As anglers in San Diego County, we are fortunate to have access to a variety of places in which to wet a line. We have the big blue ocean, the reservoirs, the bays and lagoons, and smaller waterways like creeks and ponds. In general, the ability to access prime fishing areas will greatly improve one’s odds of a successful outing. For every opportunity to reach these areas from shore, there are several more that come with the ability to get out on the water without being restricted to shoreline spots.
The most obvious way to reach prime fishing water is to fish from a boat. Sometimes though, anglers find that they don’t have the means, time or storage space required to own a boat. Other anglers simply prefer to fish smaller bodies of water, which have no launch facilities, and leave little room for many boats to maneuver in. In these situations, a float tube often proves to be an ideal solution. You can launch a tube almost anywhere, and fish water that is difficult or impossible to reach by boat or shore. In addition, float tube fishing requires minimal investment, time, and storage space.
A float tube is an inflatable device built specifically for use as a fishing platform. The angler sits in a seat within the tube, while his (or her) lower legs extend into the water. Swim fins are worn for propulsion and steering. Usually, waders are worn to keep the angler dry. Wearing boots or booties over the waders (but under the fins) is especially useful when considerable walking is required to reach the launch spot.
Early tubes consisted of a truck inner tube inside a cover made of nylon or a similar fabric. Although some tubes are still produced using this design, the majority of newer float tubes use tube-specific bladders instead of tire tubes. This allows them to feature open fronts, which makes entry and exit much easier than the original circular tubes. The most popular tubes are made in “U”, “V” or “H” shapes, and often seat the angler higher out of the water for a drier ride. The newer designs also allow some tubes to move at faster speeds, and to be less affected by current.
Many tubers choose to customize their tubes to suit their specific needs. Rod holders, storage spaces, and fishfinders are commonly added to float tubes. Some tube fishermen take it to the extreme by adding tool holders, camera mounts, or creature comforts such as a sunshade or drink holders.
Float tubes lend themselves to many of the angling opportunities we have in San Diego. Most local tubers are after largemouth bass or trout in freshwater or bay bass, sand bass and halibut in the bays. A tube is also a good way to reach the panfish or catfish that many anglers like to target. A word of warning though, catfishermen should be cautious of the catfish’s sharp spines. They can be big, unruly fish.
Although float tube fishing is very safe overall, there is a certain level of risk associated with being out on the water, especially in a small, man-powered vessel. There are regulations regarding the use of float tubes on most bodies of water. Be sure to familiarize yourself with them prior to using a float tube. Many safety concerns will be addressed in the process of following the regs, but the most important rule is to use common sense.
Probably the two biggest dangers in float tubing are boat traffic and water conditions. Always study the area you are planning to fish and be aware of potential hazards such as current, wind or waves. In areas where you are sharing water with boats, make sure to be visible and aware of the position of oncoming craft. Remember that boaters may have difficulty seeing you. Many local waterways require a horn or whistle, a PFD, and to have at least a square foot of bright orange visible above the waterline. Even where not required, these are good safety measures.
A float tube is a good way for anglers that would otherwise be limited to the shore to expand their options, and get out on the water and catch more fish. Even boaters can benefit from occasionally changing their perspective and getting “up close and personal” with the water and the fish, or by dropping into a small backwater when their schedule only affords limited time on the water. Just be safe, and after a couple of good fish spinning you around, you might find yourself hooked.