What’s the Difference Between Recreational and Fishing Kayaks?

Kayaks come in several types to serve various purposes, and if you’re interested in fishing on a kayak, you probably encountered both recreational kayaks and fishing kayaks.

Chances are you also wondered why anyone would go for a recreational kayak instead of a fishing kayak, or the other way around, but didn’t succeed in figuring out the answer.

So what’s the difference between recreational and fishing kayaks?¬†Fishing kayaks are wider, use a sit-on-top design, and are customized to accommodate the gear needs of an angler. Recreational kayaks feature a sit-inside design and are designed for general use. They tend to be a little more agile on the water and don’t have as many features.

In this article, we’re discussing the difference between recreational and fishing kayaks to clear up the confusion and help you make the right decision according to your needs. Let’s get started!

Recreational vs. Fishing Kayaks: The Differences

Regular or recreational kayaks are pretty similar to fishing kayaks. One could say that fishing kayaks are just an adaptation of recreational kayaks to make them better equipped to serve the requirements of fishing.

As a result, fishing kayaks tend to be shorter and wider. They also come with an additional storage room for convenience.

That being said, there is one huge difference: rod holders. These are obviously of no use on a recreational kayak but for a fishing kayak? They’re essential.

Now, let’s explore more in detail the differences between recreational kayaks and fishing kayaks.


Just by looking at both kayaks, you can probably tell they’re designed differently when it comes to both size and structure.

Recreational kayaks are built using polyethylene and usually reach about 10 to 12 feet long with a width ranging between 27 to 30 inches at the cockpit.

On the other hand, fishing kayaks are constructed to be shorter and wider to appeal to anglers looking for extra stability and not necessarily speed.

Fishing kayaks can be as short as 8 feet or as long as 23 feet. The average length of a fishing kayak, however, falls somewhere between 10 and 14 feet long.

As for the width of a fishing kayak, it typically measures around 35 inches. This is easily considered too wide when compared to recreational kayaks or touring kayaks.


The structure of a fishing kayak is almost always a SOT (sit on top kayak) as opposed to a SIK (sit inside kayak).

While it’s true that SIKs offer better fixation and natural stability thanks to their lower center of mass, they’re more suited for recreational purposes.

But for fishing, SOTs are the preferred choice because they provide more space and flexibility to stretch and rest your feet. This is a huge plus for anglers who typically spend hours being stationary at the same spot.


A kayak’s stability refers to its ability to resist tipping over or capsizing during normal weather and water conditions. Stability is mainly affected by the design of the kayak, its width in particular.

Since fishing kayaks have hulls that are several inches wider, they’re generally more stable than recreational kayaks on flat water. This way, you can focus more on fishing and worry less about a wobbly kayak.


Fishing kayaks are a few inches wider than recreational kayaks. This alone gives fishing kayaks an edge when we talk about storage space.

Why? Well, the additional width automatically translates into more room for you to keep all your fishing gear, and let’s face it, a fisherman never travels light or goes on short trips, so you’ll be needing all the space you can get.

A fishing kayak is usually equipped with hatches or sealed bulkheads to prevent water from reaching your equipment. On the other hand, a recreational kayak doesn’t offer nearly as much carrying capacity.


Tracking is the ability of a kayak to move ahead in a straight line. A kayak is said to have good tracking when it continues to travel forward over the water even after you stop paddling.

Between both kayak types, recreational kayaks deliver better tracking performance thanks to their extra length. However, unlike other kayaks, tracking isn’t a critical feature to consider in a fishing kayak.

This is because fishing kayaks are meant to be not moving for the most part anyway. As a result, you should be more concerned about stability and comfort.


Weight is a key feature to consider regardless of the type of kayak you’re looking to buy, but it’s even more crucial when it comes to fishing kayaks.

The reason is pretty simple; you may need to frequently travel between different ponds, lakes, or fishing spots. So, it makes sense for your kayak to be lightweight enough that you can easily carry it around on your own whenever needed.

Keep in mind that you’ll also probably use your fishing kayak more often than a recreational kayak, and it’s unlikely that convenient roads will be connecting all the fishing areas. Consequently, a smaller, lighter kayak will be more practical.

It would be best if you thought about the additional weight you’ll be carrying as an angler. Not only should you factor in the weight of all your gear, but don’t also forget to consider the weight of the fishes you’ll catch.

Recreational vs. Fishing Kayaks: Which One to Choose

If you’re still having a hard time choosing between recreational kayaks and fishing kayaks, consider the following points:

A recreational kayak is an excellent option if:

  • You’re a beginner who’s not yet interested in adventurous paddles.
  • You’re just trying out the sport.
  • You’re not ready to (or don’t want) spend a significant amount of money.
  • You prefer to paddle in calmer water and admire nature.
  • You’re looking for something combining speed and stability.

A fishing kayak is ideal if:

  • You’re a more skilled angler.
  • You value functionality over a generalized design.
  • You’re looking for more stability.
  • You don’t mind compromising on speed in exchange for extra stability.
  • It would help if you had plenty of storage space to hold your gear and fish.
  • You’re okay investing additional cash in a kayak.

Wrap Up

There you have it, a detailed comparison to highlight the difference between recreational and fishing kayaks. Now, you can be more confident about choosing the right type of kayaks for your needs.