Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is holding virtual commission meetings regarding the use of drones when fishing.

At issue is whether to specifically outlaw drone attachments and small remote-controlled boats - the types of tech tools being used to scout, hook and land fish in places out of normal angler reach. Videos are posted on the internet that show them being used. The strategy is pretty obvious. Seeing fish from above can identify schools of fish or areas where fish are feeding. Remote units can then transport a line and bait to the location. Some units also work underwater.

Using a drone to locate, track, film or harass animals is already illegal in Montana. State law also prohibits using a gun, trap or “Other Device’ to capture fish. The current law does not specify whether drones or unmanned vessels qualify as “Other Devices”.

Downriggers, planer boards, and sonar are all legal in Montana. Using underwater cameras for fishing is also legal. Remote Control Devices are not physically connected to the angler or hunter. A remote control is used to direct and manage an electronic radio-controlled device.

While this type of technology might not be used much in Montana waters compared to, say, ocean fishing, Montana FWP is working to determine a line between too much technology and what sporting and ethical means to catch a fish or harvest an animal. Like any law, it's needed due to a minority of violators. Most Montana anglers and hunters play by the rules.