Florida Fishing Regulations
Be Smart. Be Prepared. Be Safe.
Always research local fishing rules and regulations for the Area you will be fishing. Rules change frequently so do your homework. We highlight rules that most likely won't change in the near future on this website. We do not include species bag limits because they change frequently some several times a year so check the rules before you drop a line in the water in Florida.
Federal and State Waters
Atlantic & Keys - State waters extend to 3 nautical miles - Federal rules apply beyond the 3 mile mark & extend to 200 miles
Gulf of Mexico - State waters extend to 9 nautical miles - Federal rules apply beyond the 9 mile mark & extend to 200 miles
Saltwater Fishing Regulations Florida - click image to order the FL booklet
Gulf of Mexico Federal Regulations (9 miles +)
South Atlantic Federal Regulations (3 miles +)
Florida's guides are Free and can be acquire locally in most bait shops or at marinas. These guides change semi-annually and contain a wealth of information including local fish identification, size & take limits, fishing gear rules, etc. The My FWC website also contains the most up to date information on fishing and boating in Florida.
A new online resource is eRegulations by FWC where you can stay up-to-date on current regulations. We summarize the most common rules on this website and offer resources for you to keep abreast of the regulations.
Always keep an up to date copy of the Florida Fishing Regulationsfor quick reference such as size limits and fish identification (most local's do). Remember to check the rules often as they change frequently in Florida.
For bag limits and sizes see the chart of Saltwater Species Quick Chart. For species that do not have an established bag limit, more than 100 pounds or two fish per harvester per day (whichever is greater), is considered commercial quantities.
Recreational fishermen are required to hold an Atlantic HMS (Angling category) recreational fishing permit in order to recreationally harvest Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (Sharks, Tunas, Swordfish, and Billfish) in federal waters. See the HMS Recreational Compliance Guide for details on this regulation.
Fishing in the Bahamas and Returning to the US with Your Catch?
Be sure to review FWC's rules which can be found here https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/regulations/bahamas. You can find the Bahamas regulations on Bahamas.com
Special Rules for Fishing Boats
CIRCLE HOOKS - You must use non-stainless steel circle hooks when using natural baits in Federal waters.
If you are fishing on a boat, your catch must remain in whole condition until landed ashore (heads, fins & tails intact). Please refer to the Florida Saltwater Regulations guide for the specifics on each species.
All vessels fishing in federal waters must have aboard venting and dehooking tools and non-stainless steel circle hooks when using natural baits for the purpose of reducing mortality in reef fishes, including snapper, grouper and Goliath grouper. For more information read the regulations before going, there links at the top and bottom of this page to the two Federal regulatory agencies. For information on these tools required, see our Catch & Release page.
Do NOT bring Tarpon or Goliath grouper on board your boat or land. New state and federal guidelines PROHIBIT this activity. Release them while still in the water.
Shark fishing has it's own special set of rules. Review the Federal regulations and learn about Shark species and ID by viewing this document Shark Identification & Federal Rules.
Fishing for Sharks from Shore
You need the permit to fish for sharks from shore. Adult anglers fishing for shark from shore must take an online educational shore-based shark fishing course AND have a no-cost, shore-based shark fishing permit (renew annually). This permit will be associated with your recreational fishing license if you are required to have one. Fishing for sharks from a vessel does not require the additional permit. This requirement is for all adult anglers that require a license (as well as those over the age of 65 who are normally exempt from needing a license) targeting or harvesting sharks from shore, including from any structure attached to shore such as jetties, bridges and piers. The permit is also required if fishing from shore for any species under the following circumstances:
- Fishing with a metal leader more than 4 feet long,
- Using a fighting belt/harness, or
- Deploying bait by any means other than casting (kayaking for example) while using a hook that is 1 ? inches or larger at the widest inside distance.
Those 16 and younger fishing for sharks from shore or as otherwise described above are not required to obtain the permit but will be required to take the online educational course unless they are fishing with an adult who already holds the permit. When chumming for shark or other species?
Chumming is prohibited when fishing for any species (not just sharks) from the beach.
Prohibited Shark Species Whether fishing from shore, or from a boat, prohibited species must remain in the water. When fishing from shore, prohibited sharks must be released immediately. Hook removal or cutting the hook or leader must be completed as quickly as possible to prevent delaying release of prohibited species.
Gear to use when fishing for sharks When fishing from shore or vessel, non-offset, non-stainless-steel circle hooks must be used when fishing for sharks with live or dead natural bait. The new rules also require that you be in possession of a device capable of quickly cutting your hook or leader (bolt cutters or cable cutters for example).
Learn more about the online education course and how to get the permit, see a list of prohibited sharks, and more at MyFWC.com/ Marine by clicking on “Recreational Regulations” and “Sharks.”
Rules for Offshore Fishing in Special Marine Zones
|Source: http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/zones/ special/welcome.html|
There are areas offshore around Florida that are protected by many different governmental organizations. We indicate these zones on our GPS Coordinates pages for easy reference. Visit our Fishing Reefs & Shipwrecks page for details on the Special Marine Zones and the rules within them.
There are also Federal deep water Marine Protected Areas offshore near Islamorada, Jupiter to Daytona, or Jacksonville adjacent to popular fishing areas?please check the MPA's locations before fishing in the deep waters and know the coordinates so you do not unintentionally fish these areas.
Catch and Release
Freshwater & Saltwater anglers are encouraged to practice Catch and Release to preserve our freshwater populations. For information see our Catch & Release page.
There are many regularly caught species that do not have specific rules or restrictions such as the Ladyfish, Cero Mackerel, Blackfin Tuna, Bonito, Great Barracuda and Jack Crevalle. Even though there are not specific regulations gear requirements still apply along with a default bag limit which is defined as commercial quantities requiring a special licence if you exceed the maximum limit for recreation fishing.
- Legal Gear: Hook and line, spears, gigs, haul seines and cast nets (gear restrictions apply in certain locations)
- Illegal Gear: Chemicals, explosives, electricity, bang sticks, fish traps, etc.
- Default Bag Limit for Unregulated Species: Two fish or 100 pounds per day - whichever is more. For smaller fish like white grunt, the limit is 100 pounds regardless of the number of fish it takes to reach that total weight. For larger fish such as the southern stingray, if you harvest two fish that have a combined weight of 150 pounds, that is your limit for that species.
- Black bass, peacock bass or any part thereof may not be used as bait. Live non-native fishes (including goldfish and carp) may not be used as bait, except for variable platys and fathead minnows.
- Whole pickerel or panfish (e.g., bluegill, redear sunfish, redbreast sunfish, spotted sunfish, flier, warmouth) or parts thereof may be used as bait for sportfishing by the angler who caught them. Whole pickerel or bream or parts thereof may not be used as bait for trotlines or bush hooks or any method other than by rod and reel or pole and line.
- Panfish less than 4 inches in total length raised by a licensed aquaculture facility may be purchased and used for bait.
Chumming in Florida is more common than most states. We have little structure for fish to congregate, so bringing the fish to you with fish chum is a must. Although using fish chum, burley, or Groundbait in Florida is legal, there are some rules to the road. We have a full section dedicated to Fish Chumming in Florida, give it a visit for rules, tricks and tips.
Florida Fishing Licenses
As with most states, you must have a fishing license for recreational fishing in Florida. Your fishing license helps support the agencies that enforce the rules and maintain our waterways.
There are exemptions to this license requirement including children under 16 years of age and residents over 65 years of age are exempt. There are more exceptions, check the Exemptions page at Florida Fish & Wildlife.
When fishing, always carry your fishing license or proof of exemption (a valid drivers license or photo ID showing your age and residency).
Recreational licenses and permits can be purchased by phone, on the internet, and through out the area in marina's, bait & tackle shops, sporting goods stores, and at any county tax collector's office.
The fee's for licenses depend on whether you are a resident of Florida or non-resident. There are also special stamps or permits you must purchase if you plan to fish or trap for Snook, Tarpon, and Lobsters.
- Get detailed information at Florida Fish & Wildlife.
- Purchase by Telephone 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356) from anywhere in the United States or Canada.
- Purchase Online at Florida Fish & Wildlife
- Purchase at local Sub-Agents like Walmart, Kmart, Sports Authority, bait shops, and marinas.
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.
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. At most public fishing areas you will find Fishing Line disposal containers, please use them.
The Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program (MRRP) is a statewide effort to educate the public on the problems caused by monofilament line left in the environment, to encourage recycling through a network of line recycling bins and drop-off locations, and to conduct volunteer monofilament line cleanup events.
For more information and to find a location near you visit http://marinecleanupinitiativeinc.org/
Non-stainless steel circle hooks must be used when using natural baits in Federal waters. Circle hooks catch the fish in the side of the mouth preventing injury to the fish if it is released.
Treble hooks can be used for fishing but cannot be used to target the following species:
red drum (redfish)
Treble hooks are considered a "multiple hook" meaning two or more fishhooks bound together to comprise a single unit or any hook with a single shank and eye and two or more pointed ends, used to impale fish. The Florida Administrative Code (FAC) defines "multiple hook" in Chapter 68B-4.002(10).
Reef fishing has special regulations for state waters and varies by area.
The following types of nets may be used for recreational purposes in Florida waters:
- Cast nets 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 Sea Trout, weakfish and unregulated species.
- Hand held landing or dip nets no greater than 96 inches in perimeter. Cast nets 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).
- Bully nets (for lobster only) no greater than 3 feet in diameter n Frame nets and push nets (for shrimp only) no greater than 16 feet in perimeter.
- 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, weak fish and unregulated species. Source: https://myfwc.com/fishing
Lobstering in Florida has it's own special set of rules, many of which vary by region and county. Always consult current laws before Lobstering
Brochure Lobstering Monroe County
Full Text of Florida's Laws
Lobstering Prohibited Biscayne Bay & Card Sound Rules
Chart Biscayne Bay & Card Sound showing prohibited areas
Spearing is defined as "the catching or taking of a fish by bow-hunting, gigging, spear fishing, or any device used to capture a fish by piercing its body." Spear fishing is defined as "the catching or taking of a fish through the instrumentality of a hand or mechanically propelled, single or multi-pronged spear or lance, barbed or barbless, operated by a person swimming at or below the surface of the water." The use of power heads, bangsticks, and re breathers remains prohibited.
|Prohibited for Harvest by Spearing in Florida|
|African pompano||Manta ray||Sturgeon|
|Billfish (all species)||Permit||Spotted seatrout|
|Blue Crab||Pompano||Stone Crab|
|Lobster||Spotted eagle ray|
|Families of ornamental reef fish (surgeonfish, trumpetfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, porcupinefish, cornetfish, squirrelfish, trunkfish, damselfish, parrotfish, pipefish, seahorse, puffers, triggerfish except gray and ocean)|
- Spear fishing of marine and freshwater species in freshwater is prohibited. Possession 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 (listed above).
- In any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection, Recreation and Parks. (Possession of spear fishing equipment is prohibited in these areas, unless it is unloaded and properly stored.)
Dive Down Flags are required by law for snorkelers, divers, and spearfisherman who either dive from a boat or from land.
Did You Know? The fine for not having a stiffner on you dive flag is $90 in 2012.
- The size of divers-down flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags carried on floats must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. Also, divers-down flags on vessels must be displayed above the vessel's highest point so that the flag's visibility is not obstructed in any direction.
- Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters (all waterways other than rivers, inlets, or navigation channels) and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.
- Vessel operators must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from divers-down flags on open waters and at least 100 feet from flags on rivers, inlets or navigation channels. Vessels approaching divers-down flags closer than 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and navigation channels must slow to idle speed.
- When divers are out of the water, a dive flag may not be displayed.
- Watch this FWC Divers-Down Flag Safety Video for more details
- Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife - visit their site for up to date rules and regulations on dive down flags.
The use of power heads, explosives, chemicals or the discharge of firearms into the water to kill or harvest marine life is prohibited in state waters.
Southwest Florida, Collier County, and Naples fisheries occur in both state and federal waters. Our waters are managed by several agencies to keep our waters healthy and safe:
- Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council manages fisheries in federal waters (beyond nine miles) off the Gulf coast.
- South Atlantic Fishery Management Council manages the Atlantic fisheries from 3 to 9 miles off the Atlantic coast.
- NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for the management, conservation and protection of living marine resources within the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone (water three to 200 mile offshore).
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages fisheries in state waters.
- FWC's Fish and Wild-life Research Institute (FWRI) has long-term monitoring programs of a variety of species.
- FWC's 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.
- US Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks manages national parks and preserves.
- Many Counties around Florida have Marine Patrol departments that govern local waters.
- Florida Sea Grant Program is working on public education programs to create public awareness
This information is provided only as a courtesy and there are NO guaranties, warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of this content. Florida Go Fishing assumes NO liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information contained here. If you find an error or omission in the data, please feel free to contact us with the correct information and we will verify and correct it as soon as possible.