Fishing Nets in Florida: Do You Need a License?

Fishing is a popular recreational activity in Florida, enjoyed by both residents and visitors. The state has an abundant coastline, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water that provide excellent fishing opportunities.

However, to legally fish in Florida, you generally need to have a proper fishing license. This applies whether you are fishing for sport or food, using nets or other gear. Licenses help fund conservation efforts and ensure sustainable fisheries.

Who Needs a Fishing License for Net Fishing?

In Florida, most people over the age of 16 need a fishing license to use nets to catch fish, whether in freshwater or saltwater. This includes both residents and non-residents.

You need a license even if you plan to catch and release the fish. Simply attempting to catch fish with nets requires having a valid license.

There are some exemptions from licensing that will be covered later.

In saltwater, you need a license when catching fish as well as crabs, shrimp, clams, lobsters, and harvesting marine plants. Essentially all living marine organisms except lionfish require a saltwater fishing license to be taken using nets or other means.

Exemptions from Fishing License Requirements

While most people need licenses, the following groups can fish without one in Florida:

  • Children under 16 years old
  • Residents 65 years of age and older who can prove residency and age
  • Military personnel are home on leave for 30 days or less
  • Residents who are totally and permanently disabled with authorized certification
  • Clients accepted into developmental disability services by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities

Additionally, those fishing under the following conditions do not need a fishing license:

  • Fishing on licensed charters with a valid charter license
  • Fishing from a licensed pier with a valid pier saltwater license
  • Shore-based saltwater fishing with proof of residency (residents only)
  • Using a cane pole or line without a reel in your home county (residents only)

Differences Between Freshwater and Saltwater Licenses

There are distinct regulations and licenses for freshwater and saltwater fishing in Florida.

A freshwater fishing license allows you to use nets and other legal gear to catch freshwater fish species. This includes catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, gar, bowfin, and others legally designated as freshwater species.

Meanwhile, a saltwater fishing license covers fishing nets, traps, seines, and other gear used to catch saltwater species. This includes redfish, snook, tarpon, grouper, snapper, mackerel, sheepshead, flounder, crabs, shrimp, clams, oysters, and marine organisms.

Some waters, like rivers, estuaries, and bays, have a mix of freshwater and saltwater fish. In these cases, you need a license that matches the targeted species, regardless of location.

So if you plan to use nets to catch both freshwater and saltwater fish, you likely need both a freshwater and saltwater fishing license.

Additional Permits Required for Net Fishing

Beyond a basic fishing license, you also need special permits to catch some popular saltwater species with nets in Florida. These include:

  • Snook: Special annual $10 permit or $50 five-year permit
  • Lobster: Special annual $5 permit or $25 five-year permit
  • Tarpon: Annual $51.50 tag

There are no exemptions from these permits, even if you are exempt from the fishing license requirement itself due to age, disability, etc.

So before using nets to catch snook, lobster, or tarpon, ensure you have both the required fishing license and permits.

Cost of Fishing Licenses for Net Fishing

License fees help fund conservation efforts by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Here are the current costs of licenses and permits needed for recreational net fishing in Florida:

License Resident Non-resident
Annual Freshwater $17 $47
5-Year Freshwater $79 N/A
Annual Saltwater $17 $47
5-Year Saltwater $79 N/A
Freshwater/Saltwater Combo $32.50 N/A
Snook Permit $10/$50 (5 years) $10
Lobster Permit $5/$25 (5 years) $5
Tarpon Tag $51.50 $51.50

For current pricing and exemptions, check the FWC license website.

Where to Obtain a Fishing License for Nets

You can purchase Florida fishing licenses and permits:

For non-resident licenses, you can also use approved online third-party vendors.

Be sure to carry either a physical license or valid digital proof of licensing when fishing with nets in Florida.


In summary, most people need proper fishing licenses and permits to legally catch fish and other marine organisms using nets in Florida.

There are exceptions for children under 16, seniors over 65, military personnel, disabled residents, and those fishing on licensed charters or piers.

Make sure you have the right freshwater or saltwater license based on the species you target. Also obtain the required snook, lobster, and tarpon permits if seeking those fish.

Review current regulations, costs, exemptions, and frequently asked questions on the FWC website. Or contact your local tax collector’s office for assistance in obtaining proper licensing before fishing with nets.

Following licensing rules allows you to enjoy Florida’s excellent fishing opportunities legally while also supporting the conservation of its precious natural resources.

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