fishing out on the water in the kayak a lot easier, but they are not all completely essential.

For this reason, it is possible to fish from a recreational kayak, but you would simply have to make do with less convenience, more discomfort, and as a result, you may spend less time out on the water fishing.

Fishing V.s Recreational Kayak

Recreational Vs. Fishing Kayaks: Portability

Fishing kayaks are shorter but wider than recreational kayaks, but it does mean that they fit better on the roof rack of a car for easier transport. Even though a fishing kayak will often weigh more than a recreational kayak, the weight difference is not such that the boat cannot be loaded onto a vehicle by one person.

Often with a recreational kayak, the additional length makes them a little more cumbersome to load and off-load from a vehicle.

The shorter length of the fishing kayak also makes it easier to carry the kayak to a launch site that may be a little overgrown with trees and bushes on the bank.

Recreational Vs. Fishing Kayaks: Price

A recreational kayak is usually much less expensive than a fishing one, as it doesn’t need to have the same level of features. They’re also made from lighter materials that make them easier for you and your family members (or kids) to move about.

There are some recreation-specific options available though – like inflatable ones or those with pedal power only so they can be used on lakes without waves ‍— but these will always cost more because there’s additional technology involved in manufacturing an entirely unique type at all levels: fabric material selection; pump designs etc.

Again this VERY much depends on what type of kayak you are planning to get. I used to do kayak slalom, rodeo and surfing and those models could be expensive. However a decent fishing kayak will be around 800 USD and up, where an excellent recreational could be found for a similar price.


While a fishing kayak makes kayak fishing more pleasurable, it does not mean that you cannot fish from a recreational kayak.

You can fish from a recreational kayak and figure out innovative ways to compensate for the lack of fishing-related features or simply make do with what you have. If a recreational kayak is all you have at your disposal for kayak fishing, then don’t let this stop you from getting out on the water and enjoying some solitary time fishing out on the water.

However, once you have experienced fishing from a fishing kayak, you will understand the vast difference between the two, and you will wonder why you didn’t make the change to a fishing kayak a long time ago!

Also the better question maybe to ask can a fishing kayak be a recreational kayak, and the answer to that is certainly a yes!






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