Tuna from a drone

On April 21 2016, Jaiden Maclean and his brother Brody, together with angler Byron Leal and Nicholas Smith set the social media fishing world aflame when they posted a spectacular video showing their capture of a 20kg longtail tuna from Fingal Head beach, in northern NSW. The most amazing and controversial aspect of the capture was that a remote-controlled drone was used to find and film the tuna school from the air, then present the bait directly on top of them.

While Jaiden piloted the drone into position from the beach 350 metres away, Byron stood beside him letting line stream out from his reel in free-spool as the drone carried his bait dangling beneath it. The drone’s camera linked a live view of what was occurring below to the Jaiden’s control screen, so he could direct the bait into position once the tuna school was spotted.

Beneath the drone was a hidden release mechanism they designed – which held the line only until the tuna struck, then released so the angler was connected directly to his fish. Once disconnected, the drone simply hovered above, filming the tuna as it fought all the way to the beach, where it was eventually landed through the surf. Since then, the boys have repeated this several times, landing another six tuna with the drone bait delivery system and also using lures to catch fish 3 of the 6 fish. Jaiden spent the remainder of 2016 traveling Australia and Fiji testing release mechanism prototypes and targeting different species from above. So far the boys have managed to land 7 species including Giant trevally, Coral Trout and Cobia to name a few.

The drone fishing concept has created quite a ripple on the Internet, with anglers around the world now wondering how drones can be incorporated to enhance their fishing – besides filming the action from interesting perspectives.

Of course, for land-based anglers, drones open up huge potential to not only get baits out where predators lurk, but also to dangle them from the air, so all leader and terminal tackle is hidden – a deadly advantage for wary species like tuna, sailfish, marlin and mackerel. This would work for drifting boats too, and a drone would enable the operator to scan the region looking for fish, then positioning the bait accordingly. Drones could also be used to scan a berley trail from a bird’s perspective, looking for wary tuna or sharks not tempted by the current offerings, and not visible from the deck.

When asked about the drone fishing technique, Jaiden offered the following advice: “It’s not as easy as it looks in the video. The biggest challenges we found were trying to position the bait in front of the tuna when they move so fast, and then trying to stop the drone from being pulled down into water once a fish struck the bait.”

If you are considering buying a drone, Jaiden strongly suggests investing in a quality unit. He prefers the Drone World, DJI Phantom 4 Flacon range and uses their Phantom 4 Falcon himself. He also says you’ll need lots of practice flying on land before you take your drone over water. “Only use your drone when there is less than 15 knots of wind, with clear visibility. It can be tricky,” he advises, just be patient and scout the area thoroughly before launching a bait

Jaiden and Byron’s company Drone Angler have patenting the drone fishing technology and creating drone fishing release mechanism kits that will be available worldwide in 2017.