Fishing Nets in Florida: Do You Need a License?

Florida, with its vast coastal areas and numerous freshwater bodies, offers an abundance of fishing opportunities. But before you cast your net, it’s crucial to understand the licensing requirements. Do you need a license for fishing nets in Florida? This article will provide a comprehensive guide to answer this question and more.

Understanding the Licensing Requirements

Who Needs a License?

In the Sunshine State, the rules are clear: If you’re planning to fish, you need a license. This applies to both residents and visitors, and it’s not just limited to traditional fishing. Whether you’re casting a line, catching and releasing, or even attempting to take any native or nonnative marine organisms such as crabs, lobsters, and marine plants, a fishing license is mandatory.

The requirement extends to those who are passively participating in the activity, such as setting decoys or baiting hooks. A license is required to attempt to take fish, and this includes both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Even those listed on the National Saltwater Angler Registry must have a Florida recreational fishing license unless exempt.

Exemptions from Licensing

While the rules are stringent, there are exemptions that provide flexibility for certain groups. Understanding these exemptions can save both time and money, and ensure compliance with state regulations.

  1. Youth under 16 years of age: They are completely exempt from recreational hunting, freshwater fishing, or saltwater fishing licenses. This also includes federal duck stamp requirements.
  2. Resident seniors age 65 or older: With proof of age or residency, such as a valid Florida Driver’s License or ID Card, seniors can enjoy fishing without the need for a license.
  3. Freshwater fishing on your homestead: If you’re fishing in your county of residence on your homestead, or if you are a minor child fishing on the homestead of your parent, you are exempt from licensing requirements.
  4. Disabled veterans or active or reserve duty military service members: Under certain conditions, they may be exempt from licensing requirements.
  5. Fishing for wild hog on private land: This specific activity does not require a license.
  6. Individuals fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or less: If the pond is located entirely within private property and constructed for the primary purpose of fishing, no license is required.
  7. Florida residents fishing with live or natural bait in their home county: If they are using poles or lines not equipped with a fishing-line-retrieval mechanism and fishing for noncommercial purposes, they are exempt.

These exemptions are not just legal loopholes; they reflect a thoughtful approach to encouraging responsible fishing while accommodating various needs and circumstances. Whether you are a seasoned angler or a casual weekend fisher, understanding these rules is the first step to enjoying Florida’s abundant fishing opportunities responsibly.

Types of Fishing Licenses

Freshwater Fishing License

Florida’s freshwater fishing is renowned for its diversity, offering opportunities to catch bass, catfish, crappie, and more. But before you cast your line in the state’s lakes, rivers, or streams, you’ll need to understand the licensing requirements.

A Freshwater Fishing License is required for all anglers who fish in Florida’s freshwater bodies, with specific exemptions:

  1. Fishing in a private pond of 20 acres or less: If the pond is man-made and constructed for the primary purpose of fishing, no license is required.
  2. Fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or more: The owner must purchase a fish pond license at a fee of $3 per surface acre.
  3. Fishing in the St. Mary’s River or Lake Seminole with a valid Georgia fishing license: This unique arrangement allows anglers with a valid Georgia license to fish in these specific bodies of water without a Florida license.
  4. Florida residents fishing with live or natural bait in their home county: If using poles or lines not equipped with a fishing-line-retrieval mechanism, they are exempt.
  5. Free freshwater fishing days: On designated days, freshwater fishing is allowed without a license.

Understanding these requirements and exemptions ensures that you can enjoy Florida’s rich freshwater fishing opportunities legally and responsibly.

Saltwater Fishing License

Florida’s coastline stretches over 1,300 miles, offering unparalleled saltwater fishing opportunities. From tarpon and snook to redfish and grouper, the options are endless. But a Saltwater Fishing License is required to attempt to take any native or nonnative marine organisms.

Exemptions include:

  1. Individuals saltwater fishing from a for-hire vessel with a valid charter license: This includes guides, charters, and party boats.
  2. Saltwater fishing from a vessel with a valid recreational saltwater vessel license: If the vessel’s operator has a valid license issued in their name, passengers are exempt.
  3. Saltwater fishing from a pier with a valid saltwater pier license: Anglers fishing from licensed piers are not required to hold individual licenses.
  4. Florida residents saltwater fishing with live or natural bait in their home county: Similar to the freshwater exemption, certain residents are exempt when using specific equipment.
  5. Free saltwater fishing days: On designated days, saltwater fishing is allowed without a license.

Understanding the distinctions between freshwater and saltwater fishing licenses, and the specific requirements and exemptions for each, is vital for legal compliance. It’s not just a matter of following the law; it’s about respecting the resources and ensuring that fishing remains a sustainable and enjoyable pastime for all.

Special Considerations

Fishing with Nets

Fishing with nets in Florida is not just a matter of casting a wide loop into the water. It’s governed by specific regulations that reflect the state’s commitment to sustainable fishing practices. Understanding these regulations is essential to avoid legal complications.

  1. Cast Nets: Cast nets having a stretched mesh size not greater than 2 inches are allowed. This ensures that smaller fish can escape, promoting healthy fish populations.
  2. Seine Nets: Seine nets not exceeding 500 square feet and having a mesh size of not less than 2 inches stretched mesh are allowed in fresh water.
  3. Gill and Trammel Nets: These are prohibited in fresh water, except for the harvest of Asian swamp eels or in the execution of a scientific collector’s permit.
  4. Beach or haul seines: For non-commercial purposes, these are allowed in saltwater with a mesh size not less than 2 inches stretched mesh.
  5. Special regulations for certain areas: Some areas, such as Monroe County, have specific regulations regarding net fishing. Being aware of local rules is crucial.
  6. Prohibited species: Certain species may not be harvested with nets, such as spotted seatrout or pompano.
  7. Commercial net fishing: This requires additional licenses and permits, with specific rules governing the type and size of nets.

Fishing on Private Property

Fishing on private property in Florida, such as a fish pond of 20 acres or less, has its own set of rules. These rules reflect the balance between private property rights and the state’s interest in conserving fish resources.

  1. Fish Pond License: For ponds larger than 20 acres, a fish pond license at a fee of $3 per surface acre is required. This license ensures that the pond meets certain construction and stocking requirements.
  2. Exemptions for smaller ponds: Ponds of 20 acres or less that are located entirely within private property and constructed for the primary purpose of fishing are exempt from licensing requirements.
  3. Stocking private ponds: Introducing fish species into private ponds requires adherence to specific regulations to prevent the introduction of diseases or non-native species.
  4. Access and trespass laws: Fishing on private property without permission is considered trespassing. Understanding and respecting property rights is essential for legal and ethical fishing.
  5. Local zoning and construction regulations: Constructing or altering a fishing pond may require compliance with local zoning and construction regulations.

Awareness of these rules ensures respectful and legal fishing

, whether you’re casting a net off the coast or enjoying a quiet afternoon by a private pond.

How to Obtain a License

Choosing the Right License

Selecting the appropriate license is a critical step, and it’s not as simple as picking one off the shelf. Florida offers a variety of licenses tailored to different types of fishing, locations, and individual circumstances.

  1. Resident vs. Non-Resident Licenses: Florida residents are eligible for resident license rates, but proof of residency is required.
  2. Freshwater vs. Saltwater Licenses: Depending on where you plan to fish, you’ll need either a freshwater or saltwater license, or both if you plan to fish in both types of water.
  3. Combination Licenses: These offer both freshwater and saltwater fishing privileges and may include hunting privileges as well.
  4. Lifetime and Five-Year Licenses: These are available for Florida residents who want to make a long-term commitment to fishing.
  5. Special Permits: Certain species, such as snook or lobster, require additional permits.
  6. Disability and Military Discounts: Special licenses are available for disabled individuals and active military members.
  7. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Frequently Asked Questions and Answers section: This resource helps anglers choose the right license and permits, providing detailed information tailored to individual needs.

Where to Purchase a License

Once you’ve determined the right license, the next step is purchasing it from a legitimate source. Ensuring that you purchase from a legitimate source is vital to avoid potential legal issues.

  1. Online at This is the official online portal for purchasing Florida fishing licenses. It offers a secure and convenient way to obtain the necessary licenses and permits.
  2. County Tax Collectors’ Offices: These offices provide in-person services for purchasing licenses.
  3. Licensed Agents: Many retail stores, such as sporting goods stores and tackle shops, are licensed to sell fishing licenses.
  4. By Phone: Licenses can be purchased by calling toll-free 888-FISH-FLORIDA (888-347-4356).
  5. Free App: The Fish|Hunt Florida mobile app provides a convenient way to purchase and store fishing licenses on your mobile device.
  6. Beware of Unofficial Websites: Only purchase licenses from the official website or authorized agents to avoid scams and counterfeit licenses.


Understanding the licensing requirements for fishing nets in Florida is essential for a legal and enjoyable experience. Whether you are a resident or a visitor, knowing the rules, exemptions, and how to obtain the right license is key to responsible fishing.

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