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Saltwater Fishing

State and Federal Licenses and Permit Requirements

State License Requirements

  1. Basic Fishing License
  2. Saltwater Fishing License
  3. A Recreational Offshore Landing Permit (ROLP), free of charge, is required of all anglers to possess tunas, billfish, swordfish, amberjacks, groupers, hinds, snappers, dolphinfish, wahoo, cobia and gray triggerfish, EXCEPT those anglers on a paid for-hire trip where the captain possesses a valid Charter Recreational Offshore Landing Permit, or those anglers that are under the age of 18, not normally required to have a fishing license.
    • The Recreational Offshore Landing Permit can be found on the LDWF website at

All applicable licenses must be in possession of the fisherman.

Federal License Requirements

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manages the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Division in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

  1. An Atlantic HMS Angling Permit is required for vessels fishing for tunas, billfishes, swordfish and sharks. You may apply for an initial or renewal permit in one of several ways. The permit fee is $20.
    • To apply for an initial or renewal permit online visit the NMFS Permit Shop at
    • An initial or renewal application package can be downloaded from the NMFS Permit Shop or mailed by calling the NMFS at 888-872-8862.
    • Renew permits by calling the automated voice response system at 888-872-8862. Permits will be valid from the date of issuance through Dec. 31, 2024.
    • A shark endorsement is required when targeting or possessing sharks under this permit. See for more details.
  2. An Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat Permit is required for all charter or headboat fishing for and/or retaining regulated Atlantic HMS in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The permit fee is $20. HMS Charter/Headboat Permit will be valid from the date of issuance through Dec. 31, 2024.

Information about obtaining HMS permits and regulations are available at or by calling 888-872-8862.

Know Before you go

The National Marine Fisheries Service has a Memorandum of Agreement with the National Weather Service to broadcast unanticipated and time-critical fishery regulatory actions where there is minimal opportunity for advance public notice. These broadcasts are issued for four or five days, 24 hours a day, by selected NWR coastal stations. (VHF frequencies in MHz)

  • 162.400
  • 162.525
  • 162.550
  • 162.425
  • 162.450
  • 162.475

Saltwater Species you Cannot Harvest

Threatened or Endangered and Prohibited Species

The federally listed threatened and endangered, or prohibited species listed below are off limits for fishing or recreational take. Civil and criminal penalties may apply for taking the following aquatic species. If any of these protected species are incidentally caught, they must be released immediately unharmed. For information on safely releasing fish, visit

  • All Whales
  • Dolphin (mammal)
  • Goliath Grouper
  • Gulf Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi)
  • Largetooth Sawfish
  • Nassau Grouper
  • Sea Turtles
  • Smalltooth Sawfish
  • West Indian Manatee


  • Atlantic Angel Shark
  • Basking Shark
  • Bigeye Sand Tiger Shark
  • Bigeye Sixgill Shark
  • Bigeye Thresher Shark
  • Bignose Shark
  • Caribbean Reef Shark
  • Caribbean Sharpnose Shark
  • Dusky Shark
  • Galapagos Shark
  • Longfin Mako Shark
  • Narrowtooth Shark
  • Night Shark
  • Sand Tiger Shark
  • Sevengill Shark
  • Sixgill Shark
  • Smalltail Shark -
  • Whale Shark
  • White Shark -

Important Information about Fishing in Gulf of Mexico Federal Waters

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council manages federal waters from where the Louisiana gulfward boundary ends and extends 200 miles seaward into the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana recreational and commercial anglers fishing beyond the 3 nautical-mile Louisiana gulfward boundary are in federal waters.

*NOTE: The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission passed a resolution to clarify the effects of the extension of the state water boundary from three to nine nautical miles for reef fish management purposes, as established by the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act. The resolution clearly states that fishing gear used by the reef fish fishermen in the commercial and recreational sectors will not change within these new boundary waters. The fishermen of Louisiana will have the benefit of Louisiana’s reef fish management to 9 nautical miles, but there will be no change to the method of take or gear restrictions. Please also note that red drum are not considered reef fish; therefore, there is no change to regulations impacting this species.

LDWF reminds charter fishermen with federal reef fish permits that they are only allowed to fish these new boundary waters when the federal recreational reef fish season is open. Federal reef fish permit regulations restrict the permit holder to the most restrictive season.

These waters are also known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Federal fishing regulations are not always the same as state fishing regulations. To make sure that you are in complete compliance with federal regulations call the Gulf Council at 888-833-1844, or e-mail [email protected]. Visit for information about federal fishing regulations, measurement guidelines, sanctuaries & closures and fish identification charts.

Recreational Saltwater Tournament Operators

Federal regulations require any person conducting a fishing tournament in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico involving the catch and/or landing of any HMS regulated species to register with the HMS Management Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service at least four weeks prior to start of the tournament. A Tournament Registration Form and more information is available on the NMFS website at

To register a tournament, an Atlantic HMS Tournament Registration Form must be completed, signed, and sent to the Atlantic HMS Management Division by mail or fax.

Fax: 727-824-5398

Mailing Address:

- HMS Tournament Registration

- National Marine Fisheries Service

- 263 13th Avenue S.

- St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Once the registration form has been processed an Atlantic HMS Tournament Confirmation Number will be produced and provided to the tournament operator.

NOTE: Registration is not complete unless the tournament operator has received a confirmation number from the HMS Management Division of NMFS. For more information call 727-824-5399;

Methods for Fishing or Taking Saltwater Fish

There are many ways to catch fish and other aquatic species in Louisiana’s beautiful coastal waters. The headings below define the legal methods and illegal methods of take, plus certain exceptions that are allowed by species, methods and locations.

Always check with an LDWF Enforcement Office if you have questions.

Legal Methods

Some species of gamefish may not be taken with the gear listed below.

  • Hook and Line
  • Trolling Line
  • Handline
  • Bait Casting
  • Yo-yos or Trigger Devices
  • Bow and Arrow
  • Dip Nets
  • Fly Casting Apparatus
  • Recreational Crawfish Traps (must have a minimum mesh size of a hexagon of 3/4 by 11/16 of 1 inch from wire to wire not including any coating on the wire)
  • Standard Spearing Equipment (used by a skin diver sport fishing in saltwater or freshwater when submerged in the water)
  • Barbless Spear or Multi-pronged Barbed Gig (may be used in saltwater for taking flounder ONLY)

Exceptions to Methods of Take by Species

An alternative method is allowed for taking red drum. Harvest of any other saltwater game fish species by this method is prohibited.

Red Drum


  • Bow and Arrow
  • Standard Spearing Equipment used by a skin diver submerged in water when sport fishing

Saltwater Restrictions and Exceptions by Method

Skin Divers

With the exception of freshwater game fish, the only legal method for a skin diver to take fish is when submerged in water using standard spearing equipment. See page 8 for definition of game fish.

Mobility Impaired Individuals

Mobility impaired persons that are bona fide residents of Louisiana in possession of valid identification, and over 60 years of age, must purchase the applicable license.

Illegal Methods for Fishing or taking all Fish

It is unlawful to possess any of the prohibited instruments, weapons, substances or devices described below with the intent to take fish.

  • Gill Nets (freshwater and saltwater)
  • Spears
  • Poisons
  • Stupefying Substances or Devices
  • Explosives
  • Guns
  • Tree-topping Devices
  • Any instrument or device capable of producing electric current to shock fish
  • Snagging Devices

You may not use any aircraft including fixed-wing, dirigibles, balloons, helicopters, or any other form of aerial surveillance to assist in harvesting finfish, except menhaden and herring-like fish.

Legal Bait Species

Including minnows, crawfish and shrimp (not including game fish)


  • Cast nets
  • Minnow traps
  • Dip Nets(net must be on a fixed frame no larger than 3 feet in diameter worked exclusively by hand, by no more than one person, without any mechanical assistance)
  • Bait Seines (a maximum mesh size not exceeding 1/4-inch bar, 1/2 inch stretched and 30 feet in length; must be operated solely on foot and by hand, without any pulley, mechanical device or assistance whatsoever)
  • Recreational Trawls, only allowed in state waters when and where shrimp season is open (see Recreational Shrimping on Recreational Shrimping).

Important Information About Bringing Your Saltwater Catch to Shore

All saltwater finfish in the possession of a recreational angler must have the head and caudal fin intact until set on shore. Garfish may have the head and caudal fin removed prior to the fish being on shore as long as a sufficient patch of skin that clearly identifies the fish remains on the fish.

Exception: Tuna, swordfish and shark possessed by a recreational angler must not be skinned or scaled until set or put on shore. Tuna that meet minimum size requirements may have the head removed if the carcass length is in excess of the minimum total length. For more information on Lengths, visit

Fillets may not be possessed on the water, except for the purpose of consumption at sea aboard the harvesting vessel. An individual must not have more than 2 pounds of finfish parts per person in state waters, or more than 1.5 pounds of finfish parts per person in federal waters, on board the vessel, provided that the vessel is equipped to cook finfish and that the finfish does not exceed applicable bag limits. These provisions do not apply to bait species.

Saltwater finfish caught or transported by a recreational fisherman are presumed to have been caught in Louisiana waters, for license requirements.

All regulations regarding these species apply whether caught in freshwater or saltwater areas.

Fillets exception:

A fisherman who holds and is in possession of a valid recreational fishing license and can demonstrate to the department’s satisfaction use of a boat launch located south of U.S. Hwy 90 and that the fisherman has been actively on the water or at a remote camp that can be accessed only by water for two days or more may possess up to the possession limit of filleted red drum, spotted seatrout, and southern flounder. The filleted fish shall have sufficient skin remaining on the fillet to allow for identification of the species and shall be segregated by species into plastic bags or plastic containers that are marked by species to allow for easy identification, the date caught, and the name and license number of the person who took the fish. The spotted seatrout fillets shall be no less than 10 inches in length and the red drum fillets shall be no less than 14 inches in length. The fish shall be in possession only of the person who took the fish. However, no fisherman shall be actively fishing or engaged in fishing while in possession of more than the daily take limit.

Required Onboard Gear for Fishing in Gulf of Mexico Federal Waters

Louisiana state waters extend 9 nautical miles (10.357 statute miles or 3 marine leagues) seaward from the nearest land, but in some cases extend further. The EEZ is described as waters that extend seaward from that point out to 200 miles from the coast.

Recreational anglers onboard a vessel to fish for or possess Gulf reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico EEZ must possess onboard and use the required gear as specified below. These devices are required because they reduce mortality on released fish. For more information on safely releasing fish, visit

Non-stainless Steel Circle Hooks

Non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits for reef fish.

Dehooking Device

At least one dehooking device is required on board and must be used to remove hooks embedded in Gulf reef fish with minimum damage. The device must be constructed to allow the hook to be secured and the barb shielded without reengaging during the removal process. The dehooking end must be blunt and all edges rounded. The device must be of a size appropriate to secure the range of hook sizes and styles used in the Gulf reef fishery.


A descending device or venting tool that is rigged and ready for use, while fishing is occurring for Gulf reef fish in the Gulf EEZ, is required. This requirement is effective until Jan. 14, 2026.