The state of Montana is asking the public to weigh in on whether drones and remote-controlled boats should be banned for fishing.
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission recently advanced for public comment a proposal prohibiting the use of drones and remote-controlled boats to place bait or lures, troll, or hook and land fish. The proposal also bars using the devices to search for fish that are then cast to with a rod and reel.
In June, Game Warden Phil Kilbreath presented to the commission, telling them that wardens had increasingly received questions about the legality of drones and remote-controlled boats. The devices have gained popularity with online videos popping up from across the U.S. and Canada while reports of their use in Montana have been sporadic.
FWP enforcement did not feel the law was clear, he said. In general, laws and regulations contain specific prohibitions against the use of guns, traps or “other devices,” but anglers routinely use devices such as downriggers to place bait or lures and an argument could be made that the drones or remote-controlled boats perform a similar function.
Commissioners gave their initial nod of support with going out to the public, with Commissioner Richard Suker of Chinook voicing the need to be proactive on issues of technology and ethics.
Taking the measure to the public also drew support from conservation groups.
Clayton Elliot with Montana Trout Unlimited felt the use of advancing technology was an important and complex topic for anglers to weigh in on.
“We’re trying to search and find the nexus between angling tactics and our mission to preserve and protect cold water fisheries and certainly at times in the fishing regulation process that has led us into angling tactics and how certain restriction may meet that mission,” he said.
Nick Gevock with the Montana Wildlife Federation echoed support, telling the commission that Montana has been out front in prohibiting drone use for hunting and adding angling would create some consistency.
FWP will post the open comment period and a yet to be scheduled public hearing on its website at www.fwp.mt.gov.
Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin