Using ROV to recover lost fishing traps


We have a grant to investigate uses of new technologies for mapping and removing lost fishing traps (“ghost traps”), which continue to fish for years after they are lost.

We’re thinking about trying to use an OpenROV to attach a tether to the traps, so that they could be winched up to a boat.

How would be best to do this?



We’re thinking of attaching a lightweight gaff to the ROV, which we would hook the trap with.

The gaff would be connected to a separate line than the ROV, which we would reel in from the boat. When being reeled in, the ROV would passively ride along, and and (hopefully) tension would be in the gaff’s line, not the ROV’s.


I’m looking at doing something similar. I’ve made hooks on a separate line, and used the ROV to attach it - seemed to work well. Where are you based? I’d be interested in helping however I can.

I want to get the Trident hooked up with ROS on the surface, and start looking at vision recongnition to help find traps, and do some of the hookup automatically. Long term goal would be some kind of automated ghost trap recovery vessel.



We’re in Gainesville Florida, where are you?


Where do you work out of, the Gulf or the Atlantic since Gainesville is in the middle between the Gulf and the Atlantic?
I presently have a modified OROV 2.8 (uses BR M100 motors) and live in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but am moving up to Summerfield which is near Ocala if I can be of help.
Also, I have a Hybrid ROV using BR Thrusters and an OROV 2.8 Controller Board, and a BR BlueROV2.


We work on the Gulf now, now we can work out of either given our location!


A piece of marine hardware called a “happy hooker” is commonly used to attach a line from a ROV. Several companies make them or you can make your own. Once the line is attached the ROV returns and people or a winch can do the heavy lifting.


This looks really promising, I’ll check it out!


I’m in Vancouver. One of the traps is my own, which I lost about 3 years ago. I’ve been trying to get it since, and I really hope I can get it with the trident. I had the required rot cord in it, so I’m hoping it performed as designed and opened a wall, but I still would feel much better with it out of the ocean. And I know there are a lot more. We get log booms a lot here, so when they tow around they are notorious for pulling pots up, and then the traps sink.


Traps down here in Florida have the panel rot out in 2 years, so you should be good if it’s the same.

We lose so many a year down here though that even in those two years there are a lot out catching things still. :confused:


Hello Rhett,

I’m up in the Florida Panhandle Alabama coastal area and was wondering if you could pass on any information on attaining grants. I’m interested in video documenting invasive species and their effect on the environment?




Hi Justin!

Our grant is kind of a one off thing, but there are directories of grants to apply for online. I’ll link you one when I get home!


Thanks Rhett,

I just purchased a v2.7 rov and look forward to start working with it.


I found the 2.x series a little tricky to do precision control with, which made getting a line on something tough. It would be kind of interesting to set up a trap leaderboard system. Once I get my trident, I’d be interested in setting up some kind of online tracking system, and see where it can grow from. The idea being that you take a photo of the trap with the trident, recover it or otherwise confirm it can’t fish, and then log it. It would be awesome to get “bounty” type rewards depending on how many traps you recover.


That’s an interesting idea. In Florida you can get $10 per trap, but it’s heavily regulated and you need a permit


How much weight can be added to an OpenROV 2.8?

I’m planning out how heavy the hooking apparatus can be/determining if the happy hooker hook listed earlier will work.

Second, what’s a light weight line that could be used to reel in the trap but wouldn’t compromise the ROV’s mobility?




I believe that the buoyancy of the OROV 2.8 is just slightly buoyant so the addition of any additional weight to the ROV frame will cause it to be negatively buoyant.
If you want to maintain just slightly positive buoyancy, then you will have to add buoyant material to the frame if you are going to add a heavy hooking apparatus.


We’ll have to toy with it. Thanks!



I suspect the linked Happy Hookers are a bit too big for OpenROV to comfortably fit, but it’s certainly worth a try. I would stick with the plastic version, to keep the buoyancy changes to a minimum. Since the hooker is going to be mounted in front of the ROV, you’ll need to shift other weight back. I’d start by removing the two ballast weights that are at the front of the battery tubes. Mount the hooker to the rails on the bottom of the ROV, and then play with flotation and weights to get both the buoyancy and the balance right. Have fun!



What type of traps are you looking to recover? Are they Florida lobster traps? …and how are they made - are they wooden-slat types, vinyl coated wire mesh or twine-sided traps?
I’m looking to do the same thing with my new 2.8 when I get it together, and I was thinking more along the idea of using a lightweight grapnel to hook the traps, and detach once hooked. But being from New England, most of the gear up here is 1 1/2" square wire mesh, so that happy hooker probly wouldn’t work.