Traveling with Fishing Gear: What You Should Know Before Hopping on Your next Flight

Broken Rods Aren't Fun

It’s late December, which means winter for all of us in Europe / North America. As you’re staring into the snow-filled landscape wishing it was white sand on a beach, you might be considering a tropical retreat in the coming weeks.

A topic invariably connected to planning fishing holidays is how to successfully get your gear to where you’re going. There’s nothing worse for a traveling angler than being surrounded with hungry fish without your favorite lure!

You’ve got two (not mutually exclusive) options:

  1. Book a fishing charter that provides equipment (FishingBooker helps you do this worldwide).
  2. Bring your own trusted gear with you (Read on).

Depending on your destination and the amount of “cargo” your wife / girlfriend will put up with, I will show you a few packing tips that have worked well for me on my travels so far.

Travel vs. Trolling Rods or Both?

4 piece travel rods are great for light fly fishing or small lures, but what if you’re going after something bigger? Ask any serious international angler planning his trip to a coral-filled paradise; He’s going to bring at least two heavy trolling rods for the charter boat (just in case the equipment on board isn’t any good) and another 4 piece travel rod for having fun from the beach.

According to the US Transportation Security Administration, you can take travel rods as carry-on luggage with you. I usually group them together in a short rod tube and haven’t had any trouble so far on local or international flights. To secure the rods additional, tape them together or pack them in their original packaging so they don’t chafe during the ride too much.

Heavier equipment such as beach-casting or trolling rods might be a bit harder to get airport security to agree letting you carry on the plane. Don’t worry though, you can check them in as sports equipment and most airlines will not charge you an overweight / excess baggage fee. That being said, be sure to check the website of the company you’re flying with about their sports equipment luggage policies.

Tip for check in rod tubes: Buy a hard-shell one that supports a padlock or drill two holes into a soft-shell tube so you can lock the zipper in place to avoid getting your rods stolen. It’s an unpleasant fact, but baggage theft does happen. Your job is to make the “prize” as hard to get to and least attractive as possible.

Plano Airliner Telescopic Rod Case
Plano Airliner Telescopic Rod Case – Available on Amazon from $45

How to Pack Reels

Since reels don’t have any dangerous parts, you shouldn’t have problems with reels from a security standpoint. If space permits, take your reels with you in your carry-on pack to prevent potential loss or damage. Pack them in their original case, padded with a few socks or pairs of underwear, or buy a travel reel-case for additional protection. Trolling reels will rarely fit into your carry-on luggage, so be sure to pad them well in your check-in bag.

Update – please be aware of the fact that some airlines may require line to be removed from reels before taking them on the plane as hand luggage. In order to avoid this situation, consider packing line separate in hold baggage.

Lures & Flies

According to the TSA:

“Expensive reels or fragile tackle such as fly’s should be packed in your carry-on baggage.”

-TSA, Travelling with special items

I disagree with this. Just check all sharp items. Taking a box full of large hooks, lures and flies is bound to give you trouble at airport security. They might let you enter the plane in the end, but only after a 30 minute argument with the security officer who’s probably clueless about fishing, and why you need a 3” fishing hook in your carry on luggage.

If you absolutely must carry your lures with you, write an email to the airline asking about carry-on regulations for fishing lures/fles/hooks. If the response is positive, print it out and be prepared for a talk.

Other equipment

Use common sense when packing: knives, liquid fly floatant and metal rod holders are definitely a no-no. Be sure to check these in. If you’re carrying lots of weird equipment, show up at the airport an hour earlier than you normally would, to allow for extra time if they make you check-in anything. Above all, don’t argue with the security staff. Be pleasant and tell a few fishing stories. They DO have the power to ban you from a flight. Another thing I often forget to do in the midst of pre-trip euphoria is to check my fly vest’s pockets for any leftover equipment.

Since 9-11, it’s been almost impossible to take dinghies and kayaks with you, checked in or not. If you are staying at a 4+ star resort during your holiday, you will most likely have kayaks or pedal-boats available freely or at a reasonable hourly rate.

— All that’s left now is to hop on your plane, book a great fishing charter and embark on the fishing trip of your life. We can help with the charter part: FishingBooker is a platform which helps you search, compare and book the best fishing charters worldwide.

48 Responses to “Traveling with Fishing Gear: What You Should Know Before Hopping on Your next Flight”

  1. Ellie fashingbauer

    Can you bring fishing lures on the plaine

    Reply
    • Dino

      Hi Ellie,

      Here’s what the TSA has to say on the issue:

      ‘Sharp fishing tackle that may be considered dangerous, such as large fish hooks, should be sheathed, securely wrapped, and packed in your checked luggage. Like other high-value objects, you may wish to pack expensive reels or fragile tackle that does not pose a security threat (small flies) in your carry-on baggage.’

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  2. What to Pack for a Charter Fishing Trip - FishingBooker Blog

    […] For serious anglers: If you don’t want to leave home without your favorite rod and reel check out our post on traveling with fishing gear. […]

    Reply
    • Jose

      Hi I’m from Texas what about just rods reels and pliers

      Reply
      • Cat

        Hey Jose, you can usually check rods in as sports equipment (check with the airline first) and reels are fine to take on the plane – just be sure to pack them well. Make sure to check in the pliers as they won’t be allowed as hand luggage!

        Reply
  3. Parker lee

    So since hooks and lures aren’t easy to get on carry-on luggage does that mean you can put them in your normal suitcase luggage?

    Reply
    • Cat

      Yes, the best place to put them is in your suitcase in the hold.

      Reply
  4. Edward

    What’s a hold

    Reply
  5. Elijah

    If I Have a small 1/4 ounce lure that is obviously not a Fly, can I take my mini 5ft Rod and reel with these small hooks all in my carry on? Like, what if I have a mini tackle box (aprox. 2x3x5) with small lures in it, will that be aloud on a carry on?

    Reply
    • Cat

      Hi Elijah,

      Thanks for your question. My recommendation would be to consult with your airline, and to pack it in your hold luggage if possible. I was once told I could not take a fork with me on a flight, so it is very possible that staff at the airport might take objection to lures.

      Reply
  6. Izaak

    So crank baits.swim jigs spinner baits in my tackle box in my luggage under the plane will be fine?

    Reply
  7. Mac

    I had a Penn senator confiscated at Manilla airport – they said I could go back to service counter & recall my check-in luggage but there wasnt enough time.

    Reply
  8. Jordan

    Hi Cat, when you have a one piece deep sea fishing rod, do you take it on board in the plane or do you put it with your luggage?Or is there another way?

    Reply
    • Cat

      Hi Jordan,

      Sorry for the late reply. You can take one piece rods on the plane with you but they would usually be checked in as sports equipment. Make sure to put it in a solid tube and to check with the airline before your flight to make sure they will let you do this free of charge (depending on the airline they usually do but it’s best to make sure in advance).

      Reply
      • cameron

        Do you need the rod tube If you have a two piece that would fit?

        Reply
  9. Bev

    Can we take a large used piece of old fishing net on a flight to the USA as checked baggage?
    It will be used to stop golf balls from hitting the house.

    Reply
    • Cat

      I don’t see why that would be a problem, but it’s always a good idea to contact your airline before your flight so you can make the proper arrangements.

      Reply
  10. Jone

    What about size 2/0 saltwater flies?

    Reply
    • Cat

      We would always recommend putting flies in hold luggage for extra safety and convenience at the security gate. If you are cautious about doing this, contact your airline to find out their specific rules for flies and hooks and make sure you have their response with you when you go through security.

      Reply
  11. Kimberly Smith

    My husband has a 60 inch fly rod and case, what is best way to fly with it.

    Reply
    • Cat

      Hi Kimberly,

      Most airlines will allow a fly rod/case of that size to be checked in as hold baggage for no extra fee, but it is a must to check this with your airline before flying.

      Reply
  12. Jay Johnson

    Ryanair would not let me take my fishing reels in cabin baggage unless the line was stripped off each first (which they started to do for me before realising how long it takes to strip line off a reel). Seems a fishing reel might be used as a garrotte. All fishing gear then to go into the Hold. So much for one small simple backpack and travelling light.

    Reply
    • Cat

      Wow what a nuisance. Thanks for letting us know about this issue!

      Reply
  13. King Boom

    Awesome blog. Thanks for sharing and the best information.

    Reply
  14. Francis

    Hi,
    My problem is my 2pc spinning rod dont have hard case. So im worry to checkin it in hold luggage. I wonder if im going to declare it as a fragile, maybe it will be fine.

    Reply
  15. Nick

    Hi um I want to take my crank bait with me on a airbaltic and delta flight could you please tell me the ways I could take them on thank you.

    Reply
  16. Dave

    I had a wee bit of hassle leaving Norway with an 8 inch pair of forceps, rounded tips, no sharp edges etc. that had found their way into my hand luggage, only to find myself sitting next to a woman who was knitting away with 12 inch needles. Go figure.

    Reply
  17. Vulgar

    can i bring my 4 piece fly rod in flying tube to carry on (on plane)?

    Reply
  18. ammunition Safes

    Hello very nice website!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Wonderful ..
    I’ll bookmark your blog and take the feeds also? I’m happy to search out so
    many useful information here within the submit,
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    Reply
  19. Rick Serna

    Since I travel internationally to fish on occasion, I find that your article is educational and factual. The bottom line is, that there is no bottom line! It really depends on who is tending the security desks on that day. Compound this internationally and it really gets clouded. HNL has few restrictions in or out. SFO same. LAX may ask questions to see if more dangerous stuff. (hooks, sissors and such). I had 8 small boxes of personally tied bone flies in the Incheon airport S Korea a year ago. Lucky they were returned by mail almost 6 months later as my address and detail was in the bag I left with them. I am due to fly through NRT from BKK next month on route to HNL and then CXI to bone fish. I dearly hope I don’t have carry on reel issues as I had none last time out. Rods should be pack style (3 or 4 piece) and cases should be trimmed to match lengths as much as possible and still fit the rods. (not an easy task) This makes them fit in a large pullman as checked baggage. I packed all my hooks and flies this time with an emergency supply of small hooks, beads and materials to hopefully pass the checkpoints as carry on this time. I am carrying two rods in cases in the event my baggage gets delayed. It is all we can do to fly with gear.

    Reply
  20. Martin

    Many airlines will not allow reels with line. Could be expensive if forced to remove line at the airport. Particularly fly line!

    Reply
  21. Robert

    Hi Vukan,
    This article was posted in 2013 yet still now this article is very effective and informative.
    I would suggest you to update this beautiful piece of article to add more value to it.
    Nice work. Keep it up

    Reply
  22. Baptiste

    Hey Cat, I am wondering if I could have a 2 piece 6’10 or 7” rod as a hand baggage. So do you know if I could have it as a hand baggage?

    Reply
    • Cat

      Hi Baptiste,

      I’m not sure if that would fit within hand baggage regulations. Each airline has their own policy, so I would recommend calling them to avoid an unexpected problem at the airport.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  23. Lewis

    Looking to take my carp gear away to Europe with me on holiday… so would be thinking 2 rods reels bite alarms and terminal tackle along with maybe a brolly if possible!! Would it be possible to get all this onto the plane? And roughly how much do you think it could cost?

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Hi Lewis,

      It’s not always clear what you can get on the plane with you and how much it costs. If you have already chosen an airline, it’s better to give them a call just to be safe.

      Good luck!

      Lisa

      Reply
  24. John Read

    Not worried about getting flies out, but back into the States. Do they have to be declared as animal products on reentry form?

    Reply
  25. Tyler Sebren

    If I used PVC pipe to make a rod holder would that be okay?

    Reply
    • Stefan

      Hi, Tyler! Thanks for reading our blog.

      I haven’t tried making one on my own just yet, but I have seen a couple of tutorials online that might help you.
      You can have a look here and here.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Stefan

      Reply
  26. cameron

    Do you need a rod case or holder if its a two piece 6′ rod as a carry on?

    Reply
    • Stefan

      Hi, Cameron,

      As a rule of thumb, as long as the gear can fit nicely in the compartments, it shouldn’t be a problem but it’s best to check with the airlines you’re traveling with.
      Regardless of what the rules are, you may want to have a rod tube just in case, to keep your gear safe.

      Hope this helps,
      Stefan

      Reply
  27. Husanjeet Singh

    Hello, it’s a very nice website! I’ll bookmark your blog and take the feeds also. I’m happy to find out so many useful information here. We’re going to work out extra strategies in this regard, thank
    you for sharing.

    Reply
  28. Thomas Bouche'

    Is there a length restriction on fishing pliers allowed on domestic flights? They are aluminum saltwater pliers that don’t have any additional tools attached.

    Reply
    • Stefan

      Hi, Thomas, thanks for reading the blog!

      I have just consulted the Transportation Security Administration website.
      Your pliers need to be 7 inches long in total in order to have them in your carry-on baggage.
      If you’re packing them in your checked bags, in that case, there are no limits.

      Hope this helps.
      Tight lines,
      Stefan

      Reply

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