Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS 15.6 Feet Canoe (FULL REVIEW)


Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS 15.6-Foot Canoe Review

One of the best things about having a canoe is how easy it is to take a fishing trip with it. You don’t need to trailer a boat, fill it with gas, and make a big production out of the whole thing; it takes just minutes to haul if from your vehicle to the put-in point. If you want to get really serious about angling with your canoe though, you might consider a square stern.

Most canoes have a symmetrical bow and stern, which allows them to travel in either direction, and all you need to do is change your seating position. A square stern sacrifices that bidirectional travel in favor of a flat stern that conveniently mounts a trolling motor. Having a motor lets you reposition the canoe without ever letting go of your rod to take up a paddle.

The Mackinaw SS from Sun Dolphin is one of the best all-around square-sterns out there. It’s relatively lightweight, has excellent durability, and isn’t going to break the bank; an important point for those who are new to square-stern canoes and aren’t sure if it’s going to be the right fit.

Last update on 2019-10-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Things to Consider Before Purchasing Your Square-Stern Fishing Canoe

Having a square-stern canoe can completely change your angling experiences. With the addition of an electric trolling motor, not only will you be able to maneuver the boat without wasting a lot of your energy, but also you can reposition with one hand on the motor’s controls and another on your fishing rod.

Besides having a convenient place to mount the motor, square-stern canoes aren’t all that different from their standard-issue counterparts. You’re still looking for something that has plenty of space and gives you a comfortable platform to cast from. Many canoes that are designed for angling come with all sorts of add-ons, but for the most of you, maybe just focus on the basic performance aspects and attach aftermarket products as you need them.

A square-stern canoe should be:

  • Stable: When you’re reeling in the big one, the last thing you want to think about it keeping the boat from rolling over.
  • Portable: the best part of fishing from a canoe is how easy it is to get out on the water. Don’t mess this up by getting a boat that’s hard to move.
  • Have Plenty of Storage: Since you will use this for fishing, it needs to fit multiple tackle boxes, nets, rods, and a decent-sized cooler.
  • Durable: You’re bound to get a few bumps and scrapes on your fishing trips, find one that can take a few licks and keep on ticking.

Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS 15.6 Feet Canoe Review

Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS 15.6 Feet Canoe

The Mackinaw SS from Sun Dolphin is one of their longer square-stern canoes with a bow to stern length of fifteen and a half feet. On one hand, this provides plenty of space for gear and can hold three people in its molded plastic seats. At the same time, having that much length can be somewhat restrictive as it will take more time and space to make a turn.

At its widest, the hull is 42 inches across, which forms a very stable platform that is easy to stand up in. The hull design is relatively flat, which provides superior primary stability (it doesn’t rock back and forth as you move about the canoe), but a fast boat it is not.

The three plastic seats on the Mackinaw are about as barebones as could be when it comes to comfort. Presumably, this minimalist design was favored for durability rather than comfort, as even the lightest of padding would have made hours of sitting on them a more relaxing experience.

One of the biggest issues you’ll find with the Mackinaw is that it’s not very easy to transport. At 95 lb, you’ll need all the strength that two people can muscle to move it from the car to the put-in point, especially since the handles on the bow and stern aren’t very user-friendly.

For the most part, though, the Mackinaw is a great budget-friendly square-stern vessel, one that might not check all the boxes, but does an adequate job without costing a lot.

Pros:

  • 15.6 foot-long hull provides sufficient storage space.
  • Can hold three anglers.
  • Stable hull that’s easy to paddle and fish from.

Cons:

  • Pretty heavy at 95 pounds. Don’t count on carrying this one solo.
  • Bow and stern handles are not user-friendly.
  • Plastic seats offer the bare minimum in comfort.

Stability

One of the more important features with a fishing canoe is that you can stand up in it. Fishing from a standing position gives you a better vantage point and makes reeling in a fish much easier.  The shape of the Mackinaws hull is bulbous on the sides and very flat along the keel. This makes for a very stable shape and most users should have no trouble standing or even walking inside the boat.

That same shape makes paddling the Mackinaw a rather tedious experience though. The flat and fat hull has an enormous amount of drag that must be overcome to accelerate the canoe. As such, you’ll probably find yourself using the trolling motor more than you’d think.

Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS 15.6 Feet Canoe

Portability

Canoes are almost never very lightweight, which isn’t too much of a problem so long as you have a paddling partner to help you carry it and the Mackinaw is not excessively heavy by that standard. It’s no slouch in the weight department though; coming in at 95 lb it’s heavy enough to be a burden but not so much that you’ll need a cart to carry it.

Perhaps more concerning to users is its length. Coordinating the movement of a fifteen and a half foot boat can lead to struggles with your paddling partner. This is as true on the water as it is off. The longer length helps the Mackinaw to track better than some of its shorter competitors, but it cuts down on the maneuverability and takes more strokes to make a turn.

Storage

If there’s one thing that the Mackinaw has in spades is storage capacity. The fifteen and a half foot hull provides ample room for your cooler, tackle boxes, nets, GPS fish finder, and whatever else you feel is necessary for a great fishing trip.

This is doubly true if you only have two people in the boat, but even with three, there should be enough space as long as you pack it carefully. The center seat is designed to fit a cooler underneath; besides that though, the hull is fairly simplistic and doesn’t have any special organizational or storage features. 

Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS 15.6 Feet Canoe

Durability

Everyone wants a canoe that will stand the test of time and the Mackinaw does a decent job at it. It is by no means the most durable boat on the market – the molded plastic will warp if left out in the sun, and with enough abuse, it will eventually wear down.

Square-stern canoes have the added pressure of standing up to the forces exerted by the trolling motor too. The hull is solid enough that you shouldn’t notice any bending with a standard four horsepower motor though. For the average weekend warrior, this canoe should last a very long time.

Alternatives to the Mackinaw

While the Mackinaw is a great choice for anyone in the market for a square stern canoe, no boat is going please all paddlers. If the Mackinaw isn’t quite what you’re looking for, here are a few other good canoes to consider.

Sun Dolphin Scout Elite SS Canoe Review

 Sun Dolphin Scout Elite SS Canoe

Out of all the alternatives you could choose from, none will be as similar to the Mackinaw as the Sun Dolphin Scout Elite SS Canoe. It’s nearly the exact same boat, just a foot and a half shorter. If storage capacity isn’t a selling point for you and you’d like something a little more maneuverable and lightweight, this is a solid option.

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Old Town Discovery Sport 15 Square-Stern Recreational Canoe

Old Town Discovery Sport 15 Square-Stern Recreational Canoe

Another canoe that has a fairly similar look to the Mackinaw is Old Town’s Discovery Sport. It’s about the same length and also seats three people. That’s really where the similarities end though.

The Old Town’s hull has a more pronounced rocker, which allows for better maneuverability on fast-moving water, but with a slight sacrifice in stability. Its hull is constructed from a three-layer polyethylene that’s more durable too.

If comfort is important to you, the Discovery Sport’s benches are made from fabric stretched over a frame, which has a lot more give to it than the Mackinaw’s hard plastic seats. Those upgraded features come at a price though, the Discovery Sport costs about twice what the Mackinaw does.

You can read here my full review of the Old Town Discovery Sport Canoe.

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Grumman 15’ Sportboat Review

Grumman 15’ Sportboat

If you want that old school look and feel though, you can’t do much better than the all-aluminum hull on the Grumman 15’ Sportboat. It’s the tank of square-stern canoes, with a hull durable enough to pass down to your grandkids.

However, such a sturdy boat does weigh more than the comparably lightweight Mackinaw. It also costs about four times as much and the seats are uncomfortable metal benches, so it’s best for anglers that prefer to stand the majority of the time.

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Is the Mackinaw for You?

To answer this I’ll start by asking a different question: do you intend to put a trolling motor on your canoe? If not, this is probably the wrong boat for you because its square-stern design is premised on you attaching a motor to it. If you don’t add one, the square stern will actually be a hindrance, as the canoe can only be paddled in one direction with it.

If you are planning on mounting a trolling motor though, this Sun Dolphin Mackinaw is a really solid choice for a boat. That’s particularly true if this is your first square-stern and you’re not ready to spend a lot of money, but still needs something that will perform fairly well.

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