When Should You Choose a Square Stern Canoe?

If you are purchasing a canoe with the sole intent of using it for fishing or duck hunting, consider buying a square back canoe (AKA square stern canoe or flat back canoe).

Square back canoes look just like standard canoes except that the stern end is squared off so that the owner can attach a small motor to the back of the boat. It’s easy to add a small outboard motor or trolling motor to the stern of a square back canoe to use power instead of paddling. You should be able to use the motor during most of the trip and then paddle the last bit. 

One downside to square back canoes is that they’re harder to paddle than traditional canoes. The flat back of the canoe makes it more difficult for the boat to track (stay in a straight line), so it moves slowly. That being said, if you’re looking to motor out to a fishing or duck hunting spot, you likely won’t need to paddle much anyway. 

Benefits of a square back canoe


The ability to attach a small outboard motor or trolling motor is easily the best feature of a flat back canoe. Adding a motor will help you get to your favorite fishing and duck hunting spots faster than you ever could just paddling. If weight is a factor, you can find some pretty light trolling motors to make sure that the whole rig stays lightweight.


Square back canoes come in a variety of sizes to accommodate your needs. The smaller models are a little easier to handle, but they don’t have as much carrying capacity as the larger models. The larger models can carry more weight, but they’re a little more difficult to manage. Establish what you need your boat to accomplish, and go from there to decide on the right size. 


Canoes are never as stable as a Jon boat or other larger boats, but flat back canoes are more stable than traditional canoes. The added stability makes it easier to keep your balance when fishing or duck hunting from your boat. With some models, you can easily stand to fish or shoot without worrying about losing your balance. If you are hunting or fishing with someone else, this is extra important so that you don’t throw each other off balance.

Canoes can make it into the nooks and crannies of a waterway where Jon boats can’t fit. For this reason, they’re a popular boat among anglers and duck hunters.

When staying close to shore, a traditional canoe can be a great option. However, most people don’t want to paddle several miles to their hunting or fishing spot just to paddle back at the end of the day. 

If you are starting to research which brand of square back canoe to buy, consider some of the more reputable models. You might be able to buy them new from an outdoor store or boat store, or you might be able to find a used one for a good price. Either way, look for a brand with a reputation for building quality canoes. 


Aluminum Grumman canoes are some of the most popular and well-renowned canoes on the market. The Grumman 19’ Square-Stern canoe is an especially popular model, but their other models are also well-made. Due to its size, this particular model has a large carrying capacity and is especially stable. All Grumman canoes are durably constructed, and they are better at tracking than many other models. If you think that you will be paddling a significant amount, this is important. 

Old Town

The Old Town Discovery Sport 15 is a popular square back model that boasts the features of the rest of the Old Town Discovery series in a smaller, easy-to-manage boat. Made of polyethylene, the hull is durable and stable. Given its smaller size, the Sport 15’s carrying capacity is a little less than some other square back canoes. However, that can be a great trade-off if you don’t need to carry much weight.


The Wenonah Backwater Square Stern Canoe is a 15-foot canoe with various options for weight and color. If you want a very lightweight canoe, this is a great option. Note that the Ultra-light variety is a little less durable than the standard weight if you will be paddling into areas with lots of rocks or shells. Their Flex-Core options will be a bit more durable, but they will also be a bit heavier. 

Where can I buy a square back canoe?

When you decide to purchase a square back canoe, be ready for a hunt! There aren’t a ton of online retailers who sell them. You can typically buy one directly from the manufacturer if you would like to. They might be back-ordered, but they can give you a timeline on when they’re available for shipping. 

Otherwise, your best bet is to find a local boat store, fishing store, or second-hand gear store and see if they have any square back canoes. Some local boat stores might not have them in stock, but they might be able to order them for you.

If there’s a local canoe rental outfitter near you, check to see if they have any of their rental boats for sale or if they know anyone who does. References from local boaters can be a great way to find a quality square back canoe. You can also try eBay or Craigslist to find one secondhand. 

If you are purchasing a square back canoe locally, make sure you have a way to transport it when you pick it up. Most square back canoes can be tied onto a roof rack like a standard canoe, but you should confirm that with the boat’s current owner before you go to pick it up. If it is particularly long, you might need a boat trailer. If you already have a boat trailer, you should be able to pick up just about any square back canoe. 

Paddle On!

When Should You Choose a Square Stern Canoe?
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When Should You Choose a Square Stern Canoe?
You've heard the term 'square stern' or 'flat back' canoe thrown around, but what does it mean and why would you want one? All your answers await here!
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Board and Kayak Life
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