Recreational Fishing

Recreational Fishing

Most Florida waters have year-round fishing seasons. However, many rivers and streams and some lakes have special rules

Fishing is an enjoyable pastime, especially here in Florida. In fact, there are approximately 4 million saltwater and freshwater anglers in the state of Florida.

I love saltwater fishing for several reasons:

1) You get to be outside enjoying nature.

2) Crisp sea breezes and the smell of sea salt.

3) Every catch is a surprise, with so many fish in the ocean, you never really know what you are going to get.

4) The opportunity to unplug; fishing is an activity where you can often just relax.

5) I love to eat fish and there is something particularly satisfying about catching your own dinner.

Have I persuaded you to try your hand at fishing? If so, I’d like to help you get started on your fishing journey with this quick guide for new anglers.

Step 1: Obtain a fishing license

In Florida, you need a saltwater fishing license if you are over 16 unless you are a Florida resident age 65 and older or are otherwise exempt.

Get a license 

Now the question is, what gear do you need?

Step 2: Become familiar with your gear

There are a few must haves for fishing gear. First and foremost, you are going to need a fishing rod and reel. There are many options to choose from but, for beginners, I recommend a spin-cast rod and reel or a spinning rod and reel. The spin-cast reel offers a push-button control to release the line, which makes casting a breeze. For a spinning reel, instead of pushing a button to control the release of fishing line, you must manually manipulate the bail, which is a piece on the reel that guides the line back onto a spool. Choose the rod and reel you think will work best for you.

Next, you’ll need fishing line, non-stainless-steel circle hooks (which are more likely to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth) and a dehooking tool. If you want to fish the bottom, you might also want to pick up some small weights and, if you want to fish the surface or middle of the water column, you may want to pick up some floats or bobbers.

Lastly, you’ll want to think about what kind of bait you’ll use, which will vary based on which species you want to target. Shrimp and small fish are good live bait to start out with. Now that you’ve got what gear you need, it’s time to pick a fishing spot.

Step 3: Decide where to fish

Where you fish can have a big impact on what you catch. Of course, it’s impossible to know where the fish are at all times and fish aren’t always hanging out in the same places but there are some ways you can make informed decisions about where to fish. FWC’s Boating and Angling Guide maps are a great resource to learn about fishing locations. These guides are available without cost at many marinas, tackle shops, boating supply stores and other marine businesses; or by visiting

Ocean Florida Marine 

If you plan on fishing from shore, try fishing places with structure. Maybe there are a few piers where fish seem to be biting more than others, try checking out those.

Once you have your spot, it is very important to understand the rules and regulations before you go fishing.

Step 4: Understand the rules and regulations

Fishing regulations are available in paper booklets and can also be found online at Florida Wildlife Commission.  You can also find them in the Fish Rules app that can be downloaded onto your smart device. Read through the regulations before you go. Do you understand the terms (bag limit, size limit, closed season etc.)? Do you understand how to measure your fish? Do you feel comfortable identifying common fish you might encounter? (Fishing Lines field guide, also found on our website, is a great resource for this.) What fish may you harvest and at what size? How many of each fish may you harvest? These are important things to understand before you go fishing.

Step 5: Go fishing

Finally, the time has come! You have your license, you have your gear, you’ve read the rules and you’ve arrived at your fishing spot. Now it’s time to cast out and catch yourself a fishing memory. One of the most exciting things about fishing is feeling that sudden tug on your line as a fish grabs your bait. Reel it in and reel it in fast. Safely remove hooks using a dehooking tool, wet your hands before handling fish and support the fish horizontally. Don’t handle the fish too long and safely release any fish you aren’t keeping. Remember, to be a conservation minded angler don’t leave trash behind and be sure to recycle your monofilament line in an appropriate receptacle.