What Is Drone Fishing? And How Do You Do It?

Fishing is an industry that’s traditionally slow in embracing new innovations. However, when something proves to be effective in landing fish, anglers begin to pay attention. The development of drones …

Fishing is an industry that’s traditionally slow in embracing new innovations. However, when something proves to be effective in landing fish, anglers begin to pay attention. The development of drones and their implementation into fishing has caused some controversy, but their effectiveness is no secret. They help land fish.

What Is Drone Fishing?

Drone Fishing Pic Courtesy of Facebook
Drone fishing involves locating fish and dropping bait using either aerial or underwater drones.

Drone fishing is fairly simple, in theory. A drone is not used to hook and reel in a fish. A drone is used to locate fish and drop the bait into the proper location. There are a variety of different types of drones that can be used in different situations. Different rules and regulations are in place for drone fishing depending on where in the world you’re hoping to do it.

Some anglers choose to use underwater drones, while most use aerial drones. Underwater drone fishing is generally more heavily regulated than aerial drone fishing.

How Does Fishing With a Drone Work?

Drone fishing often begins with a search mission by the angler and the drone. Anglers will fly the drone out over the water in search of ideal holding areas, bait pods, and even schooling fish. Once those have been located, anglers hook the line and bait up to the drone, fly it out over the desired area, and release it. Many drones are able to fly upwards of 500 to 1000 meters out into the water, so it can be a large advantage.

Once you’ve dropped your bait, traditional fishing takes place. You wait for fish to take your bait and land them. Whether you’re drone surf fishing or in a different situation, it’s a simple and entertaining way to land fish.

Good Locations and Situations for Drone Fishing

Drone Fishing Pic Courtesy of Facebook 3
Drones are useful for catching fish in surf fishing and unfamiliar bodies of water.

One of the best locations to catch fish with a drone is when you’re surf fishing. Often, the break can be challenging to clear with the bait, and the fish may beyond it. If the fish are beyond it, casting far enough is almost impossible, or you have to use a kayak or similar watercraft to deliver the bait where you would like. Using a drone to fly your bait over the break and out into the areas where the fish are holding gives you a phenomenal chance to land fish.

Another good place to use a drone is in unfamiliar bodies of water. If you’re fishing a new body of water and have no idea where fish may be holding, a drone can give you an up-to-date idea of the layout of where you’re fishing. Whether you’re using an underwater drone or an aerial drone, you’ll learn a new body of water far faster than you would if you were exploring it yourself.

One of the final situations you should use a drone is if you’re fishing after a winter or heavy storm. Throughout the winter, after snow melt and heavy storms, bodies of water change. Whether it’s new sandbars, different types of cover, or eroded shorelines, it can be difficult to understand what happened throughout the winter months without getting into or above the water. Drones can give you a chance to see how things have changed over the few months.

Drone Fishing Rig: How to Rig a Drone for Fishing

Depending on where and how you’re fishing, you’ll use different types of drone fishing rigs, but the following is one of the more common rigs for surf fishing.

When you’re choosing the line for your rig, you want to make sure it has a small diameter and high breaking strains; braid is a good option. This allows you to spool quite a bit of line on your reel, so you can have the drone bring it as far out as you need.

You’ll also need a bait-dropping device which we’ll get into more a bit later.

Once you have your line and bait-dropping device chosen, you can begin to set up the rig. To start, you’ll want to tie a drop loop. Essentially, this is a loop on the bait-dropping device that connects your main line to your drone. To tie the drop loop, you’ll form a loop exactly where you would want it. You’ll pass the line from one side of the loop through and around that side. You’ll wrap the line 5+ times and keep the new loop that’s formed open.

You’ll then push the bottom of the original loop through the new opening and hold it with your teeth. Once you’ve done this, you’ll pull the ends of the line evenly until the coil tightens and a loop is in place.

After this initial loop is tied, you’ll want to tie another loop that’s 8-12 yards from the initial loop. This second loop prevents the bait from becoming a pendulum that causes the drone to crash.

Once the second loop is tied, you would run your bait line (the line from your fishing reel) through it. When you have your bait over the desired location, open the release device, and it’ll fall directly in place.

Types of Release Devices 

There are a variety of different release devices that anglers can use. The easiest option is to purchase a mechanism created specifically for drone fishing, but there are homemade options that can work as well.

Third-Party Mechanism

Third-party mechanisms are tools that you attach to the drone. When you’re ready to release the bait, you apply tension to your fishing reel. The tension that’s applied to the fishing reel is what causes the third-party mechanism to release your line.

These are fairly basic mechanisms that are put on a tension spring. You’ll hook it to the bottom of your drone so it doesn’t throw off the weight and cause it to fly in an unnatural way.

Improvised Tension Release Mechanism 

If you’re handy and a bit creative, you can create an improvised tension release mechanism. Some of these are done with a clothesline or a clasp. You run your line through the clasp, and when it’s in the desired location, you’ll rotate your drone in a half circle to get it to release the line and let it fall into the water.

Third-Party Remote Release 

If you’re willing to spend the money, companies sell remote control release mechanisms. You run your line through the mechanism, and when you’re ready to drop it, you’ll hit the release button on the remote, and it’ll immediately drop. As long as the batteries of the remote and mechanism are charged, you shouldn’t have any troubles with the remote release.

Features to Look for When Fishing With Drones

Drone Fishing Pic Courtesy of Facebook 2
When purchasing a fishing drone, there are a few things to consider to meet your fishing needs.

When you’re looking to purchase a drone specifically for fishing, you want to consider a few things. Drones are sophisticated and often expensive machines, so make sure whatever you choose meets the needs of your fishing excursions.


Whatever drone you get, make sure the camera is at least 1080p or 4k. The better the camera, the more you’re going to learn about the body of water you’re fishing. You want to fly at least 15 yards above the water, so if your camera isn’t high enough quality, you won’t be able to locate bait pods, hiding areas, and extra cover. A good fishing drone is going to assist you in catching fish at a higher rate than normal.

Battery Life

Another important factor to consider when purchasing a drone is the battery life. If you spend an entire day on the water, odds are, you’re going to be making quite a few trips back and forth with your drone. Most decent drones have around 30 to 40 minutes of flying life. It doesn’t help to purchase an extra battery for your trips.


Odds are, you’re going to crash your drone into the water at some point when you’re fishing. Waterproof drones give you the peace of mind that you can make mistakes! The best fishing drone is one that is waterproof and able to withstand a bit of a beating.

Carrying Capacity

If you’re flying with heavy bait as well as a line and a sinker, you can ask your drone to do a lot. Make sure your drone has a 5-10 pound carrying capacity. This is going to allow you to get your line far out into the water and not have to worry about draining battery life at a faster rate.

Connectivity Range

Most mid-level drones have a connectivity range of anywhere from 500 yards to around 1.5 miles. This should be plenty for your drone fishing expeditions. Make sure you’re careful with how far you fly your drone when dropping the bait.

Drone Fishing Rules and Regulations

Drone fishing regulations generally change depending on where you’re fishing. Generally, you’re not allowed to fly drones near or in federally owned lands. Whether it’s a federal building or a national park, drones aren’t legal in these areas. Also, if you’re in a heavily populated area, drones aren’t allowed on private property.

Some other common rules are drones cannot fly over 400 feet in the air, and you can’t fly commercial-sized drones, so they must weigh less than 55 pounds.

When you’re heading to a body of water, make sure you look at access points for signs that say no drones allowed. Generally, they’re clearly marked and easy to find. When in doubt, speak with the local game and fish department or other law enforcement to determine if drone fishing is legal.

Ethics of Drone Fishing

Drone Fishing picture courtesy of Facebook
As long as anglers show respect and consideration for others and the fish, both traditional and drone fishing can coexist.

Some anglers have a hard time with the ethical aspect of drone fishing. Some would argue that it takes away from the “sport” of it all. While some anglers would kayak their bait out past the break, others are flying their drones. While some are scouting the new body of water from their boat, others are flying over it with a drone to learn it.

Drones can definitely make the life of an angler far easier. You can accomplish tasks faster than you otherwise would. If you’re a traditional angler who wants to do it “the old-fashioned way,” that’s definitely still an option. For the anglers who want to use drones, make sure you’re respectful of other anglers and stay out of their way. Don’t fly the drone too close to the water and scare the fish. Don’t get too close to other anglers as they’re fishing.

Anglers on both sides can both fish in peace as long as common courtesy is considered.

Drone Fishing Questions

Are There Special Fishing Drones?

While there are a few special fishing drones, there are plenty of drones that are waterproof and able to withstand all of the conditions you would face when fishing.

For example, the Splashdrone 4 is a waterproof drone that can fly for 30 minutes and has a carrying capacity of around six pounds.

The Fisherman FD1 is a drone specifically made for fishing. It comes with a bait release system as well as a 30-minute flight time and around a 5-pound carrying capacity. This drone doesn’t have a camera, however, so keep that in mind.

Finally, the DJI Air 2S is a high-quality drone that has a great camera, can fly for 34 minutes, and is great in strong winds, but it isn’t waterproof, so keep that in mind.

How Much Should a Drone Cost?

On average, you’ll pay between $400 and $1000 for your fishing drone. You can easily spend far more than $100 if it’s in your budget, but you can find a decent drone for around $600 or $700 that can fulfill most of your needs.

Can You Drone Fish Anywhere?

Besides federally owned property and other specifically marked areas, you can fish with a drone. Most access points will be clear about whether or not drones are legal.

How Risky Is Drone Fishing?

Drone fishing isn’t overly risky if you are comfortable flying your drone. It’s best to spend time practicing flying your drone with your bait on land before you hit the water. Getting used to the extra movement is necessary. Once the line is attached, the flying process is far different.


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Danny Mooers is a passionate fly fishing and angling writer from Arizona. Danny loves sharing his passion for fly fishing for trout and other species through his work for Tackle Village.
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