PFD for float tubes?

Discussion in 'Stillwater' started by Darryl Pahl, May 12, 2013.

  1. I fished Rattlesnake Lake today on my Outcast Fish Cat Deluxe, i.e. a float tube. No luck at all, even though there were lots of rises. As I was taking out I was approach by a WDFW officer who asked to see my license and fly. No problem there, it was a very positive interaction and all was in order with both. Actually pleased to see that they are on the look out for poachers.

    But he did remind me that I needed a PFD on a float tube. I had thought that float tubes, inner tubes, mattresses, etc. were exempt from this, but he said that a float tube is a vessel because it can be used to get from point A to B. Not having the law in front of me, I didn't want to discuss it further, and he wasn't going to ticket me, it was just a friendly reminder.

    I checked the law, which I believe can be found here:

    The relevant section is:

    (1) Vessels less than sixteen feet (4.9 meters) in length, and canoes and kayaks of any length, must have one Type I, II, or III PFD of the proper size for each person on board

    So, is a float tube a vessel?

    "Vessel" means every description of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water, other than a seaplane. However, it does not include inner tubes, air mattresses, and small rafts or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers.

    By this definition, a float tube is a means of transportation. The only question is the intent of the commas in the exemption above.

    I'm not trying to debate the merits of wearing a life vest. When I started fishing off the tube, I always wore a PFD because I didn't feel very confident without one. Not so much lately.

    I'm sure that most people that drown didn't intend to do, so I can't say that having one (and having it on) all the time is less safe. Although when I do find myself wearing one, I tend to be doing stupid things like wading water that's likely too high.

    Just wanted to pass on some first hand experience. My plan is to throw one behind the seat in the future.
  2. Darryl,
    That is a very gray area. Pontoon boat is not gray - must have a flotation device. I used the distinction that if your butt was wet (or deep enough to be wet), you were "swimming", not in a transportation device. The flotation for my float tube is literally an inner tube, which fits in the exception. But the goal in practice is to NOT go swimming as traditionally interpreted. But most of my body is in the water (albeit covered in waders unless it is a warm bass pond) and I use fins for propulsion, just like I did as a kid. I agree that it is better to carry one than not even if the ticket which you didn't get could be contestable (but who wants the hassle?).

  3. Daryll,
    I recently saw a page in a pamphlet that expressly stated that a PFD was not required while using a float tube but was required to be used with a pontoon boat. I remember this because I discussed this with a friend and we both thought that between the two, we felt safer in a pontoon boat than a float tube. I think it was in the fishing regulations year before last or the material I had to study for the boater's education card. Either way, it probably isn't worth getting a ticket and having to contest it.

  4. Bingo!!! If it's a round tube a PFD isn't required but if it's an open front a PFD is required.
  5. I don't get these float tube pontoon boat regs. In Oregon, you must have a PFD and noise maker (such as a CG approved whistle) on board if the craft has two air chambers... obviously, a pontoon boat.

    Which is dumb because if one of the pontoons sinks, you still have one to keep you afloat. A single air chamber float tube does not give you that safety feature.

    Now.... what about float tubes? Well, most have a back rest that you inflate separately from the primary chamber... this means it does have two air chambers so a PFD is required.

    Around these parts, it depends on which county you are fishing as to how hard nose the police are in regards to the PFD and whistle (or, as I'd rather use, a huge air horn). In the country where I live, the Sheriff's Dept has told me they are not so concerned about float tubes and pontoon boats as they are full size boats. But the next county over is very picky and have passed out tickets because guys didn't have a noise maker along with their PFD.

    Fortunately, my Sterns fishing vest is a CG approved inflatable and I use it for all my stillwater fishing so I have that part covered. One of the pockets holds the damned whistle but I'm still considering buying a air horn... just to freak out the other anglers while meeting the requirement.

    Anyway, if you fish stillwaters in Oregon, always have a PFD and a whistle on board no matter what manner of personal fishing device your are using. That's the only way to avoid a ticket.
  7. On our 1st trip to Henry's Lake and Yellowstone, over 20 yrs. ago, we all had reg. float tubes. On Yellowstone lake we had to register and were asked about PDF's, we didn't have any. However, since we had a separate tube for a back rest, they said that would be acceptable. Not sure of the current policy, I do have an SOS waist pack that's C.G. approved. I just have to remember to use it in my otter or SuperCat.
  8. Here's my new solution. Rather than debate the finer points of the law on the shore, in court, or maybe while I'm flailing in the water, I'm just going add a Type II life vest securely attached using its own wasit strap to the back of the seat.

    I chose this 10-second solution because:
    • It cost about $10 available anywhere, adds no weight, almost no bulk, and is something that accessible yet not burdensome. It's attached so it's not something extra to carry, yet I could unclip it in a second.
    • It's high-vis, so if you are being scoped from the shore (as I likely was), it's really clear that you have a PFD. It's basically a big orange international symbol for life preservers.
    • The fit-over-your-head model is likely the easiest to put on over a jacket/waders or hang onto on its own in the water.
    Maybe Outcast should consider adding a pocket or a couple of straps to the back of the seat for this very purpose.

    Just one less thing to worry about.

  9. I like your solution.
  10. Why wouldn't you want a pfd or floatation device? Safety never takes a vacation. I personally wear one on any water, mostly a self inflating pfd. Then again, I'm "that guy" who always wears his bike helmet when riding, rather wear a bit of safety than be talking through a speak and spell for the rest of my life. It is not uncommon to see the uscg issuing fines to folks basking out on those floating party island things at popular beaches a long the willamette. and yes... Water wings are in the "more then one air chamber" category too...hah.. No way around it
  11. I'll take my chances !!!
  12. A round tube IS a PFD :D

Share This Page