The thrill and fascination of watching a float bob on the surface of the water and then suddenly disappear is one of the angling’s most intense pleasures. At sea the technique is only occasionally employed because of the great depth of water. Strong tides, too, make the tackle more difficult to control and the leger technique with hook bait fished hard on the sea bed is more practical. However, float fishing in quiet, shallow marina or harbour using light tackle can be highly productive and fun. A large float can help conjure wrasse and pollack from the rocky kelp forest and a ‘balloon’ is a superb combined marker and method to suspend a mackerel just below the surface when boat fishing for shark. At the small fish end of spectrum, float tackle makes fishing for mackerel and garfish great fun.
A sliding float rig is essential when fishing a float in the sea to allow the depth fished to be continually adjusted. Slide a tubular float onto the main line with a small stop knot to cock it. The stop knot is positioned at the distance from the hook that you intend to fish below the surface.
Sea floats are generally large as they often need to be cast a long way and seen at a distance, most likely amongst a sea swell. The quieter the water, the more likely it is that the float size can be reduced, such as inside a harbour or marina, where a coarse waggler design can be ideal. Loaded floats are preferred for long range float fishing. a clear bubble float is a great alternative. With the lead (water is the weight in a bubble float) inside the float, there is far less chance of the hook length tangling as it does when bullet leads are used on the line.
A great stop knot for your float is Power Gum which is a soft rubbery line that can be easily moved up or down the main line for depth adjustment. It also passes through the rod rings and on to the reel spool unhindered.
An important rule when float fishing is to remember that the fish are more likely to spot a bait above them silhouetted against the surface than in the weedy background of the sea bed. Scent, such as pilchard oil, also improves, and speeds the likelihood of a fish finding the bait.