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Float Tube Fishing in Ireland

Having a really great time fishing from the world's best floating fishing platform

Float Tube Fishing Inshore Bays & Estuaries

Float Tube fishing in Tidal Water is an advanced branch of float tubing in general. There are all the usual things to enjoy and challenges to deal with, and a few extra new challenges  thrown in. Boyne Estuary (Google Earth) - ideal for fishing suited for small craft such as float tubes. Varied features, reasonable shelter, more than 3 kilometers of water for mainly mullet and flounder with occasional bass, sea trout, mackerel. The long estuary will make a strong tidal flow, so timing fishing sessions around high and low tide (as described below) will get better fishing.
  • Tide Height: A water height rise and fall can affect how easy it is to get in to launch or get out later. For example you might step off the bank into the water when the tide is in, but several hours later there might be a 3' or greater step up required to get out, due to the water level now being lower than the bank.

  •  Tidal Flows caused by the sea flowing in to fill up the bay on a rising tide, and flowing back to sea to empty the bay when the tide level is falling

  • River Water Flow within estuaries due to the river that enters the estuary at one end and leaves it for the sea at the other. During fine weather the river will be low and not have much water speed, but during times of high rainfall the river will be in flood and there will be a faster push going along the estuary towards the sea. A narrow part of the estuary will have more flow than a wide place where the river can spread out

  • Daily Timing of Minimum Tidal Flow. There is a period 1 - 2 hours either side of the fully in high tide level, and 1-2 hours either side of the fully out low tide level which are important. These are the times when there is the least flow of all.

  • Monthly Timing - Spring and Neap Tides. Twice a month the tides get big and high, in between they are gentle and lower. This is due to the gravity of sun, moon, and Earth pulling the water around. When there is a half moon (called "a quarter moon" we get gentle tides, but during full moon and new (no) moon the big tides will make higher high tides with lower low tides and greater flows for the few hours in between.

  • Coastal Breezes are Stronger than inland breezes. We must take account of this factor when planning our day.

  • Bigger faster boats share the waterway with you. They don't always look where they are going once they're away from the shore. So keep clear of their preferred navigation route. Remember, the fish will be around the edges anyway!

Undoubtedly, the main thing you must plan for when float tube fishing in estuaries and bays is the tides. The tide height and the tide flow is the overriding factor in planning the timing of the start and end of the fishing trip.

A tide is a repeated cycle of sea level changes in the following stages:
  • Over several hours the water rises or advances up a beach in the flood. There is an inward current from the sea as this goes on.
  • The water reaches its highest level and stops at high water. At this time the tidal currents cease.
  • The tide reverses direction and is said to be turning.
  • The sea level recedes or falls over several hours during the ebb tide.  There is an outward current towards the sea as this goes on.
  • The level stops falling at low water.  At this time the tidal currents cease.
  • This happens twice in every 24 1/2 hour period.


There are 2 tidal peaks every day/night.
Remember that the repeat time is not exactly twelve hours but 12.4206 hours.

This means that every high tide is about a half hour later than the previous high tide. Every 2nd high tide is about an hour later. So every day the daytime high tide is an hour later than the high tide of the day before.

If you check really carefully you will notice that the two daily tides are not equal. Every day one tide is higher (with more tidal flow) than the other of that day.


Height variation (due to time of month): springs and neaps the tidal range in height (the difference in height between high and low water level) varies in a two-week or fortnightly cycle. Around new and full moon the Sun, Moon and Earth form a line, their gravity acts together, the tidal forces due to the Sun reinforce those of the Moon. The tide's range is then maximum: this is called the spring tide, nothing to do with the season of spring but instead from the verb meaning "to spring or leap up".
When the Moon is at first quarter or third quarter, the Sun and Moon are separated by 90 when viewed from the Earth, and the forces induced by the Sun partially cancel those of the Moon. At these points in the lunar cycle, the tide's range is minimum: this is called the neap tide, or neaps.
Spring tides result in high waters that are higher than average, and low waters that are lower than average. On spring tides, slack water time is shorter than average and stronger tidal currents occur.
Neaps result in less extreme tidal conditions. The tide rises less, and falls less. The tidal flow is reduced.
There is about a seven day interval between springs and neaps. On a neap tide The slack water period around high or low lasts for a longer period.
Height variation (due to local land mass funnelling tidal stream):
The spring tidal height ranges experienced over the Celtic Seas region are shown right. The hotter areas have a greater variation. That is a higher high tide, and a lower low tide, with stronger tidal flow in between times.
In the open Atlantic the daily tidal bulge (
not a tsunami! Just the rise of water to make high tide ) coming from the south east side of the Atlantic sweeps north past France up onto the Irish continental shelf. It fills the Irish Sea and continues up the west coast, and across the Atlantic towards the US. The Irish Sea then empties as the tidal low swings north to meet Ireland, and swing across to the west.

Tidal height variation due to estuaries funnelling the tide increasing it. Locations of greater tide size are shown in hot colours. Open sea where tide is gentle has cool colours.

Where the oceanic tide enters the shallow water on the continental margins, the tidal range is amplified. Depending on the shape of the bordering land masses, this can further compound the tidal wave, constricting and funnelling it.
It's height is enhanced by the funnelling effect of bays and estuaries.
Thus, for example, halfway up the Shannon Estuary on Ireland's West Coast the average tide is 4.5m but at the head of the estuary it is almost 1m higher.
The Tidal Streams (twice daily)

Tidal bulge during incoming tide causes these
tidal streams while rising to high tide level
On a falling tide the streams reverse in direction, but with an added westwards bias.

The general tidal flow or tidal stream of our high tide wave in Irish waters is shown left. These hit the south coast first causing an early high tide there. Then as the earth rotates the high moves around the west coast, entering the Irish Sea via both north and south tip of Ireland. The north and south tidal streams meet at a point just south-west of the Isle of Man at a tidal mid-point at which there is no variability in depth due to tidal activity.

The flow around the north east and the south east Ireland coast causes a filling of the Irish Sea. At the equilibrium area high tide may be only 0.5 metre above low tide, but within the Irish Sea maximum tidal ranges occur on the Lancashire and Cumbria coasts where the mean spring tides have a range of 8m. Estuaries, especially long ones, have a greater tide height variation than the open coast nearby.

The Wexford-Wicklow coast will have a quite fast tidal flow going north on a rising (flowing) tide, while the Irish Sea fills up. Then this reverses on a falling (ebbing) tide for which the flow is to the south, and away westwards over the Atlantic. The flow past headlands on a flowing or ebbing tide is fastest halfway between high and low tide time.  This explains how swimmers sometimes get into trouble when caught in a fast tidal flow around a point sticking out into the sea. Those sort of places have extra fast tidal flow passing around the tip of the land projection. 
The speed of the tidal flow slows and stops for an hour or two around the time of the actual high or low in that local area.

Heights and times of low and high water on each day are published in tide tables. The actual depth of water at the given points at high or low water can easily be calculated by adding the charted depth to the published height of the tide.

Fishing an Estuary or Bay via a Tube or other Small craft THE EASY WAY
We always remember always that a tube is a relatively slow water craft. So the important idea is to use the tidal stream to help us save our valuable leg power. We do this by going "downstream" with the tidal flow. And we should avoid finning "upstream" against the tidal flow. Don't forget that the tidal flow on a rising tide is going inland, against the river so downstream in the tidal flow at this time means "upstream" against the weaker river flow.

It is better to stay out of the main areas of flow, fishing around the interesting, sheltered edges. Out of the fastest flow, you will be able to move slower, fishing more carefully.
This has two advantages, firstly the fish are foraging around the edges, secondly, you are away from the boats and the collision hazards that boats can present when driven by their owners with less than the full attention to single anglers fishing out in the middle where they never used to be!

The R. Moy Estuary, Ballina, below the Ice House has lots of channels and sandbanks. An excellent sea trout fishing estuary.

You can take a ride in further up the estuary with the incoming tide, and later on be carried back to the start after the tide reverses direction to become an outgoing tide. This is how you get the tide to help you.
The return ride out towards the sea (outgoing tide) will be faster than the ride upriver (on incoming tide) due to the river water fighting a rising tide, building up over the high tide, and adding to the the outgoing water strengthening the flow at that time.
For this reason allow more time for coming in, and less for going out, and your journey (in distance) will match better. eg As you learn the ropes, you fin with the flow for longer on the rising tide.

So look up your tide table and plan your launch and fishing session to work with the tide and don't allow a situation arise where you must paddle against it.

Wide bays and estuaries contain a lot of water, and this water must flow in and out twice a day. An example would be a wide estuary bay with a beach spit extended partially across the final exit to the sea, and a narrow channel at this place.
Any narrow of the estuary or bay downstream/seawards of the wide area can be expected to experience extreme tidal flow speeds while the flow is on. Your float tube is a slow water craft unsuitable for these locations. These places will have still water at the high and low, and for a while either side of that time, but in these locations the period of still water is shorter than other places. Always take this into account. These fast flowing locations are more suited to faster craft like motor powered boats.

Safety & General Issues
Read up the safety practise for small craft in the sea. All that applies to you in a tube.
Ask locals about any special requirements for the location.
If you can cope with the tide stream on a neap tide, do not assume you can do it on a spring tide. The tide will flow much faster on spring tides.
If visiting new areas, remember long estuaries, or narrow places have faster tidal flows.
Carry flares. In order to make it easier for boaters to see your low profile craft it's a good idea to add a bright coloured pennant on a slim pole (eg an old rod tip section).
Put a compressed air horn into the beverage drink holder of your tube for sonic warning if a boat is coming too close. Study the water flows, and the tide flows and the tide times.
Give a land based colleague your departure and return time and confirm your return before the time so as not to worry people unnecessarily.
Carry a mobile phone in a dry bag in your jacket.

Look over the estuary or bay where you plan to fish at low tide before going out for the first time. The reasons for this are twofold.
First locate any dangerous features like barbed wire fences and sharp metal objects lying about.
Second locate the fish attraction features like deep areas, channel edges, boat mooring weights of concrete lying on a sandy bottom and giving a shelter or ambush point for predator fish when the water in covering these items. streams and channels meeting and joining onto the main channel are particularly important. Weed beds are vital, so are changes in depth.

A safety precaution often overlooked is to fish with a partner. This adds safety. It also adds pleasure to the trip. It also speeds up the process of location of the fish in the limited time available for a fishing session.

It could be said that saltwater float tube fishing is an extreme sport. If you do it wrong, or without proper preparation it is dangerous. If you are experienced, or go with experienced companions, it can be exciting and rewarding. I myself consider that all water hobbies from swimming up have this aspect of danger for the foolish or innocent, but some people think everything should be safe and organised with rules. This is not suitable for them. It's more like mountaineering, or wilderness hiking where you are alone and self reliant.
In small water craft the rules are inside your own head, and the safety is in your own actions, and your own equipment. Circumstances occasionally throw you surprises by way of weather, water conditions, or even other water users taking unsafe manoeuvres in their craft, and you are responsible to have it all figured out beforehand, and still be OK. You are the captain of your small boat and must behave like one.