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How to Get a Fishing License in Florida

Gaming fees and licenses are an important source of revenue for fish and wildlife services and preservation programs. The money used to buy them helps wildlife and the environments they inhabit.

Fishing licensing requirements vary by location. Most states have distinct licenses for fresh and saltwater, for residents and visitors, as well as special permits. It can be difficult to keep up.

Florida is one of the most popular fishing destinations in North America. It is home to hundreds of species inhabiting coastal and inland waters. If you want to learn how to get a fishing license in Florida and how much it will cost, keep reading.

The Florida fishing license guide below covers everything you need to know about obtaining a fishing permit. It contains information about special exemptions and requirements beyond basic licensing. It also explains the different locations where you can buy a Florida fishing license and the most economical options you have depending on where you want to fish and what you are fishing for.

Who Needs a Fishing License in Florida?

In general, all residents between 16 and 65 years of age must have a license to fish in the state. All non-residents over 16 must have one as well.

For residents over the age of 65, licenses are free. You still need to complete a registration form though. You can get these senior-citizens fishing certificates at your county tax collector’s office.

A person who has declared Florida as their primary state of residence must provide identification. Suitable forms include a state-issued driver’s license or identification card. A voter registration card with a current address is permitted as well.

Active-duty United States military personnel stationed in Florida qualify as "residents." This includes their spouse and dependent children as well.

Note that commercial fishing has a separate set of regulations. These practices are not governed by recreational licensing and have distinct requirements. In order to operate a commercial fishing operation, you must apply as a business through the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations.

Saltwater Licenses

To remove any living saltwater organisms, you need a recreational saltwater license in Florida. This includes all fish, crabs, clams, and even marine plants. You do not need a license to take nonliving things, like seashells.

For residents, a basic annual saltwater fishing license is currently $17. You also can get a five-year license for $79.

An out-of-state annual saltwater fishing license costs $47. Non-residents also have the option of buying a three-day pass for $17 or a seven-day one for $30.

Saltwater shoreline licenses are free for Florida residents, but you still need to register. This includes fishing from shores or anything attached to them, such as docks or piers. These licenses are not valid if fishing from any shoreline that you need a vessel to reach.

Snook Fishing Requirements

There are types of saltwater fishing in Florida that warrant special permitting. One is snook fishing.

Snook are highly prized game fish. This is due to their aggressive fighting capabilities, which make them fun to catch, and their taste.

Snook are very sensitive to colder temperatures. They are mostly only found in the southern waters of the state and during certain times of the year. Changes in weather patterns and overharvesting have threatened the population.

For these reasons, the state has implemented regulations for catching them. If you wish to fish for snook, you must buy a $10 annual permit (besides the standard saltwater license). A five-year license is available for $50, but only for Florida residents.

There are special snook regulations as well. These govern catch-and-release policies and they vary by time of year and area of the state. 

Licensing does not affect these regulations. So, be sure you are in compliance by following the seasonal and regional requirements.

Lobster Licensing

Like with snook fishing, to capture lobster in Florida you need a standard saltwater fishing license and a special add-on permit. It is only $5, and a five-year license is available for $25 to residents.

As with snook, there are special regulations for catching lobster. These include minimum size, per-person bag limits, and prohibitions against taking egg-bearing females. There are also limited seasons for recreational and commercial lobstering.

Freshwater Licenses

As with most coastal states, freshwater fishing requires a separate permit in Florida. For residents, an annual license is $17, with a five-year one available for $79.

Non-residents can buy an annual license for $47. A three-day option is available for $17 and a seven-day for $30.

Note that there are restrictions on what types of aquatic life you can take with a freshwater fishing license. For instance, there are laws against keeping certain families of freshwater mussels and various types of turtles.

There are also regional freshwater restrictions you should be aware of. Examples are prohibitions against killing or keeping shoal bass in the Chipola River or its tributaries.

Combined Licenses

If you plan to fish saltwater and freshwater, you can buy combination licenses that cover both. These are only available for Florida residents and cost $32.50 a year.

If you are a hunter as well, you can get a freshwater and hunting license for the same price, $32.50. For all three--hunting, freshwater, and saltwater fishing--an annual license costs $48.

A “Sportsman’s License” is available for freshwater fishing and all specialty hunting, like muzzleloading, deer, turkey, and waterfowl. It is $80.50 but does not include saltwater fishing. For residents over 64 years of age, a discounted license is available for $13.50, with a five-year option for $61.50.

The “Gold Sportsman’s License” for residents is $100 a year, or $494 for five years. It covers freshwater and saltwater fishing and includes snook and lobster permits as well.

This license also includes covers specialty hunting practices. It is available for active military personnel for only $20 a year.

Lifetime Licenses

Finally, lifetime fishing licensing is available but only for Florida residents. These are an economical choice over the long term. They're popular for fishing enthusiasts and are a great option for children since they will never have to worry about purchasing a fishing license in the state for the rest of their lives.

For anyone under the age of four, a lifetime Gold Sportsman’s License (which includes all fishing and hunting) is only $401.50. For ages five through 12, the price goes up to $701.50. For anyone 13 years of age or older, the lifetime license is $1,001.50.

You can also buy individual saltwater and freshwater lifetime licenses. For ages four and under, those are $126.50 each.

For ages five through 12, these licenses are $226.50 apiece. And for anyone 13 years and up, each license is $301.50.

(Note that there is a separate lifetime hunting license as well. It is a little more expensive with prices that also increase with age.)

Exemptions

There are only a few exemptions for fishing licenses in Florida. If you are under the age of 16, you do not need to get a Florida fishing license, regardless of whether you are a resident.

Due to their invasive nature, there are licensing exceptions for removing lionfish. There are restrictions on methods for taking this fish though.

Another exemption is fishing on private land. If you own a pond or want to fish at a friend's, you do not need a fishing license to do so. One stipulation is that the body of water is smaller than 20 acres.

Remember that many public waterways, like rivers and streams, run through private land. For these, you would need a license to fish.

Guests on saltwater fishing charters are also exempt from permitting since the captain's license covers them. Freshwater fishing charters with a captain do require participants to have a license.

There also are special license provisions for persons with disabilities. There is no charge for a permit, but a special application process is required. The licenses last between two and five years for these individuals.

Specialty Fishing Days

The state also has a few license-free days every year. The idea is to encourage people who do not have a license to get the experience of fishing without the commitment or cost. These holidays include all types of fishing permissible in the state (for example, snook fishing and lobstering).

For freshwater fishing, the first consecutive Saturday and Sunday in April are license-free fishing days. You also do not need a license on the second consecutive Saturday and Sunday in June.

For saltwater fishing, you do not need a license to fish the first consecutive Saturday and Sunday in June. The first Saturday in September and the first Saturday following Thanksgiving are also exempt. 

How to Get a Fishing License in Florida

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website is the easiest and fastest way for getting a Florida fishing license. Here you can also check the status of a license if you are unsure if yours has expired or is otherwise valid.

The state also has a smartphone app, FishHuntFL, which is available for Android and Apple devices. It allows you to buy licenses, check the status of one, and access other fishing and hunting tools. It has handy calendars for fishing seasons for different species and other information as well.

You also can contact the Commission at 1-888-FISH-FLO (347-4356) to find out how to get a fishing license in Florida. They can process requests over the phone using a credit card, then mail you the information.

You can buy fishing licenses at various retail locations as well. Common ones are Walmart, Bass Pro Shops, and many local sporting goods stores or bait and tackle shops. Buying in person has the benefit of being able to avoid any online processing fees.

It is not required, but you can request a physical license card. It is an extra $5 and the state will mail it to you. It can hold up to seven different licenses and permits.

All licenses take effect on the day you buy them and expire based on that date. For instance, an annual pass would last exactly one year from when you get it.

Penalties for Fishing Without a License

If a Florida game warden catches you fishing without a license, you will likely receive a citation and have to pay a fine. These can vary by location and with the type of offense.

In general, you can expect fines to be at least $50. The penalty could be much stiffer though. Repeat offenders could be penalized much more harshly, with hundreds of dollars in fines and even jail time.

In general, obtaining a fishing license is much cheaper than rolling the dice and risking fines. It also gives you the peace of mind that you are following the law while supporting the wildlife and natural resources of the state.

Learn More About Florida Fishing

Now that you have an idea of how to get a fishing license in Florida and what you can expect to pay, you can start planning your next fishing excursion. Be sure to check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website for updates. Regulations can change from year to year; staying on top of this will ensure you are within full compliance with the law.

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