Florida is blessed with vibrant, healthy saltwater fisheries offering an abundance of fishing opportunities for recreational anglers. To fully enjoy the use of our fisheries anglers need to be conversant with the terms and conditions for use.

Gone (long gone) are the days of just grabbing a pole, a few greenbacks, some ice and off to the water you go. With somewhere north of 2 million licensed recreational anglers chasing the bite, saltwater fishing in Florida has created stewardship concerns spawning considerable regulatory oversight and no small amount of political jockeying between a variety of “interested” parties. It’s a bit of a chocolate mess.

Where Do We Start?

Day to day, licensing and regulatory issues are front and center for most anglers with most oversight developed and managed at the state level. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is the principal (not the only) regulatory body directing the actions of anglers fishing the waters off of Florida’s coastlines, both Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

If you intend to fish in Florida, you must have a valid Florida fishing license (exceptions for age & circumstance not withstanding). Start the process of obtaining a Florida fishing license online, here.

If you intend to, or already, fish Florida waters it behooves you to become conversant with the myriad regulatory requirements your fishing license obliges you to meet. In particular, what you may legally catch, when and where you may catch it and what course of action (bag limits, catch & release, etc.) you are required to take.

Know Your Fisheries

The FWC has put together a series of “at a glance” resources that boil down and consolidate (best they can) most of the rules of engagement. These provide a reasonable start to getting to know Florida’s fisheries….. from a regulatory standpoint at least. Click on the images below for a downloadable version of the documents.

These resources form the basis for understanding Florida fisheries and helping recreational anglers keep their collective noses clean, so to speak. They are, however, only the tip of the regulatory iceberg. If you want to really get into the weeds on fishing regulations in Florida the FWC has everything you need, all in one place, right here.

It is worthwhile to note that the state of Florida does not stand alone in the regulatory landscape. The US government plays a vital role, specially where state waters end and federal waters begin (and no, it is not that simple…). For Florida anglers the following links are a great place to start in understanding federal oversight of recreational fishing in Florida waters:

NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council


Regulatory oversight driven, in large part by the, real and/or perceived, condition of the fisheries themselves. Stewardship of the fisheries that recreational anglers depend upon is both incumbent and contentious. Numerous opportunities, and organizations, exist for anglers to get engaged in stewardship activities. Here are a few of those opportunities:

International Game Fish Association (IGFA)

Coastal Conservation Association (CCA)

Keep Florida Fishing

This post barely touches on the issues at hand for Florida’s recreational anglers. The subject is wide and deep. Our advice to recreational anglers: know & follow the law, be informed & be engaged. Know your fisheries. Your comments and input are most appreciated.

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