Canoeing Made Easy: Adding a Motor to Your Canoe

Canoeing is a fantastic outdoor activity that combines fun and exercise. However, if you’re looking to spend more time fishing and less time paddling, or simply want to enjoy a leisurely ride in your canoe, you may be wondering if it’s possible to add a motor to your canoe. The answer is a resounding yes!

Yes, You Can Put a Motor On a Canoe

Mounting a motor on a canoe is entirely feasible. Due to the smaller size of canoes, the most common type of motor used is a trolling motor. Trolling motors can either be gas-powered, with a small gas tank, or electric-powered, with a rechargeable battery placed on the canoe. Mounting options for a trolling motor on a canoe include the transom mount and the bow mount.

Gas Motors and Canoes

While our focus will primarily be on using trolling motors, it’s worth noting that square back canoes can also accommodate smaller outboard gas motors. The most commonly used gas motor for a square back canoe is a 2-stroke gas motor. However, the better option for a canoe is to use a trolling motor over a bulky and noisy outboard motor. Trolling motors, whether gas-powered or electric, are lighter, easier to install, and much quieter.

Adding a gas-powered trolling motor to a canoe is similar to adding an electric version, but instead of a battery, you’ll need a small gas tank. Keep in mind that this option will add more weight to the canoe in the form of fuel and the motor itself.

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Electric or Gas Powered: Which Motor for Your Canoe?

When it comes to choosing a motor for your canoe, you’ll have two main options: gas-powered or electric trolling motors. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Electric Trolling Motor Pros and Cons

Pros of using an electric trolling motor:

  • Quiet in the water: Electric motors run silently, making them ideal for trolling while fishing.
  • Lightweight: Electric motors are compact and lightweight, minimizing the additional weight on your canoe.
  • Multiple thrust options: Electric motors offer various thrust ranges, catering to different canoe sizes and weights.

Cons of using an electric trolling motor:

  • Battery storage: Electric motors necessitate a watertight battery box for proper storage.
  • No on-water recharging: If your battery runs out of power, you won’t be able to recharge it while on the water.
  • Limited battery life: Depending on motor usage, battery life can be limited between charges.

Gas Trolling Motor Pros and Cons

Pros of using a gas trolling motor:

  • No need for battery recharging or protection: With gas-powered motors, all you need is fuel, eliminating the need for large batteries and extra precautions.
  • Easy servicing: Gas motors are generally easier to service compared to electric motors.
  • Continuous operation: If you’re running low on fuel, you can simply add more gas to the tank and keep going.
  • Increased power: Gas motors usually have more power, enabling them to propel larger canoes effectively.

Cons of using a gas trolling motor:

  • Environmental considerations: Gas-powered motors emit exhaust fumes into the air, making them less environmentally friendly.
  • Higher cost: Gas motors tend to be 2-4 times more expensive than electric motors.
  • Noisier operation: A noisy engine can be a drawback while fishing.
  • Additional weight: Gas motors are bulkier and can significantly increase the weight at the bow or transom of the canoe.

Choosing the Right Motor for Your Canoe

When determining the appropriate motor size for your canoe, several factors come into play. It’s important to remember that bigger is not always better. Consider the following:

  • Canoe length
  • Total weight carried
  • Traditional canoe or square stern
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For traditional canoes without a square stern, you’ll need a trolling motor mount kit, either purchased aftermarket or made yourself. This mounting option limits the motor’s size, whether it’s electric or gas.

Electric trolling motors are measured in pounds of thrust, while gas trolling motors use horsepower. The total weight carried in your canoe will help determine the motor size needed. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll require approximately 2 pounds of thrust per every 100 pounds of weight for electric trolling motors. For gas motors, a 2 HP motor should suffice for most canoes.

Where to Mount Your Trolling Motor

Trolling motors designed for boats typically come in two options for mounting: bow mount and transom mount. When deciding on a location, consider your comfort and ease of use while controlling the motor.

Bow Mount

A bow-mounted trolling motor is a good choice as it pulls the canoe through the water, rather than pushing from behind, as with a transom mount.

Transom Mount

In canoes, most paddlers sit at the stern, making a transom mount trolling motor more convenient.

Mounting a Trolling Motor on Your Canoe

mount for canoe with motor

Mounting an electric or small gas trolling motor on your canoe is a straightforward process. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Materials Needed:

  • (1) 2 x 4 hardwood or a 4′ piece of flat bar
  • (1) 2 x 4 hardwood cut to the appropriate length
  • (1) 2 x 6 cut to 4″ in length
  • (2) 1/4″ x 6″ carriage bolts
  • (2) washers
  • (2) wing nuts
  • (4) 2-1/2″ wood screws
  • (1) 1/4″ drill bit
  1. Choose the appropriate trolling motor for your canoe.
  2. Select a location for the motor behind the stern seat, ensuring it is at a comfortable distance.
  3. Measure the inside width of the canoe hull behind the stern seat.
  4. Cut the inside piece to fit the inside of the canoe hull.
  5. Measure and cut the top 2 x 4 wood, providing 8-10″ of overhang towards the motor side.
  6. Dry fit the top 2 x 4 and mark the holes for the carriage bolts on the inside of the gunwales.
  7. Transfer the holes to the bottom 2 x 4.
  8. Pre-drill holes and use wood screws to attach the 2 x 6 block of wood to the motor side of the top 2 x 4. Ensure that the 2 x 6 is at a 90-degree angle relative to the 2 x 4.
  9. Insert the carriage bolts through both top and bottom pieces, add washers, then thread on the wing nuts.
  10. Fit the block and brace into the canoe and tighten it down to fit. Angle cut the ends for a snug fit.
  11. Finally, clamp the trolling motor to the 2 x 6 block.
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Is a Canoe With a Trolling Motor Considered Motorized?

As long as a small paddle craft, such as a canoe or kayak, is propelled solely by a paddle in the water, it is not considered motorized. However, once any type of motor is added, whether it’s gas or electric, the boat is then classified as motorized. Keep in mind that licensing, registration, and other requirements for motorized watercraft vary from state to state.

For detailed information about licensing and registration in your state, refer to the complete 50-state guide.

Is It Legal to Put a Trolling Motor on a Canoe?

There are no legal restrictions on adding a trolling motor to a canoe. You can choose any trolling motor that suits your preferences and needs. However, safety should always be a priority when deciding which trolling motor is appropriate for your canoe. Remember that regulations, registration fees, and specific requirements differ from state to state.

In Conclusion

Adding a trolling motor to your canoe is a simple DIY project that can greatly enhance your canoeing experience. Electric motors, in particular, are lightweight and easy to install. By utilizing a trolling motor, you can free up your hands, allowing for a more relaxing day on the water or more time spent in your favorite fishing spot.

Remember to enjoy your motorized canoe responsibly while adhering to local laws and regulations. Happy canoeing!

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