Methods of Taking Fish
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 Collectors 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 (Introduction).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Black bass, peacock bass or any part thereof may not be used as bait.
- No live nonnative fish, except variable platys and fathead minnows, may be transported to or between waters for use as bait. Live goldfish and carp may not be used as bait.
- 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.
Live specimens of Conditional (68-5.002(1), F.A.C.) and Prohibited (68-5.003(1), F.A.C.) nonnative species may not be possessed. Northern black bass (Micropterus salmoides salmoides) are on the conditional nonnative species list. Stocking northern black bass is prohibited. Pure Florida bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) may only be purchased from permitted hatcheries with pure Florida bass stocks authenticated by the FWC. For more information, contact the nearest regional office (Introduction). See Chapter 68-5, F.A.C. at www.FLrules.org for details.
It is illegal to possess alligator gar without a permit.
It is illegal to possess alligator gar without a Scientific Collectors Permit. Alligator gar are an endemic top predator found only in the panhandle rivers and grow to more than 120 pounds. Due to limited numbers, harvest is restricted. Their gator-like snout is distinctly different than spotted and longnose gar, the two other species of gar found in the panhandle.
Taking and possession of freshwater mussels
Certain families of freshwater mussels may be collected for personal use. The bag limit for freshwater mussels from these families is 10 per person (or 20 half shells). The possession limit is two days bag limit (see images to right and F.A.Q).
Mussels shall be taken by hand-picking only. Use of brailles, crowfoot bars, or other mechanical methods is prohibited. Freshwater mussels, live or dead, may not be taken for later sale.
Species of freshwater mussels from other families, such as the Asian clam, have no bag or possession limits.
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.