According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission over 1.5 million fishing licenses and permits were sold in Florida between 2006 and 2007. In Collier County alone over 50,000 fishing related licenses and permits were sold last year. These statistics, however, do not reflect the true number of anglers fishing because not everyone is required to have a license.
I’m commonly asked by visitors and residents alike about fishing licenses. Educating yourself about license requirements and why they’re important not only protects you from possible fines, but helps provide critical funding for conservation efforts that protect our state’s fisheries.
Although the following questions are not an exhaustive list, they are the most frequently asked.
Does my child need a fishing license? Children under the age of 16 are not required to have a salt or freshwater license regardless if fishing from land or water.
Do I need a license when fishing from the beach? If you are a Florida resident, and are saltwater fishing from land or a structure fixed to land such as a pier, jetty, bridge, floating dock or similar structure a saltwater license is not required. This also means that a snook stamp is not required if you decide to keep a legal sized snook. A license (and snook stamp if applicable) is required for any non-resident fishing from land or fixed structure.
Keep in mind if you fish from a barrier island that has no bridge or other manmade structure connecting it to the mainland such as Cape Romano or Keewaydin Island a license is required even for residents.
Who is considered a resident? According to FWC, a resident is anyone who has resided in Florida for six continuous months prior to applying for a resident license and who claims Florida as their primary residence. It also includes any member of the U.S. armed forces who is stationed in the state.
Do I need a license if fishing from a private or rented vessel? Regardless of whether you are a Florida resident or just visiting, a saltwater license is generally required when fishing from a private or rented leisure vessel (this includes kayaks). Only those individuals fishing are required to have a license and it must be on them when their lines are in the water. There are some exceptions to this rule including, but not limited to: Florida residents 65 or older (with proof), and resident members of the U.S. armed forces not stationed in the state who are on leave for 30 days or less are not required to have a license.
If I hire a guide do I still need a license? Although not required by law, most charter captains, guides, and other for-hire vessels possess a vessel license that covers their passengers while out on the water. To be safe, double check with the captain to make sure he/she offers this service.
I’m from out of state; do I need a license to fish from the Naples Pier? Typically a non-resident would need a license to fish from a fixed structure such as a pier, but like many municipal-run piers, the Naples Pier possesses a valid pier saltwater fishing license. This license covers all anglers fishing from the pier regardless of residency. The license also includes a snook stamp for any legal sized snook taken from the pier.
For a complete listing of saltwater fishing license requirements, visit http://marinefisheries.org/license.htm. Keep in mind that freshwater fishing has its own requirements. To learn more about these requirements visit http://floridafisheries.com/license.html.
Where can I purchase a fishing license? Anglers have many locations to choose from when purchasing a license. The county tax collector’s office (http://www.colliertax.com/) sells them as well as most tackles shops and retails stores such as Sunshine Ace Hardware, Bass Pro and Wal-Mart. An additional $.50 subagents fee is charged for licenses not purchased directly from the county tax collector. There is also the option of purchasing a license by phone by calling 1-888-Fish Florida (347-4356) or online at www.myfwc.com/license. Additional surcharges are included for these purchases as well. When you purchase a license by phone or online you will be given a reference number. If you fish before your printed license arrives by mail, you can use the reference number as your license.
How much does a license cost? License prices will vary with residency status, length of time fishing, and/or species targeted. Sportsmen also have the option of choosing from a variety of combination licenses, which cover salt and freshwater as well as hunting licenses. License fees were recently increased for both residents and non-residents (see chart). Residents can purchase annual, five year, or lifetime licenses. Non- residents can purchase three-day, seven-day, and annual licenses.
What is the penalty for not having a license? If an angler is cited for not having a fishing license he/she must pay for the cost of the license that is applicable to the fishing they are doing in addition to a set fee. For example, the fine for a non-resident not having a salt water license is $100.50. This includes the $47 dollars for the license and a $53.50 fine.
What happens to the money generated from fishing license sales? In a national survey conducted by anglersurvey.com only 39 percent of anglers correctly identified how the sales for fishing licenses were used. Despite many beliefs, 100 percent of fishing license revenue goes to the state for fish and wildlife management. In Florida, these sales help support fish habitat restoration, fisheries research, boating access improvements, law enforcement, licensing, and aquatic education.
Why should I consider purchasing a license if I am not required to have one?
The amount of federal aid each state gets for conservation and restoration projects depends partially on the number of licenses sold. Even if you are not required to buy a license, your purchase of one helps support research, education and law enforcement efforts to protect our state’s fisheries. The more licenses purchased by anglers, the more federal aid each state gets to support these projects.
To learn more about fishing licenses and the type of projects that are supported by license revenues visit www.myfwc.com
Bryan Fluech is the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Agent with the University of Florida Extension Service. He can be reached at (239) 417-6310, ext. 25 or Fluech@ufl.edu.