is drone fishing legal? A grey drone flying over a water body

Is Drone Fishing Legal? Exploring the Legality of Using Drones for Fishing in Different States and Countries


Drone fishing, an innovative method gaining popularity, utilizes drones to drop bait or lures into the water. While the prospect of acquiring the best drone for fishing may be enticing, it’s essential to navigate potential legal considerations. Like any emerging technology, drone fishing legality is subject to variation based on location. So, is drone fishing legal? The laws and regulations vary by location and therefore, let’s have a look at drone fishing laws in some of the world’s premier fishing destinations.

Is Drone Fishing Legal?

As we’ve discussed, drone fishing’s legality differs from place to place. In some U.S. states and countries, it’s allowed, while in others, there are specific rules to follow. Unfortunately, in some locations, it’s outright illegal. In this article, we’ll break down the rules and regulations for drone fishing in major fishing spots around the world, making it easier for you to understand.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in North Carolina?

No. The use of drones for fishing or hunting in North Carolina is prohibited by law (G.S. 14-401.24), constituting a class 1 misdemeanour.

North Carolina’s Division of Marine Fisheries explicitly prohibits the use of drones or any other unmanned aircraft to aid in fishing activities, including spotting, bait delivery, or disturbing fish for fishing. Violations can result in fines and other penalties.

Anglers in North Carolina need to be aware of and comply with all fishing regulations to ensure the sustainability and conservation of the state’s fisheries.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in South Carolina?

A white fishing drone flying over a water body

In South Carolina, there are no specific laws against using a drone for fishing or hunting; however, it is important to verify the permissibility of drone flights at the intended location.

Drones are allowed in South Carolina for recreational and commercial use, subject to FAA regulations and local flight controls.

While the state does not have laws explicitly prohibiting drone fishing, it is crucial to check with specific locations, such as state or county parks, to ensure that drone flights are permitted.

It’s essential to be aware of and comply with all relevant regulations to ensure safe and responsible drone operation. The FAA has established guidelines for drone pilots to follow, including staying below 400 feet, avoiding flying in restricted airspace, and maintaining a safe distance from people and other aircraft.

In summary, drone fishing is not explicitly prohibited in South Carolina, but it’s important to check with specific locations and comply with all relevant regulations to ensure safe and responsible drone operation.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in Florida?

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According to the International Game Fish Association, in Florida, the use of drones for fishing is permissible as long as the fishing line is attached to the device by either a snap or release device, which should release the line from the drone’s clip once the fish bites.

However, it is important to note that drone operators must register their drones with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) before engaging in drone fishing activities.

 Additionally, it is crucial to comply with Florida’s state and local drone laws related to fishing and to be mindful of specific rules at fishing locations, ensuring that all necessary documents, licenses, and tags are in order.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in California?

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In California, there are currently no specific prohibitions in the Fish and Game Code or California Code of Regulations against using drones, kites, or remote-control boats to transport terminal gear to locations beyond the casting range.

However, it’s important to note that the use of drones in state wilderness areas, natural preserves, and cultural preserves is prohibited, and drone users should always check the designation of the park unit before operating a drone.

Additionally, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has regulations in place to ensure legal and responsible drone operations, including guidelines for launching and landing, maintaining distance from wildlife, and avoiding disturbance to wildlife.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in Virginia?

The answer is No. In Virginia, drone fishing is prohibited under administrative code 4VAC15-20-240, which prohibits the use of drones to hunt, trap, or kill wild animals.

It’s important to note that while there are no specific permits or permissions required for drone fishing in Virginia, the use of drones for fishing is subject to these legal restrictions.

Additionally, the use of drones for reconnaissance and scouting for fishing locations is also regulated by the administrative code.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in Texas?

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In Texas, the use of drones to retrieve hooked fish is not permitted, but they can be used for casting bait, trolling lures, or spotting fish from the air. These regulations are part of federal drone laws that apply to all states, including Texas.

All activities prohibited are: The use of drones for hunting, driving, capturing, taking, counting, or photographing wildlife is unlawful unless permits are issued by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). Activities include pursuing or recovering wildlife in association with recreational or sport hunting, except in the case of feral hogs and coyotes with the proper permits.

Violations of these rules may constitute a Class A misdemeanour and/or violations of the Federal Airborne Hunting Act. The specific offences include counting, photographing, relocating, capturing, hunting, or attempting these activities from an aircraft without the required permits.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in Washington State?

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Yes. Drone fishing is allowed in Washington State Parks on a limited basis, but a Remote Controlled Aircraft Permit is required for each instance of use.

The permit application should be submitted to the park where you plan to fly at least 60 days before the intended date.

An application fee of $25, as well as additional fees, may apply. Factors considered during permit evaluation include public safety, FAA regulations, natural and cultural resource protection, visitor experience, purpose of the flight, date and time of day, and specific location(s).

Insurance coverage of $1,000,000 per occurrence, $3,000,000 aggregate, specifically covering drone use, is mandatory.

The rules for remote-controlled aircraft use in state parks are regulated by WAC 352-32-130 (5) and WAC 352.37.170 (3), requiring written permission from the director or designee.

Compliance with state and federal rules, including FAA guidelines, is mandatory. It’s important to contact the specific park where activities will occur to apply for permits and to address any inquiries or concerns before applying.

The use of remote-controlled aircraft is also subject to federal regulations, including Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 107 and Public Law 112-95, Section 336 Special Rules for Model Aircraft.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in South Africa

Drone fishing is currently considered illegal in South Africa according to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE).

The department issued a notice in February 2022 warning that it would prosecute any recreational anglers who used drones, remote-controlled boats, and other remotely operated vehicles to transport bait.

The notice made it clear that this form of fishing was considered illegal, and drone fishers faced the confiscation of their equipment. According to the DFFE, at least three criminal cases have been opened against drone anglers, and these cases are described as “ongoing.”

The department argues that the use of bait-carrying drones, bait-carrying remote-controlled boats, and other remotely operated devices are not authorized by the relevant fishing permits, which only allow “recreational fishing by manually operating a rod, reel and line one or more separate lines to which no more than 10 hooks are attached per line.”

The department asserts that this implicitly excludes the use of remote-controlled or motorized equipment such as drones.

Despite legal challenges from drone fishing equipment manufacturers, a High Court application challenging the DFFE’s notice was dismissed, and the companies involved have sought leave to appeal.

As of the latest information available, the appeal is pending, and drone fishing remains prohibited according to the DFFE.

It’s important to note that legal situations can change, and it’s advisable to check for the most recent and updated information or consult legal authorities in South Africa for the latest status on drone fishing regulations.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in Namibia?

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In Namibia, drone use is permitted, but laws specific to fishing are yet to be defined. It is essential to contact the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority directly for any inquiries regarding drone operations in the country.

The regulations for drone operations in Namibia are subject to NCAA (Namibia Civil Aviation Authority) approval, and both residents and foreign visitors must adhere to these regulations for recreational and commercial drone flights.

Additionally, obtaining written authorization from the NCAA is mandatory for operating drones in Namibia, and specific rules apply to drone flights in national parks and other designated areas.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in Australia?

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Yes. In Australia, the use of drones for fishing is legal, but it is essential to comply with general drone regulations. According to The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) guidelines, drones must always be flown within visual line-of-sight and cannot be flown over or near people.

It’s important to note that while drone fishing is legal in Australia, specific rules and regulations may apply in different states and territories, and therefore, must be aware of any additional local restrictions or requirements.

Additionally, recreational and commercial drone operators in Australia must adhere to the regulations set by CASA, including obtaining necessary licenses and permissions for commercial drone operations.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in Hawaii

Drone fishing is NOT ALLOWED in Hawaii. In 2022, the State Legislature passed a bill that banned the use of drones for fishing, which Governor Ige signed into law on June 27, 2022.

The law took effect immediately, and it prohibits the possession or use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) on, in, or near state marine waters for purposes of fishing.

The bill specifies that drones may be used for fishing only if a permit is obtained from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). However, as of now, there are no permits available for drone fishing in Hawaii, which means that the use of drones for fishing is completely banned.

If you violate the ban on drone fishing in Hawaii, you could face penalties and fines. The penalties for violating the ban on drone fishing in Hawaii could include fines of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both. Additionally, your drone could be confiscated if you are caught using it for fishing.

In conclusion, drone fishing is not legal in Hawaii. The state has banned the use of drones for fishing, and there are no permits available for drone fishing. If you violate the ban on drone fishing, you could face penalties and fines.

Is Drone Fishing Legal in New Zealand?

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In New Zealand, drone fishing is generally legal, but it is crucial to show respect for the local community and individuals while operating your fishing drone.

It’s important to be mindful of the specific rules and guidelines for drone fishing in New Zealand, as well as any local restrictions that may apply in certain areas.

Additionally, anglers should be aware of and comply with all relevant regulations to ensure safe and responsible drone fishing practices.

As the use of drones for fishing continues to evolve, it’s essential to stay informed about any changes in regulations and to act responsibly when using drones for fishing activities in New Zealand.

Conclusion: Is Drone Fishing Legal?

In conclusion, the use of drones for fishing has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, drone fishing laws vary by location and therefore you should always research the laws and regulations in an area before attempting to use a drone for fishing.

In general, It is also important to follow the guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Drones must always be in the operator’s sight, and permits and licenses are required to operate a drone legally. Additionally, it is important to consider the weight limit of the drone, as going over it could break aviation laws.

Finally,  drone laws are constantly changing. Always verify using multiple sources to be sure you’re rightly informed.

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