Field Notes: Topwater, underwater drones have come to fishing

You knew it had to come sooner or later: Drone technology has infiltrated fishing. A Missouri company has developed a fishing system with a modular rod and reel and a tiny drone boat. Instead of casting, the drone carries the lure over the water ...

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You knew it had to come sooner or later: Drone technology has infiltrated fishing.

A Missouri company has developed a fishing system with a modular rod and reel and a tiny drone boat. Instead of casting, the drone carries the lure over the water and out to where you want it and drops it off. The drone can then be unhooked from the lure and returned to the angler who then reels-in the lure.

It's called RoboRod. The rod looks a little odd compared to traditional tackle - the drone controls are built-in to the rod that also has a built-in reel. A video sent by the company shows how it works. Go to to check it out. They are accepting orders now for early fall delivery.

It's all about getting your lure to fish you otherwise can't reach by traditional casting.

"It's probably the biggest development in the fishing rod since the addition of the reel,'' said Paul Leslie, the company's chief development officer. "We've exceeded our expectations in the prototype testing phase and now we're ready to ramp up for commercial production. The buzz on the social networks is beyond encouraging."


The suggested retail price is $159 for the basic unit, but the company is offering an early-adopter price of $99. A more expensive model, with a depth finder and temperature sensor built into the drone, sells for $300.

If you want even more technology the PowerRay ($1,800) is a full-fledged submarine drone that can power down to depths of 100 feet and transmit live images and other data (depth, temperature, fish echos) back to the angler from up to a football field away. There's also a PowerSeeker to look for fish and an add-on option to carry your lure out to distant fish, like the RoboRod.

The iBobber ($90) is a small, lightweight castable sonar unit that sends data back to the angler's smartphone or smartwatch, just like a depth finder/fish finder but over your lure. Works in depths up to 135 feet.

Parsons new Minnesota fisheries chief

Brad Parsons, a 31-year fisheries veteran and current central region fisheries manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, has been selected as the new statewide fisheries chief for the DNR. He'll start July 25.

Parsons, a St. Paul Park resident, replaces Don Pereira, who retired June 8.

Parsons has been the DNR's central region fisheries manager since 2010. He's also played a key role in management issues on Lake Mille Lacs, the St. Croix River and Mississippi River. He also is the agency's point person with the citizen-based Walleye Workgroup.

Parsons began his career at the DNR researching a range of topics including walleye populations, angler harvest and attitudes, wetland ecology and predator-prey interactions.


Parsons will oversee a $34 million annual fisheries section budget and a staff of 286 employees. With personnel based in four regional offices, 29 area offices and 15 hatcheries, the fisheries section carries out research and management programs affecting state fish species and habitat.

Fishing is big business in Minnesota - some $2.4 billion in spending and support 35,000 jobs, according to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey. About 28 percent of Minnesotans go fishing, double the national average.

Parsons is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and has a degree in fisheries from the University of Wyoming. He is the author or co-author of numerous peer-reviewed publications and technical reports.

Minnesota mallards, Canada goose populations up

Minnesota's population of mallards, blue-winged teal and Canada geese appear to be up over last year, according to results of the annual survey by the Department of Natural Resources.

As reported in Tuesday's News Tribune, the DNR said ample snowmelt and spring rains helped fill wetlands, which provide more places for ducks and geese to nest.

The estimated number of wetlands was just 1 percent lower than last year and 4 percent above the long-term average.

Steve Cordts, the DNR's waterfowl specialist, said the survey showed an estimated mallard breeding population of 295,000. That's 38 percent above last year's estimate of 214,000 breeding mallards and 30 percent above the long-term average measured each year since 1968.


The blue-winged teal population is 191,000 this year, 20 percent above last year's estimate but 10 percent below the long-term average.

The combined populations of other ducks such as ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads is 207,000, which is 21 percent lower than last year but 15 percent above the long-term average.

This year's Canada goose population was estimated at 162,000 geese, similar to last year's estimate of 152,000 geese and 2 percent above the long-term average.

The estimates are for waterfowl that stop and nest in Minnesota only. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release the results of its North American waterfowl survey later this summer.

The same waterfowl survey has been done each year since 1968 to provide an annual index. Cordts said unusual spring weather - such as a cold, snowy April and late-ice out in farm areas of the state followed by one of the warmest Mays on record - likely impacted waterfowl nesting, pushing goose nesting later than usual and likely reducing the total hatch of goslings.

North Dakota's annual spring survey found overall duck numbers down 5 percent from 2017 levels with the number of wetlands down 34 percent due to dry conditions.

Apply by Aug. 17 for Camp Ripley hunts

Hunters may pick from only one of two hunting seasons: Oct. 18-19 or Oct. 27-28. A total of 4,000 permits, with 2,000 per two-day hunt, will be available. The bag limit for this year's hunt is two, and bonus permits may be used to take antlerless deer.

Additional rules and instructions for this year's hunt will be posted in July at Hunters can apply at any one of 1,500 license agents across the state; by phone at 888-665-4236 or at


John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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