Drone Fishing – Is It Really Fishing?
Mar 3, 2020 | 4 minute read Comments
23
Reading Time: 4 minutes

For better or worse, recent technological breakthroughs have had a dramatic effect on the way we fish today. Often welcomed by the fishing community, these advancements have generally made recreational fishing easier and more accessible to novices. However, new developments in drone technology are taking fishing to a whole new level. A level where, some say, things are too easy. This raises an ethical dilemma: Is drone fishing really fishing?

a drone flying over water

Before we get into the ethics of drone fishing, let’s take a look at how people actually use drones to catch fish. There are several drone fishing methods which are not mutually exclusive, but some are more controversial than others. These are:

1. Drone Reconnaissance

The use of drones for recon is pretty straightforward. A lot of drones are equipped with high quality cameras which you can use to scan the area below. As long as you stay within regulations, you can explore a fishery until you know it like the back of your hand.

It’s no secret that fish like to gather around underwater structure. When fishing shallow waters, you’re able to scour the area in a matter of minutes. This is exceptionally valuable when fishing an area for the first time. You can also use your drone to scan for currents, schools of bait fish, or even the game you’re after.

drone view of a fishing boat near game fish

2. Drone Casting

If you’re like most people, casting further than 50 feet away is going to be a challenge. With a drone, your cast is limited only by the length of your line. Whether you’re surf fishing or boating, drone casting considerably expands your reach. The best part is, you’re literally casting right where you know the fish are. Fishing drones even have a payload release mechanism so you can drop your line exactly where and when you need to.

3. Drone Casting and Pulling

You could say that this is overkill – and you’d probably be right. Casting and pulling basically means that the drone will not only place your hook where the fish is, but it will also bring your catch right to you. Obviously, since drones are relatively small, the fish that they can pull in are not big, either.

Using this technique on a shallow lake can allow you to bring in loads of fish  (one more reason to call this overkill). But more on that later.

4. Underwater Drone Fishing

Newest in the line of fishing drones are the underwater drones. These submersibles can dive into aquatic environments of all kinds: saltwater, freshwater, frozen lakes, etc. They are often equipped with high quality underwater cameras, sonars, bait lines, and sensors of all kinds.

underwater drone

Obviously, with the breakneck pace drone technology is developing, this list could expand very soon.

Current Drone Regulations

The advantages of drone fishing for recreational purposes are huge. So huge, in fact, that some say drone fishing is more like cheating. Fishing is an ancient practice, which, at its core, hasn’t changed much over the course of millennia. The new application of drones, however, can fundamentally change the way people approach catching fish. Having things too easy not only takes the thrill out of the chase, but it raises some serious conservation concerns, as well.

The technological rat race seems to have created a void between regulation and reality. Each time a technological leap occurs, lawmakers must scramble to keep up. While some states have outlawed (or regulated) the use of drones for recreational fishing and hunting, many have yet to jump on the bandwagon.

A clear example of this can be found in the very definition of the word “drone.” Most states officially recognize drones as aircraft. Naturally, one has to wonder how much time will have to pass before underwater drones are even considered for regulation.

Current federal regulations state that drones cannot fly over federal buildings or people; that they must weigh less than 55 pounds; that they must be flown below 400 feet; and that they must be kept in the line of sight at all times.

Ethics of Drone Fishing

Due to the mere efficiency of drone fishing, the overexploitation of endangered marine life is a very realistic possibility.

The ability to easily harvest large numbers of fish also leads to one simple, fundamental question: Are we taking the “sport” out of sportfishing? As in many other facets of life, your sense of achievement is tightly connected to the experience, the process that got you to your goal. The mystery that comes with fishing and the likelihood of failure are what makes the catch so gratifying. Take that away, and fishing would be no different than shooting sitting ducks at your local fair.

That’s not to say that all types of drone applications are bad. Marine biologists often use aerial and underwater drones to learn about aquatic ecosystems. Charter captains scan their fisheries to learn about fish habits, current patterns, signs of red tide, and many other occurrences they should be aware of.

 

drone view of a boat near a water color break

But where do you draw the line? A hundred years ago, the navigation systems we use today were beyond anyone’s imagination. The times have changed – sonars and fishfinders are now well established and are considered essential by a large number of anglers. As fishing technology continues to advance, we must learn to adapt. The question is, how do you adapt without losing the very essence of what we call fishing?

If we want to have sustainable fishing going forward, we must answer this, and many other questions alike.

Otherwise, we might as well be fishing like Homer Simpson – with a bug zapper.

What are your thoughts on drone fishing? Would you try it? Do you think that drone fishing is sustainable? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments (23)
  • David M. Edwards

    Jan 8, 2019

    Hello Sean,
    Thanks for a innovative article on fishing. Drone fishing is new to me. It’s a interesting thing. I think, Drone Fishing has a bright future.
    Good job….

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      Sean

      Jan 8, 2019

      Hello David,

      Thank you, I’m glad to hear that you liked the post.

      Yes, Drone Fishing sure seems to have a bright future ahead of it.

      Hopefully, we can make it sustainable as well.

      All the best from FishingBooker!

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      Emil Wilms

      Apr 6, 2020

      Does the bait dropping part for Phantom 4 fit to the Phantom 3 Adv ?

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      Sean

      Apr 6, 2020

      Hi Emil,

      Thanks for reading.

      Honestly not sure about this one. I’d recommend that you reach out to the manufacturer directly to see if the bait dropper is compatible.

      Have a great day!

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  • Edward Rone

    Apr 26, 2019

    This is my first year fishing with a drone. First off a drone meant for surf fishing such as the one I currently use take some time to learn many ins and outs. It’s very easy to lose orientation on a drone in windy conditions, that’s why line of sight is so important. I surf fish for three months in Cancun every year and find another problem is curiosity seekers. A drone such as mine which is a splash drone 3 has 12 inch carbon fiber props which are extremely dangerous, so take off and landing can become problems with too many people hanging around. If you want to catch larger fish a drone is going to get you into deeper water where you want to be especially when sand bars build up . All in all I find it very rewarding to see the drone carry my bait out a quarter mile into deeper water and then get hit by a big jack which is not happening inshore. Go for it and see how much fun it really is

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      Sean

      May 3, 2019

      Hey Edward,

      Thanks for sharing, this is some very useful information.

      Agreed – while you may be using a machine, fishing with a drone does require a great deal of skill.

      Thanks again, and all the best from FishingBooker!

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      Edward Rone

      Nov 25, 2020

      Sean thanks for your info,we need more like it. Since my last comments about fishing with a drone in 2019 I have done extensiv

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      Sean

      Nov 27, 2020

      Hi Edward,

      Thanks for getting back to us!

      I’m afraid that your comment got cut off for some reason. Would you mind posting it again?

      We’re looking forward to hearing about your experience.

      Have a great day!

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      Bill Warren

      May 28, 2019

      You can spot fish from a drone and you can also spot ancient shipwrecks and the canons that are associated with them and many of those contain treasure. We’re going to be using one or two drone systems for this in the Bahamas where the water is very clear. Most of the wrecks are in less than 50 feet of water.

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      mark

      Aug 24, 2020

      no chance whould i risk 4K YUNEEC TYPHOON DRONE FISHING £2000+

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  • Drones

    May 4, 2019

    Fishing by drone is really a fascinating ever i have seen. Much gathering knowledge from the beloved article. Also know the types of drones using while fishing what was unknown to me before the post. Thanks much to post the article.

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      Sean

      May 5, 2019

      Hi there,

      Thanks for reading the article, I’m glad you liked it.

      Absolutely, with the way drone technology has been developing recently, choosing the right drone will be as important as choosing the right fishing rod.

      Tight lines!

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  • Paul Ammons

    May 16, 2019

    Sean,

    I love Drone casting. And believe me I don’t always win. I’ve lost three or four $1,000 drones but it’s worth it.

    The key is catch-and-release. I try to practice that all the time unless I want to bring some fish home are cooking there on the beach.

    The bonus is… people …especially Kidz really think it’s cool, the smiles are priceless.

    Thanks so much for the posted article well done.

    Paul

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      Sean

      May 17, 2019

      Hey Paul,

      Thanks for sharing!

      You’re right, catch and release makes a lot of sense, both from a conservation and from a practicality standpoint. There’s nothing like a nice beach cookout, though.

      And I bet the kids love seeing the drone in action.

      Again, thanks for sharing, and tight lines!

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  • Fishdrone

    Feb 11, 2020

    If the fisherman were more sportsman like and shared there knowledge and skills with newcomers instead of being petty and secrative, perhaps then we’ll drop there baits for them 😂

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      Sean

      Feb 11, 2020

      Hi there,

      Thanks for reading!

      We couldn’t agree more, sharing knowledge serves everybody. The funny thing is, it’s usually the most knowledgeable anglers who are willing to share their experience. The ones who keep what they know to themselves usually don’t learn a lot, either. In that regard, you probably didn’t miss out on much.

      Tight lines!

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      Matthew

      Apr 26, 2020

      We are not petty an secretive fishing is a relaxing for me I go fishing to unwind an relax I am always willing to teach or show a new fisherman how to do things. Remember fishing is a costly sport so if you are learning fish on the side of crowds. An a bait does not have to be dropped for any experienced angler as from the start of fishing there where no drones an still huge fish were caught. Until this day experienced anglers dont use drones as it defeats the purpose of fishing.

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  • Matthew

    Apr 26, 2020

    Drone fishing to me is not traditional rock an surf fishing an never will be fishing is a skill. Instead of fishing with a drone I would rather buy a boat as that is what drone fishing subsitutes. Cheaper form of a boat.

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      Sean

      Apr 28, 2020

      Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for sharing.

      We certainly couldn’t argue with that. Traditional fishing does bring the thrill of the chase that drone fishing arguably can’t. But it is likely that drones will have their place in the future of fishing. It’s just a matter of where people decide to draw the line.

      Using drones to simply scan the area is not a lot different than using a sonar, but when you throw casting in the mix, that’s where the waters get murkier. One can make the argument that drones could be used for easier casting for physically impaired anglers. It could theoretically serve to level the playing field and enable disabled people to feel the thrill of fishing. But use it for anything more than that, and the machine is doing more than the angler.

      One things for sure, though: as technology continues to develop, we’ll be hearing more about drones and fishing in the coming years, whether we like it or not.

      Thanks again for sharing, Matthew.

      Tight lines!

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  • Jared

    Jun 4, 2020

    Its simple. I can fish with a drone, everyone else cannot. No conservation dilemma here.

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      Sean

      Jun 4, 2020

      Hi Jared,

      Thanks for reading.

      That’s a completely legitimate point of view.

      The thing is, people once frowned at the thought of using a fishfinder, and those are a standard piece of fishing equipment nowadays.

      What happens if/when drone fishing becomes more widespread? We’re guessing it’s better to thing about such questions sooner rather than later.

      Thanks again for reading, and have a good one!

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  • Robin

    Oct 22, 2020

    Hi all
    have been using a drone for a couple of years now. Yes it is new but so was kontiki fishing or kite fishing. The only difference is I run 4 x hooks fishing compared to 25 hooks if using a kontiki or kite. I use a standard boat rod compared to an electric. I only take what I can eat on the day (2 or 3 fish) not 25. Drone fishing is no different than using a bait canon. Just a longer cast. It takes a bit of skill to fly a drone to stay in the CCA regulations. Yes it’s new but so was most things.
    Cheers

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      Sean

      Oct 23, 2020

      Hi Robin,

      Thanks for sharing.

      Using a drone for casting only still allows you to battle the fish on your own, so I’d say that your argument is completely on point. Not to mention that a precise drone cast takes some skill in of itself.

      Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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