We bought a 1997 kevlar natural Fisherman with wood gunnels in 2011. Coming from rec kayaks, we were looking for a boat to allow my wife to go out with the dogs, either with me or by herself, or accompanied by me in a kayak.
First, the weight is fabulous! with the wood rails, at 38lbs, its lighter than our kayaks. The kevlar is quite durable, taking only minor scratches so far on our sandy and sometimes rocky Florida rivers. It carries a ton of gear, and seems to like being loaded down. This year I mounted a electric trolling motor to the stern, bought a cheap used battery, and have had even more fun! Two dogs, 3 people, and towing 3 other kayaks in the holiday boat parade. What a blast!I have the kevlar version, at about 36 pounds, so it is a pleasure to portage. Whether tandem or solo, this canoe paddles surprisingly well, and has good glide. If solo and using the bow seat with the canoe reversed, about 20 pounds in the front will trim it well, and if using a kayak paddle, it performs surprisingly good. The kevlar pointed bow and stern ends are an asset for efficiency.
Downsides: Does not like the wind, especially when solo. You definitely need some ballast up forward when solo. Otherwise, its pretty tippy.
My biggest surprise is the canoe's seaworthiness. I feel more comfortable in this canoe than I have in my other flatwater canoes, especially when in wind and waves. There is something somewhat mystical about seeing the water passing underneath, through the natural kevlar.
I considered many different things before purchasing this canoe. I love to fish so I wanted a canoe that was lightweight, stable and wide, but also want something that tracked okay. Wishful thinking, right? Well, I got two out of three. But that was somewhat to be expected. Today was first voyage and it was surprising fast. I stood up a few times and immediately noticed it was superior in stability to any canoe I have ever been in. Heck at 40" wide, how could it not be. You would be hard pressed to roll it. I was quite pleased for the first hour and then the winds started. I did quite a few twirls throughout the day. I had expected this and look forward to a day that is a little more calm. Getting in and out of the water by myself was a breeze and the trade-off for tracking is that it will turn on a dime.
It is a winner!
Overall I am pleased with the purchase and would recommend it to others. Just know that if it is windy, you may struggle a little if you are solo.This is a great boat for stability. It tracks OK, but due to its width and short length, it does "fish" a lot.
My 105 pound Labrador up front is great ballast. I tested it out all summer with him in it, no overturns, though there was a time I jumped out certain it would happen in class III rapids, and I kept the boat upright holding onto the side. Now, in duck hunting season, even though the dog has jumped out of this boat without uprighting me, I let some ducks go by. It was frightening enough in warm water, and I just don't want to risk it in the ice.
It's more stable than your usual canoe. I'm not going to shoot out of it with this dog, because I know he will knock himself out to get the bird, and maybe me as well. The tests in warm water were very encouraging, but not enough to risk death in cold weather conditions. Smaller dog or bigger boat for that!I've lived with my royalex Fisherman for almost a year now and have decided that it's one boat in my "musical used boat trials" that I will keep. I think the Wenonah Fisherman is sort of a "sleeper". Although they market it as a fishing and photography platform, it actually is quite pleasant to paddle or pole just for fun.
Although it is slow compared to the average width canoe, it paddles easier than other boats in it's class (flat-bottom rec canoe) - notably (since I have one to compare), the 16' OT Camper. It tracks well when paddled tandem and not bad solo either if you do your part, while still quite easy to turn.
Wenonah advertises this boat as "relatively flat bottom", and I would put emphasis on the "relatively". It doesn't handle entirely like a flat-bottom but it does have a very shallow draft and lots of initial stability. Rocker is minimal (listed as 1.25") but it is definitely there. What you get is a very stable boat - easy to stand in even on moving water - but very maneuverable and easy to paddle, although not with a lot of speed or glide.
I have taken this boat down river through 1 foot and larger wave trains with surprising ease. It is a darn good poling canoe for shallow and twisty streams. It's shallow draft, exceptional maneuverability and surprising secondary stability make easy work in such conditions - so long as the current isn't too pushy. Upstream tracking is a bit lacking when compared to my Penobscot, but one can compensate in suitable flows by resisting the urge to advance too quickly.
I mention the Fisherman's secondary stability because Wenonah only talks about it's primary stability (which it has in spades). While it's not the boat to go around standing on it's gunwales, I can easily and predictably balance it high on one side (due, I believe, to it's soft chine) to carve aggressive turns, quickly side slip or negotiate a narrow passage while standing with my pole.
This is not a boat to cover large distances on lakes or for anything above easier class II. It is easily pushed about by a stiff wind (though not as easily as my Camper 16). But if you expect to spend a lot of time on tight-twisting channels in not-so-pushy water or extremely shallow water - the Fisherman just might be what you want.
I give it a 9, because although I think it's a good design and Wenonah does a great job of putting it together, and even though the Fisherman in royalex is pretty easy to carry as it is, I would like to see them use a contoured carrying thwart like those on Nova-Craft canoes.