Trolling Motors and Canoes: A Match Made in Fishing Heaven

Canoes are a fun, safe way to enjoy being on the water. Many people are learning how to customize them up so that they can have the benefit of a small, lightweight flotation device while also having motors to help them travel faster. Thus, relieving arms that feel like noodles from hours of paddling. If you have questions about being in a canoe that’s been motorized, we’ve got answers for you.

Do You Need to Register a Canoe With a Trolling Motor?

The complete answer does depend on your state regulations, as each state does have different rules when it comes to watercraft. However, the general rule throughout the nation is that any boat with gasoline, diesel, or electric motor must be registered. In addition to having it registered, you may also have to put your registration number on your boat, where law enforcement can clearly read it. As well as always have your registration card on you at all times.

Registration is easy. A lot of the time, you can do it online. Or you can shoot up to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (where you did, or will get your driver?s license). In some states, you can also go to the Department of Fish and Game, the Department of Licensing, or the Department of Finance. All you?ll need to have is a bill of sale or a title to prove ownership. You may have to pay a fee in some states.

When you register your canoe, you?ll be given registration decals, which is what proves that you have registered your boat for operation for that year. It?s similar to the way you register your car every year for new license plate decals. You have to get a new registration decal for your watercraft every year, although some states allow you to purchase for three years in a row. The decal will need to be placed in plain view somewhere along the front of your boat.

What Thrust Trolling Motor for a Canoe?

Many people have started to put trolling motors on the back of their canoes. It’s a pretty smart plan. When you’re fishing, it can be difficult to paddle and hold the pole at the same time. And even if you have a rod holder set up, you can still run into complications if you’re trying to troll while paddling and get a bite.

Trolling motors are typically gas or electric-powered motors that allow you to move around faster than you could with paddling, but not fast enough to break a wake zone. Trolling motors don’t go over five miles per hour. This may seem slow to some but it’s the perfect speed to troll, which means you toss your fishing line out in the water while you’re moving to see if anything will bite.


A great benefit of trolling motors is that most are hands-free operations. You just steer with your foot, leaving your hands free to cast your rod to your heart’s desire. When it comes time to select the correct trolling motor for your canoe, you’ll need to know how much it will weigh. You need to determine an approximate total weight, meaning how much it will be with you and your gear on board, as well as the canoe itself.

Once you have your weight, you’ll need to do a bit of simple math. You need 2 pounds of thrust for every 100 pounds of weight. You have a range between 20 pounds and 112 pounds of thrust for trolling motors. The most common choice for canoes is 55 pounds of thrust. Although some anglers prefer a lower 36 pounds of thrust. This option gives you a longer run time, while still getting a decent amount of speed. A 55-pound thrust will average between 4 and 6 miles per hour.

Do You Need Life Jackets in a Canoe?

It is the law that all watercraft vessels must have enough lifejackets for every person on board. Even if the vessel isn’t motorized. Some states may be more lenient on this, while other states might be harsher. There are some states that require all watersport users to wear a lifejacket at all times, regardless of the type of watercraft they are in. Whereas other states don’t care if you’re wearing a lifejacket, as long as you have one with you and it’s easy to access in case of emergency.

What all states do agree on is that children must be wearing a lifejacket while inside a watercraft vessel, regardless of if there is a motor or not. Being accompanied by an adult does not mean you can ignore this rule – unless it does not apply to you in your state. The only thing that does vary is the age of the child. Some states have it set as any child under 13, whereas other states have the age limit set at 16. Be proactive and check with your state for exact regulations.

All life jackets have to be U.S. Coast Guard approved, and they have to fit properly and be in good condition. Most of the lifejackets you buy from a store like Walmart or Bass Pro Shop are certified PFD (Personal Flotation Device). Some watersports like skiing or tubing have different laws regarding lifejackets so it’s important to check with your state before engaging in these activities.

Do I Need a License for a Canoe?

A license, or boater education certificate, is not required if your canoe does not have a motor. However, if you have a trolling motor attached to your canoe, regardless of if it?s electric or gas, you might be required to have a valid Boater Education Card. The laws are different in each state so check with your local wildlife agency to find out for sure.

If you are required to get a Boater Education Certificate, you can take a course online, for a small fee. This course will walk you through safety rules for operating a watercraft, as well as educate you on the laws in your state. You are not required to have a driver’s license to receive your Boater Education Certificate.

Check Your State Laws

Each state has different requirements for who has to take the Boater Education class. Some states require that anyone who is planning on operating a boat will need to pass the class and carry their card with them at all times. Whereas other states only require you to take the test if you’re under a certain age, or born after a specific year. For example, in Tennessee, if you were born after the year 1989, you must take a Boater Education class to legally operate a watercraft vessel.

yellow canoe

Similarly, some states require their residents to be at a certain age before they can operate a boat. This does apply to the driver being alone in the boat, as well as being accompanied by an adult. My 14-year-old son can operate our bass boat or Bayliner with a certified adult on board, that has the necessary documentation showing they passed a Boater Education class. However, my son cannot operate the boat without an adult in it, even though he has already passed his exam.

This is different when we go to our lake house in a different state, where the law says my son can operate a boat alone, as long as he has passed his certification test. And even more odd is that when we visit relatives in another state, he is allowed to operate a boat alone, without taking the certification class. It can be confusing so it’s best to check your laws before making any decisions.

Even if the law does not require you to take the Boater Safety Certification test, it’s a good class to take anyway. You’ll learn a lot of important information about being on the water. It’s a smart idea to make your children take the test, so they can learn how to safely navigate water travel. As well as safety measures that can end up saving their lives if something happens that they were not expecting, like capsizing or running out of fuel.

Be Safe and Legal in Your Canoe

Using a canoe for your water travel can be fun. For many of us, spending hours paddling across the water is too strenuous. That’s why God invented trolling motors. These small, lightweight motors are perfect for your smaller watercraft. Your arms will thank you for not having to paddle so much. And so will your pride if you happen to catch a monster fish while trolling. A fish you might have missed if your hands had been occupied with paddles.

Regardless of how you propel your canoe across the water, be sure you know the laws in your state so you don’t end up paying a hefty fine for violating. It’s easy to find information pertaining to your situation. Just check out your local Wildlife agency. They’ll be able to direct you to whatever information you need. Don’t risk getting caught unprepared. It can cost a lot of money if you ignore the law.