Is Drone Fishing Legal in United States? [Updated for 2021]

People are using drones for all sorts of activities these days, but one thing that has been on my mind lately is whether or not it is legal to fish using a drone instead of a fishing rod? Well, here is what I found!

According to the IGFA (International Fish and Game Association), it is perfectly legal to fish with a drone in the United States only if the line detaches from the drone once a fish is hooked. However, it’s illegal to hook and pull a fish out of the water using a drone.

Keep reading to learn about the various drone fishing methods as well as the legalities surrounding them.

4 Top Drone Fishing Methods & The Legalities Surrounding Them

Drones are being used in many ways to help fishermen. From being able to locate fish to actually hooking them, drones make life a whole lot easier! Here are some of the methods used in order to fish with drones:

01. Reconnaissance

Drones are essentially flying cameras that record and send a live feed to a controller. This is really useful when hunting and fishing as the pilot can now have an aerial view of the location and find fish that like to group up in different areas.

As long as you stay within drone rules and regulations, you will not be disturbed from exploring an area fully until you know it like the back of your hand, as well as knowing where the fish are grouping up.


At this current time, fishing using the drone reconnaissance method to find fish in fisheries and the ocean has been completely legalized!

As long as you stay within drone regulations within that state you should be free to explore as much as you like!

02. Drone Casting

Tuna fishing using the casting method with a Phantom drone.

Many people find it hard to cast a line more than 50 feet away from where they are standing. Drone Casting is actually the main thing people use drones for while fishing. With this method, your reach is expanding by a considerable amount, and you are only limited by the range of the drone and the length of your line.

This method requires you to attach your line to the drone while hanging bait from that same line. When you have reached a spot in the ocean or lake that you want to drop the line, you then twist the drone which removes the line and drops the bait in the water, and finally, you can wait to reel in the catch of the day!

A lot of fishermen have trouble accepting this form of fishing as they feel that it makes it too easy. The majority of the time spent fishing is casting your line and then waiting for the fish to come to you, which makes it a lot sweeter and more rewarding when you actually catch something!

This method allows for the pilot to drop the line, with the bait attached, exactly where the fish are. This takes the waiting period away from the hobby and thus making it a lot easier.


Drone reconnaissance and drone casting are essentially the same things so it’s perfectly legal in the United States. The only difference is the fact that drone casting has the added extra of dropping the fishing line where fish are located.

03. Drone Casting and Pulling

YouTuber caught a bass using this method. All he used was a baited fishing line, and a drone.

Drone casting and pulling is basically the same thing as drone casting with one added twist. This involves taking your drone out to sea and lowering the bait while still attached to the drone. When you get a fish caught on the hook all you do is start pulling the fish straight to you!

A lot of people are against this because essentially you are getting rid of the waiting period and casting the line exactly where the fish are, but not only that, you are now also removing the added effort of reeling in your catch and now letting the drone do all the work.

I will have to admit that even I have trouble thinking about people using this method. This begs the question, “Is this really fishing?”

What you will need to know about this method is that it will require for you to have a larger, more powerful drone. Even with my limited knowledge of fishing, I tend to remember that they do fight back. Using a small drone to try to pull the fish towards you will most likely end in you fishing your drone out of the water!


In most states, pulling a fish out of the water with your drone after casting your line is completely illegal. This act is deemed unethical by most states.

04. Underwater Drone Fishing

Underwater drones were originally developed for the Navy to use but like drones, that were originally developed for the Military, they are now available to be used by average citizens like you and me!

These submersible drones can be used to dive into all sorts of environments. Anything from saltwater, freshwater, frozen lakes, etc. They are usually equipped with high-quality submersible cameras or cameras put in special housing like GoPros.

Other things that make these drones seem a bit like overkill is their ability to attach things like sonar, and sensors to make it easier to find that catch of the day.

Despite the high level of controversy surrounding the usage of drones for fishing, I’m sure you are dying to know some of the best drones you can use to spice up your fishing trip! Keep reading to find out.


Underwater drone fishing follows the laws of the other methods in some ways. Underwater drones are still new, so there aren’t many rules and regulations surrounding them.

In most states, it should be fine to fish using an underwater drone. However, pulling the fish with the drone would be illegal in some states, such as California.

Now that you know what you can and cannot do when it comes to drone fishing and its legalities, let’s take a closer look at some of the best drones for fishing!

5 Best Drones For Fishing (Range, Camera, Payload & Reliability)

The first step of drone fishing is finding a drone that will be suitable for you to use to fish with. Drone fishing would require you to carry a line with bait attached to the drone out to sea while fighting stronger than normal winds.

This is why I recommend that if you want to get into drone fishing, that you at least invest in a drone that does not cost anything less than $500.

The reason for this is that a drone that costs below $500 won’t have the lifting capacity to carry heavier bait or larger quantities of bait. As well as the fact that it won’t have the kind of battery life needed for the duration you will spend out fishing.

A good drone has batteries that last around 25 to 30 minutes which will allow it to travel quite a distance, hover for a while, and return while you reel in your new catch.

Here are some drones that I would recommend to use when drone fishing:

Drone Name:Camera Quality:Flight Time:Range:Max Payload:Price:Purchase:
Yuneec Typhoon H4K25 min1 mile3.7 lbs$899VIEW
3DR Solo4K20 min0.5 miles1.5 lbs$650VIEW
Autel X-Star4K25 min1.2 miles3.5 lbs$899VIEW
Phantom 4 Pro V24K30 min4.3 miles3 lbs$1,599VIEW
Matrice 6004K35 min3.1 miles13.2 lbs$5,699VIEW
Table showing the best drones to use while fishing

My #1 Best Fishing Drone Choice: The DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2

This is the drone and its specs from the list above that I would recommend you look at buying if you are considering using a drone for fishing.

This series set the standard in many ways for the way we look at quadcopters. Even though it was discontinued after the release of the Phantom 4, the drone was still available for purchase on Amazon, and people continue to use the Phantom 3 to this day.

Due to high demand, DJI brought the series back with the addition of the Phantom 4 Pro V2 which did not disappoint.

Flight Time: The flight time of 30 minutes will allow you to spend quite some time out on the lake or at sea when drone fishing.

Range: The Phantom has a maximum range of 4.3 miles which is insane to think about! Even with its small size, it can still take your line miles out to allow you to catch fish at a further distance or from the shore if you want.

Price: At a price of $1,599 it isn’t the cheapest drone on the market, but with the specs it has and the DJI quality backing it up you are definitely not going to regret this purchase!

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