In 2018 alone, Florida welcomed an estimated 126 million tourists. Many of those tourists came to try their luck at fishing in the state’s waters. This should come as no surprise. After all, Florida boasts some of the best fishing spots in all of America.
Boarded by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the Sunshine State provides ample opportunity for sport fishing. The Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean are complimented by lakes and rivers throughout the state. We’ll review the best fishing spots in this article.
In most cases, a fishing license is necessary to fish in Florida water. The frustrating part is that saltwater and freshwater fishing require separate licenses. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission offers deals to those who want to buy both licenses. Residents of the state can obtain a saltwater and freshwater fishing license for just $32.50 annually. This deal is not offered to out-of-state fishermen. Non-residents who want both licenses will have to purchase them at full price. Below you’ll find a helpful chart of Florida’s various fishing licenses and their costs.
It’s worth noting that Florida residents can apply for an annual saltwater shoreline fishing license. This is a free license that covers fishing from shorelines. It also applies to fishing done from structures which can be accessed via foot. However it doesn’t cover fishing from boats or lands that require a boat to reach.
Is It Ever Permissible to Fish Without a License?
Most people need some form of license to fish in Florida. However, some people are exempt from needing a license.
Most anglers between the ages of 16 and 65 need a license to fish in Florida. Any resident outside of those ages is free to fish without one. All non-residents over the age of 16 must pay for a license.
Members of the United States military with an address in Florida can fish without a license for up to one month at a time. Florida residents suffering from disabilities may also fish for free if they possess a Persons with Disabilities Hunting and Fishing license.
On a few occasions throughout the year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission lifts its fishing license laws. This gives both residents and non-residents the chance to experience fishing in Florida. Many people discover a love for sport fishing during these free fishing days and are later inspired to buy a license.
In addition, you can fish without a license at any authorized public pier, but you still may have to pay a fee. Read more about piers below.
Best Fishing Piers
Florida’s piers are perfect for pier fishing. They allow anglers to catch fish while enjoying the ocean air and breathtaking views. Fishing done from an authorized Florida pier does not require a fishing license. For this reason, anglers not in possession of an active license should consider visiting the piers mentioned below.
Jacksonville Beach Pier
The Jacksonville Beach Pier runs for almost a quarter of a mile. From the pier’s wooden deck, anglers can cast their lines into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the perfect spot if you’re hoping to catch large fish such as cobia and black drum.
This pier is open from 6AM to 10PM and it’s wheelchair accessible. There are nearby concession stores, bathrooms, and eateries. You could conceivably spend an entire day fishing on the pier with everything you need just a few steps away.
Residents and non-residents alike are free to fish from the Jacksonville Beach Pier without a license. However, you need to pay a $3 fishing fee.
Cocoa Beach Pier
Cocoa Beach is popular among surfers and other water sports enthusiasts. But it’s often overlooked by anglers. This makes it a great spot for anybody who wants to fish in solitude. On Cocoa Beach Pier, you won’t have to battle with other anglers for space. The few tourist anglers on the pier are spread out over its 800-foot deck.
Much like the Jacksonville Beach Pier, the Cocoa Beach Pier runs out over the Atlantic Ocean. A variety of saltwater fish can be caught from the pier. These fish include: snapper, sheepshead, grouper, and black drum.
A license is not required to fish from Cocoa Beach Pier, but you need to pay a fee. The fees at this pier are a little steep. Even if you bring your own equipment, you’ll have to pay $7 to access the pier. Equipment rental and access will cost $20, with an additional $20 deposit. A full breakdown of prices is available from the Cocoa Beach Pier website.
If you want to try your luck fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, then pay a visit to Naples Pier. Located in the Collier County city of Naples, this pier is open 24/7. This gives it a distinct advantage over many other fishing piers in Florida. To further its appeal, Naples Pier does not charge an admission fee and you also don’t have to possess an active license to fish from it.
The pier itself is surrounded by facilities which include supply stores, restrooms, car parks, and restaurants. Alcohol is even sold at the pier from midday to one hour after sunset.
The Gulf of Mexico is home to hundreds of different breeds of fish. Among the most frequently caught are grouper, mullet, snook, and pompano. Pompano are particularly common as literally thousands of pounds of this fish get extracted from the pier each year.
Florida’s many fishing piers are complimented by a variety of lakes located around the state. Some of these lakes are more popular than others, and with good reason. Visit one of Florida’s less active lakes and there’s no guarantee you’ll catch a single fish. The following lakes are among the most active in the entire state.
Known as Lake Toho to locals, this lake is located in Osceola County. It’s the largest lake in the county and is one of the most popular in Florida.
Lake Tohopekaliga is home to a variety of fish. However, it’s most famous for its largemouth bass. Countless recreational anglers visit the lake every year, intent on catching a large bass. Lake Tohopekaliga is the site of numerous annual bass fishing tournaments, which are a great place to test your skills and learn from more experienced anglers.
A number of professional guides operate along the lake. They offer their expertise to anglers who want to be certain of success. These guides provide a valuable service for tourists who just wants to have some fun and make some memories.
Crescent Lake sprawls across 16,000 acres and visitors make full use of that space. On a typical summer’s day, Crescent Lake is the site of swimming, kayaking, and even snorkeling. But it’s the anglers who have the most to gain from a visit to the lake.
The waters of Crescent Lake are home to many noteworthy fish breeds. These breeds include: sunfish, catfish, crappie fish, and bass fish. Some have even reported catching hybrid striped bass at the lake.
The area surrounding Crescent Lake has everything an angler may need for a weekend stay. You’ll find campgrounds, hotels, RV spaces, restaurants, and stores mere minutes away from the lake itself.
Lake Talquin is a good place for experienced anglers looking to test their skills. At Lake Talquin, bass have been known to reach almost 20 inches in length. If you get one to bite then you’ll certainly have a fight on your hands trying to reel it in. It’s a true challenge, but with a bit of determination victory will be yours. Of course, Lake Talquin is also home to fish that will put up less of a fight. Newcomers or anglers who want to take things easy can try to catch sunfish, killifish, and the American gizzard shad.
In Florida, the sun shines all year long. Even in winter, temperatures are still warm. For this reason, many sport fishing enthusiasts choose to purchase an annual license and visit Florida a couple of weekends each year.
As fishing is permitted on piers without a license, Florida is a great place for a novice to try the hobby. Newcomers can develop their skills in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico with minimal expense. When they feel ready, they can purchase a license and start catching fish in the state’s rivers and lakes.
We often recommend Florida to anglers who are trying to squeeze in some fishing on a family vacation. The state is home to countless tourist attractions. With so much for your family to do, you won’t have to worry about keeping them busy while you relax and catch some fish!