Are Fishing Kayaks Good For Recreational Use? [Why & Why Not]

You regularly use your fishing kayak for fishing. However, some friends planned a kayak trip for the weekend, and instead of buying a new kayak, you’re wondering, “are fishing kayaks good for recreational use?”

Are Fishing Kayaks Good for Recreational Use?

Fishing kayaks are heavier, more expansive, slower, and are shorter than recreational kayaks, making them harder to paddle for fun. That said, fishing kayaks are much more stable, and if it’s your first time kayaking, there’s nothing wrong with using a fishing kayak for recreational use. 

It’s not hard to find YouTube videos of people using a fishing kayak as a whitewater kayak, river kayak, or even an ocean kayak. But is it possible to use one for everyday recreational use? 

With so many different types of kayaks available on the market, it can be confusing to know the differences. 

However, after reading this article, you’ll understand why it’s not advised to use a fishing kayak for recreational use.  

What Is A Kayak?

Before we get into the differences, let’s look at what’s a kayak. All kayaks, regardless of type, are small (unmotorized) watercraft with pointed tapered ends at both points. 

They can be used by either one or two people, depending on the design. A double paddle propels it. 

A kayak design will have aspects of performance, maneuverability, efficiency, etc., based on kayak type. Below you’ll find the main differences between the two.

Fishing vs. Recreational Kayaks: The Differences


Just by looking at the size, you can tell which ones are for recreational purposes or fishing. For example, recreational kayaks are built using a polyethylene material and average 10 to 12 feet long. 

On the other hand, anglers prefer fishing kayaks because they are shorter and wider, making them more stable. 


Tracking means how easily the kayak maintains a straight course. Regular kayaks have better tracking performance because they are longer than angler kayaks. 

Kayaks designed for fishing do not need good tracking performance, as the goal is to stay in one place while you fish from the boat.


Fishing kayaks are much heavier than regular ones. Unfortunately, they are some of the heaviest types on the market. This is because they are more comprehensive and loaded with features and accessories that other types don’t have. 

This can make it challenging to transport a fishing kayak from the car to the water (unless you’ve purchased one of the best kayak carts). That said, a regular kayak can also be challenging to carry by yourself.

If your boat is longer and heavier, ask a fellow kayaker to help you carry it. When you’re kayaking alone, you’ll want to use a cart to help you transport it on land so you don’t hurt your back.

Hull Shape

The hull is the body of the boat. A hull’s shape will affect the performance of the kayak. Most fishing kayaks have a pontoon hull. A pontoon hull provides more stability, which is what appeals to anglers. 

That said, a flat hull makes it easier for beginners to learn how to kayak. They are harder to tip on calm water. In addition, the flat hull makes it easier to paddle than any other hull design.


Wider kayaks are not as efficient as narrow ones. However, a narrower kayak will be easier to maneuver. Therefore, making it easier to maneuver away from rocks, trees, and other obstacles in the water. 


All kayaks have weight limits. That said, fishing kayaks are designed to carry fishing gear, etc. Therefore, they have weight capacities from 400 to 550 or more, depending on the brand. 

Tandem fishing kayaks have a weight capacity that can range from 450 to 700 pounds or more. 

Regular kayaks are not designed to carry a lot of weight. A typical kayak will have a weight capacity limit of 250-300 pounds. This isn’t usually a big thing because most paddlers usually just carry a cooler with food or a bottle of water to drink. 


Fishing kayaks are wider and more stable than regular ones. Some brands, such as Hobie, Feelfree, Old Town, etc., are very stable. This makes it easy for a person to stand up without worrying about tipping the boat over.

It is harder to stand up on narrow watercraft. However, it is possible to stand up in a narrow kayak. Just know that it can tip over easily. 

If you move from one side to another quickly, it can cause you to lose your balance and tip the boat.


Fishing kayaks, on average, are about 30-42 inches wide, which is one of the reasons it’s so easy to stand up in them. Recreational ones average about 24 inches in width. 

A wider kayak has more surface area, making it harder to tip over than a narrow one. Wider kayaks will provide more stability for heavier and taller paddlers.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a fishing kayak can’t tip over. It can. However, it would take a lot more than just leaning side-to-side to get it to tip.

Recreational Kayaking vs. Fishing Kayaking?

Recreational kayaking consists of kayaking on rivers, springs, canals, oceans, lakes, rivers, and other well-protected water bodies. Many people rent their kayaks and paddle or float along the water. 

Depending on where you paddle, you will find several experienced and inexperienced paddling their small watercraft. 

Fishing kayaking is basically paddling your small boat to your favorite spot and fishing from your kayak. Some people will use anchors or drift socks to keep the boat in one place. 

You won’t paddle as much in a fishing kayak as a regular one. However, when kayaking for recreation, many people spend hours paddling. It’s not unusual to notice back, elbow, or hand pain after a day of recreational kayaking. 

Which One Is Right for You?

Final Word

There are no laws or regulations that you can’t use a fishing kayak for fishing or vice versa. That said, all kayaks are designed for specific purposes.  

But all are designed with versatility, convenience as a mode of transportation. Even though there are significant differences between a regular kayak and a fishing kayak, it is possible to use either type for both purposes. 

Before using a fishing kayak as a regular kayak, you’ll want to make some modifications such as; removing your fishing gear, fishing rod holders, tackle, bait, and any other fishing equipment. 

The goal is to make your angler kayak lighter, so it’s easier to paddle.  

Unfortunately, if you’re using a regular kayak for fishing, there aren’t many modifications to implement. A longer kayak is not as sturdy as an angler and may tip easier when you’re trying to pull in that big catch. 

Once you realize you enjoy being on the water with a paddle kayak, you’ll want to invest in a good beginner kayak designed for recreation. 

You don’t have to spend a lot on a good kayak for a good kayak. You can even shop for a second-hand SOT (sit on top kayak) or SIK (sit-inside kayak) on the Facebook marketplace or Craigslist, so you don’t overspend.

Having the right kayak will make a difference when you’re trying to have fun on the water. 

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