Saltwater Fishing Regulations in Florida (+Bonus: Best Tips)

Saltwater Fishing Regulations in Florida

As an ocean state, Florida is a fishing paradise.

Excellent climate and long coastline enable perfect conditions for year-round fishing.

If you are in search for your next saltwater fishing destination, consider this one.

Before choosing a perfect location, and there are plenty of those, make sure you obey the state law, obtain a licence and familiarize yourself with saltwater fishing regulations in Florida.

Here you can find all the information needed for Florida saltwater fishing, including the best locations, tips, popular fish species and much more.

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Where is the Best Saltwater Fishing in Florida?

Florida has extremely diverse and interesting sea fishing locations, ranging from The Gulf of Mexico to the Keys. You can’t go wrong by choosing any place there. Here we are going to single out some of the most popular and interesting locations that every angler should visit.

Jacksonville

Every summer there is a big Kingfish tournament held here. St. Johns river estuary attracts all kinds of fish. This location is ideal for anglers looking for king mackerel and redfish. Nearby city St. Augustine offers some great fishing experience too. Sharks and blue marlin, together with some smaller fish species, are frequent visitors of these waters.

Everglades City

Mostly known for large swamp areas, Everglades city is good for saltwater fishing too. Various charters offer day trips to Chokoloskee where you can fish among small islands that are perfect for it. Among big fish species available there are snook and tarpon. Except for those, you can catch various sharks, sheepsheads and tripletails.

Fort Myers

This is one of the most popular fishing locations. Cape coral is a location where inshore anglers can catch snook and redfish. Various shark species can also be caught from the shore, but keep in mind that there are strict rules about it.

Boca Grande

Located in the vicinity of previously mentioned Fort Myers, this is a great fishing location, with numerous charters available. Redfish, Snook and Tarpon are some of the species native to that area. Boca Grande is the place where the most tarpons are caught every year.

Tampa Bay

Dozens of different fish species can be caught here, including blackfin tuna. There are equally good fishing opportunities from the shore and from boats. On the other side of the bay you yan try fishing in Clearwater, or book an offshore adventure.

Destin

If you are looking for tuna, billfish, snappers or any other demanding and exciting fish to catch, Destin is a place for you. Off-shore fishing opportunities are spectacular. There are numerous fishing competitions held in Destin, and that itself explains the quality of this place.

Florida Keys

This is a true fishing paradise that has numerous islands and long shoreline. It is a perfect hiding and feeding place for numerous fish species. If you are searching for a perfect place for on-shore fishing, try in Islamorada or Key West.

Daytona Beach

Daytona beach is a popular tourist destination and it can be very crowded. Passionate anglers know that despite that, there are certain locations offering excellent fishing opportunities. Mosquito lagoon is full of snook and sheepshead. Numerous charters offer trips to Wahoo where you can try to catch some pelagic fish species.

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Saltwater Fishing Regulations in Florida - Daytona Beach

Do you Need a Saltwater Fishing License in Florida?

Saltwater fishing licence is required!For both residents and visitors.

The licence is required for engaging in the fishing activities, so even if you are not keeping the fish and you practice catch and release, you still need a licence. 

Except for that, saltwater fishing licence is mandatory for taking any kind of marine organisms, including crabs and plants.

For those participating infishing but not fishing by themselves (e.g. a person who is setting up the fishing equipment) licence is also required.

However, there are few exemptions.

Some of those are younger than 16 years, older than 65, members of Armed Forces and similar.

You can check out the details and see are you a part of any exempted groups on official websites of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

If you are participating in organised fishing tours with charters which have charter licences, licence is not required.

There are also certain days when saltwater fishing is free of charge. That is a common practice in majority of the USA, for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Those dates can change every year so make sure your information is up to date.

There are different licences available, but those important to average anglers:

Recreational fishing licences – it is divided into sub-categories, such as saltwater fishing from the shore only, regular saltwater fishing licence, and youth licence.
Fishing permits – unlike licences, those have sub-categories for Snook, Spinny lobster, Shore based shark fishing and Gulf Reef.

Every of those categories and sub-categories has certain rules and regulations. Make sure you obtain a licence that covers your preferred fishing activities.

There is also a Recreational Pier and Vessel Licence, necessary for those who are boat/pier owners.

If you are a participant of a valid and registered tournament, you have to obtain a tournament licence.

Besides that, every fish and marine organism is protected by certain rules and regulations such as closed season, mandatory release of organisms of certain size and so on. Those rules and regulations are covering general species, reef fish and crabs, shrimps and shellfish.

If fishing from a boat in federal waters, you must have dehooking tools and non-stainless steel circle hooks if using natural baits.

Besides that, your catch must remain intact until you reach the shore. If fishing fore sharks, keep in mind you have to follow additional rules stated by the authorities and some species are protected.

Fishing for sharks from the shore is also regulated with additional laws.

Saltwater fishing regulations in Florida are very extensive and there are various licences and permits that you should consider and read all the information. Do a thorough research before heading out on the water.

What Kind of Fish can You Catch in Florida?

Hundreds of fish species live in Florida waters. Knowing them all is hard but you need to be able to recognize a fish you catch to follow the saltwater fishing regulations in Florida. You can find extensive lists with pictures of more than 100 species online, or you can get a booklet in many locations in Florida.

Some of the most interesting fish species are the following;

Barracuda

There is no closed season for barracuda. Maximum daily catch per person is 2 fish or 100 pounds. There is also a 6 fish per vessel rule. Those are valid only in certain state and federal waters, while other waters are nor regulated. Size limit is non-existent, except in Collier-Martin Counties, where the size is determined and it must be 36 inches or more.

Blue Marlin

Season is open at all times. Day limit is one fish per person, a minimum length is 99 inches for fork length. Additional permits are required in federal waters.

Swordfish

There is a minimum size limit and that is 47 inches of fork length with the head attached. Limit is one fish per day, or 4 per recreational vessel. All the swordfish caught have to be reported within 24 hours.

Bluefish

There is a minimum size limit an that is 12 inches fork length. Maximum number of Bluefish you are allowed to catch per day is 10. Keep in mind that Bluefish, and majority of other species listed here are allowed to catch with certain tools and equipment only. That equipment differs according to species.

Dolphinfish

There is a limit of 10 fish per person or 60 per vessel. In federal waters minimum size is 20 inches in fork length. In the state waters there is no size limit. Make sure you use allowed gear.

King Mackerel

Minimum size limit is 24 inches fork length. There is a limit of two fish per day. Some additional rules apply on the quantity. If federal waters are closed for recreational angling then just one fish in allowed per person in state waters.

Sheepshead

Daily limit is 8 per person. Season is open all year round. Vessel limit is 50 per vessel but only in March and April. Using multiple hooks is strictly forbidden.

All kinds of Snook

Size limit has both minimum and maximum length. Minimum is 28 inches and maximum is 32 inches for all locations except Gulf and Monroe County, where upper limit is 33 inches. Closed season differs in certain locations and it is from December until February and From May until August. It is a bit shorter in some places.

Redfish

Allowed size is between 18 and 27 inches. There are different fishing zones, where in one limit is 1 fish per day. In the other there is limit of 2 fish per day. Vessel limit is 8 fish, and on-shore possession limit is 6 fish during transport.

Tuna

Fishing for some kinds of tuna species (bluefin, bigeye, albacore yellowfin) requires additional permits in both state and federal waters. Other kinds (blackfin, Atlantic bonito, little tunny) are considered to be unregulated. The latter ones are limited to 2 fish or 100 pounds per day.

As you may see there are very strict rules on both federal and state level. Obeying those rules is important for conservation purposes. Inform yourself before your next unforgettable Florida fishing experience.

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Saltwater Fishing Regulations in Florida - Tuna

What is the Best Month (Season) to Fish in Florida?

Fishing is possible all year round due to sunny and warm weather. However, make sure you obey saltwater fishing regulations in Florida. Some fish species have closed season and if you are in a search of specific fish species, check for those details. Also, different species have certain seasons when they bite the best.

When considering fishing in general, then the best season is during summer, and that is from June to September. Choose any of those months and your fishing vacation will be excellent. Keep in mind that a lot of people think the same, so if you are making and special reservations, plan ahead.

Off-shore fishing is especially good in summer as the sea temperatures are higher and due to migrations, a lot of species come closer to the shores. Warmer sea means more fish activity and aggressive feeding.

That is valid for both southern and northern part of the country. Although, some species show highest activity in different months, in different locations.

In some warmer years, good fishing conditions can last during October too. If you are considering fishing in an unusually warm year, that could be one of the best months, as the fish species are still active, and there is lower number of anglers on the sea.

Can You Fish at Night in Florida?

Good news for anyone who loves night saltwater fishing, it is allowed in Florida!

You can fish 24 hours a day and during summer heat, on-shore fishing during night is very pleasant and productive activity. It is especially popular on bridges at Florida Keyes, where numerous locals engage in this activity. Night fishing is very good at full moon, according to the locals.

Snooks are of the most popular species for night fishing. Find a location such as a bay or an inlet, locate a light source and present your bait. Light is good for plankton growth and small fish species come to feed on it. Snook will be close by preying on those smaller fish species. Make your moves slower and be quiet. Night fishing requires patience, and it can be harder than day fishing. Still, make sure you follow all the saltwater fishing regulations in Florida, and obtain a valid licence.

Some charters offer night fishing excursions so you may ask around to see what opportunities you have.

Conclusion

Florida is one of the best fishing destinations in the world. Thousands of anglers visit it every year looking for a fishing adventure that is possible only there.

Even from the shore, you can catch a fish of a lifetime. Choosing a specific city and a location is up to you, because all of them are excellent. If looking for a specific fish, get to know its habits, activity times, and all the associated laws.

To protect fish species and conserve the marine life, there are very strict saltwater fishing regulations in Florida. Make sure you obey them all and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience!

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