Fishmaster’s Corner

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Fishmaster’s Corner 2017-11-02T14:19:33+00:00

Epilogue – Should You Consider a PFD?
You may be breaking the law if you don’t

November 2017
by Tony Jelinek – Fishmaster, Rivers & Stream

In last month’s issue of The Leader, I contributed an article which explored considering wearing a PFD (personal flotation device) when fishing from a float tube or when wading a river. I was fishing the other day and my buddy said, “You know the U.S. Coast Guard considers a float tube a water vessel, so now you have to wear a lifejacket when using a float tube.” As I was not aware of this, I decided to do some digging. The following are the results of that research.

On the U.S. Coast Guard site is the following information (

“On occasion, State law enforcement agencies, manufacturers or other interested parties will ask the Coast Guard what laws and regulations apply to a particular device being used, or considered for use on the water. The Coast Guard’s first step is to determine whether or not the particular device in question is a ‘vessel’. The process begins with the definition of the word vessel found in 1 USC 3, which is: ‘The word ‘vessel’ includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.”

The short answer is also provided on the website:

“The following have been determined to be vessels by the U.S. Coast Guard – Float Tubes”.

From the site, you can, also, access through hyperlinks the requirements by state.

On Wikipedia ( is the following information:

“Anglers fishing from a float tube should wear a personal flotation device (a requirement in some states).”

In reading some message boards on the web, it looks like as far back as 2010, the requirement to have a PFD on board when using a float tube existed in California. And, finally, on the California Division of Boating and Waterways site ( is the following:

“Vessels less than 16 feet in length and all canoes and kayaks, regardless of length, must carry one Type I, II, III or V Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board. Life jackets must be readily accessible and fit the intended wearer properly.”

Many of you may have already been aware of the requirement to have a lifejacket “on board” your float tube when fishing in California. But, if you were not, you better start shopping.