Even camera-free drones illegal when fishing

I have a question about the use of drones in Oregon while fishing. I read your article about how drone cameras are not allowed while hunting or fishing, but I was wondering if it would be legal to take the camera off the drone and use the drone instead to drop a fishing line? Not everyone can afford a boat, but if the drone has no camera attached, is it considered an unfair advantage?

— A.J., email submission

We at Since You Asked hear you working the angles to catch as many fish as legally possible, A.J. If you’re not fishing, you’re not trying, right?

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2015 outlawed the use of drones and other new technologies for hunting, fishing and trapping as violations of the “fair chase ethic,” saying that using drones with cameras to scout out hunting, fishing and trapping sites isn’t fair to the quarry being stalked.

Before that, drones were covered under the decades-old hunting rule that says you can’t hunt for at least eight hours after using an aircraft to scout for animals, but that was never employed for fishing.

The commission unanimously concurred that cameras on drones were unfair regardless of how long it was between flying and hunting or fishing.

In the Oregon sport-fishing regulations synopsis, the rule is pretty cut and dry. It says it is unlawful to “use drones/unmanned vehicles when angling or to aid in angling.”

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said she believes it would be illegal, but it would be up to the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division as to whether they would enforce that reading of the rule.

Sgt. James Collom, from OSP’s Fish and Wildlife Division office in Central Point, said his gut reaction to the question is that, yes, he would consider that aiding in angling and, therefore, it would be illegal.

This issue previously came up in May 2016 after a freaky video showed a guy using a drone to drop a baited fishing line into a school of tuna so his buddy could catch a tuna while standing on the beach. Though interesting, it was deemed illegal because Oregon law controls fishing rules within 3 miles of shore.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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