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Methods of Taking Fish

Fishing Regulations Florida Freshwater Fishing

Game and nongame freshwater fish

Game Fish: black bass, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, warmouth, redbreast sunfish, spotted sunfish, flier, mud sunfish, longear sunfish, shadow bass, peacock bass, white bass, striped bass and sunshine bass.

Nongame Fish: all freshwater fish are defined as nongame fish, except grass carp and fish defined as freshwater game fish. Note: Alligator gar require a scientific collector’s permit to take.

Methods of taking freshwater fish

Game fish may only be taken with pole-and-line or rod-and-reel. There is no limit on the number of rods an angler may use.

Freshwater fish may not be taken by use of any free-floating, unattached device, or by taking of fish or wildlife with firearms, explosives, electricity, spear gun, poison or other chemicals. The taking of fish by underwater swimming or diving is prohibited. It is unlawful to sell, offer for sale or transport out of the state any freshwater game fish unless specifically permitted by the FWC, except that licensed anglers may transport two days’ bag limit of legally harvested game fish.

It is illegal to possess any freshwater fish along with gear that cannot legally be used to take freshwater fish, including gear types listed above and below for taking nongame fish or bait. An exception is game fish may be possessed together with cast nets having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch; minnow dip nets not more than 4 feet in diameter; minnow seines having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch, a length not more than 20 feet and a depth not more than 4 feet; and minnow traps not more than 24 inches in length and 12 inches in diameter, with a funnel entrance not more than 1 inch in spread.

*NOTE: Statutory provisions (790.052(3), F.S.) made it lawful for persons to own, possess, and lawfully use firearms and other weapons, ammunition, and supplies for lawful purposes including fishing, camping, or lawful hunting or going to or returning from a fishing, camping, or lawful hunting expedition. Consequently, although firearms may not be used to take fish, they can be in possession of someone with legally taken fish.

Nongame fish may be taken:

  • With pole-and-line, or rod-and-reel, and by bush hook, setline or trotline baited with cut bait or other substance; but not including live game fish or any part of any game fish; bush hooks, setlines or trotlines (limited to 25 hooks total) are permitted for taking nongame fish for personal use, but only in those areas where trotlines may be lawfully used in accordance with the Wildlife Code of the State of Florida. Refer to the “Commercial Freshwater Fisheries Rules and Regulations Summary.” Bush hooks, setlines and trotlines must be clearly and legibly marked with the harvester’s name and address while being used or possessed in or upon the waters of the state.
  • At night by bow and arrow, and gigs.
  • During daylight hours by manually operated spears, gigs, snatch hooks, crossbow or bow and arrow from a boat or from shore except at the spillways of the Eureka and Rodman dams on the Oklawaha River or on the spillway of the Jim Woodruff Dam on the Apalachicola River or in Miami-Dade County canals south of the C-4 and east of the L-31N and L-31W canals inclusively.
  • By the use of cast nets in the South and Northeast regions, in Citrus County, and in the Southwest Region, except that possession or use of cast nets in waters adjoining Saddle Creek Fish Management Area, Polk County, confined by Morgan Combee Road, U.S. Highway 92 and Fish Hatchery Road are prohibited.
  • Using a bow and light at night. Night bowfishing tournaments do not require a permit in the Northwest Region.
  • By netting and impounding at night from Sept. 1 to May 1 in specified waters of Northwest Florida. Nets used to take nongame fish (typically suckers) in these specified waters must be less than 100 feet in length, have a minimum 3-inch stretched mesh and shall be continuously attended to ensure immediate release of any trapped game fish. Contact the Northwest Regional office for details.
  • For personal use by any person possessing a valid freshwater fishing license by the use of not more than one slat basket or one wire trap, made as specified in Rule 68A-23.003, FAC, and used only in those waters where use of wire traps or slat baskets is permitted for commercial purposes. Refer to the “Commercial Freshwater Fisheries Rules and Regulation Summary.” Passive fishing gear such as slat baskets or wire baskets must be clearly and legibly marked with the harvester’s name and address while being used or possessed in or upon waters of the state.

Prohibited gear for taking marine species in freshwater

  • Spearfishing: Use of any hand or mechanically propelled, single or multi-pronged spear or lance, barbed or barbless, to harvest or attempt to harvest any marine species while diving in freshwater is prohibited.
  • Spearfishing for mullet in fresh water is prohibited; however, gigging from above water is permitted.

Methods of taking bait

Freshwater shrimp and golden shiners of any size, or other freshwater nongame fish, including catfish, less than 8-inches total length may be taken for bait by the following methods, unless specifically prohibited:

  • Cast nets having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch in fresh waters of the state, unless specifically prohibited.
  • Minnow dip nets not more than 4 feet in diameter.
  • Minnow seines having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch, a length not more than 20 feet, and a depth not more than 4 feet.
  • Minnow traps not more than 24 inches in length and 12 inches in diameter, with a funnel entrance not more than 1 inch in spread.
  • Any game fish taken by these methods must be released immediately.
  • Taking of bait for the purpose of sale requires a commercial fishing license.

Use of fish for bait

  • Black bass, peacock bass or any part thereof may not be used as bait.
  • Live non-native fishes (including goldfish and carp) may not be used as bait, except for variable platys and fathead minnows.
  • Whole pickerel or panfish (e.g., bluegill, redear sunfish, redbreast sunfish, spotted sunfish, flier, warmouth) or parts thereof may be used as bait for sportfishing by the angler who caught them. Whole pickerel or bream or parts thereof may not be used as bait for trotlines or bush hooks or any method other than by rod and reel or pole and line.
  • Panfish less than 4 inches in total length raised by a licensed aquaculture facility may be purchased and used for bait.

Release/Movement of fish

Possession and transport of nonnative fishes is prohibited.

Northern black bass (Micropterus salmoides salmoides) are on the conditional non-native species list. Stocking of northern black bass south and east of the Suwannee River is prohibited. Pure Florida bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) may only be purchased from permitted hatcheries with pure Florida bass stocks authenticated by the FWC. (See MyFWC.com/Fishing, select “Freshwater Fishing,” then select “Pond Management” and “Commercial Sources of Fish.” For details see Chapter 68-5, F.A.C. at www.FLrules.org.)

License Exemptions: You do not need a freshwater fishing license if…

  • You are a child under 16 years of age.
  • You are a Florida resident 65 years of age or older and you possess proof of age and residency, such as a Florida driver’s license or ID, or an optional no-cost Resident Senior Citizen Hunting and Fishing Certificate.
  • You are a resident who is fishing with live or natural bait, using poles or lines that are not equipped with a fishing-line-retrieval mechanism, and you are fishing for noncommercial purposes in your home county. However, you must have a valid fishing license to fish by any method in a fish management area. This is often referred to as the cane-pole exemption.
  • You are fishing in the St. Mary’s River or Lake Seminole (but not including tributary creeks in Florida) and have a valid Georgia fishing license.
  • You freshwater fish in your county of residence on your homestead or the homestead of your spouse or minor child, or if you are a minor child hunting or freshwater fishing on the homestead of your parent.
  • You are a Florida resident certified as totally and permanently disabled and you possess a Florida Resident Disabled Person Hunting and Fishing Certificate.
  • You are a resident who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, you are not stationed in this state, and you are home on leave for 30 days or less, upon submission of orders.
  • You have been accepted as a client for developmental disabilities services by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. The agency must furnish proof to such clients.
  • You possess a Resident Freshwater Commercial Fishing License.
  • You are freshwater fishing on License-Free Freshwater Fishing Days: first weekend in April (April 7–8, 2018) and the second weekend in June (June 9–10, 2018).

A fish pond is a man-made pond constructed for the primary purpose of fishing, entirely within the property lines of the owner and with no surface water connection to public waters.

  • You are fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or less that is located entirely within the private property of its owner.
  • You are fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or more, whose owner has purchased a fish pond license at a fee of $3 per surface acre.

Protected Sturgeons

The species of sturgeon found in Florida—Atlantic (Acipenser oxyrinchus), Gulf (A. o. desotoi), and shortnose sturgeons (Acipenser brevirostrum)—are protected both federally and in the state of Florida. No person shall take, possess or sell any sturgeon or parts thereof, or their nests or eggs, except as allowed by specific federal or state permit or authorization. People who inadvertently catch one must immediately release it alive back to the water.