Go Outdoors Florida website.

Fishing in Florida: A Beginner’s Guide to Enjoying the Sunshine State’s Waters

So you just moved to Florida or are here on vacation and would like to try out fishing? You’re in for quite an adventure! Florida is known for its diverse and abundant fishing opportunities, whether you’re into freshwater angling or saltwater excursions.

Wether you are planning to go to lakes, fish from the beaches in Florida, take a charter trip or fish from your own boat dock in Florida, here are some quick tips.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of getting started, the rules and regulations, licensing requirements, and the essential gear you’ll need for a successful fishing experience in the Sunshine State. I also have three essential videos to start fishing, fish in Florida’s saltwaters and fish from piers which is very common in Florida.

When starting off, you will have tons of questions, so make sure to join this Reddit where you can ask as many questions about fishing as you want and everything goes.

Go Outdoors Florida website.
Go Outdoors Florida website.

But first, here’s my personal advice:

Acquire a “medium” weight rod around 6’6″/7’0″ in length with fast action… any combo on sale will do in the beginning. The idea is to get something you can experiment with without fear of breaking it because it’s too expensive. “Medium” weight rod because it will give you most “versatility” with different techniques until you find what you prefer based on your learning, trials and errors over time. (I recommend Ugly Stik Gx2 Medium 7’0″ rod => Cheap, virtually indestructible, reliable, best warranty, saltwater rated)

As far as a reel, I recomment the Zebco 33 Platinum Spincast Reel, 5 Ball Bearings (4 + Clutch), Instant Anti-Reverse with a Smooth Dial-Adjustable Drag, it features a patented no-tangle design. Featuring a dial-adjustable drag and QuickSet anti-reverse to stop your handle from moving backward and create a solid hookset in the mouth of a fish when reeling in your prize catch. It truly is a showstopper.

  1. Target ONE species to focus on in the beggining. Look for the time of year and location where you are fishing to determine that species. Learn as much as you can on fishing this one species. Techniques, bait, location, local regulations, etc.. Many online resources can get you started, including all suggestions folks shared on this post. Then go out / online to acquire the gear/ hardware/ bait you need.
  2. Practice knot tying at home.
  3. Practice knot tying blindfolded at home.
  4. Practice knot tying a lot at home so that when you are out fishing you spend most of your time actually fishing and less time tying knots. I recommend to learn the uni knot first and use only this one as a starting point for all your tying needs.
  5. Don’t bring a buddy who hasn’t practiced knot tying in your first couple of days of fishing or you will end up tying knot all day long for him and not fishing. You will not like your experience… Show him at home when not fishing, it’s better use of both your time.
  6. Once you know how to knot and once you know what fishing technique(s) to try and in what location(s) for your “focus” species then go out to practice as much as possible, be patient and have fun until you get the hang of it and catch fish. You will soon know what you prefer and what you’ll want to learn/catch next.

Now for the official tips.

How Do You even Start Fishing, for Beginners?

If you’re new to the sport, it’s essential to start with the basics. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help beginners get started:

Fishing bait lures.

Fishing Licenses and Permits: Before you cast your first line, you must obtain a fishing license or permit, whether you’re a resident or a visitor. Florida offers various types of fishing licenses to cater to different preferences, from freshwater to saltwater fishing. You can purchase these licenses online, through licensed agents, or at the local tax collector’s office. The specific type of license you need and the associated costs can vary, so make sure to choose the one that suits your fishing interests.

Choose the Right Fishing Equipment: Selecting the appropriate fishing gear is crucial. The type of rod and reel you choose should match the type of fishing you plan to do, whether it’s freshwater or saltwater. For freshwater fishing, a medium-action spinning rod and reel combo is versatile and suitable for various species like bass and panfish. For saltwater fishing, you may want a heavier spinning or baitcasting setup to handle larger fish like snook, redfish, or tarpon. Don’t forget to consider the fishing line, hooks, lures, and bait that are appropriate for your target species.

Select Your Fishing Spot: Florida offers a wide range of fishing locations, including freshwater lakes, rivers, coastal areas, and the Gulf of Mexico. Research and choose a location that matches your fishing preferences and the species you want to target. Different areas have different regulations and seasonal variations, so understanding the local environment is essential for a successful fishing trip.

Learn Fishing Techniques: Depending on your chosen type of fishing, you’ll need to acquire the relevant fishing techniques. This might include casting, trolling, fly fishing, or even ice fishing (in certain parts of Florida). Seek guidance from experienced anglers, local fishing clubs, or instructional videos to enhance your skills.

Safety Precautions: Safety should always be a top priority when fishing. Be mindful of potential hazards such as sharp hooks, strong currents, and extreme weather conditions. Wear suitable clothing, including a hat, sunglasses with UV protection, sunscreen, and carry plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Practice Casting: Casting accurately and efficiently is a fundamental skill in fishing. Spend time practicing your casting technique to improve your accuracy and distance. This is especially important for beginners to get a feel for handling the equipment.

Learn to Handle Fish: It’s important to know how to handle fish properly, whether you plan to keep or release them. Handling fish with care is crucial to their survival. Avoid causing unnecessary harm or stress by using the right techniques and tools, such as pliers and landing nets.

Respect the Environment: Florida’s unique ecosystems are home to a variety of wildlife. As an angler, it’s your responsibility to respect the environment. Follow “leave no trace” principles by picking up trash, properly disposing of fishing line, and respecting wildlife and their habitats.

Join a Fishing Community: Consider connecting with local fishing clubs or online forums to engage with experienced anglers, share tips, and learn from their expertise. Networking within the fishing community can be valuable for newcomers.

Keep Records: Keeping a fishing journal can help you track your progress and improve your skills over time. Record essential details such as the date, location, species caught, and any other pertinent information. Just a notebook does it already.

I like how in this video, he gives you a run down of all you need to get started.

Can I Fish in Florida Without a License?

One common question that many newcomers to Florida have is whether they can fish without a license. The short answer is that in most cases, you do need a fishing license or permit to legally fish in Florida. Whether you’re a Florida resident or a non-resident, a fishing license is typically required. However, there are a few exceptions and exemptions to be aware of:

  1. Free Fishing Days: Florida offers a limited number of “free fishing days” each year, during which you can fish without a license. These days are an excellent opportunity for beginners to try out fishing without the initial expense. It’s important to note that while the license requirement is waived, all other fishing regulations, including bag limits and size restrictions, still apply on free fishing days.
  2. Children and Youth Exemptions: Children under a certain age (often 16 or 17, depending on the state) may be exempt from needing a fishing license. This exemption is designed to encourage young anglers to get into the sport.
  3. Senior Citizens: Florida residents who are 65 years of age or older are not required to have a fishing license. However, they must carry proof of age and residency when fishing.
  4. Active-Duty Military: Active-duty military personnel who are Florida residents and stationed out of state are exempt from needing a fishing license. Additionally, Florida offers a military gold sportsman’s license for active-duty military personnel stationed in Florida, which covers hunting and fishing.

It’s essential to check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website or contact their offices to confirm the latest information on exemptions and exceptions to the fishing license requirement. Keep in mind that the specifics can change, and there may be regional variations in regulations.

How Much Is a Fishing Permit in Florida? And where do I get a permit?

The cost of a fishing permit in Florida varies depending on several factors, including your residency status, the duration of the permit, and the type of fishing you plan to do.

Florida residents and visitors are required to possess a Florida hunting, freshwater fishing or saltwater fishing license when engaged in fishing and hunting activities. 

  • A license is required to attempt to take fish.  If you cast a line or catch and release, you need a fishing license. 
  • A saltwater fishing license is required to attempt to take any native or nonnative marine organisms, such as crabs, lobsters, and marine plants.
  • Licenses and permits are required to help or assist in the take. Someone who is passively participating (setting decoys, calling birds or baiting hooks), whether actively fishing or hunting or not, must have a license and appropriate permits.
  • Persons who are listed on the National Saltwater Angler Registry are required to have a Florida recreational fishing license unless exempt as listed below.

Here’s an overview of the main permit options and their associated costs:

  1. Resident Fishing License:
    • One-Year Freshwater Fishing: Approximately $17.00
    • One-Year Saltwater Fishing: Approximately $17.00
    • Combination Freshwater/Saltwater Fishing: Approximately $32.50
  2. Non-Resident Fishing License:
    • Three-Day Freshwater Fishing: Approximately $17.00
    • Three-Day Saltwater Fishing: Approximately $17.00
    • Seven-Day Freshwater Fishing: Approximately $30.00
    • Seven-Day Saltwater Fishing: Approximately $30.00
    • Annual Freshwater Fishing: Approximately $47.00
    • Annual Saltwater Fishing: Approximately $47.00
    • Combination Freshwater/Saltwater Fishing (annual): Approximately $67.00

Please note that these costs are approximate and subject to change. It’s advisable to check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s official website for the most up-to-date information on fishing license fees. The website provides a detailed breakdown of the various licenses and permits available.

Getting a license or permit to engage in outdoor activities in Florida is quick and easy.  Licenses and permits are available:

Do I Need a Fishing License in Florida to Fish from Shore?

The requirement for a fishing license in Florida applies not only to fishing from a boat but also to fishing from shore, including piers, bridges, and other public fishing access points. Regardless of whether you are fishing in freshwater or saltwater, if you are angling from the shore, you generally need a fishing license.

If you’re planning to fish from the shore in Florida, it’s typically best to have a fishing license unless you fall into one of the exemption categories mentioned earlier. Familiarizing yourself with the specific fishing regulations of the area you’ll be fishing in will help ensure a smooth and legal angling experience.

Fishing in Florida offers a myriad of opportunities for anglers of all levels of experience. With the right equipment, knowledge of local regulations, and a fishing license when required, you can embark on memorable fishing adventures in the Sunshine State’s stunning and diverse waters.

Whether you’re casting your line in freshwater lakes, exploring the saltwater coasts, or wading through the scenic Everglades, Florida’s fisheries provide an array of species to target and an abundance of natural beauty to appreciate.

So, grab your gear, secure your fishing license, and get ready to make the most of your fishing experience in Florida’s inviting and picturesque landscapes.

Max Francisco