What is Drone Fishing?
Drone fishing is unique and in a lot of ways but very similar to balloon and kite fishing. With these fishing styles they all utilise a rig and bait delivery method rather than a casting action. Each of these fishing styles enables the delivery of the rig and bait out to distances of up to 500 metres. At these distances the angler can target much deeper water and larger fish, but as appealing as this is to many – it in turn creates a whole new set of challenges. The results from using a drone can dramatically increase the species you catch and the quantity and is way cheaper than buying and maintaining a boat.
A bit of History
Well to be honest the history of drone fishing is relatively short as really drone fishing is the future of fishing rather than the past… but the discovery of drone fishing seems to date back to a mere September 2015 when Derek Klingenberg caught a snack sized fish using his DJI Phantom. Although according to Popular Mechanics David Darg was the first person recorded catching a fish with a drone in 2013.
Going by the You Tube Account Name of “Farmer Derek Klingenberg” it seems that Derek is the first fisherman to record the success of fishing with a drone. His video has had 2,392,050 views!!! He actually snagged a fish with a line and hook tied to his drone and not a rod and reel. Farmer Derek said that he used a fake worm as bait, and it took around 10 minutes to land his fish. Using a line and hook attached to his drone, he then pulled the fish out of the water and Farmer Derek looks elated in his video at his catch.
Since then drone fishing has rapidly evolved with the production of waterproof drones specifically designed and built for fishing such as the Cuta-Copter EX1. For non-waterproof drones such as the DJI MAVIC and Phantom drones you can now buy high quality bait release clips such as the SkyClip and quality-built Drone Rods such as OANNES Drone Master Series.
How much to start drone fishing?
Drone Fishing does cost a little bit to get started, but the amount you spend is dependent upon how much you want to spend. A second hand DJI Phantom or DJI Mavic drone and a bait release clip like a SkyClip can cost anywhere between $300-$500.00. A purpose-built waterproof fishing drone like a Poseidon Pro or the Cuta-Copter EX1 can set you back anywhere from $1690.00 up to – $2800.00.
What Drones can be used?
When drone fishing started approximately 4 years ago many people started using the DJI Phantom drone and improvising crude bait release mechanisms for it – at this time the DJI Phantom was quite an expensive quadcopter to buy. With the rapid growth of drone fishing in South Africa and Australia, many new waterproof fishing drones were developed with Cuta-Copter being at the forefront of development. DJI Phantom and Mavic have also proved to be extremely stable platforms but lack the carrying capacity and waterproof specifications.
The most common non waterproof drones are:
DJI Phantom and DJI Mavic
When purchasing a non-waterproof drone such as the DJI Phantom and DJI Mavic you will also have to purchase a bait release mechanism. You then need to decide whether an electronic or mechanical version suits you best.
The most common waterproof fishing drones include:
Choosing the right drone for you
When choosing a drone many factors come into play such as what will it be used for predominately? Are you going to use it for Fishing only? Do you want to use it for taking high definition pictures and video? Or are you after something that does a bit of both? Each fishing drone has its own set of specifications and features which needs to be taken into consideration when comparing the price. The amount you spend and the amount it can cost you ultimately depends on how much you want to spend.
Drone Fishing Bait release mechanisms
One of the most important facets of Drone Fishing to consider is the bait release mechanism and they are divided into 3 distinct variations – Electronic, Mechanical and Hybrid Electronic and Mechanical – Lets have a look at each one.
Electronic Bait Release
Electronic bait release modules can be used on non-waterproof drones such as DJI Phantom and DJI Mavic – usually they are attached to the drone via zip ties or O Rings. They have an actuator that opens and closes, and the switch is usually activated using a light sensor. The light sensor is fitted to the drone’s light, and the light can be turned off and on via a switch on the remote control. Most dedicated waterproof fishing drones come with an electronic bait release.
Caution: Great care must be taken when using an electronic bait release as any reel bind, line snag, or bird life can easily bring your drone crashing down. Electronic bait release modules also require power and charging.
Mechanical Bait Release
Mechanical or Tension releases are by far the safest option to use, as any reel bind, line snag or mishap the line will automatically release preventing your drone from crashing. There are a couple of options available – Adjustable and Pre-set tension. Adjustable tension release clips can cause the same issues as electronic release clips if they are over tensioned or if different drop loop diameter lines are used without readjusting the tension. Always use a standard diameter line when using an adjustable tension release and this will provide an extremely safer option over electronic bait releases.
Hybrid Bait Release
Hybrid versions are great but can be expensive and are much heavier than standard tension release clips, which can reduce the load carrying capacity and also reduce battery life.
Choosing the Fishing Rod for Drone Fishing
Traditional surf rods can be used for drone fishing – but they are not ideally suited to this style of fishing. Essentially, surf rods are designed with a cast action and are usually between 12-14-foot-long to maximise casting distance and to also keep the line out from the shore break. Surf rods are not designed for long retrievals under load, and are generally limited in line and drag ratings, so they do not cope well with a hook up from large deep-water sea creatures. Offshore boat rods have the strength required to deal with the large retrievals under load and deal well with large monsters of the deep, but lack the height required to keep the line above the shore break.
The ideal rod for drone fishing is a hybrid surf and offshore boat rod such as the OANNES Drone Master Series. Drone Master Series rods have been specifically designed and built to OANNES high quality standards, employing state of the art carbon fibre with X weave blank technology. All OANNES rods are equipped with high end FUJI components specific to the rods design, and the task at hand – To Submit and Conquer!
Ideal attributes of a Drone Fishing rod are.
- Capable of handling large targeted fish of 20– 40lbs, with the strength to deal with the wanted or unwanted by-product monsters of the deep 60-130lbs
- Have the strength and resilience capable of regular large line retrievals of 300-450 metres under load
- Have the adequate height of a surf rod to keep the line above the shore break and without the need for casting action
- Utilise high end guide rings such as alconite and SIC to reduce abrasion and minimise and dissipate heat on large line retrievals
- Use appropriate guide frames such as Fuji K series to reduce line tangle
- Fitted with heavy duty, light weight and corrosion resistant reel seats to cater for matched reels specific to the task – enabling large spool capacities up to 400 – 600 metres and drag ratings up to 20 – 40kg’s
What fishing reels are best suited to drone fishing?
Overhead and spinning reels can be used dependent upon the whether the rod is designed for each type of fishing reel and have drag ratings of between 15-30kg species dependent. Importantly they must have adequate spool capacities of between 450-650 metres minimum – dependent of the type of line used and line diameter.
Overhead reels perfectly suited with adequate line capacities include, Daiwa Seaborg 800MJ and 1200MJ, Shimano Talica TAC50II, Shimano Talica 16 and 25, Shimano Speedmaster 16, 20, Shimano Tyrnos 20 and 30, PENN International INT50VISW and INT70VIS, PENN Fathom FTH40NLD and FTH40NLDHS, Shimano Forcemaster 6000 and 9000 Electric reels, Shimano Beastmaster 9000 Gigamax, and Maxel Rage 90n.
Spinning reels Suitable reels with adequate spool capacities include, Daiwa Saltiga Dogfight 8000DF and 8000DHF, Daiwa Saltiga Expedition 8000H-EXP, Shimano Stella SWC 14000 PG, PENN Slammer III 8500, 8500HS, 9500, 10,500 and PENN Spinfisher VI 9500 and 10,500, Shimano Baitrunner 14000 XTB.
The reel lists above are not exhaustive and there are many other reels that can be used and cater to your budget – so long as the spool capacity can handle your chosen line. Please feel free to comment and let us know what reels you use.
Selecting the line for Drone fishing
Drone fishing requires line that has a very small diameter ‘PE’ with high breaking strains to enable a greater quantity of line to be spooled to the reel. The smaller diameter line also reduces wind drag and when you consider the amount of line the average drone drop requires – a lower PE line it makes a massive difference.
PE Confusion and what it is exactly
PE is an acronym for Polyethylene and is a Japanese measurement/numbering system of line diameter ‘Area’, also known as ‘gouw’ and was originally used as a measurement for silk thread. As such, this is what has caused so much confusion as it is the measurement of diameter and not the breaking strain. PE ratings vary between manufacturers due to the different technologies employed, materials used, and the number of braid strands utilized.
One manufacturer may advertise a PE rating of 4 and note a break strain of 65lbs when another manufacturer may have a break strain 40 – 50lbs.
If you are using braid for drone fishing, look for one that has a low PE with matched break strain ratings relevant to the rod used. Drone fishing requires large line capacities of ideally 450-650 metres, so the smaller the diameter ‘PE’, will enable more line to be spooled on your reel.
Another important factor to consider when choosing a braid is its abrasion resistance and quality. The braid should be silky smooth to limit reel bind and reduce heat on retrievals over large distances and always use a fluorocarbon or Mono shock leader
Mono or Fluorocarbon
Mono can be used effectively, is cheaper than braid and fluorocarbon, but by far the better option is to use a fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon has several advantages over mono such as, higher abrasion resistance and is less visible than mono. Another important factor is fluorocarbons generally have a thinner diameter than mono with the same break strain ratings – enabling larger spool capacity.
Improving Yield Potential
In the past the traditional ways to fish have been limited to casting from shore or using a boat and some people even used kites and balloons – wind direction dependent. The traditional surf fisherman also relied on the skill to read the surf to determine where the gutters and holes are to increase yield. The boatie has had the luxury of fish finders to improve their chances in deeper waters locating structure, but the cost of the boat, fuel and maintenance is expensive. Drone fishing improves yield dramatically enabling the shore-based fisherman access to much deeper productive waters at a fraction of the cost of owning a boat. Most drones have cameras that can enable the drone fisherman to spot fish, bait balls, bottom structure and reefs- dramatically improving their chances.
TIP: The cunning drone fisherman use apps like Navionics which shows the depth of water, ocean floor structure and reef. The drone fisherman using an app like Navionics can dramatically increase the yield by as much as 50% and the annual fee is less than $40.00.
How to Setup a Drone Fishing Rig
One of the most important factors to understand is the Pendulum effect. Pendulum effect is created when a weight is suspended from a pivot point and the weight begins momentum. When a line is attached to a drone with the weight closer to the drone, it will create a greater Pendulum effect, resulting in the drone becoming highly unstable with the potential of line tangling around the drone – resulting in a catastrophic crash. Always ensure the weight is a minimum of 3.5 to 6 metres below the pivot point of the drone. The Cuta-Copter EX1 features an anti pendulum effect safety feature and enables shorter rigs to be used.
The Basic Drone Fishing Rig
A basic drone fishing rig is ideally 4.5 – 6 metres long and a simple rig comprises of the following starting at the main line and working down.
- 3-way swivel to main line and a 1 metre drop loop attached to the side of the 3-way swivel – (Used to attach to the bait release on the drone)
- 1.5 metre Fluro carbon joining the 3-way swivel to another 3-way swivel at the end
- From the 3 way swivel your hooks can be connected and the hook setup is determined by the fish species being targeted with a maximum length of 30cm.
- From the bottom of the 3-way swivel attach another 1.5 metres of lighter gauge Fluorocarbon or mono to the sinker – the sinkers you use are determined by a combination of factors including floor structure, current and wind.
This basic rig can be increased in length to include a second hook setup and the length can also be extended to suit the water column you are fishing.
TIP: Simple party balloons can also be used to lift the bait higher into the water column – we find the balloon inflated to the size of a tennis sized ball works best.
Preparing for a Bait Drop
Practice reduces costly mistakes
Many people who start drone fishing but have never flown a drone before, think they can just attach a bait and out she goes – this usually does not end well. If you are starting out always practice flying the drone first and feel comfortable before even attempting to hook baits and drop over water. Where possible buy a cheaper drone for a $100 and master that first, and then transition to a more expensive drone. The amount of time you practice flying, and how disciplined your routine is will greatly ensure your success and dramatically reduce risk. Using a Pre-flight checklist will also greatly assist you – like the one at the end of this article.
Always keep a spare set of propellers and always inspect the propellers pre-flight. Replace any propeller if there is any damage noted – regardless of how minimal the damage is. A propeller is far cheaper to replace than a drone.
Spare batteries are also important if you intend to start drone fishing. Most listed drone flying times are based on perfect conditions with no wind, hover mode and no additional weight – add the weight of the line, rig and bait along with wind conditions and the battery flight times dramatically reduce.
Caution – Always Pay Attention to the drone and remote battery level indicators. Drones such as Cuta-Copter EX1 have a verbal warning when the battery discharges to a certain level.
Warning – Always monitor the drones height, this is as important as the battery levels and maintain a minimum height of 20-25 meters.
Note: Never over discharge lithium batteries as this will dramatically reduce the battery life’s expectancy and if for any reason your battery swells discard it immediately.
It is very important to ensure you are legally allowed to fly your drone at the location and you obey the drone rules in your particular country. For Australia a very good app ‘Open Sky’ can be downloaded from https://www.casa.gov.au/drones/safety-apps
Also ensure you read the drone safety rules and complete the quiz https://www.casa.gov.au/drones/rules/drone-safety-rules
Check the weather conditions
Ensure the wind speed and gusts do not exceed the wind rating of your drone – The higher the wind and wind direction will dramatically reduce the battery life – in addition the heavier the rig and bait will also reduce the drones battery life – Keep your eye on the drone and remote battery level indicators.
How to Drop Baits
Hooking the rig to the bait release mechanism
We always use a line attached to the top swivel with a simple loop tied at the end – this loop is used to connect the rig to the bait release. It is important to note that when you are using tension release clips the line diameter can dramatically change the tension setting.
Important: Always use the same diameter line for your drop loops
Caution: Never exceed the drones carrying capacity – for safety never exceed 80% of the manufacturers stated lift rating.
Once the drop loop is attached to the drone’s bait release mechanism, we lay the rig out and ensure that enough line is released from the reel to the drone. If you are using a spinning reel have someone release/open the reel bail, or if an overhead reel is used lever the drag down. An advantage of using overhead reels is the ratchet – the clicking noise can aid the drone pilot as an additional sensory aid to warn of reel bind or line snag. Using the ratchet in this way will increase wear and tear but it is extremely helpful. Using a high quality reel lubricant like REELX can greatly reduce friction and wear.
Have someone hold the line to the drone down to keep clear of the propellers and slowly take the drone upwards to a height of 20 metres and ensure the drone is behaving normally – gently take the drone out and increase the speed – ‘Not maximum speed’ whilst the pilot or second person watches the reel and line spooling out in case of a reel bind or jam. Communication between the drone pilot and the person assisting is paramount – Use simple words like – Ready for launch, Bait released, Reel Jam etc
Releasing the bait
The methods for deploying the bait depend on whether you are using an electronic or mechanical/tension release clip.
Always be gentle when you take off and move forward and build up speed gradually. All drones will reduce height when moving forward with weight attached so compensate for this and watch your drones height.
When using an electronic bait release and you are approaching the drop zone, gently bring the drone to a hover and activate the release by selecting the appropriate button or toggle switch – use the drones camera to ensure successful deployment and then select the return to home mode which will bring your drone back safely.
Warning: When flying your drone always use gentle/fluid movements – Never stop the drone suddenly or use jerky movements as this can increase the pendulum effect.
When using a mechanical tension release be very gentle when you take off and build up speed gradually. All drones will reduce height when moving forward with weight attached so compensate for this and watch your drones height. Maintain a medium to high speed – Not top speed and never slow the drone down.
Once you have reached your drop zone simply close the reel bail and the sudden force will release the bait. Set the drones return to home function.
Caution: Never return the drone with the line attached or try to go backwards. If due to emergency always release the bait and abort the run – drone preservation is the utmost importance.
Adjusting Line tension
As soon as the drone has dropped the bait successfully use the return to home function and quickly reel in the excess line and try to keep the line out of the breakers. Set the line tension so the sinker anchors and keeps the line above the shore break.
When the drone returns and lands safely, turn the drone off first and then the remote. Pat yourself on the back – Job Done – Drone is safe – Baits out – Get Fishing!
Prior to flight
⃝ Check you are legally allowed to fly at the chosen location and ensure you conform to the relevant drone laws of your country and state
⃝ Check the weather conditions – Ensure wind speeds do not exceed the drone’s parameters
⃝ Ensure the Drones APP is up to date
⃝ Check the propellers are in good condition – are not chipped or cracked etc.
⃝ Calibrate The drones compass as per directions – Always re-calibrate the drone if you have moved locations.
Start up and Take off
⃝ Ensure successful pairing of the App to the drone
⃝ Check the drone battery level indicator and remote controller battery levels
⃝ Check the GPS signal and make sure that enough satellites have been located
⃝ Engage and start the drone motors
⃝ Hover the drone at no more than 10 metres for 10 seconds to ensure the drone is behaving normally and responding correctly – if not, land the drone and re- calibrate the drone’s compass
After flight checks and maintenance
⃝ Even if you did not land the quadcopter in water, salty air and spray can cause corrosive actions. Where possible, clean the drone directly after use or within 2 hours.
⃝ Remove the Quadcopter battery and place it in fire- proof pouch or container and store in a cool environment.
⃝ Carefully inspect all propellers, if a propeller is damaged (Even slightly damaged) – replace the propeller immediately. Do not attempt to fly the aircraft with a damaged propeller as this can cause the aircrafts stability to deteriorate or become unmanageable, resulting in the potential loss of the drone and/or causing personal injury.