Is Drone Fishing Legal in Florida? A Complete Guide to the Laws.


The newest advancements in drones can be used for some exciting activities such as fishing. However, while in Florida I had to ensure that I was aware of all the laws and rules before trying to drone fish there.

According to the International Game Fish Association, drone fishing is permitted so long as the line is only attached to the drone via a snap or release device. After the fish strikes the line, it should detach from the drone leaving the battle to be between only the fisherman and the fish.

Florida (among many other states) has some very specific rules, laws, and regulations that apply to the use of drones within their state’s borders. To find out more about these rules, laws, and regulations keep on reading!

What is Drone Fishing?

As a fisherman (or fisherwoman- that’s a word right?) I can attest to the fact that sometimes the fish we are hoping to catch is just out of casting reach.

A drone can help you to get your line to distances not before possible on your own.

If you have ever used a kite for fishing, fishing with the help of a drone will be very similar.

Although contrary to many beliefs, drone fishing does not include reeling the fish in with the assistance of the drone.

Drones can only be used to deliver bait or line to the fish not to drag or reel the fish in closer to shore or out of the water.

As well as helping to deliver your line and hook to fish at a greater distance, drones can also be used to track the fight between you and the fish. This is a site that not many have seen, and getting an aerial view of the battle can be not only exciting but beneficial in helping you keep the fish on the line.

Drone Fishing Rules and Regulations

In 1940, the International Game Fish Association was created in order to create a set of rules that would establish ethical angling regulations worldwide.

There is a different set of rules for freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, and fly fishing. Helping to create a more specific and clear set of regulations for each instance while fishing.

In the section describing the acceptable fishing, it outlines how outriggers, downriggers, spreader bards, and kites are all allowed to obtain a fish. However, they may only be used if the moment the fish strikes the line, it detaches from the device and is no longer attached in any way.

After a video of a drone being used in a similar way off a coast similar to those of Florida, the International Game Fish Association began reevaluating the ethical use of drones in fishing.

The video depicts a drone delivering bait to a school of Tuna beyond the surf.

This feeding school of Tuna was well beyond any conceivable cast from the fisherman; however, with the use of the drone, he was able to position the bait directly above the feeding fish.

After one of the feeding fish strikes you see the line detach from the drone (indicating the proper use of a release or snap device) and the fisherman is now put to the test of reeling in a large tuna through a hundred or so feet of surf to the shore.

The International Game Fish Association came to the decision that so long as a drone followed the same rules and regulations as a kite would, there were no unethical actions taking place.

The use of drone fishing must also follow the states drone laws and regulations as well as the International Game Fish Association’s list of rules.

Keep on reading to see what the laws are for the use of drones within Florida’s state borders.

Florida Drone Laws

The rules and regulations that have been established for the use of drones in Florida have been adopted and are very similar to many other states drone laws.

Before flying your drone you should be aware of which set of rules you are expected to follow and what documentation you are required to have: Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 Small UAS Rule, Federal Aviation Administration’s Special Rule for Model Aircraft, Remote Pilot Certificate, or a Federal Certificate of Authorization.

Make sure that you understand the rules that apply to drone use and that you have the proper documentation.

If you are flying a drone as a commercial pilot in Florida you are required to follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 Small UAS Rule. This rule includes a list of the operational limitations, the remote pilot’s responsibilities, and any other aircraft requirements.

Part of the Part 107 rule includes the requirement of passing the Federal Aviation Aeronautical Knowledge test to receive your Remote Pilot Certification.

If you are flying your drone as a hobbyist (meaning you are simply flying the drone for fun or pleasure) you must register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Hobbyists are only required to follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s Special Rules for Model Aircraft.

These rules state that you can only fly your drone for recreation or fun, you may not exceed anything higher than 400 feet when in uncontrolled airspace, and that you must be able to see the drone at all times.

Restricted air-space for drones applies to anywhere over 400 feet or above critical infrastructure.

As well as those basic rules drones are not allowed to be flown near other aircraft, over groups of people, over any stadiums or events, and must not interfere with any emergency response vehicles or efforts.

If you are flying your drone as a government employee in Florida’s state lines you are either able to do so under the Federal Aviation Administrations Part 107 rule or you may have a Federal Certificate of Authorization.

The state of Florida then has three specific laws that apply to the entire state and were written and enacted by the state’s legislature.

The first law (HB 1027) states that local governments can not create their own laws the regulate the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones); however, they are permitted to create ordinances and restrictions on drones.

The first law also states that drones cannot be operated over any critical infrastructure as defined by the Patriot Act of 2001 and that drones may not be weaponized in any way, shape, or form.

The second law (SB 766) goes on to protect an individual’s rights from drone use. Drones cannot be used to take pictures or videos of any private property, owner, or person without their consent.

For the third law (SB 92) it gives a definition for a drone and then creates limits on how law enforcement can use them.

Law enforcement officials are only allowed to use a drone if they have a warrant, there is a terrorist threat, or if there needs to be action taken immediately to prevent a loss of life. Law enforcement is also permitted to use a drone when searching for a missing person.

Local Ordinances

There are only four areas in Florida have created their own ordinances regulating the use of drones in their area.

For the town of Bonita Springs, drones are not allowed to be flown in the Community Park except when the park is unoccupied.

Drones are then prohibited from being flown within 25 feet of any buildings, power lines, people, or light fixtures in the town of Bonita Springs.

Check your local ordinances for drone restrictions before flying your drone.

In the city of Miami, drones are not allowed to be flown within half of a mile of sporting events or any other large scale event.

Furthermore, the city of Miami reemphasizes that drones are not able to carry any type of “detachable cargo” or weapon. Within city limits, a permit is required for some activities including a drone.

Double check before going fishing in Miami that you do not need to acquire a special permit for the body of water you are fishing on.

In Defuniak Springs, drones cannot fly over anyone’s property (public or private) without consent.

Any drones that are being used for commercial use are also required to register at the police department prior to use inside the city.

In Orlando Florida, the city placed more restrictions on how closely drones are permitted to fly to people.

Drones are restricted from being within 500 feet of any gathering of more than 1,000 people. City parks, schools, or site such as the Amway Center, Harry P. Leu Gardens, Camping World, etc can not have drones within 500 feet of them.

However, you can obtain a permit to access these areas for anywhere of 20 to 150 dollars.

Large fines will apply to anyone who violates the above regulations for any of the cities or locations.

How to Drone Fish (and Still Follow the Law)

As we saw above there are certain rules that apply when fishing with a drone.

Below I have described how you can drone fish and avoid breaking and rules or laws.

You can purchase downriggers, release, or snap clamps to attach to your own personal drone or you can even purchase a drone made specifically for fishing.

The simplest form of quick release is to attach a hook to the bottom of your drone with the opening facing the frontwards. This does not allow the line to disconnect from your drone when a fish strikes but rather carries your line further out than a normal cast and allows you to drop it where you desire.

Attach your line to the hook by tying your line on with a semi-loose overhand knot.

Make sure the hook you have attached does not interfere with any of the sensors or that the line will not interfere with the blades on your drone.

Let your line out on the reel and send the drone out to your desired location. Go slow to make sure you aren’t creating tangles in the line.

To drop your line all you have to do is back the drone up until your line falls off. Bring the drone back to the shore and close the line on your reel.

Now that your line is out, you can begin fishing as you would normally (all fishing rules, laws, and gear regulations still apply).

If you choose to use a release device while drone fishing the idea is still relatively the same.

You will attach your line to the drone, release the line off your reel, and fly it out to where you want the fish to bite.

Lower the drone until it is either just above the surface of the water or until the hook is submerged (this will depend on the type of fish you are attempting to catch). Be sure to stop letting out line when your line is in the desired position and reel in any excess slack.

Once a fish strikes your line, the line should detach from the drone. You then can return your drone to the shore and continue fishing as normally.

No matter how you choose to use your drone to fish to always be aware of any special rules that may apply to the beach or area you are fishing on.

Be sure there are not people, buildings, or power lines near or below your drone while you are fishing.

Also ensure that you are not on private property or in a Florida State Park.

Make sure that you have the proper documents for the use of your drone and the proper licenses and tags for fishing.

Above all ensure that the use of the drone in your fishing trip is safe for you, the fish, and anyone else who may be nearby.

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Stripped Bass.

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