Is Drone Fishing Illegal in Texas (Complete Guide)

The answer to this question is not a simple yes or no, as the state of Texas has a complex provision about drones being used in fishing. Generally speaking, drone fishing is illegal in Texas, but you can do it if you have a permit.

I will discuss this in detail with you today, and I am hoping that you get the clarification you need after reading this article.

What is drone fishing?

Drone fishing is a process where you use a remote-controlled drone to scout the area for fish. It also includes the act of dropping lures and baits or the act of fishing itself.

A drone, technically, is anything that flies and that you control. It is also an unmanned vehicle. Overall, you are not allowed to hunt, catch, and take anything in Texas waters using drones.

Many fisherfolks use drones nowadays because they can find the fish better than manually sighting them. With a drone, the angler can scout the area and have a visual verification that there is fish. Once the angler finds a spot with a healthy number of fish, then he can go to that spot and start throwing his line.

Some people frown upon it, saying that it is unprofessional. Some find it useful, as drones help them save time when fishing.

What does the state of Texas say about drone fishing?

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW), the use of drones is unlawful. You cannot use a drone for any of these things:

  • Hunt
  • Drive
  • Capture
  • Take
  • Count
  • Photograph

You can use a drone to see nature, but you cannot use it for wildlife. The word wildlife refers not only to fish but also animals on land. In addition, you cannot locate a wounded animal with a drone.

The only exception to this rule is if you secure an Aerial Management Permit. You also need a Landowner Authorization or LOA. The reason drones are not allowed in compliance with the Federal Airborne Hunting Act.

What is the Federal Airborne Hunting Act?

This law states that recreational hunting or sport hunting is a misdemeanour. The only way a state can grant a license or permit for drone fishing or wildlife hunting is for Trap Transport and Transplant operations.  

For Texas, there are some things you must know about how they define actions. See below for more details:

  • Hunting –means that you will capture, trap, and/or kill wildlife. Hunting also includes the act or the attempt to capture or kill wildlife, including fish in seawater or freshwater.
  • Catching – this refers to the act of killing and any means or attempt to take an animal from natural habitats.
  • Taking – it refers to any action that captures, collects, hooks, or snares an animal by means of any device.

In Texas, doing all these three with an aerial device or vehicle is not allowed. The state made this decision because it wanted to protect the citizens from unwanted surveillance.

Some people believe that you can get away with drone fishing in Texas, but all of these are hearsay. It is illegal to drone fish in Texas, no matter what drone you use.

Again, the only time you can drone fish in Texas is if you have a permit; unfortunately, this is not going to happen if your purpose is sport or recreational fishing.

Can you fly drones in Texas?

Yes, you can fly drones in Texas if you meet certain conditions. And this is where the law gets murky. While it is illegal to hunt, capture, and photograph wildlife, it is not illegal to fly a drone, which means that you can still fly drones at sea.

Here are some of the general guidelines:

  • The drone must not fly above 400 feet
  • You must have a permit to fly drones in an uncontrolled airspace
  • You must maintain a visual line of sight with your drone
  • Your drone must not interfere with manned aircraft like commercial planes or military planes
  • The drone you are flying must be registered with the FAA
  • You cannot fly your drone faster than 100 miles per hour
  • Your drone’s weight must not exceed 55 pounds
  • You must not fly your drone from a moving vehicle

The problem with this rule is that while it is illegal to drone fish or hunt with drones, you can still use your drone to scout an area.

If a TPW officer catches you and confronts you, you can easily say that you are just flying the drone and not using it for hunting. Keep in mind, however, that one of the requirements is to have that drone registered with the FAA. If you cannot show that registration, the officer has the right to uphold the law.  

What happens if you break the law?

Although the anti-drone law in Texas is too restrictive, the state is a little lax when implementing it. Typically, it is the FAA that would chase you if someone reported you to them.

If you get caught, and the state or FAA can prove that you are using drones to aid in fishing, your fine is somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000.

Now, if your offence is much more serious, like hurting somebody because of your drone, then you are likely to face jail time. Now, if your drone is not registered, then you may be fined more than $10,000. You may pay up to $27,000!


It is illegal to drone fish in Texas. The only way to drone fish or hunt wildlife with a drone is if you secure a permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife. The problem is that you will only get a permit if you are a telecommunication company or a wildlife organization, such as an animal rehabilitation centre.

Drone fishing is not worth it. You will pay fines, and you may even face jail time if you hurt somebody. Besides, it is much more exciting to fish the traditional way than to use machines like drones to find fish.

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