Responsible & Ethical DRONE ANGLING

With the increase in drone fishing in South Africa and worldwide it is vitally important to drone fish responsibly and ethically.

Anand Naicker


To be a responsible drone angler one needs to consider the following:

Know the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) rules governing drones. There are two categories: commercial pilot, where a license is required, and hobbyists, where no license is necessary. If you intend to make money by using your drone, then you need a commercial pilot’s license, or you could get a hefty fine or jail time. The majority of the drone users fall in the category hobbyist and are governed by a different set of rules.

To mention a few:

• Cannot fly in any restricted zones. Know the restrictions of the air space you are going to fly in

• Cannot fly over private property without the property owner’s permission

• Drone and payload cannot be more than 7kg in total weight

• Cannot fly within 10km of any airfield

• Cannot fly higher than the tallest building within 300 meters from you

• Cannot fly within 50 meters from a building, road or person

• Can fly only up to 500 meters from the pilot and must always be within visual line of sight.

Don’t fly if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs as you may cause damage to property and lives in the event of a crash.

Purchasing a drone

Before you go and just purchase a drone, do your homework. Research on the internet, ask friends and go for demos on the various brands and what they have to offer.

Look for:
• Track record of the brand
• Excellent after sales service, spares and training
• Design of product, quality and ergonomics
• Get the drone that suits your purpose, look at its specs vs the wind conditions in the area that you will be fishing in and the species you want to target, which in turn determines the weight of the bait/payload

Using your drone

Do's & Don'ts

Once you have acquired your drone, ensure you have the necessary training, read the manual, insure your drone and most importantly practise to fly on your own in an open area. Also practise lifting a weight to simulate a bait and only attempt to take out a bait when you feel confident. It is advisable to go out with an experienced friend on your first few outings.

• Always remember that no fish is worth your drone. Speaking from experience, 95% of all crashes are as a result of pilot error. Always remember to follow the startup procedures, only fly when it’s fully calibrated. I can’t stress this point enough: pilots still make the error of taking off before the drone is fully calibrated, this will result in a crash. Also do a pre-check before each flight.

• Don’t be a hero and fly in winds beyond your drone’s capabilities, know your drone. Also, you should be confident in flying in windy conditions before attempting very strong winds.

• Don’t fly in cloudy, stormy conditions as there is a likelihood of lightning or the atmosphere being electrically charged. This could result in static interferences which could cause a problem.

• If you want to fish a new location for the first time, it is advisable to fish with a local. You don’t want to be droning in the wrong area and losing tackle as it is an environmental hazard and it will be a costly affair.

• Always ensure you have a valid fishing permit and the cleanliness of your fishing area, don’t leave any plastic, steel wire, cable ties, food waste and general litter behind.

Take good care of your drone and remote, carry a paint brush to clean your drone and remote of any sand as sand could jam motors and remote-control joysticks. You can even drive past your nearest fuel station and use the air hose to blow out any remaining sand. Also use WD40 to lubricate your motor bearings. Wipe off any excess oil as it is a dust and sand magnet.

• Avoid holding your drone with your hands for takeoff and landing purposes. Modern drones are powerful and the carbon props will cause severe injuries if an accident had to happen. Use a level surface for takeoff and landing. The use of a landing mat is advisable because there won’t be any sand flying around on take off or landing.

pilots still make the error of taking off before the drone is fully calibrated, this will result in a crash

• Always label you drone with your name, telephone details and if possible, a reward amount so there is a chance it is returned to you if found.

• For those of you who practise catch and release, be prepared to land your catch, keep it in the water as much as possible, have a bag with your hook remover, pliers, side cutters, measuring tape and gloves, so no time is wasted in looking for them when needed. Have a camera handy to take a few quick pics. When releasing don’t drag the fish on the sand, rather wait for the wave to come, then drag the fish with the help of the water. If possible, carry the fish to deeper water. Ensure that you revive the fish before it swims off freely.


Tackle up correctly.

The conventional rock and surf tackle will work for the average edibles, provided you have enough line capacity, at least 600m of 0.45mm mono or 30 pound braid and always use a wire grab sinker as the drag in the water will cause movement and risk of entanglement with others or your trace rolling and getting stuck on a reef. For non-edibles use heavy, specialised tackle for example, 50w lever drag reels, minimum 1000m 80-pound braid or 0.80mm mono. Minimum 1.5mm leaders, shark saver trace onto a minimum 12/0 heavy duty hook, preferably a circle because of the hook set, which is in the corner of the mouth making for a successful release.

Consider using a purpose-built drone rod as using a conventional casting rod will only hurt your body and take longer to land the fish, thus putting it under a lot more stress which is not good for the fish.

I want to emphasise the shark saver trace. It is a trace designed for big non-edibles but can be used for all species. Its purpose is such that, in the unlikely event of one losing a fish, only the hook trace remains in the mouth and the rest of the heavy tackle, e.g. 2mm leader, 80 pound line and sinker falls away. Only the hook and the short length of steel remains attached to the fish.

It is advisable to use a barbless circle hook which will hook up in the corner of the jaw and come out easier thus not placing the fish under further stress, and eliminating the chances of the heavy leader getting entangled with the fish or snagging on a reef and thus killing the fish.

When attaching your trace to the drone, use a dropper loop (+-600mm long) attached to any part of the trace or leader greater than 2 meters away from your bait. This dropper loop helps keep the trace away from the props in the event of a failure and eliminates the swinging effect of the bait and sinker. The use of an adjustable friction snap clip is also advisable because in the unfortunate event of a reel jam or bird entanglement the loop will snap free from the preset friction grip of the snap clip and fall freely, thus not pulling your drone back and causing the line to wrap around the props.


communicate with the anglers around you, know where their lines are before you fly out and drop your bait

To be an ethical drone angler one need to be considerate of:

1… the anglers around you, give other drone anglers the necessary space between drops, communicate with the anglers around you, know where their lines are before you fly out and drop your bait.

2… the anglers next to you who have mono. Braid cuts through mono quickly so stay apart to avoid any trouble.

3… the cast bait anglers and let them fish the easier spots where they can cast into the zone. They also get upset when you drone over their lines and if you catch a fish they can get very, very angry.

4… If there are sun bathers in the area, please bring it to their attention that you will be fishing only and not taking any pics, get their approval as it will avoid any accusations of you invading their privacy.

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