2017-07-06 / Nature

Fishing with Drones? It’s not Far-Fetched

By James Merolla

Science fiction has met angling.

In the old days, when fish-finding machines came along, old-school fishermen thought it blasphemous, even cheating, to discover a school of fish using sonar.

You want to fish? Look for birds feeding, for bait fish jumping, for fish breaching. And get that radar doohickey out of here, you wimp!

As I have written previously, some think mere umbrella rigs, with their five lures at once, are cheating. The true angler, they say, is one man, one line, one hook, one lure, one fish.

So, I am very concerned about fishermen having heart attacks when they see what I did recently, which was a largemouth bass caught by a drone. You read that right. A hovering, silent, whirring, lure-in-its-tentacles drone!

Earlier this month, on a freshwater river that turns brackish just before it merges with a saltwater estuary along the Tiverton/Fall River line, I saw a father and his young son fishing for bass. In the weeds on the far bank, perhaps 120 yards from the pair, there were bass breaching out of the water to feed. From their vantage point on the opposite shore, with light tackle and lures with little weight, their best cast would have been about 50 yards short.

A wealthy man known in the community man approached them. He pulled out a drone that my source at the local bait shop said cost about $15,000. It was top of the line, as these stealth devices go.

“Do you want help catching that bass?” he asked.

And with that, I watched the Good Samaritan hook up the man’s fly-shaped lure rig to another rig attached to the drone. He asked the boy how much line he had on his reel. When told 150 yards, he said, “Good. You’ll need it.”

He controlled the drone by remote. First, it went straight up, then straight out, almost silently above where they had seen the fish jump. He pressed a button and released the rig. I watched the lure drop perhaps 130 yards out, some 15 yards or so past the swirling ocean activity.

“Reel in slowly,” he told the boy.

Three turns of the reel and the bass was on the line, jumping out of the water. It took five minutes of joy to reel it in. It was a phenomenal fishing experience.

Will this be fishing in the next century? I went on YouTube and watched videos of fishermen using drones to land schools of tuna. I saw aerial photography of fish and the constructs of the shore, sandbars, tides and other information to help fishermen chart their course.

This writer is not suggesting you buy drones (which range from a few hundred dollars to thousands). The “Old Man and the Sea” in me says it’s a stupid doohickey.

And buyer beware: there are even more videos online of drones that have gone horribly wrong. Fishing is expensive enough without adding this monstrosity to your tackle box.

What’s next: Helicopter fishing?

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