Florida Saltwater Fishing Regulations 2023: What You Need to Know

It's that time of year again when Florida's saltwater fishing regulations for the upcoming season are released! If you're like most anglers, you want to make sure you're up-to-date on the latest changes to plan your fishing trips accordingly. In this article, we'll summarize the most important Florida saltwater fishing regulations for 2023 and what you need to know before heading out onto the water.

What Makes Florida Fishing So Interesting?

florida saltwater fishing regulations

Florida has a long and illustrious history as a fishing destination. Various factors contribute to making it one of the finest places to fish globally. Diversity in habitats and species, excellent weather for casting year-round, and a tourism-centered economy that encourages visitors from all over the country have contributed to making Florida a popular fishing destination.



The variety of Florida fishing options is another aspect that makes it appealing.

Regardless of your preferences, you'll almost certainly have a great time on the ocean with Florida fishing.

More than 70 saltwater species and more than 200 freshwater species are captured in Florida. Let's take a look at some of the most popular fish found in the waters around Florida.

Which Is Better: Saltwater or Freshwater Fishing?

Is saltwater fishing superior to freshwater fishing? It all depends on your taste! Saltwater fishing is more likely to provide an adrenaline rush since these fish are better known for their fights. On the other hand, freshwater fishing is associated with a slower pace and less difficult captures.

It all comes down to your preferences and what you enjoy most about being on the water. If you want to catch some Florida fish, saltwater fishing is best left to professionals. Freshwater fishing might be ideal for a first-time fisherman.

Both ways, fishing has a lot of benefits

Florida Saltwater Fishing Regulations 2022

What You Should Know Before You Plan Your Fishing Trip

This blog emphasizes recreational fishing regulations that are unlikely to change shortly. We don't discuss commercial fishing and do not include species bag limits because the restrictions are modified frequently several times a year, so double-check the local fishing regulations for the location you'll be fishing before you go fishing in Florida.

Check out those fishing tips on how to get ready for your deep sea fishing charter!

What are Florida’s Fishing Regulations?

FL fishing regulations are designed to protect the state’s marine resources. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulates all saltwater fishing in Florida.

The FWC sets season limits, size limits, bag limits, and other regulations. For example, to fish for snook, you must have a saltwater fishing license, and you can only fish for it during certain times of the year.

The FWC also regulates freshwater fishing. You do not need a license to fish in freshwater, but there are some exceptions. For example, you need a license to fish. Some lakes are also considered “trophy bass lakes” and have special regulations.

Before heading out, all fishermen (and women!) should be familiar with Florida's fishing regulations. These regulations are necessary to help ensure that Florida's fisheries remain healthy and productive for years to come.

What Are the Florida Fishing Rules You Need to Know?

florida saltwater fishing regulations

Before you cast your line, be aware of Florida's fishing rules. You'll discover that Florida's fishing laws differ depending on the species and area.

Florida Fishing Regulations for Selected Species

  • Tarpon: Tarpon fishing in Florida does not have a minimum size restriction, but there is a maximum. All tarpon larger than 40 inches must remain in the water. If you want to catch a tarpon larger than the florida saltwater fishing records or world record, you can purchase a tarpon tag. Here are a few broad rules for fishing in Southwest Florida by species:
  • Snook: In some jurisdictions, snook fishing rules differ. The most up-to-date information is available from the FWC. Otherwise, it's crucial to note that snook fishing in Florida is purely recreational since no commercial catch or sale of snook is permitted.
  • Red Drum: Some red drum fishing rules differ by location in Florida. However, several of these areas share a few standards. In the South Zone of Florida, which comprises the waters around Port Sanibel Marina, you can take one Florida fish per day with no more than eight people onboard your boat. To harvest a red drum, it must be at least 18 inches long.
  • Sharks: It's legal to catch one shark every day in Florida. Until your boat has come to a complete stop, all sharks must be intact. The kinds of harvestable sharks are divided into three categories, each with its own set of size restrictions. Read some fascinating facts about sharks in Florida!
  • Cobia: According to Florida fishing regulations, cobia caught in the Gulf of Mexico must be at least 35 inches long. If you go offshore into federal waters, the cobia you catch must be 36 inches long. You can catch two fish per boat.
  • Spotted Seatrout: On average, in Southwest Florida, you can expect to hook up to three spotted sea trout during the season. The fish must be between 15 and 19 inches long, although there are methods to house larger specimens. For example, you may have one fish over 19 inches per boat.

Unrestricted Species

Several commonly caught species do not have any special rules or limits, such as:

  • Ladyfish
  • Cero Mackerel
  • Blackfin Tuna
  • Bonito
  • Great Barracuda
  • Jack Crevalle

Although there are no legal restrictions on equipment, some norms still apply as well. A common bag limit is defined as commercial quantities requiring a special license if you exceed the maximum recreational fishing limit.

Restricted Species

It is unlawful to capture, possess, land, purchase, trade, or exchange the following species:

  • Goliath Grouper (Jewfish)
  • Nassau Grouper
  • 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
  • Great Hammerhead
  • Largetooth Sawfish
  • Lemon Shark
  • Longbill Spearfish
  • Longfin Mako Shark
  • Manta Ray
  • Mediterranean Spearfish
  • Narrowtooth Shark
  • Night Shark
  • Roundscale Spearfish
  • Silky Shark
  • Sand Tiger Shark
  • Sandbar Shark
  • White Shark
  • Florida Queen Conch
  • Stony, Hard, and Fire Corals
  • Sea Fans
  • Bahama Starfish
  • Long spine Urchin

Source: https://myfwc.com/fishing.

Is a License Required to Fish in Florida?

Yes, fishing in Florida requires a license. There are two different types of Florida fishing licenses: saltwater and freshwater fishing licenses. Residents of Florida may also acquire combination fishing and hunting licenses.

Let's look at the distinctions between each kind of license.

Florida Saltwater Fishing License

There are several alternatives for obtaining a saltwater fishing license in Florida. The license you pick should correspond to your fishing goals and the fish you want to catch when casting off.

Saltwater Fishing License: The sport fishing license allows you to catch any kind of banned saltwater fish in Florida's state and federal waters. Residents may purchase an annual pass for $17. Non-resident annual, 5-day and 3-day passes are also available here.

Saltwater Shoreline Only Fishing License: The Shore-based Fishing License is available for free. It can only be used for fishing from the shoreline or a structure connected to the beach, like a pier.

Florida Freshwater Fishing License

TA Florida's freshwater fishing license is required to fish in any freshwater body in the state, including lakes, streams, rivers, ponds, and other freshwater bodies. Residents can buy an annual freshwater license for $17.

Non-residents may obtain a yearly freshwater fishing license, a 5-day or 3-day license, and an annual freshwater fishing license.

Combination Licenses

A combined license covering hunting and fishing is a great option if you live in Florida and enjoy outdoor activities.

Fishing and Hunting Combination License: Sportsmen and women residents of Florida can save money by buying a combined license. It costs $48 per year for a license and includes hunting, freshwater fishing, and saltwater fishing.

Gold Sportsman License: Florida's most inclusive hunting and fishing license is the Gold Sportsman License. It covers all of the permits you'll need to fish or hunt any animal in the state. The Florida Saltwater and Freshwater Fishing License include saltwater and freshwater fishing, hunting, archery, muzzle-loading guns, crossbows, deer, turkey, waterfowl, snook, and even lobster. It costs $100 a year for Floridians only.

Military Sportsman License: The Military Sportsman License is a U.S. Department of Defense-approved license that can be obtained by current and former members of the military. To get this license, you must first have your state-issued ID card. The annual fee is only $20.

Do Visitors Need A Fishing License?

All non-residents over the age of 16 who do not have a Florida fishing license must possess one before they cast off. There are no reciprocity agreements in place.

A fishing license is required even if you only want to capture and release fish. You can learn more about visitors’ licenses from the FWC website.

What is the process for obtaining a fishing license in Florida?

In Florida, obtaining a fishing license is simple. Florida residents and visitors to the Sunshine State can apply for a fishing license following these florida fishing license requirements:

  1. Go online: Click on GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, complete the required forms, and make payment online.
  2. Go in person: Visit a tax collector’s office near you.
  3. Over the phone: Call 888-FISH-FLORIDA to get a Florida fishing license over the phone.

2023 License-Free Fishing in Florida

Guess what! Florida offers a license-free fishing day! It also permits unlicensed fishermen to fish in saltwater without a state fishing license in public bodies of water. It's your only opportunity to fish off the coast of Florida without the necessary permits — unless you hire a fishing charter.

In 2023, Saltwater Fishing License-free Days are:

  1. June 5 and 6, 2023.
  2. September 3, 2023.
  3. November 26, 2023.

Who Is Exempting From a Florida Fishing License?

Before casting off in Florida, everyone needs a fishing license. Only children under 16 and seniors are exempt from holding a Florida fishing license.

While non-residents in their golden years must pay a fee to fish in Florida, citizens over 65 can obtain a Florida fishing license for free. This free license allows you to fish in both fresh and saltwater and pursue a game.

Seniors can get a free license if they have valid Florida identification, such as a driver's license, to demonstrate their age and residency status.

Permitted Methods For Taking Fish

Another essential Florida freshwater fishing law you should be aware of is how to catch fish. In Florida, only pole and line or rod and reel may be used to catch fish in freshwater bodies. There is no limit on the number of fish you can catch with these methods. Other methods are illegal, including:

  • An unattached and freely floating device with more than two hooks;
  • Explosives;
  • Speargun;
  • Chemical or poisons;
  • Swimming or diving underwater.

The state also restricts the kinds of non-game fish that may be harvested, and these restrictions are a little laxer. Anglers may fish for these species using a pole and line, rod and reel, bush hook, setline, or trotline. At night, and during the day, bow and arrows can be used to capture non-game fish. Manually operated spears, gigs, snatch hooks, and throwlines can also be used to take non-game fish.

Please remember, when in doubt, always check the Florida fishing regulations for updates, as they are subject to change!

Free Recreational Fishing Regulation Guides.

Saltwater Fishing Regulations Florida.

Gulf of Mexico Federal Regulations

 South Atlantic Federal Regulations

Freshwater Fishing Regulations

Full Florida Law Library for Fishing