Legalities of Using a Float Tube for Fishing

A recent situation prompted me to write the following e-mail regarding the legalities of float tube fishing …


I am a high school teacher and avid fly fisherman who lives in Owen County. A friend of mine who has a float tube (as I do) recently went to Spring Mill to partake in the trout fishing. He was stopped and told he couldn’t fish from a float tube. He was told the reason for this was there was no swimming. I would like to talk to someone about this rule and try and figure it out…I pay a $5 non-motorized fee for all of my tubes and thus am considered a boat because I was told (many years ago) that I needed the sticker for my float tube. I have now been fishing from a tube for well over ten years and have never ran into anything like this before; frankly, the rule, if there is one, needs to be re-assessed. I would like to be contacted by an official from the DNR with an answer to this question and would like to have a discussion with someone as well.

Thanks for your time….
 Jeff Carmichael

The above email was sent from me to the DNR website on Tuesday, April 18th. It came as a result of an email I received from my friend, John Morgan…who had went to Spring Mill State Park to take part in the state’s trout release/fishing…but had been told that he couldn’t use his float tube on state water. The reason…because it was viewed as a flotation device and swimming wasn’t allowed. Below you can read the response that I got back from Terry Hyndman who is the Executive Officer in charge of Indiana Conservation Officers. I thought that Mr. Hyndman’s quick response and appropriate wording was very impressive and I wanted to make sure that other float tubers were well informed of their responsibilities while using and fishing from a float tube on state waters. So, please read with care the paragraph that begins with, “A watercraft”. There you will find that you must have a $5 non-motorized permit and a Coast Guard approved PFD with you at all times. One note-in the language it says that the permit must be affixed to the float tube…I asked many years ago and was told by a CO in our district that since the permit won’t stick or affix to the tube material…that it must be with or carried with the angler while in use. I buy a permit for each of my float tubes and float boats…place them in a Ziploc bag and keep them in the front pocket. In fact, I add a sticker to my Ziploc each year and you then can tell how many years I have been purchasing the permits. Bottom line is that we are no different than a kayak, canoe, Jon boat, etc…..and need to follow ALL the rules. (Many thanks to Mr. Hyndman for his kind response)

Hi Jeff…

My name is Terry Hyndman and I was forwarded your question and asked if I could respond to it. 

A float tube, which is also known as a belly boat or kick boat, is typically defined as  a small, lightweight inflatable fishing craft which anglers use to fish from.  They are designed for the lower extremities of the angler to be under the water, while the upper portion of the body stays above the surface.  Because their purpose is to transport the fisherman from one location to another, they clearly meet the definition of a non-motorized watercraft.

A watercraft is defined (14-8-2-305) as “any instrumentality or device in or by means of which a person may be transported upon the public water of Indiana…” and as you can see a float tube meets that definition.  Because float tubes are considered a non-motorized watercraft, it is important to remember that the occupant must have a Coast Guard approved wearable PFD with them.  In addition, if the float tube is going to be used on a body of water found on a DNR controlled property, then there must also be a non-motorized lake use permit affixed to the float tube.  There is an exception to the lake use permit requirement if the property being used is owned or managed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife, where lake use permits are not needed.   

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.  We’ll make sure that the word gets clarified with our personnel as well as employees from State Parks.  Good luck in your fishing endeavors!  Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.  

Lt. Colonel Terry Hyndman
Executive Officer
Indiana Conservation Officers
317-232-0614 Office
317-694-7515 Cell

FBI-NA Session 210


    • Bill
    • April 29, 2017

    Even though I don’t live in Indiana, this is good to know.

    • Ian bardin
    • August 13, 2018

    Does “Vessel” include a blow-up raft that can be used for floating down a river or any body of water?

      • FlyTech
      • August 14, 2018

      The specific term “Vessel” isn’t used in this article, however, it seems clear in Lt. Colonel Terry Hyndman’s reply that “A watercraft is defined (14-8-2-305) as “any instrumentality or device in or by means of which a person may be transported upon the public water of Indiana”” would most likely include a blow-up raft, as well.

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