Coastal Forecast: Rockport – May

Drone Fishing

T HE TITLE MAY SOUND like something from Star Trek. Yes, I am a bit of a Trekie … BEAM ME UP SCOTTY! —well, the old versions anyway. We don’t have to wait for the future to see technology’s effect on our fishing and hunting sport. My granddaughters and grandsons have flabbergasted me with some of the “toys” they now have.

I guess I am showing my age; but honestly, my seven-year-old grandson Quincy makes me look like a Neanderthal just out of a cave using, say, a cell phone or an iPad.

When I ask what he’s doing on his latest toy he, in a matter of fact way, says things like “I’m snap chatting” or rapping or crapping or whatever the correct term is.

“Grandpa,” he says, “we can snap. Let me see your phone.” I am thinking the only snapping I ever done is with green beans, but kept the thought to myself.

Having waded into this water I determined I was already head deep and could drown, so decided to stay tight-lipped. I presented my camo-taped phone to him, and he got an embarrassed look on his face. 

“Wow I’ve never seen one like that,” he said. “What does it do????”

“Well, you talk on it” I said.

“Any gaming?”

“No, a phone is for communicating, you know, like talking.”

“We don’t do that much anymore,” he said.

“Oh yeah, you text, right?”

“Nooo… we Snapchat” and some other terms I can’t remember. “I can Minecraft, Slitherjo, AgarJo, and I like Pokémon” he went on to say.

“Ah, yes, Pokémon, I can do that,” I proudly announce.

“Not on that,” he said, as he pointed to my duct taped, eight-year-old phone. “Let me see it Grandpa.”

Like Spock at warp speed, he whizzed through my phone and grinned. “This is obsolete. You can’t do anything on this. Does the tape hold it together!!!????”

“It’s waterproof” I proudly announce.

“Yes, they all are now, pretty much.” He shrugged. “Hmmmm!” I respond, defeated.

To their credit his parents, my son and daughter-in-law, keep a very tight rein on what he can and can’t do on these toys. That bodes even worse for me. I can’t imagine what else I probably am not up to speed on.

I ask my wife “Do I look old?”

“No, you do not!”

“I feel old.”

“Did Quincy blitz by you with his techo skills?”

“Oh, no. I got it,” I lied.

For my 61st birthday my wife handed me a birthday gift, and like a kid I tore into to it. To my delight, I saw the blade of what I believed to be a wind meter (anemometer). This one, however, had four blades.

On closer inspection, I could see what it really was. Panic gripped me. Technology had now been gift-wrapped and was immediately in front of me.

“It flies,” she said. “It’s a drone!” she happily announced.

Not being one to be rude, especially to my wife who was experiencing much joy at her giving.

I exclaimed “Wow!”, mostly out of fearful astonishment.

“You need a toy.” she said. “No more tools, no more purposeful gifts, you need a fun gift, and I thought this would be fun for you.”

She was and is a heartfelt giver. So, I have a drone. I have flown a drone. I fly a drone and am scared most of the time I do it, but I must admit it’s a scared-kinda fun.

You can imagine my thoughts when I got a call from a client who wanted to know whether I fish with drones.

“They can fish?” I asked.

“Well, yes and no,” the not-to-be client said. “I want to bring my drone and spot reds with it and have you move in for the catch.”

I’m thinking the only techo-kinds of stuff I have on my boat is my eight-year-old cell phone and a 15-year-old Garmin depth sounder with GPS, which I am just now really learning how to use.

“No, I don’t drone fish,” I said, probably rudely. “Further, I’m not sure it’s even legal?”

“Oh, it is” he said. “For years, Red Fish Tournament contestants have used planes to locate schools of reds and then communicate that to the anglers.”

Why would anyone want to win that bad? was my thought. 

Weeks later an acquaintance called and wanted to talk to me about drone-hunting predators and get my thoughts. He was working on a projectile that could be used on a drone for the purpose of eradication.

My curiosity was now tweaked. Even though I thought it was a long shot, I called a friend and Game Warden and was almost embarrassed to ask the question.

His response floored me. “Yes, it’s happening, and we get more and more calls about drones, but mostly it’s more of a hunting question and not so much fishing.

“Further, most hunters want to use the drone to locate wounded deer etc.” TPWD has tried to address the drone in their hunting rules and regulations, but as one reads it, the interpretation creates a lot of grey areas, even for Game Wardens.

The regulation is pretty definitive in its literal definition. Its application, however, like some other regulations, can be troublesome for wildlife officers. The regulation states:

“Except with permits issued by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the use of drones to hunt, drive, capture, take, count or photograph any wildlife is unlawful. This includes locating wounded animals as well. Permits required from our department are an Aerial Management Permit (AMP) and a Land Owner Authorization (LOA). Department rules are adopted under the framework and guidelines of the Federal Airborne Hunting Act. Under federal law it is a violation to use an aircraft for any of these activities unless a permit is issued by the respective state. Federal guidelines specify the states may only issue these permits for the management of wildlife such as Trap Transport and Transplant (TTT) or depredation species and certain predator species. At no time would recreational or sport hunting be lawful and violation of these rules is a Parks and Wildlife Class A misdemeanor and under certain instances may violate the Federal Lacy Act.”

The regulations go on to define crisply what it means to hunt, trap, capture, take, kill or even attempt to do the same. The word “attempt” is important. If you’re trying it, you’re guilty.

Further, the FAA has regulations for drone use, and they again are evolving as this rapidly growing industry takes root. Commercial use has different regulations from those that apply to hobbyists.

Drones over a certain weight require registration. This too, will change, in my opinion, as the technology (lighter, cheaper, faster, better) advances.

The FAA sees these toys as aircraft, and for all practical purposes that’s what they are. Kites have long been used in the fishing industry for bait presentation, so with a little imagination you, no doubt, can see the applications for drones will take a similar track.

The term “hunting” here is of much importance. As defined by the Parks and Wild Life code, hunting includes fishing. That’s right, fishing!

However, using a drone to randomly place a bait is not considered hunting, if it’s not specifically locating a fish or group of fish. If you’re not taking this seriously by now, then I am missing the mark. If so try this on:

Federal law (The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956) prohibits the use of aircraft to hunt, capture, harass fish or any other animal without the proper permits. Please focus on the word harass in the above regulation.

Harassment can be defined as: a means to disturb, worry, molest, harry, torment, rally, concentrate, drive, or herd. So, as an example, let’s say I’m flying my drone for the joy of flying and harass, unintentionally, a whooping crane.

This is a federally protected bird and could violate the Endangered Species Act, punishable by fines up to $100,000 per individual and up to one-year imprisonment. Few state parks and wildlife refuges allow drone flying, so check before you lift off.


Technology and its rapid progress comes with a warning. With capability comes responsibility. We humans seem to be strong in the capable, but weak in the responsible. As we advance our toys and gadgets in the hunting and fishing sport, our natural resources will not, do not, and cannot keep pace.

I won’t try to answer the moral or ethical questions for these approaches. I will say we seem predisposed with the “could we do it” and not “should we do it.” A special thanks to Scott McLeod and Ellis Powell of the Texas Parks and Wildlife for their discussion and pertinent data on this subject.

What’s that drumming I hear!? It’s not the Rockport band percussion section, and it’s not the Nuge and Cat Scratch Fever. Nonetheless it’s music to my ears.

It’s croaker season, and it’s what a lot of guides can’t wait for. Trout and reds can’t resist these golden wonders. They ain’t cheap, but the fish action can be off the charts. A few words of advice—keep your live well water fresh and well oxygenated.


W HAT’S THAT DRUMMING I hear!? It’s not the Rockport band percussion section, and it’s not the Nuge and Cat Scratch Fever. Nonetheless it’s music to my ears.

It’s croaker season, and it’s what a lot of guides can’t wait for. Trout and reds can’t resist these golden wonders. They ain’t cheap, but the fish action can be off the charts. A few words of advice—keep your live well water fresh and well oxygenated.

COPANO BAY: Most debris from Harvey has been marked, but caution is still advised. I do as well on free-lined shrimp here as any bait. Match the hook to the bait (meaning too large a hook and not enough action by the shrimp, too small and the hook will miss the fish). The area just off the west shoreline near Mission Bay is a good spot for reds and trout. Again, free-lined is the trick. Reds like Red Fish Point this time of year. The trick is to work the shrimp on the deep edges around this point.

ARANSAS BAY: Nine Mile Point is a good place for black drum and a few flounder. Peeled shrimp and mud minnows work well here. This was a high debris area, so proceed with caution. 

ST. CHARLES BAY: A trolling motor works well just off Big Sharp Point. This is a good place for reds using cut mullet under a bubble cork. The area off Meile Dietrich Point is a good spot to set up for reds using finger mullet on a light Carolina rig.

CARLOS BAY: Some good black drums are hanging in the area off Cedar Reef. Peeled shrimp on a light Carolina rig works well here. Wades in the Cedar Point area are good for trout and reds using mud minnows or finger mullet free-lined.

MESQUITE BAY: The shallow reefs near Bludworth Island are good for trout and some flounder in the early morning. High tide is best here. Mud minnows free-lined is the ticket. The east shoreline near Brays Cove is a good spot for trout and drum. Use live shrimp for trout and peeled shrimp for the black drum on a light Carolina rig.

AYERS BAY:The trout action can be good here in the later days of May. Croakers work well free-lined. Target the east shoreline but stay well off the bank in the deeper water. Some black drums may be found on Ayers Reef using shrimp under a popping cork.



WADES TO NEWCOMB POINT are good for trout using a rattle cork and shrimp. This area is best fished with a south wind. Stay as far off the shoreline as possible, then cast back to the bank.


Email Capt. Mac Gable at captmac@macattackguideservice.com 


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