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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post as we discuss how to surf fish with a drone. Now when most of us think of surf fishing we tend to look at casting into the water in a gutter etc. to catch fish that are either swimming along the shoreline or just outside the wave break.
There are times however when we might just want to get that bait (we generally don’t use lures here) just that little further out into the water past where we can possibly cast to. This can be for any number of reasons including:
- Reaching a reef that is a little further off shore.
- Chasing larger species that don’t come as close to the water’s edge.
- We can see surface fish feeding on the water (we call these ‘bust ups’).
- The water in close to the beach is dirty or brown after rain (hence we want to get out into the blue water where the fish retreat to).
- Getting baits to water where the beach is inaccessible (over cliffs etc.).
Now, there are of course a number of ways to get a bit out there such as in a boat or on a kayak. However, another method that has become more popular in recent times to take your bait out there with a drone. So with that in mind, let’s check out the things we need to consider as we get ourselves into a little drone fishing…
What do we need?
I guess this goes without saying but to drone fish, you are going to need a drone and accessories. Let’s check it all out…
Drone and controller
There are many drones on the market to choose from of varying cost, features, and benefits. Surf fishing with a drone requires the transporting of tackle, baits or lures a good distance from the shoreline and as we know, beach environments can be quite windy meaning they will need to handle these conditions and have good payload capacity.
Most drones require a phone/tablet running an App in conjunction with the controller for flight. There are a few drones that will operate with an independent controller without an App, so choose a drone that best suits personal needs.
Battery life of a drone depends on many factors including drone type, payload, camera usage and weather conditions. Utilizing a single battery could lead to a short day of drone casting into the surf so battery life is an important factor here.
Once the bait is flown out some distance from shore, it then requires to be dropped from the drone into the water. There are dedicated fishing drones available with remote drop built in however many provide these as an addon. Some payload releases work on tension to where an overpull (ie. you pull on the line once the drone reaches the drop point) will release the bait from the drone. Others have a remote release where pressing the right button will drop the bait.
Rod and Reel
Of course if you are going to fish you will need a rod and reel. However, the thing to be aware of here is that if you are fishing with a drone, then you may find that your traditional surf fishing combo is unsuitable. This can be for a number of reasons including:
- You need more line to be spooled to account for the distance that the line is taken out.
- You are catching bigger fish than you normally would on the beach.
If this is the case, you may need to look at a setup more suited to deep sea fishing than the surf as these can hold more line and handle bigger catches.
The list above highlights the minimum needs for drone fishing in the surf. There are however some other considerations including:
- Mini screw driver: Miniature screw drivers are handy to have around as they will be used to adjust the payload tension settings as different tackles and baits are drone cast out into the surf.
- Spare propellers: There are a few ways in which the drone’s propellers can become damaged and/or warped. Spare propellers are inexpensive, and many drones will come with a couple spares as part of a package deal. Good propellers are critical for balanced flight, especially when carrying the payloads involved with drone casting.
- Signal boosters: Signal boosters are not all that necessary for drone casting as most drones have more than adequate distance range for flying out baits or lures from shore. However, if you need to go that little bit further, then these might help.
- Carrying case/backpack: A fishing drone and all accessories can add up to be a lot of equipment. However, it can all fit in special carrying cases or backpacks. These are very convenient especially when fishing gear needs to be transported on foot some distance from a designated parking area.
Ethics and Legalities
One thing that did pop up in my research was quite a bit of debate around the ethics of using a drone for fishing with (of course) there being two strong sides to the argument.
- Those against them feel that they are taking the fun and challenge out of fishing where you use your ‘nouse’ to find a good location and work it to angle a good fish. Drones take that away and are allowing you to put baits and lures in places where fish would normally be safe and able to restock.
- Those for the use of drones tend to believe that, like many other things in life, you are using technology to your advantage and that you still have to land your catch even if you are putting the bait “down its throat” so to speak.
Regardless of where your belief lies in regards to drones and fishing, their use is something that can be effected by legalities and regulations within the area that you are working them in. These can include:
- Drones cannot be flown around government buildings.
- Restrictions are usually in place around airports and airfields (which often back onto beaches).
- Drones cannot be flown above where people congregate (again, which often happens on beaches).
- Strict privacy regulations are in place in many places to do with drone cameras.
- Drones may not be flown outside of line of sight or above certain height limits
It should also be noted that the purchase pages for some drones state that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration requires registration above certain sizes to fly in the U.S.
What to look when selecting a drone
We have discussed some of this above however like everything when it comes to fishing there are some fairly decent variations to consider when it comes to drones. Let’s run through them below…
As with cameras on any device, the better the quality, the better the picture you will see. Drone cameras are designated in the same fashion as their general use cousins as well in terms of specifications such as 4K, 60 frames per second (FPS) or even the old megapixel rating. Also look for zoom and distance capabilities as well if you really want to pinpoint where the fish are.
When it comes to camera mounting, the more movement capability you have the better. Some will move up and down allowing you to see in front or below whilst others are mounted onto a Gimbal which allows the camera to rotate in all directions – great if you want that cinematic experience.
Flying time/battery life
We discussed the need for batteries above so this probably goes without saying, but the flying time for a drone is usually determined by its battery life. This is usually measured by a ‘flying time’ description of anywhere from 20 minutes up to an hour or so. When you are checking this out there are also some other aspects to keep in mind such as:
- Again, this is probably obvious but if you will be dragging heavy sinkers out to sea with it, then battery life will be reduced.
- Some drones only allow themselves to fly up to around 80 – 90% of battery life which gives them time to return to their starting point (see below) once they sense that the battery is running out of charge.
Most batteries are Lithium (same as a cell phone) and are charged via a USB power cable.
This is how far the drone can fly from the controller. This is obviously something to keep in mind as you are going to be flying over water and some of the cheaper models will simply try and land once they exceed their range length (this can happen a lot easier if you are in a boat too).
The more expensive models however will either just hover in place or return to their start point if they find themselves out of range (again, not good if you are on a boat).
That said, most drones that I have seen have a flying range of about a kilometre (just over a half mile) which for fishing should really be enough.
This is another area that probably doesn’t need explanation however just to be sure, check the payload capacity of the drone (usually measured in pounds or kilograms). In the base fishing models these are usually high however enough to carry most rigs and line weights.
That said, even at the high end of their payload capacity, drones can use battery quite quickly and are more susceptible to conditions such as wind and spray. Oh, and their release remotes often sadly have a much smaller range than what the drone can fly too.
GPS and return home
This is a great feature and one that I would look for in a drone if I can afford it. GPS and return home means that the drone will automatically return to its initial base (which you set) if the battery is running low or it looses controller connection.
GPS capabilities also allow for auto flight to preset areas (similar to a fish finder) as well.
Note: The Return to Home feature generally takes the drone back to its initial take off point and NOT where the controller currently is – something to keep in mind if you are moving around on the beach.
Now, there are not many that have this but some drones are waterproof – which is great as in most cases when fishing you will be flying over water. Some others however are water resistant, meaning they will handle a little spray but not a swim.
Anything that is rated against conditions such as salt water/air is well worth a look here.
How to cast your line with a Drone
Ok, so now that you have all that sorted, let’s see if you can get your line into the water. Here are the steps below:
- Place your desired fishing rod in a rod holder with the drone on the ground nearby.
- Bait the hook.
- Open the reel bail (for a spinning reel) or flick the release switch (baitcaster or overhead).
- Take the baited tackle over to the drone and snap the fishing line (just above the tackle) into the payload system.
- Perform a tension check on the payload holder and adjust accordingly.
- Set GPS home point on the drone if not already done so (if available on drone).
- Power up the drone and fly to desired fishing location.
- When ready to drop the payload, close the bail or flick the release switch on the reel and fly the drone forward. The force of the drone moving forward while the line is fixed provides the tension over pull required to drop the payload from the release.
- After the payload is released, hit the “Return to Home” feature and the drone should automatically return to its point of takeoff
- Catch fish
Now, that is a fairly straight forward set of instructions and the use of drones does take some getting used to so if your drone is new, or you don’t have a lot of experience, then a few practice runs is recommended.
Fishing after bait drop
The other thing to consider here is that once the payload is released, you can potentially have a lot of line out in the water. This means:
- Your line is not as sensitive to bites etc.
- There is a lot more line that can be tangled in rocks and other snags.
- You are a lot more susceptible to currents etc.
- You cannot get to your tackle quickly if need be.
- If you are using a lure – it is really hard to retrieve quickly if your target species requires it.
Based on that, I highly recommend using a bait that will not easily fall off the hook (such as fish fillets with the skin on) and a line strength high enough to hold a heavy catch for an extended period of time.
And there it is – my guide on how to surf fish with a drone. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with them.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time