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Florida

Freshwater Fishing

Freshwater Fishing

Introduction

This free booklet is your guide to Florida’s freshwater fishing laws and regulations. The Florida Administrative Code is the final authority on fishing laws (www.FLrules.org). The publisher strives to ensure this information is accurate but assumes no liability for errors that may occur. In addition, rules can change between publications. Contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) if you have questions not adequately covered in this booklet. This publication is valid from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023.

Florida remains the “Fishing Capital of the World,” due to great resources and responsible management. We consider the quality of life that is associated with recreational activities and living in a healthy environment to be extremely important to Floridians and visitors and are also striving to make Florida the undisputed “Bass Fishing Capital of the World.”

The FWC uses the best scientific management possible to help fulfill its mission of “Managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people.” To fund those efforts, the Legislature sets fishing license fees and exemptions, as well as penalties for violating fish and wildlife conservation laws. State law guarantees money from the sale of fishing licenses goes to the FWC and cannot be diverted.

In 1950, Congressmen Dingell and Johnson, at the request of anglers and the fishing industry, created the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) program, wherein fishing tackle was assessed an excise fee and the monies returned to the states for fish restoration projects. The “Wallop-Breaux” amendment in 1984 added import duties on sport fishing equipment, pleasure boats and yachts as well as taxes on motorboat fuels. The result is one of the most successful “user-pays, public-benefits” programs in the world, with taxes from the sale of outdoor recreation supplies enhancing and promoting the resource.

Fifteen percent of Florida's SFR funds went to boating access — building and repairing ramps and courtesy docks. The remainder went to fresh and saltwater fisheries conservation projects such as habitat restoration, fish stocking, artificial reefs construction and youth fishing clinics.

The FWC encourages all anglers to buy a license (GoOutdoorsFlorida.com). Even if you are legally exempt, you can contribute to the future of our fisheries resources by buying a license and helping the FWC keep your federal tax dollars in Florida to support sportfish restoration.

Recreational fishing is an enjoyable, wholesome experience that reflects a happy and healthy lifestyle. Moreover, it is the number 1 gateway activity to get youth connected to nature in active outdoor recreation, which can reduce obesity, improve grades and, most of all, add enjoyment to their lives.

The FWC is working hard to ensure safe and sustainable recreational fishing for all of our citizens and guests and depends on your license fees to make sure there are fish for tomorrow.

How often do you see people or businesses wanting to be taxed and happy about it?

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. This Act has been key to implementing the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (see MyFWC.com). Between 1941 and 1950, sport-fishing businesses paid a federal excise tax that was deposited in the general treasury of the United States but did not directly benefit manufacturers or anglers. In 1950, sportsmen and businesses teamed with conservation-minded policy makers to redirect these existing federal excise taxes to the Restoration Program (aka: SFR, Dingell-Johnson or Wallop-Breaux).

The concept was to restore sportfish populations and improve public access, so more people can enjoy fishing and so fishing sales would increase. Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) came about as a result of anglers wanting to see more money directed toward restoring the nation’s recreational fisheries, and ensuring better fishing opportunities for themselves and future generations. It has been the best thing for anglers since fishing reels were invented.

Today, SFR uses a small excise tax on fishing reels and other fishing tackle, as well as a motor boat fuel tax, to fund sport fish restoration and boating access programs. These excise taxes are collected by the Department of Interior and each state reports annually on the number of unique license anglers. Along with land mass, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service then calculates each state’s eligible allotment and is responsible for coordinating on SFR funding to each state. It is working. There are now at least 77 percent more anglers than in 1950. Purchases of tax-related items by anglers have increased by nearly 200 percent in dollars (adjusted for the consumer-price index) since 1955.

Anglers and fishing businesses want to know the benefits they receive in return. To help answer this, Andrew Loftus Consulting and Southwick Associates analyzed data on excise taxes invested, fishing participation, and angler purchases of excise-tax related products for a 2011 report to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The report found that excise-tax related return-on-investment ranged from 1,585 percent in 1970 to 2,643 percent in 1980.

In Florida, SFR provides millions of dollars to support boating access and freshwater and saltwater fisheries conservation. In freshwater fisheries, the FWC uses this money to improve fisheries habitat, stock fish, conduct research and manage fish populations. We also conduct aquatic education programs and provide valuable fishing and conservation tips to anglers.