Do you love the outdoors? Are you fascinated by new technology? Have you ever gone fishing but can’t seem to get a bite? Then drone fishing should be your next adventure. Drone fishing consists of using a drone to catch fish. This fresh take on an old sport doesn’t have a clear beginning, but over the past few years, the hobby has really started to take off.
Best Fishing Drones to Use & Why
Drone fishing started to surface in 2016 after a aerial footage of drone fishing for tuna went viral on YouTube (Watch video below). The video showed clips of rigging the drone with a fishing line and bait, then taking the apparatus to the beach of New South Wales and catching a massive longtail tuna from the shore. Using the drone allowed the anglers to spot their targets from above and drop the bait right in the area where they were swimming. This incredible compilation also shows patterns in which the fish swam and how the anglers were able to reel in their catch without even going into the water.
Does Drone Fishing Take the Fun Out of the Sport?
While some may argue that using a drone takes the fun out of fishing, it has proven to be a valuable and effective strategy for catching fish. Many people use drones to scout the area where they want to fish. Since drones are equipped with high-quality cameras, anglers can see the surrounding land to find a good place to launch their boat. Drones also help fishermen identify potential hazards to their boat, such as large rocks or excessive vegetation that could get caught in the propeller, rudder, or other parts of the boat beneath the water. The aerial videos from the drone can also provide the user with other details of the terrain, such as how deep the water is and the type of underwater environments that are in the area. This knowledge, combined with that of fish habitats, can lead anglers to highly populated areas for fishing.
Using Fishing Drones for Tracking
Fisherman also use drones to track the behavioral patterns of the fish they’re trying to catch. It’s important to study where fish go at a given time of day so that anglers can set up appropriately to have better luck and a larger selection of fish to hunt. Furthermore, anglers can log how different fish react to different types of bait. This is crucial for having a successful fishing excursion. Understanding what attracts specific groups of fish is incredibly important information for fishermen, especially if they’re trying to target one type of fish. If one uses bait that is tailored to the fish they’re trying to catch, they will have a more fruitful yield and, if they sell the fish, a better profit as well.
Overall, incorporating drones into fishing is a great way to get more out of the sport. Using this newer form of technology will help anglers learn more about the swimming patterns of fish, their natural surroundings, and the best types of bait to use for a higher success rate. The most important, and possibly the most difficult, step of drone fishing is starting, so here’s some critical advice for how to begin.
Drone Fishing Setup
The first major step of drone fishing is to find the ideal place to cast your line. Depending on the body of water where you plan to fish, you can either go out in a boat or use the drone to scout an area with an abundant fish population. Typically, if you’re looking to fish in the open ocean or a larger body of water, it’s best to go out and take a look with your own eyes. Even though a drone’s cameras are high-quality, the resolution of the videos is no match for the human eye. For that reason, using drones to scout a fishing area works best when the body of water is smaller with many large and diverse features. Large lakes and coastlines with lots of landmarks are two great places to use drones for finding the best fishing areas.
Rigging Your Fishing Drone
Once you’ve found your desired place for catching fish, you’re ready to rig your drone with a fishing line.The goal of setting up the fishing line with the drone is to transport the line out into the water, above the point where you want to drop the bait. As such, it’s best to secure the bait centered beneath the drone. If it’s not centered, you risk having your drone tilt or waver from side to side, compromising the integrity of the drone and your catch. The best way to secure your bait is by tying a criss-cross pattern of fishing wire that intersects right beneath the drone then cover this intersection point with tape for strength. This will prevent uneven loading on the propellers.
Releasing the Bait
Next, you’ll hook up a release mechanism to lower your bait above your target area. A great device to use for this is a downrigger release clip. This type of release mechanism not only lowers your bait into the water, but many of them also come with depth counters so you know exactly where your bait is in the water. Having this extra measure will improve your accuracy, and by extension, your success of catching fish. No matter which gadget you choose to lower your bait, this release device should be able to securely hold the bait in place then release it properly when you choose to do so. This release mechanism should be at the center point beneath the drone.
Lastly, you’ll have to feed your line from your fishing rod through the release clip to have the bait sit beneath the drone until a fish decides to bite. Make sure that your fishing reel is initially unlocked so that the drone can fly the line out to the water without resistance. Take a look at our list of the best spinning reels. Once you find a suitable drop location, lock the reel and fly the drone out some more. The resistance from your reel will prompt the release clip to drop the bait to the water.
With a great bird’s-eye-view of the water, a long line, and a release clip that can measure how deep you lower the bait, you’ll be catching fish with your drone in no time.
Is Drone Fishing Legal?
Ever since drones became open to the public, there has been a lot of debate over how to best manage individual drone owners to keep them and everyone else safe without being too restricting. It can get especially heated when talking about flying drones in heavily populated cities and suburbs, where your personal airspace overlaps with that of others. Luckily, the United States federal government constructed laws to help guide citizens’ behavior and actions when it comes to drones.
Private Vs. Commercial Drones for Fishing
Since 2012, the history of drone legality has had many ups and downs. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 created a deadline so that the organization had to establish regulations for the use of commercial drones by the beginning of October 2015. These regulations had to include rules for flying commercial drones such that the use of drones for commercial purposes could be legal without being unsafe. Until the FAA set new regulations, flying commercial drones continued to be illegal. However, non-commercial flights, including aerial photography, flying for fun, or fishing, was still legal as long as the user abided by the laws already set in place.
After the FAA made a deadline for itself, the organization approved of six different parties to conduct research on drone usage. This was commissioned in December of 2013 in order to provide the FAA with better information about drones so that they could make regulations that were reasonable and thoughtful, based on current drone activity. Some of the groups that conducted this research include the University of Alaska, Virginia Tech, and the North Dakota Department of Commerce.
Two Years Later…
Two years after requesting research on drone usage, the FAA made some new rules in December of 2015. For instance, it was established that all unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that weighed more than 250g must be registered with the FAA. This applied to all recreational and commercial drones, regardless of their purpose. So even if a drone owner wanted to use their aircraft for fishing, if it exceeded 250 grams then it had to be registered with the FAA.
On May 19, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the December 2015 rules set by the FAA. In other words, the FAA was no longer able to regulate the use of UAVs. However, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act in December of 2017. This reinstated the FAA requirement for all drones to be registered and marked with its registration number.
So What’s the Verdict?
Since then, individual states have also created legislation of their own regarding drone usage that doesn’t interfere with FAA regulations. For example, state governments cannot create laws restricting flight altitude or flight paths of drones, since that is within the jurisdiction of the FAA. However, states have come up with legislation for specific activities, such as drone fishing. In Oregon, the State Fish and Wildlife Commission deemed it illegal to use drones for fishing, hunting, and trapping. Other states, such as California, only have laws that state it is illegal to use drones to film others without their consent. So before you use your drone for fishing, it’s important to look up your state’s unique legislation, since the legality varies across state borders. And you may need to call your state’s department of natural resources to clarify.
What Makes a Good Fishing Drone?
There are many aspects to consider when purchasing a drone that’s ideal for fishing. You’ll want to make sure it’s not too expensive, but it’s also important that the drone is durable and made well. Depending on where you’ll be fishing, the drone should have a long-distance range so that you can control it from the shore or from your boat. A long battery life is also extremely useful for a fishing drone, since it can take a while for a fish to bite. It’s important to determine your specific fishing needs before purchasing a drone, but here’s a good start to your checklist of things to consider.
Whether you plan to use your drone for scoping out a fishing area or finding the fish to drop the bait, you have to look into the video quality of your drone’s camera. The footage that you capture with the drone is dependent upon the resolution of the camera. Ultra-high definition, such as 4K resolution, will provide you with a clearer, more detailed picture. This will help you see the details of the place where you’re scouting or fishing so that you can avoid rocky areas with your boat, identify the fish you want to catch, and end up with a beautiful video of your fishing venture.
In addition to resolution, having the ability to live stream the video to your phone or tablet is extremely important. A lot of drones are affiliated with an app that you can download on your mobile device that allows you to watch the footage in real time. The app is usually free to download, since the it is accounted for in the price of the drone, and you can view the live stream footage as you fly the drone overhead. Some drones have cameras attached to the end of an adjustable arm so that you can change the angle of the camera remotely as you fly your drone.
Your drone’s camera should also be waterproof, or at least come with a waterproof case. Even if you fly high above the water’s surface, there is always a chance that water will spray up and make contact with your drone and camera. While unlikely, the camera could also become dislodged from the drone and fall into the water. A waterproof case would keep the camera from being damaged. You could also purchase a small flotation device to attach to the camera.
A drone used for fishing must also have a suitable control range for your specific needs. If you’re flying the drone from shore, you’ll probably need a longer range for flying and accessing the camera’s live stream footage. A lot of drones that are sold as fully assembled can operate at a maximum range of one mile. Drones with low-frequency radio waves are ideal for longer range trips since radio waves can travel farther distances and continue to propagate through different objects.
If you purchase a drone that has is controlled with higher-frequency waves, there are many accessory devices that you can purchase to adjust the frequency to be lower. By extension, the drone could operate at a farther distance. Some devices can reduce the frequency to 1.2 GHz, which translates into a 10 kilometer range of operation. But you have to be careful when altering the frequency such that the new frequency at which you control your drone doesn’t interfere with other radio sources, such as surrounding radio stations or airports.
Another way to improve the range of your drone is by replacing the antennae with ones that have more power. For instance, simply replacing a 2dB antenna with a 4 or 5dB antenna will double the power, which can increase the operating range by up to 50%. However, when increasing the range to a large distance, you’ll likely be flying beyond your line of sight. This requires that you use extra caution and monitor your surroundings using the camera so that you don’t crash your drone.
Drones of different sizes will require different types of batteries, thus giving each drone a different battery life. The batteries your drones uses determine how long you’re able to operate your drone during a single charge. Some of the most common battery types for quadcopters, or drones with four rotors, include nickel cadmium and lithium polymer batteries. The lithium polymer batteries are better in many ways, one of which being that they are able to hold more power than other types of batteries. This gives the drone a longer flight time. Lithium polymer batteries are also very lightweight so they don’t weigh the drone down.
However, lithium polymer batteries typically have fewer cycles. This means the rechargeable batteries wear out after a certain number of times they are charged. Specifically, lithium polymer batteries tend to die after 300 or 400 cycles, or times they are recharged. Nickel metal hydride batteries, on the other hand, are replaced after upwards of 400 cycles. This means that, while lithium polymer batteries may provide longer individual flights, other batteries like nickel metal hydride would be a better purchase for the long-term.
In addition to the specific type of battery, different types of drones will also affect the battery life, or how long you can fly on one full charge. Most drones average a 20-minute flight time on one charge. The weight of the aircraft, its computer systems, camera usage, and a number of other factors will take a lot of power to operate. That being said, to get the longest battery life with your drone, it’s best to find a lightweight UAV that can carry an additional battery pack, which can extend a 20-minute flight to 30 or maybe 40 minutes.
It’s imperative that your fishing drone also has a large capacity for a payload. Depending on what type of fish you’re going after, you may want to prioritize the drone’s payload over other characteristics. Drones that are designed for heavy loads can lift between one and five kilograms, some of them can actually carry eighteen kilograms. While the latter is an impressive haul, it’s important to remember that the higher the payload, the more power your drone will use. Even drones that are designed for heavy lifting will have shorter battery lives if you weigh it down with its maximum capacity.
The payload of your drone should also depend on your specific fishing technique and how the drone plays into fishing. For instance, if you simply use the drone to scope out your fishing area, the payload isn’t an important factor to consider since you won’t be using it to carry anything. If you use the drone to carry your bait out to sea and drop it in a designated spot, the camera and release mechanism are probably more important to consider since your main challenge will be accuracy of dropping your bait. Your drone should also be able to carry your bait, but this isn’t usually a heavy item.
However, if you’re using the drone as a sort of leverage against the fish as it bites, you’ll want to take its payload into greater consideration. Most large drones should be able to withstand resistance from a small fish, such as a herring or sardines, but if you’re fishing for something more massive, like salmon or some tuna, you’ll want a drone with a greater payload capacity. You might not need a full eighteen kilograms, but somewhere around ten kilograms for your drone to carry would be a safe and useful maximum payload.
Our Picks for the Best Fishing Drones
Drone fishing is a great extension of a classic outdoors hobby, but it does require a larger investment of time and money to do it well. However, if you’re passionate about fishing and the technology, it’s definitely the sport for you. When picking out a drone, it’s important to analyze your specific needs for fishing. Will you be using the drone for scouting, carrying your bait offshore, hauling in a fish, or some combination? Do you plan on flying the drone beyond your line of sight? How long will you spend fishing with the drone in one trip? All of these questions are ones to consider when shopping for a drone so that you can make a smart purchase and make the most out of your drone fishing experience.