Can You Use A Fishing Kayak For Recreation? – Fishing VS Recreational Kayaks

There are different kinds of kayak designs and features that serve different purposes. The most popular are fishing kayaks and recreational kayaks.

If you’re a beginner at kayaking, you might be wondering what are the most notable differences between both kayak designs. You might also be wondering whether you can use a fishing kayak for recreational purposes.

So, can you use a fishing kayak for recreation? You can use a fishing kayak for recreation. Fishing kayaks come with a sit-on-top design that makes them suitable for beginners and for purposes other than fishing. They’re easy to board, highly stable, and unlikely to capsize. However, they might be the best when it comes to speed and they’re difficult to transport due to their heavyweight.

Keep reading to learn more about the main differences between fishing and recreational kayaks, and how to choose the right kayak for you.

Fishing Kayaks VS Recreational Kayaks

fishing kayak vs recreational kayak to show how can you use a fishing kayak for recreation

Fishing kayaks and recreational kayaks are built with different designs and features that make them suitable for different purposes.

So, let’s break down the features of each design and the main differences between them.

What’s a Fishing Kayak?

Fishing kayaks are also known as sit-on-top kayaks or SOTs. They’re built for the specific purpose of accommodating all the needs of anglers when it comes to stability, on-deck space, and storage.

They’re considered the safest kayak design as they’re easy to re-enter from the water and they’re less likely to capsize.

The lack of a cockpit in the design allows anglers a wider range of motion when casting and reeling fish. There’s also sufficient on-deck space to bring all the needed fishing gear as well multiple storage compartments.

Other notable features that make fishing kayaks so perfect for anglers are built-in rod holders and accessory mounds as well as a standing platform that allow anglers to stand up while fishing which enhances their casting accuracy.

You can still turn any kayak using into a fishing kayak if you know what you are doing, and you can start by checking out this guide to turning your kayak into a fishing kayak here.

What’s a Recreational Kayak?

Recreational kayaks are known as sit-inside kayaks or SIKs. They’re built for general use and they don’t have as many features as fishing kayaks but they can easily be adapted to suit more specific purposes.

Sit-inside kayaks are designed with an enclosed cockpit which provides significant protection against the elements, however, it can limit the range of motion you would need for casting and reeling in fish.

I have a full guide on sit-on-top vs sit-in Kayaks here that goes into more detail into all the differences that is definitely worth checking out.

The Main Differences Between Fishing Kayaks and Recreational Kayaks

Here are some of the main differences that set fishing kayaks and recreational kayaks apart:


Fishing kayaks have a sit-on-top design They don’t have a cockpit, so kayakers are positioned right above the kayak’s deck instead of being inside the hull.

Recreational kayaks have a sit-inside design. They have an enclosed cockpit, so kayakers will be positioned inside the hull.


Fishing kayaks are usually built shorter and wider. Their average length ranges between 8 and 10 feet long while the width is around 35 inches.

Recreational kayaks, on the other hand, are built longer and narrower. Their average length ranges between 10 to 12 feet long while the width ranges between 27 to 30 inches.

The length and width of any kayak can have a great impact on its performance including its stability, tracking, and speed.


A kayak’s stability is basically its ability to resist capsizing during average water conditions and it’s mostly affected by the kayak’s width.

Fishing kayaks are built with wider hulls than recreational kayaks which means they have a higher center of gravity and a higher degree of primary stability.

Having more stability allows anglers to focus on casting accurately without worrying about capsizing or losing their balance in the water.

Tracking and Speed

Tracking is the ability of a kayak to move in a straight line and it’s mostly affected by the length of the kayak. Another thing that’s affected by the kayak’s length is its speed

Recreational kayaks are built longer which means they have better tracking than fishing kayaks. They’re also faster and can cover more water in less time.

However, tracking and speed aren’t considered critical features for a fishing kayak since you’ll mostly stay in one spot in the water while fishing.


Fishing kayaks are usually heavier in weight than recreational kayaks which makes them difficult to carry out of the water or transport to different locations.

This can be inconvenient if you’re a casual paddler, that’s why recreational kayaks are more practical for everyday use as they’re much lighter in weight.


Fishing kayaks have more storage space than recreational kayaks. That’s mostly due to the lack of a cockpit in their design.

They typically come with multiple storage options to keep all your fishing gear and tackle. Some of these storage options are sealed to prevent water from reaching your equipment

How to Choose the Right Kayak?

If you’re having a hard time choosing between fishing kayaks and recreational kayaks, here are some points you can consider to determine which kind of kayak would be more ideal for you.

A fishing kayak is more ideal for you if:

  • You’re a skilled angler and you want a kayak that will enhance your experience and allow you to get closer to the fish
  • You want plenty of storage space to keep your fishing gear as well as any fish you catch.
  • You don’t mind compromising speed in exchange for more stability.

You can check the best fishing kayaks here for under $500.

A recreational kayak is ideal for you if:

  • You’re a beginner to kayaking or you’re a casual paddler
  • You want a kayak that’s easy to control and maneuver
  • You’re usually out on calm water in average weather conditions
  • You’re looking for a kayak that combines that goes faster while maintaining some stability.

You can check the best sit-on-top recreational kayaks here.

Related Questions

Can You Go Fishing with A Recreational Kayak?

You can go fishing in a recreational kayak, however, your experience might not be very successful or comfortable. That is because recreational kayaks have a sit-in design that can limit your movement when casting. They don’t come with built-in rod holders, so might have to install one. They also don’t have enough space to carry the rest of your fishing gear.

Can You Use the Same Paddle for Both Recreational and Fishing Kayaks?

You can use the same paddle for both recreational and fishing kayaks. However, you will need to exert more effort when paddling a fishing kayak and you might get tired faster. That is because fishing kayaks are slower than recreational kayaks due to their short length.

Are Kayaks Pet-Friendly?

Some kayaks can be pet-friendly such as sit-on-top kayaks. That is because they have more on-deck space to fit you and your pet. They’re also highly stable and easy for dogs to climb on. Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, are less ideal for pets since the cockpit will be too small for them.

What are Hybrid Kayaks?

Hybrid kayaks are a mix between a kayak and a paddle board. They’re designed with a wide and open deck with a seat that’s sometimes built into the deck and you can also paddle them from a standing position. Paddlers can use double-ended paddles to steer the vessel through the water.

How to Increase a Kayak’s Stability?

To increase a kayak’s stability, you can try lowering the height of your seat as this will produce a higher center of gravity. You can also try to evenly distribute your weight and the weight of your equipment throughout the kayak to keep it more balanced. 

Helpful Resources 

What Makes a fishing kayak

Kayak your way to Freedom

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