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Methods of Taking Fish

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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 non-game 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 and nongame 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.

Black bass, striped bass and white bass or their hybrids, peacock bass, or crappie and panfish (for crappie and panfish, only in waters where minimum-length or slot-size limits for these fish apply) may not be filleted, nor their head or tail fin removed, until you are done fishing for the day.

*NOTE: Statutory provisions of (790.025(3)(h), F.S.) state it is lawful for persons to own, possess, and lawfully use firearms and other weapons, ammunition, and supplies for lawful purposes while fishing, camping, or lawfully 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:

  • 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 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 five Northwest Florida counties only. Nets used to take nongame fish 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 the 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.

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, unless specifically prohibited, by the following methods:

  • 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

Non-native fishes, except for peacock bass and triploid grass carp, must not be returned to the water nor may they be used as live bait, and should be consumed or disposed of properly.

Northern black bass (Micropterus salmoides salmoides) has been added to the conditional non-native species list. Possession, importation into Florida, sale or transportation of any live specimens or eggs of this species of black bass is prohibited except by special permit from the FWC. Hybrids of the northern black bass and Florida sub-species (Micropterus salmoides salmoides x Micropterus salmoides floridanus) are legal to possess in the Suwannee River and its tributaries and north and west of the Suwannee River

Protected: Shortnose and Gulf Sturgeon

Sturgeon-labeled.psdThe species of sturgeon found in Florida – Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) and Shortnose sturgeon (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 have to immediately release it alive back to the water.

It is illegal to possess grass carp or alligator gar without a permit.

GrassCarpSketch.tifTriploid grass carp are used for aquatic vegetation control and may not be stocked or harvested without a permit.

They grow to over 40 pounds.

AlligatorGarSketch copy.tifAlligator gar are found only in the panhandle rivers and grow to more than 120 pounds. Their gator–like snout is distinct. Due to their limited numbers, harvest is restricted to individuals with a valid scientific collector’s permit.

Grass carp illustration by Ted Walke; Alligator gar by Duane Raver, Jr.

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 below and FAQ).

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.

Shiny SpikeTrans.tifFlorida Shiny Spike, 3 inches

PondshellTrans.tifPaper Pondshell, 3½ inches

Mussel shellTrans.tif Other Clams, 1½ inches

Sizes indicated are average adult dimensions for identification purposes only.

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