What Should I Know When Fishing in Florida?
Whether fishing recreationally from shore, private property, public property, from a private boat, or from a charter boat, in public, private state, or federal water it is always important to know the saltwater fishing regulations associated with the type of fishing that you will be doing and which apply to the areas in which you will be fishing. For the purpose of this article, let’s stick with salt water fishing regulations within the state of Florida, and more specifically within the Gulf of Mexico, inside the panhandle zone.
Now that introduction may seem wordy and intimidating because there are so many regulations for so many areas and each area’s regulations can vary drastically. In the state of Florida for saltwater fishing, the size limits for individual species are divided up into the Gulf and the Atlantic. Certain seasonal species restrictions based on the population numbers in individual zones, within the Gulf or Atlantic can vary. This is why it is ultimately important to be aware of any changes day-to-day week to week or month to month by paying close attention to the FWC’s updated website.
So let’s start with gear and tackle for saltwater fishing regulations. All anglers fishing within Florida’s state or federal waters either in the Gulf or the Atlantic are required to carry an approved venting tool at all times. A venting tool is used to vent any fish that is brought to the surface with an inflated swim bladder. A fishes swim bladder allows for them to maintain depth. If they are reeled to the surface too quickly, or for any other reason, gases buildup in the swim bladder, they will become bloated and potentially regurgitate part of their swim bladder or organs through their mouths. It is very difficult for a fish to survive that way if we just release them without first venting the bladder to release the gasses so that they can control their death and have an opportunity to survive in the wild.
The state of Florida also requires all saltwater anglers to carry a de-hooking device. De-hooking devices are used to safely, quickly, and effectively remove hooks from the mouths of fish. This is a benefit to the fish as it requires less handling of the fish, does less damage to the slime coat, and ultimately can get them back into the water quicker and more efficiently without damaging them.
When saltwater fishing in the state of Florida, you are required to use non-stainless steel circle hooks when targeting any type of “reef species”. So when doing any fishing in the Gulf or in the Atlantic in which you may potentially catch any type of snapper, grouper, amber jacks, triggerfish, porgies, sea bass, hogfish, or tile fish you will be required to exclusively use non stainless steel circle hooks. There are some variations between using offset and non-offset circle hooks which are specified to each zone.
In the Gulf panhandle zone we are required to use non-stainless non-offset circle hooks. This is just another reason that it is so important to know your state and local saltwater fishing regulations.
All species in the state of Florida have unique recreational bag limits in those recreational bag limits can be changed at any point in time by the FWC. It is imperative that any angler in the state of Florida possess with them at all times a valid fishing license, and also knows the size and bag regulations and limitations for all species that they may potentially be fishing for. Sharks all have individual regulations. Billfish all have individual regulations and limitations, as well as pelagics, baitfish, reef species, and any other species or classification of fish within Florida waters. One of the best tools for any Florida fisherman to have is an updated saltwater fishing regulations and limitations chart provided by the FWC.
In addition to bag limits and size requirements the landing of any billfish requires that you report the catch and associated information about the catch to NOAA within 24 hours. Some species may also require you to report to the IFGA within 24 hours as well.
Although these saltwater fishing regulations may seem abundant, restrictive, or excessive, they serve a very important purpose in allowing for us to responsibly fish, and maintain healthy species with healthy population numbers. It is after all this aquatic ecosystem that provides us with the opportunity to fish in the first place.
At Southern Country Charters, we work diligently to provide a safe, responsible environment to all of our customers, as well as an education on fishing techniques and regulations. All of our license captains are informed of updated regulations and can answer any questions that you have about fishing responsibly in Florida. So call Southern Country Charters at 850-739-3175 or click the booking link above to book an inshore or offshore trip and come explore our fishery, have fun, and catch fish!