Getting a Florida Fishing License: All You Need to Know
Jun 3, 2020 | 4 minute read
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Fishing is such an important part of life in the Sunshine State that you’ll find it hard not to pick up a rod while you’re here. But before you start, you need to make sure you’re covered with a Florida fishing license. Luckily, these are easy to come by. Here’s our complete guide to everything you need to know before you get out on the water.

Image of the Florida State flag on a pole against a blue sky

Types of Fishing License

Most residents and visitors to Florida need to purchase a fishing license before they cast a line. Get a saltwater fishing license to hook up on saltwater fish in the ocean, bays, and lagoons, or a freshwater fishing license for freshwater fish in lakes and rivers.

If you’re fishing in an estuary or another area that has a mixture of salt and freshwater fish, you need to be more careful. You don’t want to accidentally hook up on a fish that you’re not covered to catch!

Saltwater vs freshwater fishing licenses in Florida

Our advice is to purchase both a salt and a freshwater license if you’re planning to catch a variety of fish. Otherwise, make sure the gear you’re using is appropriate to the type of water you’re fishing. If you catch a fish you’re not covered for, make sure to release it immediately. For instance, if you’re fishing with a saltwater license for Redfish and accidentally hook up on a Largemouth Bass, you should release the Bass right away.

The good news for visitors to Florida is that saltwater fishing charters cover licensing for everyone onboard, so you can just sit back and enjoy your time on the water. Fish with a guide in freshwater, however, and you’ll still need to purchase your own license. Read on and find out how.

Who needs a Florida fishing license?

Short answer — all non-residents over 16 and any resident aged between 16 and 65. If you’re trying to catch a fish in Florida, you’d better make sure you’re doing it legally. And watch out: even if you’re helping someone else fish by baiting their hooks and setting up their gear, you need a fishing license, too. There are some exceptions, though:

  • If you’re on a registered Florida fishing charter in saltwater, you don’t need to purchase your own license.
  • You don’t need a license to fish from a licensed pier.
  • Florida residents with severe disabilities can fish for free with a Florida Resident Disabled Person Hunting and Fishing License.
  • Military personnel from Florida can fish for free if they’re visiting home for up to a month.
  • Florida residents receiving benefits or food stamps, you can do land-based saltwater fishing without a license.
  • Any Florida resident can get a free shoreline fishing license, which allows you to fish for saltwater species from land or from structures attached to land.

Anyone who’s are eligible to fish without a license should make sure to bring proof that they are qualified to do so to show the Coast Guard. For instance, children under 16 should bring proof of age with them.

What if I’m a senior?

If you are age 65+ and are from out of state, you will still need a regular salt or freshwater fishing license. Senior Florida residents can fish for free but must bring proof of age and address. They can also get an optional and free Resident 65+ Hunt/Fish certificate.

How much does it cost?

The price of a Florida license depends on whether you’re a Florida resident or if you’re visiting from out of state. Vacationers can purchase licenses for 3 or 7 days, while residents are eligible for longer-term licenses.

Saltwater/freshwater combo licenses are available for Florida residents only and allow you to fish all types of waterways, from the Gulf of Mexico, to the Atlantic, to inland rivers and streams. Here’s our rundown of what residents and non-residents need to pay for the various available fishing licenses:

License Type Period Covered Cost for Resident Cost for Non-Resident
Freshwater Annual $17 $47
5 Year $79N/A
7 Day N/A $30
3 Day N/A $17
Freshwater/Saltwater Combo Annual $32.50 N/A
Saltwater Annual $17 $47
5 Year $79N/A
7 Day N/A $30
3 Day N/A $17

To count as a Florida resident for fishing purposes, you should either have declared Florida as your only state of residence or be a member of the US Armed Forces who is stationed in Florida.

Apart from a small processing fee, all the money you spend goes to the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC). It’s all invested into keeping Florida’s fishery healthy and sustainable. This means your license is helping people enjoy this world-class resource for years to come. Not bad!

How to get licensed

A sign on a wooden shack reading "Bait & Tackle. Live Shrimp." Tackle shops like this are a common place to buy a Florida fishing license

You can buy a Florida license online or at a number of registered retailers. These include Walmart, tax collector’s offices, and registered bait and tackle shops. You can also get them over the phone at
+1 (888) 347-4356 (FISH-FLORIDA)

The most cost-effective way of getting a fishing license is going to your local tax collector’s office. That said, many people find the added convenience of getting licensed in Walmart, online, or at your local tackle shop is worth the small additional fee that these places charge.

If you want to become a licensed fishing captain, the process is a little different. Take a look at our guide to find out more.

How do I renew my license?

Unlike some states, annual fishing licenses in Florida are valid for 12 months from the date they were issued. You’ll always know whether you’re still covered, as the expiration date will be printed on the license itself. Once it expires, you can renew your fishing license at any official retailer.

If your fishing license is lost or stolen, you can purchase a replacement for $2.

Do I need a special license to catch specific species?

SnookTarponSpiny Lobster
Snook permit is needed to keep 1 Snook p/ day in open season. Price: $10 per year.Tarpon is catch and release only unless a Tarpon tag is purchase, which allows 1 Tarpon p/ year and is possible only for anglers pursuing IGFA record. Price: $51.50 per year.Anglers planning to take Spiny Lobster need a permit. Price: $5 per year.

You can fish for most species with a regular salt or freshwater license (depending on the type of fish you’re targeting). If you’re planning to harvest Scallops, this can be done with a regular saltwater fishing license—although make sure you’re doing it in season!

There are only three species that need an additional tag or permit in Florida. These are Snook, Tarpon, and Spiny Lobster.

What happens if I fish with no license?

If you’re caught fishing without a license and you’re eligible for one, you will have to pay the cost of the license and an additional fine. The penalty starts at $50, so make sure all your paperwork is in order before you bait your hook!

Is my Florida license valid in Georgia?

For most fishing, your license is usually only valid in Florida. But there are some interstate waters that are in Georgia that you can fish with your Florida license. These are St Mary’s River and Lake Seminole.

Getting the right fishing license in Florida really isn’t as complicated as you might think. As you can fish without a license on a charter boat or on a licensed pier, this has got to be one of the easiest states to cast a line in as a visitor! So license up and get on the water – the world’s sportfishing capital is waiting for you.

Florida Fishing Licenses FAQ

Questions for Residents

A simple map of Florida

I am a Florida resident and am 65 or older. Do I need a license?

No. Senior Florida residents don’t need a license to fish or to harvest Snook and Lobster. However, they do need a tag to harvest Tarpon. Importantly, you must carry proof of age and address at all times while fishing. A state ID or driver’s license will do.

I’m a Florida resident on Social Security Disability. Do I need a license to fish?

Yes, but it’s free. You need to get Florida Resident Disabled Person’s Hunting and Fishing License, which allows you to fish in fresh and saltwater, and to harvest Snook and Lobster. You can apply for a 2-year or 5-year license, depending on the severity of your disability. Find out more here.

Questions for Non-Residents

A map of the world with Florida colored differently, signaling that Florida residents have different fishing regulations to non-residents

I own a house in Florida and spend half the year there. Can I get a resident fishing license?

That depends. According to the FWC, resident licenses are available for:

“Any person who has declared Florida as his or her only state of residence as evidenced by a valid Florida driver license or identification card with both a Florida address and a Florida residency verified by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).”

or

“Active duty United States military personnel stationed in Florida, including spouses and dependent children residing in the household, with military orders.”

In short, you can get a resident fishing license if you have a state-issued form of ID or are stationed with the military in Florida.

Are there any free or discounted licenses for non-residents?

No. Florida doesn’t offer discounted licenses for non-residents. Everyone needs a regular non-resident fishing license. This includes seniors, active and former military personnel, and those with disabilities. 

Can non-residents buy a lifetime license? Is there a three-month or seasonal license?

No. The only licenses available for non-residents are for three days, five days, or one year.

Do licenses cost more for foreign nationals?

No. Foreign nationals can buy the standard non-resident fishing licenses, just like Americans from other states.

Can I buy a license online? Can I buy it in advance?

Yes. You can buy licenses online at Go Outdoors Florida and specify when the license should be valid from when you order it. Most licenses will be sent to you via email, ready for printing. However, plastic “hard card” licenses will be shipped to you.

We’ve done our best to cover all the basics. If you still have questions, your best bet is to check with the FWC directly. Happy fishing!

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