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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
April 10, 2022 Apr 10, 2022
As an avid fisherman and biologist, drone fishing could be useful for partially handicap people who have difficulty casting and to target large predatory fish who target endangered species. Being able to select your target and estimate its size and species would be beneficial as well as tracking marked fish to spawning grounds. How much weight in braided line can they carry?
Replied on April 11, 2022 Apr 11, 2022
Thanks for reading and commenting.
You’re right, drone fishing can be very useful, as long as it’s done responsibly, just like fishing in general. As for the weight of your braided line, you want to stay in the 25–50 lb ballpark, and the weight will vary depending on what you’d like to catch. It’s also important to have a reel that can hold about 600 yards of the line.
I hope this helps, Amie.
All the best!
April 16, 2021 Apr 16, 2021
Very interesting article. I am that guy down at the river, by the sea and on the lake that everybody wonders why I’m there whether it’s raining, hailing or sunny. I have rigs for everything and my fair share of fishing rods. When I heard about drone fishing I said to myself just like 100 other people, wouldn’t mind giving that a crack. So I drowned the first P3 I bought and the second one is getting plenty of air time before I send it out. I’d love to catch a fish with it but learning a new skill and then using it to catch a fish is my goal. Just like everything in life we must move forward or be left behind and as long as it is regulated then I don’t see a problem. Recreational fishos catch a lot of fish but there are bigger players taking way more.
Replied on April 16, 2021 Apr 16, 2021
That makes a compelling case to try drone fishing!
You’re completely right about there being bigger players who’re taking a much bigger piece of the pie. As long as it’s properly regulated, drone fishing should be something we could all try and enjoy.
Thanks for sharing and have a great day!
Replied on January 20, 2022 Jan 20, 2022
I bought a swellpro splashdrone 3 late last year for drone fishing. it is waterproof and if it hit water can take back off. I have the line release and 4k camera on it. This article misses really big points so its obvious the author doesn’t have a drone. You have 20 minutes of flight time. Enough time to send out a lure or bait several hundred yards from the beach and bring the drone back a couple of times. The you have to wait for a bite (just as you would on a boat or casting) and reel the fish in without losing it. How is this going to harvest “large numbers”: of fish? The only benefit you get from spending $2k on a drone is you get to cast your line out farther. everything else remains the same. I could get my line out just as far on a kayak or boat. I still have to catch something and reel it in. Most states where I fish limit the drone use to dropping the bait. once a fish is on (or earlier like I do it) the drone has to release the line. drone fishing allows me to fish from shore to about 8oo yards out if I have the line. I took a line out 350 yards and it took forever to reel it back in and wore me out. I don’t think anyone would be “harvesting large amounts” of fish with this method. it just makes getting larger fish possible.
Simon de Boer
February 16, 2021 Feb 16, 2021
What an interesting article it is. I am using my drone for aerial photography, aerial cinematography etc. I had no idea about use of drone in fishing before, it’s a quite interesting. Thanks for such a nice article!
Replied on February 17, 2021 Feb 17, 2021
Thanks for reading, I’m glad you liked the article.
I can only imagine the photos you can capture with your drone. Just goes to show how many awesome applications these devices can have.
Thanks for sharing.
Have a good one!
October 22, 2020 Oct 22, 2020
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.
Replied on October 23, 2020 Oct 23, 2020
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!
Replied on January 20, 2022 Jan 20, 2022
exactly. plus the creel limits sett by state fishing regulations don’t go away because you can cast further.
June 4, 2020 Jun 4, 2020
Its simple. I can fish with a drone, everyone else cannot. No conservation dilemma here.
Replied on June 4, 2020 Jun 4, 2020
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!
April 26, 2020 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.
Replied on April 28, 2020 Apr 28, 2020
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.
February 11, 2020 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 😂
Replied on February 11, 2020 Feb 11, 2020
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.
Replied on April 26, 2020 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.
May 16, 2019 May 16, 2019
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.
Replied on May 17, 2019 May 17, 2019
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!
Replied on February 14, 2021 Feb 14, 2021
Just started drone fishing. My wife and I are traveling the us and it is much easier to haul a drone than a boat. I only use the drone to cast and always wish I had our boat with us as it is more fun than the drone.
I was about to sell my surf casting gear due to being 70 years old with a shoulder that has been dislocated too many times, my drone solved that problem. My drone carrying my bait let’s me cast like a pro whether I am surf or lake fishing. When drone fishing I only use one rod and the thrill of watching my drone with my Gannett’s bait releice taking my bait where I want it is excellent.
A boat with a fish finder is a much more advanced fishing system than a drone.
Drones are already illegal to use in many fishing applications such as state parks, federal parks and national parks. Miss use will end it for all drone fishers.
Drone fishing should not be allowed on crowded beaches. There are plenty of beaches with little or no people to endanger and responsible use of a drone is not dangerous.
Replied on February 15, 2021 Feb 15, 2021
Thanks for sharing.
I think that what you said highlights some of the biggest pros and cons of drone fishing.
It definitely has its applications, especially for people who are having difficulties handling a rod. That being said, drone fishing should be regulated, so that people can enjoy the sport without putting anybody in harm’s way.
Thanks again for sharing, and have a great day!
May 4, 2019 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.
Replied on May 5, 2019 May 5, 2019
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.
April 26, 2019 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
Replied on May 3, 2019 May 3, 2019
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!
Replied on November 25, 2020 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
Replied on November 27, 2020 Nov 27, 2020
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!
Replied on May 28, 2019 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.
Replied on August 24, 2020 Aug 24, 2020
no chance whould i risk 4K YUNEEC TYPHOON DRONE FISHING £2000+
David M. Edwards
January 8, 2019 Jan 8, 2019
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.
Replied on January 8, 2019 Jan 8, 2019
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!
Replied on April 6, 2020 Apr 6, 2020
Does the bait dropping part for Phantom 4 fit to the Phantom 3 Adv ?
Replied on April 6, 2020 Apr 6, 2020
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!