Fishing in Florida


   As much as we all love to SCUBA dive, thousands of people come to Florida to fish. Over the years, as development began its encroachment on the coastline, marine habitats were threatened. In 1989, to provide funds for marine enhancement, enforcement and research, the Florida Legislature enacted a law requiring saltwater anglers to have a valid fishing license. This went into effect at the beginning of 1990.    Just a few years ago, not one southern state required a saltwater fishing license. Today, six of the nine coastal states in the southern U.S. require them.    If you're not sure weather you need a saltwater fishing license, this should help end your confusion. According to Florida law, you must posses a Florida Saltwater Fishing License, "if you take, attempt to take, or posses marine fish for noncommercial purposes.
   In addition size and bag limits along with closed seasons, have been put into effect to allow species to effectively spawn and maintain the fish population.

There are about a dozen exemptions to the fishing license requirements:

  1. You are under the age of 16.
  2. You are a Florida resident fishing in saltwater from land or from a structure fixed to land.
  3. You are fishing from a boat that has a valid Vessel Saltwater Fishing License
  4. You hold a valid saltwater products license, unless you are the owner, operator or custodian of a vessel for which a saltwater fishing license is required. Only one individual may claim this exemption at any given time.
  5. You are a Florida resident 65 years of age or older.
  6. You have been accepted by the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services for developmental services.
  7. You are fishing from a pier that has been issued a pier Saltwater Fishing License.
  8. You have been assigned by a court to a Health and Rehabilitative Services authorized rehabilitation program involving training in Florida aquatic resources.
  9. You are a Florida resident fishing for mullet in freshwater and have a valid Florida freshwater fishing license.
  10. You are a Florida resident fishing for a saltwater species in freshwater from land or from a structure fixed to the land.
  11. You are a Florida resident who is a member of the Armed Forces and not stationed in Florida while home on leave for 30 days or less, with valid orders in your possession.

If you are a Florida resident and are certified as totally and permanently disabled, you are entitled to receive, without charge from the county tax collector, a permanent saltwater fishing license.

Now, some definitions:

A resident
is anyone who has continually resided in Florida for 6 months, anyone who has established a domicile in Florida and who has evidence of such as provided by the law, any member of the United States Armed Forces who is stationed in this state, or any student enrolled in a college or university in the state. An alien who can prove residency status is considered a resident for license purposes.
A marine fish
is any saltwater species of finfish of the classes Agnatha, Chondrichthyes, and Osteichthyes and marine invertebrates, in the classes of Gastropoda, Bivalvia, and Crustacea or the phylum Echinodermata. The definition of marine fish does not include nonliving shells or Echinoderms.
Examples of fin fish are hogfish, sharks, trout, mackerel, rays, catfish, eel and tarpon.
Examples of marine invertebrates are snails, whelks, oysters, clams, scallops, shrimp, crab, lobster, sea stars, sea urchins, starfish and sea cucumbers.
is defined as the area of ground located within the geographic boundaries of the State of Florida that extends to a water depth of 4 feet. [So don't stand in surf over 4 feet deep with a fishing pole and no license.]
This includes any structure fixed to land. There's a couple of things to watch for here that require a license. You are on a vessel or have used a vessel to reach ground or a structure.
You are wading in more than four feet of water or have broken the surface of the water wearing face mask. [Boy they're tough.]
A structure fixed to land
is defined as any pier, bridge, dock, floating dock, or jetty or similar structure that is permanently affixed to land. This definition does not include a vessel, derelict vessel, or floating structure other than a dock.

While we try to keep up to date, license requirements and fees may change. Contact the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or the local tax collector's office for the most current requirements and fees.

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Size and Bag Limit Restrictions
(Greater Amberjack only)
none 28" fork 3 R, W
Billfish none Sailfish 57"
Blue Marlin 86"
White Marlin 62"
Black Durm none 14" (24" max.) 5 / only 1 over 24" R, W
Black Mullet none none 50 per person or vessel ³ R
Bluefish none 12" fork 10 W,R
Bonefish none 18" 1  
Clams(hard) none 1" thick
at hinge
one 5 gal. bucket
2 per vessel ³
Cobia(Lling) none 33" fork 2 W
Crab(Blue) none none 10 gal. whole
per day
R, S
Crab(Stone) May 15 - Oct. 15 2 ¾" claw 1 gal. claws
2 per vessel ³
R, S
Crawfish April 1 - Aug. 5 none 24 per vessel
6 per person
R, S
Dolphin none none 10 G
Flounder none 12" 10 R, W
Grey Trigger none 12" none G,W
Grouper [Black, Gag, Red,
Yellowmouth and Scamp]
none 20 inch minimum 5 per day aggregate G,R,W
Jewfish & Nassau Grouper [Harvest is Prohibited]
Hogfish none 20" fork 5 G,R,W
Mackerel (King) none 20" fork 2 R,W
Mackerel (Spanish) none 12" 10 R,W
Oysters call FMP 3" 2 bags  
Permit none 10 inch minimum 10 per day less than 20 inches
one 20 inches or more
10 aggregate with Pompano
Pompano none 10 inch minimum 10 per day
sale prohibited greater than 20 inches
10 aggregate with Permit
Redfish none Slot limit: no smaller than 18 inches
or larger than 27 inches
1 per person per day G,W
Sea Bass none 8" no limit G,W
Shad Mar. 15 - Nov. 15 none 10  
Shark none none 1 per person
2 per vessel
Sheepshead none 12" 15 G,L,R,W
Shrimp none none 5 gal. head on  
Snapper [Queen, Mutton, Blackfin,
Cubera, Dog, Mahogany,
Silk, Yellow Tail]
none 16" 10 aggregate per day G,R,W
Snapper [Mangrove & School Master] none 10" 5 Mangrove G,R,W
Snapper [Lane and Vermillion] none 8" none G,R,W
Snook Dec. 15 - Jan. 31
June 1 through August 31
24 inch minimum 2 per day aggregate
only one 34 inches or longer per day
Spotted Sea Trout Call FMP - restrictions vary by region G,R,W
Tarpon none none 2  
Tripletail none 15" 2 L,R,W
Weakfish none 12" 4 W

¹ overall length unless specified - ² per person per day unless specified - ³ whichever is less
G Gear restrictions apply. - L Length for thse species is defined as the most forward point fo the head to the rear center edge of the tail. - R Restricted Species - S Saltwater Product License - W Must remain in whole condition until landed ashore. (heads & tails intact)

It is unlawful to harvest, possess, land, purchase, sell or exchange the following species:
Nassau Grouper, Jewfish, Sawfish, Sawshark, Basking Shark, Whale Shark, Spotted Eagle Ray, Sturgeon
Angelfish (except Rock Beauty) 8" 5
Butterfly Fish 4" 20
Gobies 2" 20
Jawfish 4" 20
Rock Beauty 5" 20
Spanish Hogfish 2" Minimum - 8" Maximum 20
Spotfin Hogfish 8" 20
Plants none 1 gallon per person per day
Live landing and live well requirements. Harvest in Biscayne National Park prohibited. Unlawful to harvest or posses Longspine Urchin and Bahama Starfish, Harvest of live rock in state waters is prohibited.
If you have any questions or want to report any violations of harvest restrictions or are unsure of a particular law, call the Florida Marine Patrol - 1-800-342-5367.

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   First, Florida law defines spear fishing as, "the taking of any saltwater fish,...through the instrumentality of a spear, gig, or lance operated by a person swimming at or below the surface of the water."

   Under Florida statewide regulations, Spear fishing is prohibited:

  1. Within 100 yards of all public bathing beaches.
  2. Within 100 yards of all commercial or public fishing piers.
  3. Within 100 yards of that portion of any bridge where public fishing is legally permitted.
  4. Within 100 feet of the portion that is above the sea surface of any jetty, except that spear fishing shall be allowed along the last 500 yards of any jetty extending more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline. For purposes of this paragraph, "last 500 yards" means the portion extending above the sea surface of such jetty that is within 500 yards of its seaward tip above sea surface.
  5. For the taking of all species of ornamental reef fishes in the families Acanthuridae (surgeonfishes), Aulostomidae (trumpetfishes), Chaetodontidae (angelfishes and butterflyfishes), Diodontidae (porcupinefishes), Fistulariidae (cornetfishes), Holocentridae (squirrelfishes), Ostraciidae (trunkfishes), Pomacentridae (damselfishes), Scaridae (parrotfishes), Sygnathidae (pipefishes and seahorses), and Tetraodontidae (puffers).
  6. In or on any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Division of Recreation and Parks of the Department of Natural Resources. Possession of spearfishing equipment in or on any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Division of Recreation and Parks is prohibited except when such equipment is not loaded and is properly stored upon watercraft passing nonstop through such marine waters.


The size of divers-down flags displayed on vessels has been increased form 12" x 12" to 20" to 24" and requires a stiffener to keep the flag unfurled. (Note: Dive flags carried on floats may still be 12" x 12").

Dive flags on vessels must be displayed so that visibility to the flag is not obstructed.

Vessel operators must make reasonable efforts to maintain a distance of 100 feet from any divers-down flag while on a river, inlet, or navigation channel; divers must make a reasonable effort to stay within 100 feet of the divers-down flag on rivers, inlets, or navigation channels and within 200 feet on all waters other than rivers, inlets, or navigation channels; vessel operators must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of 300 feet from vessels displaying dive flags on these waters.

Vessels may approach within 100 feet or 300 feet of a divers-down flag at idle speed.

"Buzzing" a dive flag has been added to the description of reckless operation of a vessel, which is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months in jail

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