Outboard motor on a canoe

Outboard motor on a canoe
Video Outboard motor on a canoe

Canoeing can be a great outdoor activity that provides fun and exercise. Paddling a canoe is a skill to be learned too. But, with most canoes, having a second person available is usually required for proper paddling around in the water. However, you might want to spend more time fishing and less paddling, or just want to ride in the canoe without paddling. In that case, can you put a motor on a canoe?

Can You Put a Motor On a Canoe?

Can you put a motor on a canoe? Yes, a motor can be mounted and installed on a canoe. Because of the smaller size of the canoe, the most common motor used is a trolling motor. Trolling motors can either be gas-powered with a small gas tank or electric-powered with a small rechargeable battery located on the canoe. Common locations for mounting a trolling motor on a canoe are transom mount and bow mount.

Can You Put a Gas Motor on a Canoe?

While we’ll focus mainly on the use of trolling motors mounted on a canoe. Square back canoes can accept smaller outboard motors. The most common outboard gas motor used for a square back canoe is a 2-stroke gas motor.

With that said, the better option when selecting a motor for a canoe is to use a trolling motor over a bulky and noisy outboard motor. A trolling motor, whether it’s gas-powered or electric-powered is the choice for many anglers. They are lighter, easier to install, and quiet.

Adding a gas-powered trolling motor to a canoe will be very similar to adding an electric version, but instead of a battery on board, the motor will require a small gas tank. Be prepared for this option to add more weight to the canoe in the form of fuel and the motor.

Electric or Gas Powered Motor For a Canoe

When it comes to most canoes, a gas-powered or electric trolling motor will be the only choice available to install. 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 are very quiet when running. This is better for trolling in a canoe while fishing.
  • Add less weight to the canoe: Electric motors are smaller and more compact, making them lighter.
  • A wider range of thrust options: There are various thrust ranges depending on the canoe size and weight.

Cons of using an electric trolling motor

  • The battery must be stored in a watertight battery box: Most trolling motor batteries will require a watertight box.
  • No way to recharge on the water: If the available power is used, there is no way to recharge while on the water.
  • Limited battery life: Depending on how high the motor is run, battery life can be limited between uses.

Gas Trolling Motor Pros and Cons

Pros of using a gas trolling motor

  • No battery to recharge or keep dry: Gas is the only fuel required, so no large battery or wires to run.
  • Easier to service: Internal combustion engines can be easier to service than electric motors
  • Add fuel when necessary: If you run low on fuel on the water, add more gas to the tank and keep going.
  • Can supply more power: Gas powered motors usually have more power to push larger canoes.

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Cons of using a gas trolling motor

  • Less environmentally friendly: gas powered motors release exhaust fumes into the air.
  • More expensive: A gas powered motor can be 2-4 times more expensive than an electric motor
  • Emmit a lot of noise: When fishing, a noisy engine is less desirable.
  • Weigh more than electric motors: The motor itself is bulky and can add a lot of weight to the bow or transom.

How Big of a Motor Can You Put on a Canoe?

How big a motor you ultimately decide to put on your canoe will consider several factors. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Here are things to know when attempting to choose a motor size for a canoe:

  • Canoe length
  • Total weight carried
  • Traditional canoe or square stern

If your canoe is the more traditional style, without a square stern, you’ll need to use a trolling motor mount kit, either aftermarket or DIY. The motor is mounted at the stern to one side of the canoe. This mounting option will limit the size of the motor, whether it’s electric or gas.

A gas-powered trolling motor is measured in horsepower, whereas an electric trolling motor is measured in pounds of thrust. The total weight carried in the canoe can dictate the size of the motor required to move this weight.

There is a rule of thumb for electric trolling motors when deciding on the amount of thrust required to power your canoe. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to need around 2 pounds of thrust per every 100 pounds of weight.

Since a gas trolling motor uses horsepower, it’s safe to assume that a 2 HP motor will handle the needs of most canoes. If you want to get to the bottom of this, here is a calculator that can be used to convert thrust to HP, only if you know the velocity of your canoe (in miles per hour). But, that is beyond the scope of this post.

Where to Mount a Trolling Motor on a Canoe

Typical trolling motors for boats will be designed for either the bow or the transom. When choosing a mounting location, think of how you will be using the canoe and where will be most comfortable to use and control a trolling motor.

Bow Mount

The bow-mounted trolling motor works well because it allows the motor to pull the vessel through the water, instead of pushing from behind as with the transom mount.

Transom Mount

In a canoe, most paddlers will sit at the stern of the canoe, which makes a transom mount trolling motor more convenient to use.

How Do You Mount a Motor on a Canoe?

mount for canoe with motor

For this short tutorial, we’ll be sticking with an electric or small gas trolling motor. They are lighter and easier to mount on a canoe using the steps outlined below.

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The method for mounting the trolling motor will use a block and brace that is tightened to the gunwales of the canoe.

Materials to Mount an Electric Trolling Motor on a Canoe

  • (1) 2 x 4 pieces of either hardwood or a 4′ piece of flat bar.
  • (1) 2 x 4 hardwood cut to 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

Step 1: Choose the correct trolling motor for the canoe

Step 2: Choose the location of the motor behind the stern seat. The moor should be placed at a comfortable distance.

Step 3: Measure the inside width of the canoe hull, behind the stern seat.

Step 4: Cut the inside piece to fit the inside of the canoe hull.

Step 5: Measure and cut the top 2 x 4 wood so there is 8″ to 10″ of overhand to the motor side.

Step 6: Dry fit the top 2 x 4 and mark the holes for the carriage bolts to the inside of the gunwales

Step 7: Transfer the holes to the bottom 2 x 4.

Step 8: Using the wood screws, pre-drill holes, and screw 2 x 6 block of wood to the motor side of the top 2 x 4.

*Note: The 2 x 6 is used to clamp the trolling motor, so this block should be at a 90-degree angle relative to the 2 x 4.

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Step 9: Insert the carriage bolts through both top and bottom pieces, add washers, then thread on the wing nuts.

Step 10: Fit block and brace into the canoe and tighten down to fit. Angle cut the ends for a more snug fit.

Step 11: Clamp trolling motor to the 2 x 6 block.

Is a Canoe With a Trolling Motor Considered Motorized?

Small paddle craft such as canoes and kayaks are not considered motorized if they are only propelled by a paddle in the water. Once a motor of any kind is added, whether it’s gasoline-powered or electric, the boat is then considered motorized.

All 50 states have different requirements and registration for motorized watercraft. Licenses and registration fees will normally be higher for boats with motors, regardless of their size or use.

For more information on what your state requires for licensing and registration, see this complete 50-state guide.

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

There is nothing illegal about adding a trolling motor to a canoe. Any trolling motor can be added to a canoe. Safety considerations should always be a factor when deciding on what trolling motor is appropriate for a canoe.

Keep in mind that while not against the law, the limitations and registration fees, and requirements will differ from state to state.

Summary | Can You Put a Motor on a Canoe?

Adding a trolling motor to a canoe is usually a DIY job, but it’s by no means complicated or hard. Adding an electric trolling motor is even easier because of its small and lightweight design.

Using a trolling motor on your canoe can free up your hands and leave the paddling behind for a more relaxing day on the water, or more time spent casting into the perfect fishing spot.

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