Saltwater Fishing Rules and Regulations in Florida
There are set rules and regulations in place to govern fish stocks in Florida’s saltwater. The goal is to ensure healthy populations continue to thrive into the future and sustain our need for fish consumption. There are closed seasons for certain fish, bag and size limits, catch and release encouragement, equipment requirements, license free fishing days, angler recognition programs and even plans in place to remove debris from Florida’s state waters. In the Atlantic Ocean, state waters extend to three nautical miles; while in the Gulf of Mexico they encompass nine miles. Further than that, the ocean falls under Federal waters.
- Some species do not have set bag limits; but you will require a saltwater products license and a registered commercial vessel if catching over 100lbs daily per person. You may not harvest more than the bag limit and recreationally harvested fish may not be sold without a commercial license. The Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations involve complying with bag limits, size limits and available seasons. It is advisable to carry a copy of these regulations to ensure you adhere to them.
- There are rules regarding the equipment used to catch reef fish. It is essential to use circle hooks that are not stainless steel in conjunction with dehooking devices (which must be blunt and smooth-edged). This is to increase the probability of survival after being caught and released. In addition to this, venting tools are required in the Atlantic Ocean. These are used to deflate swimbladders that are full of gas. The tool must be small, sharp and hollow (such as a 16-gauge hypodermic needle). Signs of an inflated swimbladder include bulging eyes, swollen bellies, stomach protruding from the mouth and intestines coming out of the anus.
- Most of the fish species inhabiting Florida’s coastal waters are regulated, although some are not. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have implemented standard rules for specific fish. It is advisable that you know exactly what is permitted before you head out to sea.
- It is compulsory to obtain a Recreational Saltwater Fishing License, unless you are fishing from a charter boat. These are available online, at tax collector’s offices or at registered license facilities throughout Florida. There are non-resident licenses for your holiday, resident licenses if you dwell in Florida, lifetime permits, yearly licenses and permits for vessels and shoreline fishing.
While it is impossible for us to individually list all the regulations pertaining to every species swimming off the coast, it is advisable that you ensure you remain informed about all the rules involved with saltwater fishing. You can download the eRegulations from the Florida Fishing and Wildlife Conservation Commission or visit their website directly.