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Florida Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations

Republished from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Some of the the information may be outdated on this page, so it’s best to double check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Or you can go to Florida Sportsman’s own Fishing Regulations page.

If you fish in Florida, you must have a fishing license. How do you know if you need a fishing license?

GET YOUR FISHING LICENSE ONLINE!

Basic Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD!!! Basic Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations–By Species (size limits, bag limits, seasons and other important info)

This is a brief summary of regulations governing the taking of saltwater species in Florida for personal use. It is not intended, or designed to provide specific information on commercial harvesting of these species. The failure to include complete laws, rules, and regulations in this summary does not relieve persons from abiding by those laws, rules or regulations. State waters extend to 3 nautical miles on the Atlantic and 9 nautical miles on the Gulf. Federal rules apply beyond state waters. For species that do not have an established bag limit, more than 100 pounds or 2 fish per person, per day (whichever is greater), is considered commercial quantities. A saltwater products license and commercial vessel registration is required to harvest commercial quantities of unregulated species.

* Fishing regulations change periodically. We do our best to keep up, but for the most current regulations it is best to visit the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commision site at FWC’s Saltwater Fishing Regulations page.

What you Must Know Before You Go

This information relates to recreational hunting and fishing only. The Rules and Regulations section of MyFWC.com has information on commercial activities related to Hunting (taking furbearers) and Freshwater Fishing – including information about license requirements and exemptions. Also online is an area devoted to license requirements for Saltwater Commercial Fishing.

Recreational licenses and permits for residents and nonresidents are available at county tax collectors’ offices. In addition, you can buy them from subagents, such as sporting goods stores or other retailers that sell hunting or fishing equipment; on the Internet and by phone. All license, permit and issuance fees are subject to change by the legislature.

Lifetime licenses

The FWC issues lifetime licenses to Florida residents for hunting, freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing. Funds generated from the sale of these licenses are invested, creating an endowment to support the long-term conservation of Florida’s wildlife and fisheries resources.

For avid sportsmen who want the convenience of securing licensing, once and for all, for all your hunting or fishing activities, the lifetime license is for you. Your lifetime license will remain valid for use in Florida even if you move out of state. For hunters and anglers who like a bargain, the cost of a lifetime license is less than what you would spend on annual licenses, permits and fees. The earlier you make your purchase, the bigger the savings. The lifetime license is for parents, grandparents and family friends who want to pass on the joys of outdoor recreation to young people and help ensure that today’s youth have the natural resources to share hunting, freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing with their children.

The lifetime license is for conservationists who want to contribute to the long-term management of Florida’s natural resources. Only the interest from the trust fund is appropriated. The principal is held in perpetuity to ensure future funding for fish and wildlife programs. This endowment will ensure that Florida’s natural resources are conserved today for the future and that your children can pass on your family’s hunting and fishing tradition to their children.

Florida residency

For the purposes of hunting or fishing in Florida, a Resident is defined as:

• Any person who has resided in Florida for 6 continuous months prior to the issuance of a license and who claims Florida as his/her primary residence; or

• Any member of the United States Armed Forces who is stationed in Florida (includes spouse and dependent children residing in the household).

For license and permit information (including application forms) regarding captive wildlife, freshwater commercial fishing and alligator trapping, follow this link.

Exemptions

You do not need a hunting, freshwater fishing or saltwater fishing license if…

• You are a child under 16 years of age. (Also exempt from federal duck stamp requirements.)
• You are a Florida resident age 65 or older possessing proof of age and residency or possessing a Resident Senior Citizen Hunting and Fishing Certificate. Residents age 65 or older may obtain, at no cost, complimentary hunting and fishing certificates from county tax collectors’ offices.
• You hunt or fish in your county of residence on your homestead or the homestead of your spouse or minor child, or if you are a minor child hunting or fishing on the homestead of your parent.
• You are a Florida resident certified as totally and permanently disabled and you possess a Florida Resident Disabled Person Hunting and Fishing Certificate.
• You are a resident who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, you are not stationed in this state, and you are home on leave for 30 days or less, upon submission of orders.

You do not need a freshwater fishing license if…

• You have been accepted as a client for developmental services by the Department of Children and Family Services. The department must furnish proof to such clients.
• You are a resident who is fishing with live or natural bait, using poles or lines that are not equipped with a fishing-line-retrieval mechanism, and you are fishing for noncommercial purposes in your home county. However, you must have a valid fishing license to fish by any method in a fish management area.
• You are fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or less which is located entirely within the private property of its owner. A fish pond is a man-made pond constructed for the primary purpose of fishing, entirely within the property lines of the owner and with no surface water connection to public waters.
• You are fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or more, whose owner has purchased a fish pond license at a fee of $3 per surface acre.
• You possess a Resident Freshwater Commercial Fishing License.
• You are fishing in the St. Mary’s River or Lake Seminole (but not including tributary creeks in Florida) and have a valid Georgia fishing license.
• You are freshwater fishing during Free Fishing Weekend (the first weekend of April).

You do not need a saltwater fishing license if…

• You have been accepted as a client for developmental services by the Department of Children and Family Services. The department must furnish proof to such clients.
• You are a resident fishing in saltwater from land or from a structure fixed to the land.
• You are a resident fishing for a saltwater species in fresh water from land or from a structure fixed to land.
• You fish from a for-hire vessel (guide, charter, party boat) that has a valid vessel license.
• You fish from a vessel, the operator of which has a valid vessel license issued in the name of the operator of the vessel.
• You fish for recreational purposes from a pier with a valid pier saltwater fishing license.
• You have a valid saltwater products license.
• You fish for mullet in fresh water and you have a valid Florida freshwater fishing license.

Quota hunt permit exemptions…

• Follow this link for information about quota hunt permit exemptions.


How to Order

If you have a major credit card, the FWC offers you 2 ways to buy your hunting or fishing license without leaving your home.

Follow this link to buy your licenses online.*(A $2.25 + 2.5% surcharge of total sale per person will be added to your purchase.)

• Dial toll-free, either 1-888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486-8356) or 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356) from anywhere in the United States or Canada.

With either method, you’ll have a temporary license number within minutes, enabling you to hunt (in season) or fish right away. Your permanent license will be mailed within 48 hours.

Hunter Safety Requirement

Persons born on or after June 1, 1975 may not be issued a license to hunt in Florida with the use of a firearm, gun (including a muzzleloading gun), bow or crossbow without first having successfully completed a hunter safety course. Anyone who meets the above description must present a valid hunter safety certification card prior to being issued a hunting license (excluding lifetime licenses).

Individuals exempted from purchasing a hunting license but born on or after June 1, 1975 are exempted from the hunter safety requirement. Lifetime license holders born on or after June 1, 1975 whose licenses do not indicate that they have completed a hunter safety course must have the hunter safety certification card in their possession while hunting.

Hunter Safety Requirement Deferral

Anyone 16 years or older and born after May 31, 1975 may hunt under the supervision of a licensed hunter, 21 or older, without having to complete the state’s hunter safety certification. For more information see Hunter Safety Mentoring Exemption.

For more information and class schedules, contact the nearest FWC regional office.

Panama City : 850-265-3676

Lake City: 386-758-0525

Ocala: 352-625-2804

Lakeland: 863-648-3200

West Palm Beach: 561-625-5122

Different Florida Licenses:

Hunting license
Saltwater fishing
Freshwater fishing
Limited Entry/Quota Permit
License and Permit Search
Lifetime Licenses


You Do Not Need a License If You Are:

– A child under 16 years of age.

– Fishing from a for-hire vessel–guide, charter, party boat–that has a valid vessel license.

– A holder of a valid saltwater products license.

– A Florida resident–65 years old or older and you possess either a Resident Senior Citizen Hunting and Fishing Certificate or proof of age and residency.

– A Florida resident who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, who is not stationed in this state, while on leave for 30 days or less, upon submission of orders. This does not include family members.

– Any person who has been accepted as a client for development services by the Department of Children and Family Services, provided the department furnishes proof thereof.

– A nonresident fishing for recreational purposes from a pier that has a valid pier saltwater fishing license.

– Fishing from a boat that has a valid recreational vessel saltwater fishing license.

– A Florida resident who is fishing for mullet in freshwater–with a valid Florida freshwater license.

– A Florida resident fishing for saltwater fish in freshwater from land or from a structure fixed to the land.

– A Florida resident certified as totally and permanently disabled, who possesses a Florida Resident Disabled Person Hunting and Fishing Certificate. Applicants need to provide a certification of total and permanent disability from the United Stases Armed Forces, Railroad Retirement Board, Florida Worker’s Compensation or the United States Veterans Administration. Alternatively, current documentation for the Social Security Administration for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Supplemental Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits also will be accepted.


Recreational Gear

Additional regional gear restrictions may apply in your county.

Hook-and-Line Gear

Hook-and-line anglers must tend their gear at all times to prevent people, marine life, and shore life from becoming entangled in the line or injured by the hook. Also, it is against the law to intentionally discard any monofilament netting or line into or onto state waters. Monofilament line can entangle birds, marine mammals, marine turtles, and fish, often injuring or killing them.

Nets

The following types of nets may be used for recreational purposes in Florida waters:

– Bully nets (for lobster only) no greater than 3 feet in diameter.

– Frame nets and push nets (for shrimp only) no greater than 16 feet in perimeter.

– Hand held landing or dip nets no greater than 96 inches in perimeter.

– Castnets measuring 14 feet or less stretched length (stretched length is defined as the distance from the horn at the center of the net with the net gathered and pulled taut, to the lead line). Castnets may be used as harvesting gear for the following species only: black drum, bluefish, cobia, flounder, mullet, Florida pompano, red drum, sheepshead, shrimp, Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout, weakfish, and unregulated species.

– Beach or haul seines measuring no larger than 500 square feet of mesh area, no larger than 2 inches stretched mesh size, not constructed of monofilament, and legibly marked at both ends with the harvester’s name and address, if a Florida resident. Non-residents using beach or haul seines for recreational purposes are required to have a commercial saltwater products license and legibly mark the seine at both ends with the harvester’s saltwater products license number. Beach or haul seines may be used as harvesting gear for the following species only: black drum, bluefish, cobia, flounder, mullet, Florida pompano, red drum, sheepshead, shrimp, Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout, weakfish, and unregulated species.

Explosives:

The use of powerheads, explosives, chemicals, or the discharge of firearms into the water to kill or harvest marine life is prohibited in state waters.


Points on Possesion

Posession Limits for Multiple Day Recreational Fishing Trips

Many anglers are unsure or unaware of how bag and possession limits affect them during fishing trips which exceed one fishing day. Bag limits are daily limits for the 24 hour period beginning at midnight and ending the following midnight. These bag limits may not be exceeded at any time and are not considered “per trip” limits. What’s important in this definition is that once you have caught and possess the bag limit for a species, you may not harvest any more of this species until the next daily period. Taking the catch to shore and then going back to harvest another daily bag limit is illegal.

But what if you were fishing in the Bahamas? In this instance, you are subject to the environmental laws of the Bahamas and a violation of their rules may constitute a violation of U.S. Federal laws. Contact the U.S. Coast Guard and Bahamian officials for current information

Or what about camping on an island in state waters? Are you able to possess an equal number of bag limits as the number of days fished? In this case you are restricted to one daily bag limit regardless of the number of days fished.

Other scenarios might be that you are camping on the mainland, staying in a motel, at your beach house, in transit over land from an extended fishing trip, etc. Under these circumstances, the possession of multiple daily bag limits depends on the species you intend to keep and more importantly, the location where you possess the fish. The following table provides you with the information needed to:

1) determine whether or not you can possess more than one daily bag limit (on land) for an individual species when fishing for multiple days

2) the locations where it would be prohibited to possess the fish in excess of one daily bag limit

Tarpon – has no daily bag limit, but it is illegal to posses more than two tarpon at any time. Any tarpon possessed must have tarpon tag affixed.

Reef fish (snappers and groupers included within the aggregate bag limit, hogfish, Atlantic coast red porgy, and Atlantic coast black sea bass)- Any person who has fished for more than one day may possess double the daily bag limit once such person has departed the fishing site and is no longer within 100 yards of any state waters, docks, fishing piers, or other fishing sites. Additionally, any person who has fished aboard a charter vessel or headboat on a trip that spans more than 24 hours may possess double the daily bag limit provided that the vessel has a sleeping berth for each passenger aboard the vessel and each passenger possesses a receipt issued on behalf of the vessel that verifies the length of the trip.

If further clarification is required, please contact your regional FWC office.


Spearing

Spearing is defined as “the catching or taking of a fish by bowhunting, gigging, spearfishing, or any device used to capture a fish by piercing its body. Spearing does not include the catching or taking of a fish by a hook with hook and line gear or by snagging (snatch hooking)”. The use of powerheads, bangsticks, and rebreathers remains prohibited. The following is a list of species which are prohibited for harvest by spearing. Any other species not listed which are managed by the Commission, and those not managed by the Commission are allowed to be harvested by spearing:

Billfish (all species), Bonefish, Nassau Grouper, Pompano, Spotted Eagle Ray, Tarpon, Spotted Seatrout, African Pompano, Sturgeon, Goliath Grouper, Red Drum, Permit , Manta Ray, Snook, Weakfish, Tripletail, Sharks, Blue Crab, Stone Crab, Lobster. Also: Families of ornamental reef fish (surgeonfish, t
rumpetfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, porcupinefish, cornetfish, squirrelfish, trunkfish, damselfish, parrotfish, pipefish, seahorse, puffers, triggerfish except gray and ocean)

You May NOT Spearfish (excluding bowhunting and gigging):

– Effective July 1, 2001, Spearfishing of marine and freshwater species in freshwater is prohibited. Possesion of a spear gun in or on freshwater is also prohibited.

– Within 100 yards of a public swimming beach, any commercial or public fishing pier, or any part of a bridge from which public fishing is allowed.

– Within 100 feet of any part of a jetty that is above the surface of the sea–except for the last 500 yards of a jetty that extends more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline.

– In Collier County and in Monroe County from Long Key north to the Dade County line.

– For any fish for which spearing is expressly prohibited by law.

– In any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks. (Possession of spearfishing equipment is prohibited in these areas, unless it is unloaded and properly stored.) Fishermen who catch and/or sell fish harvested by spearing are subject to the same rules and limitations that other fishermen in the state are required to follow.


Regional Field Offices

Northwest Region
850-265-3676

Regional Office
3911 Highway 2321
Panama City, FL 32409

Carrabelle Field Office
287 Graham Drive
Carrabelle, FL 32322

Pensacola Field Office
1101 East Gregory Street
Pensacola, FL 32502

North Central Region
386-758-0525

Regional Office
3377 East US Highway 90
Lake City, FL 32055

Crystal River Field Office
140247 North Suncoast Blvd.
Crystal River, FL 34428-6715

Jacksonville Beach Field Office
Naval Air Station
Bldg 118, Albemarie Ave.
Jacksonville, FL 32212

Northeast Region
352-732-1225

Regional Office
1239 S.W. 10th Street
Ocala, FL 34471

Titusville Field Office
1-A Max Brewer Memorial Parkway
Titusville, FL 32796

Southwest Region
863-648-3203

Regional Office
3900 Drane Field Road
Lakeland, FL 33811

Tampa Field Office
5110 Gandy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33611

Fort Myers Field Office
2423 Edwards Drive
Fort Myers, FL 33901

South Region A
561-625-5122

Regional Office
8535 North Lake Blvd.
West Palm Beach, FL 33412

Jupiter Field Office
1300 Marcinski Road
Jupiter, FL 33477

South Region B
305-956-2500

Regional Office
3200 NE 151 Street
Miami, FL 33181

Marathon Field Office
2796 Overseas Highway #100
Marathon, FL 33050

RESOURCE HOTLINES

>Fish Kill Hotline: Call 800-636-0511
>Red Tide Status Line: Toll-free inside Florida only – 866-300-9399; Outside Florida – 727-552-2448.
>To Purchase Fishing Licenses: 888-347-4356
>Division of Law Enforcement: 888-404-3922
>Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 727-896-8626 myfwc.com/research/
>Fish Tags: 800-367-4461
>TO REPORT WILDLIFE LAW VIOLATIONS, call Wildlife Alert Network Wildlife Alert. Call 888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922). Cellular phone users, call *FWC or #FWC.

FOR CURRENT FEDERAL REGULATUIONS AND INFORMATION

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council www.gulfcouncil.org
South Atlantic Fishery Management Council www.safmc.net
National Marine Fisheries Service www.nmfs.noaa.gov


The Division of Law Enforcement (DLE)
The Division of Law Enforcement patrols Florida’s coastal waters to provide assistance to boaters and anglers as well as to enforce Florida’s saltwater fishing and boating laws. FWC officers assist boaters who are in distress, provide advice and direction to those who are traveling Florida’s coastline and waterways, and may issue citations for violations of state and federal fishing, wildlife and boating laws.

Tallahassee Headquarters
Bureau of Field Operations, 850-488-9924