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Freshwater Fishing Rules and Regulations in Florida

Written by Capt. Noah on Wednesday, 28 August 2013. Posted in Fishing Advice

In order to keep our freshwater fish populations healthy and thriving, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are authorized to implement rules and regulations as the need arises. You will need to be continually aware of them to ensure that our freshwater fish species survive into the future; and there are Angler Recognition Programs to reward you for your efforts. Any breach of these stipulations will result in a hefty fine, or worse. Before you head off on a fishing trip to any of Florida’s freshwater dams, rivers and lakes; make sure that you are knowledgeable about the latest fishing regulations for the water area you are going to be fishing in. In fact, it is advisable that you carry a printed version with you, along with the required fishing licenses. While some regulations may change yearly, there are set rules that may not be broken.

Some fishing methods are illegal to use for catching game fish, yet they may be legal for non-game fish. We describe them below for you; but under no circumstances may any angler use any of the following methods to catch fish in Florida’s freshwaters. There will be severe consequences if you even attempt to use unauthorized methods such as these to take fish:

  • Unattached devices that float freely
  • Firearms
  • Explosives
  • Electricity
  • Spear guns
  • Poison
  • Chemicals
  • While diving or swimming underwater

Game Fish

There are specific bag and length limits on all freshwater game fish. These fish may only be caught on rods and reels, or poles and line; but an angler may use an unlimited number of fishing rods. Bowfishing, cast nets, trotlines, setlines or any other methods are strictly prohibited. Game fish include the following fish:

  • Largemouth Bass
  • Spotted Bass
  • Shoal Bass
  • Suwanee Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Redear Sunfish
  • Flier
  • Redbreast Sunfish
  • Warmouth
  • Spotted Sunfish
  • Striped Bass
  • White Bass
  • Sunshine Bass
  • Butterfly Peacock Bass

Native Non-Game Fish

While permits are required to catch non-game fish, there are more methods that anglers are allowed to use. These fish can also be caught with bows and arrows, cast nets, trotlines, bush hooks and setlines. However, any method you may wish to use must be legal in the area that you are fishing and comply with their rules. In addition to this, game fish may never be used as bait. These are the non-game fish that are native to Florida:

  • Channel Catfish
  • White Catfish
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Yellow Bullhead
  • American Shad
  • Longnose Gar
  • Bowfin
  • Chain Pickerel
  • Florida or Spotted Gar
  • Alligator Gar (may only be taken by those with a Scientific Collector’s Permit)

All Sturgeons are protected by Federal Laws and in the State of Florida. If you catch one inadvertently, immediately release it back into the water alive and unharmed.

Non-Native Non-Game Fish

Besides Peacock Bass (game fish) and Triploid Grass Carp (stocked for vegetation control); all other non-native fish must be either consumed or disposed of. There are no bag or size limits and they can be caught using any legal method. However, game fish may not be used as bait. These fish wreak havoc on Florida’s freshwater systems and must never be released back into the water. This is a list of them:

  • Flathead Catfish
  • Blue Catfish
  • Jaguar Guapote
  • Mayan Cichlid
  • Oscar
  • Common Carp
  • Yellow Perch
  • Blue Tilapia

These are the Rules and Regulations for Freshwater Fishing in Florida that will never change. Please visit the website of the Florida Fishing and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the latest information.

About the Author

Capt. Noah

Capt. Noah

Noah is a United States Coast Guard licensed captain and PADI divemaster. He grew up in South Florida and has a passion for all things involving water. He is one of the rare bread of boaters who loves sailing and power boating. Noah sails competitvely and enjoys travelling, photography, and cooking. 


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