Hey guys, and znyngkh,
Sadly I do not believe there are specific rules as to float tubes in many of the harbors in SoCal. The float tube as I am finding out does not have a specific watercraft designation with many municipalities (harbor authorities) or even with the Coast Guard in many cases. (I have made a few inquiries with the USCG and have received little response as of yet) I am not sure if it is because they are so new or that they are so unique. One thing I do know is that because my toon (former toon) was a registered vessel with the DMV and was motor, and or paddle driven I was treated differently by the harbor patrols. The only restrictions I used to come under were minimum vessel length and safety inspection requirements. Otherwise I was subject to the normal regulations regarding boating activity in the harbor.
Also, even if the regulations allow toobs in the harbor, the Harbor Master has a bit of discretionary leeway as to where you may operate (if at all) if he deems your vessel may be a navigation hazard.
Here's a typical example: One day, about 20 years ago, (Ok,... hopefully by now things are a bit different ) I went fishing with my friends at Redondo Harbor. We had spoken to a few acquaintances, regarding using toobs (my friends boats) and toons.(my boat). The Bonito bite was WIDE OPEN! and we were hell bent for leather to catch one on the fly. After launching we were almost immediately approached by the Harbor Patrol. The officers assessment was that because my boat had DMV registration numbers my boat was allowable, but theirs not. His explanation was that the float tube was...
A) a non registered watercraft (essentially what he was saying, was that the float tube fell outside the normal watercraft designations )
B) below the minimum watercraft length (IF you were to designate it a registerable watercraft)
C) a navigation hazard (his explanation was that the toobs were difficult to see, and slow, even slower than a decent swimmer)
He classified my boat with most any small craft, but classified the toobs with swimming apparatus. (inner tubes, kick boards, boogie boards, etc., etc.,). Swimming in the harbor is strictly verboten! We naturally protested, ( politely) and he proceeded to explain his rational, and his authority. After 20 minutes of polite exchange, we could do little but acquiesce. He kicked us off. NOTE: one of the guys I was fishing with was a Channel Islands Harbor Patrol officer at the time, with whom (after our little encounter) I had a lengthy discussion about the officers authority and actions. He had to agree with the officers assessment and we never returned in our toobs. (toons, YES, but toobs, NO) I do not know what the situation is in Redondo at this time regarding toobs and toons.
At any rate I am not surprised you were told to stay away from the slips.(Harbor patrols are typically governed by the owners and occupants of said harbor, and are responsible for safety AND security. They are typically subject to the pressures brought about by boat/slip owners). I am a bit surprised you were banned all together. (although I understand the logic). I used to fish the CIH regularly in my toon (with an electric motor) and was regularly told to fish the outside of the slips. Most of the time my friends and I fished at night when harbor traffic was at a minimum. (and fishing is a thousand times better).
I think we fish where we fish today (fresh or salt) by the good graces of tolerant (apathetic?) authorities. I believe if we are to help our sport grow we need to work with these authorities to help them understand what we intend and our needs. How many of you are aware of the rules and regulations of travel in the harbors you presently Fish? Do you travel in the right direction? Do you cross traffic at the correct times and places? Do you know the rules of right of way? Speed zones? Restricted navigation lanes? I believe we have a right to be where we are, and I believe that there should be NO WATERS that we can't fish. BUT.. by the same token we must be aware of the reasons why many bodies of water are restricted to us at this time. The reality is that toobs especially, and toons secondarily pose a very real navigation hazard. We are low and slow, the worst kind of hazard. I have been involved in at least half a dozen near misses myself. (twice in the CIH and one of which involved myself and an 18' Radon on full plane, and we were the ONLY two craft on the entire lake!).
Perhaps we should pursue this issue further in the very near future. (after the holidays) As a potential toon builder I want to know exactly what and how this could affect our sport. I will let you know how my research goes.