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.
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.
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
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
- 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
are 2 tidal peaks every day/night.
that the repeat time is not exactly twelve hours but
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.
(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
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
the verb meaning "to spring or leap up".
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,
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.
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.
(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
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
It's height is enhanced by
the funnelling effect of bays and
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
The Tidal Streams (twice daily)
Tidal bulge during incoming tide causes these
streams while rising to high
On a falling tide the streams
reverse in direction, but with an
added westwards bias.
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.
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
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.
speed of the tidal flow slows and stops for an hour or
two around the time of the actual high or low in that
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
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
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!
R. Moy Estuary, Ballina, below
the Ice House has lots of
channels and sandbanks. An
excellent sea trout fishing
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
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.
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
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.