Florida Freshwater Fishing
Frequently answered questions
Do I need a freshwater or saltwater fishing license or both?
In general, you need a freshwater license to take freshwater fish and a saltwater license to take saltwater fish, unless one of the exemptions specified on License Exemptions applies. If you are fishing in fresh water where no saltwater species live, you need a freshwater license and, likewise, if you are fishing in the ocean or Gulf you need a saltwater license. However, when you get into estuarine areas where salt and fresh water mix and fish of both types can be found, the issue becomes less clear. The interpretation of the rule is:
You need either a freshwater, saltwater or combination license, or appropriate exemption, to take fish (take is legally defined as taking, attempting to take, pursuing, molesting, capturing or killing any fish, or their nests or eggs by any means whether or not such actions result in obtaining possession of such fish or their nests or eggs). If you are using species-specific gear, your license should be appropriate (e.g., freshwater or saltwater) to the species you are targeting. Otherwise you need an appropriate type license to keep your catch and must immediately release any species for which you are not licensed. License requirements follow the species of fish, regardless of where they are caught. For example, if you only have a freshwater license and are primarily fishing for largemouth bass or bream (freshwater species) in a river, but happen to catch a red drum (a saltwater species), you must immediately release the red drum. An exception is you may take mullet from fresh water with only a freshwater fishing license, even though they are normally considered a saltwater species.
What regulations apply to frogs?
Pine Barrens treefrogs, Gopher frogs, and Florida bog frogs may not be taken from the wild. For all other frogs and toads, there are no seasons, bag or size limits and a recreational license is not needed. To sell frogs or take frogs to sell, a commercial fish dealers license is required. Frogs may be taken in accordance with 68A-26.002, Florida Administrative Code (FAC), including use of gigs—provided gigs are not specifically prohibited in the area. Florida Bog frogs may not be possessed without a Scientific Collecting Permit.
What regulations apply to freshwater crayfish?
There are no seasons, gear, bag or size limits for freshwater crayfish, and neither a recreational nor commercial license is needed. It is illegal to take Florida’s state-listed crayfish (Panama City, Sims Sink and Black Creek crayfishes) and all cave-inhabiting crayfish.
What regulations apply to freshwater turtles?
Licenses and permits are not required to take a recreational bag limit of turtles in accordance with rules provided below. Freshwater turtles can only be taken by hand, dip net, minnow seine or baited hook.
Freshwater turtles taken from the wild may not be sold, but freshwater turtles raised on turtle aquaculture facilities or purchased from licensed vendors as captive bred stock can be sold. Snapping turtles, cooters and map turtles may not be taken from the wild because of similarity to alligator snapping turtles, Suwannee cooters, and Barbour’s map turtles, respectively. Additionally, alligator snapping turtles, Suwannee cooters and Barbour’s map turtles may not be taken from the wild or possessed without a Scientific Collecting Permit. Striped mud turtles from the Lower Keys may not be taken from the wild.
The following species have a possession limit of two: loggerhead musk turtles, box turtles, Escambia map turtles and Diamondback terrapins. For all other freshwater turtles, take is limited to one turtle per person per day from the wild for noncommercial use. Freshwater turtles only can be taken by hand, dip net, minnow seine or baited hook. Many freshwater turtle species may be taken year round, but softshell turtles may not be taken from the wild from May 1 to July 31. In addition, collecting and possession of freshwater turtle eggs is prohibited without a permit. You may transport no more than one turtle at a time, unless you have proof that all turtles were purchased legally (receipt indicating the purchase date; quantity and species of turtles acquired; and the name and address of supplier), an importation permit from the FWC for turtles being brought into Florida, or a valid Aquaculture Certificate of Registration from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS: FloridaAquaculture.com). Red-eared sliders may be harvested without a permit but not possessed alive without a conditional species permit. Those in possession of a valid Aquaculture Certificate of Registration and restricted species authorization from the FDACS (FloridaAquaculture.com) may culture and sell red-eared sliders, but only to out-of-state recipients or Floridians who have a valid conditional species permit. However, certified turtle farmers that buy red-eared sliders for direct retail sale must have a conditional species permit. Conditional species permit information is at MyFWC.com/license/wildlife/nonnative-species. Rules subject to change; see FLrules.org for the latest.
What regulations apply to clams, mussels and other mollusks?
Regulations governing taking and possession of freshwater mussels are covered by 68A-23.015 FAC. In summary, “Taking” live or dead freshwater mussels for the purpose of sale, as well as “selling,” is prohibited. Bag Limit: No person shall take more than 10 freshwater mussels, or 20 half-shells of the families Unionidae and Margaritiferidae per day. Additionally, no person may possess more than two days’ bag limit (20 individuals, 40 half-shells) of any mussels of these families. Any deviation requires a permit from the Executive Director, in accordance with 68A-9.002 FAC (see illustrations).
- Freshwater mussels from families other than the two mentioned above, such as Asian clams, may be taken for bait or personal use. No recreational license is needed.
- Mussels may only be taken by “hand-picking.” Use of brailles, crowfoot bars, or other mechanical methods is prohibited.
What regulations apply to harvesting fish for home aquaria?
Rules and regulations for recreational take and possession apply. You cannot be in possession, nor may your aquarium contain more than these limits. Legal methods of collecting and license requirements also apply. You need a freshwater fishing license to take (defined as “taking, attempting to take, pursuing, hunting, molesting, capturing, or killing any freshwater fish, their nests or eggs, by any means, whether or not such actions result in obtaining possession of such freshwater fish or their nests or eggs”). Avoid taking Florida’s endangered species. A list of them can be found at MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats.
How do I use total length and girth to estimate bass weight?
When you don’t have a scale, you can use total length and girth to get a rough estimate of a bass’ weight. Use the following formula: Total Length (in inches) squared, times girth (in inches) divided by 1200. For example, a 22″ long bass with a girth of 15″ would weigh about 6.1 pounds (22 x 22 x 15 / 1200 = 6.1). See MyFWC.com/Bass-Formula for an online calculator.
What is the economic value of freshwater fishing in Florida?
Although the value of recreational fisheries extends far beyond its economic impact, it is important to note that Florida’s famed fisheries continue to be a major job creator and to attract millions of tourists.
Southwick Associates published “Sportfishing in America: An Economic Force for Conservation, 2013” for the American Sportfishing Association. This report documents that Florida ranked No. 1 with 3.1 million anglers. Florida’s role as the fishing destination for travelers was reaffirmed, with 2 million nonresident anglers visiting the state. The ripple effect of these dollars was an $8.7 billion economic impact from Florida’s recreational fisheries that supported 80,211 jobs.
Specific to freshwater in 2011, Florida had 1.2 million anglers. They enjoyed 25.7 million days fishing, spending almost a billion dollars and generating an economic impact of $1.7 billion, which supported more than 14,000 jobs.
The FWC is combating the tendency for today’s youth to disconnect from nature and the outdoors, through the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN). This initiative is providing “Fishing and Basic Boating Skills Camps” (Fish Camps) throughout the state.
Fish Camps, for youth ages 9–15, combine teaching and practical application of angling and boating skills. An instructor provides a fish identification and anatomy lesson, and a law enforcement officer conducts a boating safety demonstration. The goal of Fish Camp is to establish individuals as life-long anglers and stewards of aquatic and fisheries resources, so they can benefit from a healthy, active connection with nature.
This unique program utilizes partners to expand the reach and cost-effectiveness of the camps. Plans are to establish at least one Fish Camp in each county. There are currently about 20 camps; two of the best established are the Ocala and Everglades camps. To locate a camp, or to help start a camp at a new location, email FYCCN@myfwc.com.
FWC staff developed and tested the Fish Camp model using Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration funds. Expanding the program relies on anglers, who voluntarily donate when buying a fishing license. FWC assists cooperators with startup costs for new camps and trains non-FWC trainers to ensure quality experiences. FWC staff also assists with evaluating camps to ensure positive impacts on campers’ environmental awareness, fishing skills, and long-term participation.
Fish Camps are fun and exciting for kids and what they learn will help them to live happier and healthier lives and become advocates for sustaining our environmental resources.