Don’t Keep In Florida’s Waters

Fishing has long been a celebrated activity in Florida, dubbed as the Sunshine State, and to help make sure that everyone, residents and visitors alike, get to enjoy this activity.

Florida has put forth policies designed to help the people make the most of this recreational activity preserved and maintained for future generations. A small price to pay if four million people get to enjoy some of the most spectacular fishing experiences in the world.

What Fish Can You Not Keep In Florida? According to Florida’s laws, people are prohibited from keeping the following fishes: Sunfish. Electric Catfish. African Tigerfish. Electric Eels. Piranhas and Pirambebas. Snakeheads. Traíras. Airsac Catfish.

This article discusses the different rules and regulations related to fishing in Florida and the fishing regulations regarding certain types of fishes that can be caught in Florida waters.

Florida Fishing Licenses, Rules And Regulations

Some anglers enjoy having been licensed, but it isn’t a requirement to go fishing. However, that’s not an excuse to not be familiar with the rules and regulations about the type of fishing you are practicing.

Ignorance of the law will never be a valid excuse for breaking them, so it would be best to give yourself a crash course rather than risk a trip to the court.

The “slot limit,” which is the length of a fish that must be kept, is determined by the FWC as the measurement of the straight line distance from the forward-most part of the head with the mouth closed until the farthest tip of its tail. The tail is compressed or squeezed together while the fish is lying on its side.

Typically, you will need a license to go fishing. You can get this at tax collector offices or tackle shops. You don’t have to own a fishing license if you are 16 and below or a Florida resident at the age of 65 and above.

You also don’t need a fishing license if you fish from land or any structure affixed to lands like a pier or a jetty. Although, some fishes may require a unique tag for your license.

The FWC has policies in place for reef fish as well. “Reef fish” is a term used to collectively denote groupers, snappers, amberjacks, triggerfish, porgies, sea bass, hogfish, and tilefish.

The FWC rules regarding this fish call for all commercial fishers and recreational anglers fishing for vessels for any species of Gulf reef fish to use non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks, venting tools, and dehooking devices to minimize the deaths of released fish.

Circle hooks have a point turned back to the shank to have a circular or oval figure. Its primary purpose is hooking the fish at the mouth rather than the throat. Dehooking devices release the fish without a lot of harm.

Venting tools are usually a pick to deflate the expanded swimming bladder of fishes that have been reeled and brought to the surface too quickly. Rather than looking like a pick or a knife, venting tools look more like a syringe with a big needle.

Unregulated Fish Species

Many species of fish can be caught without having to worry about rules and restrictions. Examples of these fishes are the Ladyfish, the Cero mackerel, the Blackfin Tuna, the Bonito, the Great Barracuda, and the Jack Crevalle.

Even though there aren’t regulations regarding these fishes to worry about, you will still need the appropriate gear requirements to be allowed to fish for these marine lives and carry a special license if you happen to exceed the maximum limit for recreational fishing.

The legal gear for fishing accepted by the state are the hook and line, spears, gigs, haul seines and cast nets. This lineup may vary at other locations. On the other hand, chemicals, explosives, electricity, bang sticks, and fish traps are just some of the illegal fishing methods, as stated by the FWC.

The default bag limit for unregulated species is, in essence, two fish or 100 pounds per day. This means that for smaller fish like the white grunt, it doesn’t matter how many you get as long as it’s within the limit of 100 pounds. For larger fish, for example, the southern stingray, your limit is two no matter how heavy the fish is.

Prohibited Species

The FWC has policies in place that prohibit the harvest, possession, or trade of the following species of fish: Goliath Grouper (Jewfish), Nassau Grouper, Basking Shark, Atlantic Angel Shark, Bigeye Sand Tiger Shark, Bigeye Sixgill Shark, Caribbean Sharpnose Shark, Bigeye Thresher Shark, Bignose Shark, Caribbean Reef Shark, Dusky Shark, Galapagos Shark, and Great Hammerhead,

Other species include Lemon Shark, Largetooth Sawfish, Longbill Spearfish, Sawfish, Manta Ray, Mediterranean Spearfish, Silky Shark, Narrowtooth Shark, Night Shark, Spiny Dogfish, Longfin Mako Shark, Sixgill Shark, Smalltooth Sawfish, Roundscale Spearfish, Sand Tiger Shark, Sandbar Shark, Scalloped Hammerhead, Sevengill Shark, Silky Shark, Smalltail Shark, Smooth Hammerhead, Spotted Eagle Ray, and a Sturgeon.

Prohibited Freshwater Fish As Bait

The FWC also has regulations in place about the bait anglers are allowed to use. All parts of the Black bass and peacock bass cannot be used as bait. Live, non-native fishes, including goldfish and carps, may not be used as bait except for some types of platys and fathead minnows.

Whole pickerel or panfish and any parts thereof may be used as bait by the anglers that caught them for sport fishing. But, these may not be used as bait for trotlines or bush hooks.

Or any other method of fishing other than by rod and reel. Panfish that are less than 4 inches in length that an aquaculture facility has raised may be purchased and used as bait.


Florida, as a fishing state, is no stranger to chumming. Chumming is more common in Florida compared to other states. This method of fishing has been very effective and helpful for anglers and regular fishers alike. But, it’s vital to remind yourself that there are also rules and regulations for using chum.

If your goal is to fish for sharks from shore, you will need a renewable permit. This permit will be linked with your recreational fishing license if you have already acquired one. Aside from that, you’ll also have to take an online educational shore-based shark fishing course.

However, these requirements only apply to adult anglers that require a license and those over the age of 65, targeting sharks from shore, including any structure attached from shore. You will also need a permit if you are planning to fish from shore under these circumstances:

  1. Fishing using a metal leader that is more than 4 feet long
  2. Use of a fighting belt or harness
  3. Using bait other than casting while using a hook that is an inch or larger at its most comprehensive inside distance

Prohibited species cannot be fished even under special circumstances. If any of the prohibited species of sharks are caught, they are to be released immediately.

If you are fishing from shore or vessel, non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks should be used to fish for sharks, either with live or dead natural bait. The new rules also require you to keep a device capable of quickly cutting your hook or leader if you fish a prohibited species.

Special Marize Zone: Rules For Offshore Fishing

Many different governmental organizations protect the areas off the shore of Florida. We layout these zones on our GPS Coordinates pages for easier reference.

Feel free to visit our Fishing Reefs and Shipwrecks page for details about the Special Marine Zones and the rules that encompass them. We also have Federal deepwater Marine Protected areas off the shore of Florida.

These areas are near Islamorada, Jupiter to Daytona, and Jacksonville. You may check the MPA’S Locations before plunging into deep water to familiarise yourself with where you can and cannot fish.

Florida Saltwater Fish, Laws Governing Catch

Here’s a list of some local fish species that are safe to take home. Regulations on fishing are constantly changing, so even though our list is updated, we still advise you to check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the latest and most updated rules on fishing. Listed below are examples of fishes that are regulated in Florida.


The lesser Amberjack, also known as Seriola Fasciata, have olive green or brownish colors on their back with silver eyes. These are the smallest species of amberjacks, weighing not more than 10 pounds, and are found in 200 to 400 feet of water.

The Greater Amberjack, also known as the Seriola Dumerili, has dark strips from the nose to the front of the dorsal fin. These are the opposite of the Seriola fasciata, and they can grow to weights of up to 40 pounds.

They can also be found in 50 to 250 feet of water. The juveniles are usually found in less than 30 ft. of water.

There is a minimum length on greater Amberjack of around 28-inch length in the Atlantic and a one-fish daily possession limit. The Gulf fish has a 30-inch fork limit. Lesser Amberjack caught must be at least 14 inches but no larger than 22 inches with a five-fish per bag limit daily.

Black Drum

Black drums, also known as Pogonias Chromis, feature a highly arched back with a gray to the black body and 10 to 14 pairs of whiskers located under its chin. Black drums are bottom dwellers found in both inshore and offshore, with adult fishes growing up to 30 pounds; the Florida record weighs 93 pounds.

These fish have a lifespan of up to 35 years. Black drums have a 14 to 24-inch slot limit and a five fish per bag daily limit. Once per day, anglers are allowed to take home only one Black drum greater than 24 inches.

Black Mullet

The Striped or Black mullet, otherwise known as Mugil cephalus, features bluish-gray or green colored backs with silver sides and horizontal black stripes along their backs.

These fish are not usually caught with hooks since their mouths are too small. Mullets in the wild typically don’t grow heavier than 3 pounds, but they can grow much more extensive and heavier – up to 12 pounds – in aquariums.

Similar species of the Black mullet are the fantail mullet (Mugil Gyrans) and the white mullet (Mugil curema). Black mullets do not have a slot limit, but they have a 50 fish per person/vessel daily limit from September 1 to January 31 and a 100 fish per person/vessel daily limit from February 1 to August 31.


The Bluefish, also known as Pomatomus saltatrix, features blue or greenish-blue colors on its back, silver on the side, and has large prominent teeth. Bluefish found on the west coast of Florida is usually less than 3 pounds, but Atlantic Bluefish can grow significantly. The Florida record for this fish clocks in at 22 pounds.

Bluefish usually travel in schools and are found inshore during the spring and summer but migrate offshore in the fall and winter. The slot limit for this fish is a 12 inches minimum length with a ten fish daily limit.


The Cobia, otherwise known as Rachycentron canadum, features a long, slim shape with a dark lateral stripe from the eye to the tail. Juveniles have alternating black and white stripes across their bodies.

These fishes average in the 30-pound range, although the Florida record for the Cobia is 103 pounds. Cobias can be found both inshore and offshore. These fish have a 33-inch minimum length and a one fish per bag daily limit or 6 per vessel daily limit, whichever is less.


The dolphin (not the mammal), also known as Coryphaena hippurus, has a greenish-blue hue on its back and yellow sides. These fish have blunt heads and are capable of swimming up to 50 miles per hour. Dolphins are usually found offshore and commonly grow up to 30 pounds.

However, people have caught dolphins that weigh more than 70 pounds. These species do not have a slot limit in the Gulf of Mexico. However, there is a 20-inch minimum limit in Atlantic waters. They also have a ten fish daily limit and no more than 60 fish per vessel daily limit.


Flounders, otherwise known as Paralichthys Albigutta, are brown flatfish that are bottom dwellers. The Gulf flounder features three black spots that form a triangle; the Southern flounder does not have these traits.

Flounders can be primarily found in backwater areas though they may also venture into the Gulf in some cases. Most flounders weigh around 2 pounds. There is a 12-inch minimum. It is also possible to use spears to catch flounders rather than catching them by hooks.

Goliath Grouper

Goliath grouper, formerly known as the jewfish, also known as Epinephelus Itajara today, is one of the longest-living fish that can live up to 50 years. They feature irregular dark vertical bars on their sides and can grow up to 800 pounds. Because of their sheer size, these fish were heavily harvested, prompting fishery regulators to classify them as a protected species in 1990, making it illegal to possess a Goliath grouper until today.


The grouper family can often be described as a significant and common deepwater species. Like the Nassau Grouper or Epinephelus striatus, fishes from this family feature brown or red bars that usually grow up to 10 pounds in size.

The Red Grouper or Epinephelus Morio is capable of growing up to a whopping 15 pounds. Every young red grouper starts as females, and all of them undergo a sex reversal turning them into males as they age.

In the Gulf, the size limit on the gag grouper is 22 inches with a catch limit of no more than 2 per person daily, along with a closed season from February 1 to March 31.

The size limit is 22 inches minimum for the black grouper, and the catch limit is no more than five fishes per person daily. The Red Grouper has a size limit of 22 inches minimum with a catch limit of 2 fish per person daily.


The Kingfish, also known as King mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla), features a silver-colored body with either black or bluish greenback. They have a long and slender shape with a tapered head.

These fish are usually found offshore in large schools, and they can grow up to 20 pounds, although the Florida record for them is around 90 pounds. The Kingfish have a 22-inch size limit and a catch limit of two fish per person daily.


Fishing has always been such a staple commodity in the Sunshine state. You’ll find that it’s going to be difficult not to pick up a rod yourself when you’re there.

Before you start your fishing adventures, however, it’s also crucial for you to be well equipped with what you can and can’t do to ensure that everyone will enjoy themselves without upsetting others.