How to Become a Fishing Guide in Florida
Mar 24, 2021 | 4 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Florida is the biggest market for charter fishing in the world. But, before you get your share of the market, you need to know how to become a fishing guide in Florida. Today, you’ll discover what licenses you need to become a legally operating charter captain in the Sunshine State.

A blonde lady angler holding a big Red Snapper caught on a fishing charter in Florida

Florida is the most popular sport fishing destination in the US, and the world. It’s possibly also the most competitive for charter operators. A lot of customers means that there are a lot of guides who want to make money fishing in Florida. There are currently around 5,000 licensed guides in the Sunshine State.

I’ve written several other articles about how to run a successful fishing charter operation. I’ve emphasized the importance of service, discussed paid online advertising, and urged you to make your own unique trip. This article is about making sure you know which licenses you need to operate your business in Florida.

There are major differences between being a licensed saltwater and freshwater guide in the state of Florida. To legally operate saltwater charters, you need more licenses than for freshwater.

Saltwater

In order to run a legal saltwater fishing charter business in Florida, charter owners and captains must have at least the following three documents:

  • Captain’s License (USCG)
  • Charter/Fishing License
  • Boat Registration

Captain’s License

All saltwater fishing guides in Florida must comply with USCG requirements. This means that you must have a Captain’s license – officially called Merchant Mariner Credential – for saltwater guiding. To find out how to get your USCG captain’s license, check out this article.

Charter/Fishing License

Fishing/Charter licenses are issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, although you need to go to a tax collector’s office to purchase one. You can find information on how to apply for these licenses on their website.

Charter boats line the dock on a sunny day in Florida

There are two types of licenses, the Charter Captain License and the Charter Boat License:

  • Charter Captain License. This license allows a USCG-licensed captain to go from boat to boat. At the time of writing, it costs $201.50 for 4 or fewer passengers, $401.50 for 10 or fewer passengers, and $801.50 for 11 or more passengers.
  • Charter Boat License. It can only be used on the one boat designated on the license. The costs are the same as for the Charter Captain License. Note that in order to apply for this license, your boat already has to be ‘commercially registered’, which means you need to have the Boat Registration from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. More about that below.

All fishing charter businesses (charter, headboat, and saltwater fishing guide operations) need to have either a Charter Boat License or a charter captain with an FWC Charter Captain license. Either of these licenses covers your customers automatically. Customers never have to buy their own fishing licenses for saltwater charter fishing in Florida (except for specific species such as Snook).

Gulf of Mexico Federal Waters Fishing License

If you want to fish legally in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico (9 miles out or more), you need a Coastal Pelagics permit and/or a Reef Fish permit. Which one depends on which species you’re targeting. Unfortunately, the only way to get such a permit is to buy it from somebody who already has it. This is because the Gulf Council, the organization which manages the Gulf’s federal waters, has not issued these permits since 2003.

Boat Registration

All charter boats must be registered with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Only the vessel owner can apply for this vessel registration at the county tax collector’s office. It’s important to remember that you must always have your boat registration certificate on board your boat when you’re operating it, exactly like you would for your car.

The price of registering your boat depends on its size, and whether or not you are a resident of Florida. It can cost anywhere between around $10 to over $200.

Boat Insurance

As of 2011, boat insurance is not mandatory, but a marina or boatyard may require customers to carry insurance. In any case, we strongly recommend every charter captain to insure their boat.

Freshwater

To be a legal freshwater fishing guide, you don’t need any specific state guide licenses. No Charter Captain License or Charter Boat License from the FWC. Moreover, you only need a USCG captain’s license if you fish in ‘navigable waters’, meaning waterways with (commercial) traffic.

The Everglades Lake's surface reflects the sky

This includes, for example, the St. Johns River and its lakes. If you fish in non-navigable freshwaters, you do not need a USCG Merchant Mariner Credential in the Sunshine State.

However, you do need to have your boat registered at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. To see how to do that, see the section about Boat Registration above.

When it comes to fishing licenses, you as a guide just need to purchase your own annual, 5-year, or lifetime Freshwater Fishing License. In addition, each of your customers needs to purchase their own license and take it with them on the trip.

You can buy freshwater fishing licenses on the Go Outdoors Florida website. A standard annual license costs $17.

Now you know how to become a fishing guide in Florida. You know all the documents and licenses you need, and where to get them. All you need to do now is think up a catchy charter name and get out there!

We research thoroughly for each article we write. However, this information should not be considered professional or legal advice. You can learn more this here.

Comments (96)
  • Captain Dallas

    Jun 9, 2021

    Hello,

    I currently hold a 25 ton master captains license and I wanna run ecotourists in the mosquito lagoon area. What other licenses and permits are required. There will be no fishing. Any help would be appreciated.

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      Lisa

      Jun 10, 2021

      Hi Captain Dallas,

      Thank you for reaching out.

      I believe you should also register your vessel if you haven’t already, and the price will depend on your residency status. Please note that only the owners can apply for the registration. This link could help you learn more on that.

      Please take a look at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website here. You can also find their contact details there so that you could get more information about running eco charters directly from them.

      I really hope this helps! Lisa

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  • Rebecca

    May 30, 2021

    Looking to start a land based/bridge based fishing trips for money what permits and licence do I need

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      Iva

      May 31, 2021

      Hi Rebecca,

      If you’re going to be fishing from land or a bridge, all that you’re required to carry is a recreational fishing license suitable for either saltwater or freshwater (dependent on where you’re fishing). That said, any person who you take out for a fishing trip will also be required to purchase the same recreational fishing license.

      It’s also a good idea to check out if you need a local authority license/ permit to run your business legally.

      Hope that helps!

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  • Tucker

    May 23, 2021

    I’m lookin into charting for bowfishin in the bay and freshwater, would I need anything for that? I see in the article it say for the saltwater but doesn’t talk bout the bay.

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      Andriana

      May 24, 2021

      Hello Tucker,

      Thanks for reading. From what we know, you don’t need any special permits when you’re registering your freshwater bowfishing charter in Florida. You will need your USCG captain’s license if you fish in ‘navigable waters,’ aka waterways with (commercial) traffic. If you fish in non-navigable freshwaters, you do not need a USCG Merchant Mariner Credential.

      You’re required to have your boat registered at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Remember to always have your boat registration certificate on board when you’re operating your boat.

      Of course, you’ll need your valid freshwater fishing license, just like always when you’re fishing in Florida. Your customers will be in charge of getting their own license.

      As long as you’re offering bowfishing trips in the parts of Florida where it’s allowed to catch fish with bow and arrow, these documents are all you need to get the ball rolling.

      Best of luck with your charter, Tucker!

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  • Roger

    May 17, 2021

    I’m a little confused on federal permits for the Atlantic. If I want to take clients on my boat in the Atlantic, more than three miles (federal waters) offshore do I need a federal permit for trolling wahoo and mackerel? What about bottom fishing for grouper and snapper? (Besides registration, USCG license, state license)
    Are those permits easy to obtain or are they locked up like the gulf permits?

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      Rhys

      May 17, 2021

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks for reading and for raising some important questions. First of all, yes, you’ll need to obtain a special permit for offshore trolling for Wahoo and Mackerel and for bottom fishing for Grouper and Snapper. These are separate permits, with one in particular for the pelagic (migratory) Wahoo and Mackerel and another for the reef fish. You’ll also need a separate permit if you want to target Mahi Mahi and Tuna. If you want to target Billfish, you’ll also need a “highly-migratory” fish species permit. Check out this guide for a clear breakdown.

      When it comes to obtaining them, yes, it seems easier to do so than in the Gulf of Mexico, as there are no restrictions on new operators starting businesses in the Atlantic as there are in the Gulf. This is because the Atlantic hasn’t succumbed to overfishing as much as the Gulf.

      I hope this helps, and please let us know how you get on!

      Tight lines,

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  • angelo

    May 3, 2021

    i was wondering if i wanted to start a land based shark fishing charter where and what would i do to start the business and what licensing would i need?

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      Sean

      May 5, 2021

      Hi Angelo,

      Thanks for reading.

      According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, land-based fishing guides don’t need a charter guide’s license to take customers fishing. However, species-specific tags and other limits do apply. In other words, you and your clients will both need a fishing license to fish from the shore, but you won’t need a specific guide’s license to fish with them.

      You can find out more about licensing requirements here.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a great day!

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  • Chris

    Apr 1, 2021

    What are the rules in florida for “guiding” private ponds in gated communities?

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      Sean

      Apr 1, 2021

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for reading.

      For freshwater fishing, you only need a USCG captain’s license if you guide trips in ‘navigable waters’. Private ponds aren’t considered navigable waters, so you and your clients will only need an angler’s fishing license.

      I hope that helps.

      Have a good one!

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  • Patti P

    Mar 5, 2021

    What kind of license do you need to do land based shark fishing adventures?. If I have a captains license and a shark fishing license what else do I need? Do my clients need something as well? Is there a blank license I can get for the clients?

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      Sean

      Mar 5, 2021

      Hi Patty,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, surf fishing and freshwater fishing guides and their customers are subject to Florida’s recreational fishing license requirements. The FWC does not require additional guide licenses, but species-specific tags and other limits do apply. In other words, you and your clients will both need a license to fish from the shore.

      Charter guides who take customers fishing on their boats have their guests’ licenses covered by their own license.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a great day!

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  • dan

    Jan 16, 2021

    I know this is a fishing site, but my question may be more general. The requirement (in Florida) for the USCG is for “Federal, commercial navigable waters”, correct? From what it looks like, I could operate a fishing charter, accepting pay for pax, on a fresh water, non-uscg regulated lake in FL without a 6-Pack UPV license as long as the lake is not navigable to other bodies of waters (with some exceptions)?

    Would this apply to a business operating a “sunset sail” product on a small sailboat (with aux outboard motor) on a landlocked lake? I’m trying to figure out the laws/regulations but this seems to be a hard one to pin down.

    Thank you!

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      Sean

      Jan 19, 2021

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for reading.

      That’s correct, you wouldn’t need a USCG 6-pack license to guide trips on a non-navigable freshwater lake. As far as running a sunset sail operation, I’m honestly not sure what the regulations are.

      My advice would be to head over to the boating regulations page on the MYFWC website and ask for more information.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a good one!

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  • Royce Palmer

    Jan 1, 2021

    Hello. I live in Georgia but fish Florida saltwater quite a bit. I have already started my 6 pack captains license and know that I will need a charter captains license through Florida once I finish my 6 pack. What else will I need to have in order to take customers snapper/grouper fishing in federal waters? My boat is registered in my name in Georgia but not commercially.

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      Sean

      Jan 5, 2021

      Hi Royce,

      Thanks for reading.

      To get a 6-pack OUPV license, you’ll first need to have spent enough time on the water. You need 360 days piloting or crewing a boat and at least 90 days in the last 3 years. Additionally, 90 days have to be in the ocean in order to quality for a near-coastal license (the one for saltwater). I’m guessing that you’ve already spent enough time on the water to satisfy this requirement, so it’s just a matter of documenting your outings.

      This article has a complete list of documents you need to get a near coastal 6-pack license. It’s only near coastal in name because it allows you to fish up to 100 miles offshore.

      To guide fishing trips that target Snapper and Grouper, you’ll need the South Atlantic Charter/Headboat for Snapper-Grouper For-Hire Fishing Permit. Here’s some additional information on how to get one.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Good luck and tight lines!

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  • Michael Boatwright

    Sep 8, 2020

    I am starting a business of guiding clients on freshwater fishing trips. I understand what licenses I need, but I am not sure how to register my business with the state or if registering with the state is needed. The options are LLC, Business for Profit, etc. What do guides normally file for?

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      Albert

      Sep 8, 2020

      Hi Michael,

      I believe that LLCs are the most common option, although they have their pros and cons. I’d recommend checking out this article for more info.

      From what I know, it’s best to register in Florida. Otherwise you have double the paperwork, as you need to set up a branch in the state you’re operating in.

      Beyond that, I’d recommend talking to your financial or business adviser to make sure you’re going with the best option for your business model.

      I hope that helps!

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  • David Powell

    Jun 10, 2020

    I’m 23 and wanting to finally start my charter. If I get the license and register it to my fathers boat, how easily would I be able to transfer the registration to my boat? If I’m understanding correctly that your capt license has to be bonded to a certain boat.

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      Albert

      Jun 10, 2020

      Hi David,

      First of all, congratulations on following your passion onto the water!

      Do you mean your USCG Captain’s License or your Charter License?

      Your USCG Captain’s License is not linked to the boat you pilot. Your Charter License can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

      There are two types of Charter License. A Charter Captain License allows one captain (you) to fish on any commercially-registered boat. A Charter Boat License allows any captain to fish on one boat (the boat that the license is bonded to).

      Seeing as both licenses cost the same, it sounds like your best bet is to get a Charter Captain License. That way, you can use your dad’s boat and your boat, as long as they’re both commercially registered.

      I hope that helps. If you’re still unsure or if I didn’t explain things clearly, let me know.

      Tight lines!

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  • Kevin

    Mar 7, 2020

    Im thinking about starting an inland charter business with my 24′ part time only. I already have a boat and a capt’s liscense, I understand you have to change your registration to commercial then apply for a charter liscense. I only want to do the 4 passenger thing out to 9 miles. My question is what kind of insurance do I need to be legal? I have normal boat owners insurance now that is required when you boat is financed. I am in Florida.

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      Sean

      Mar 10, 2020

      Hi Kevin,

      That’s a good question.

      While boat owners are required to have insurance for financed vessels, the state of Florida doesn’t require you to have boat insurance to run a charter business.

      However, as you know, it’s always good to have it. There are a number of specialized insurance agencies in Florida. A lot of these offer personalized insurance plans, geared specifically towards part-time guides. This being Florida, you can even find a plan that covers damages caused by hurricanes. Seeing as you’re already paying for boat insurance, my advice is to ask for a free quote – you might be able to get a good deal for what you need.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a great day!

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  • Brian

    Jan 21, 2020

    I will be guiding out of Florida but I am a Ga resident and my boat is registered in Ga. How should I handle this issue?

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      Albert

      Jan 22, 2020

      Hi Brian,

      That’s a good question!

      Being a GA resident shouldn’t be a problem, but you may need to register your boat in Florida in order to run charters there, as this is one of the requirements for a Florida charter license. I recommend contacting the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to make sure.

      I hope that helps!

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  • Wannabe capt

    Dec 12, 2019

    Great information here! So if I have my own boat and plan on guiding inshore/nearshore the Charter Captain License would be the one to choose and not a Charter Boat License, or am I missing something?
    With the Captain License will I still have to register commercially and how will that effect insurance?

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      Sean

      Dec 13, 2019

      Hi there!

      Since you’ll be guiding trips from your own boat, the Charter Boat License would make the most sense for you, actually. This license will allow you to guide trips from your boat only, however. The Charter Captain license costs the same, but it gives you a little more flexibility.

      You will need to register your boat regardless of the type of license you choose. The license itself shouldn’t officially affect the type of insurance you can get, but some agencies might give you a better quote knowing that you’re the only person that’s operating your boat. It really depends on the type of insurance you choose.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a great day!

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  • rich ubbels

    Sep 11, 2019

    Hi is it possible for a canadian to get a captain license?

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      Sean

      Sep 12, 2019

      Hi Rich,

      Thanks for reading.

      That would depend on the exact type of license you would like to get. For example, for a 6-pack license, non U.S. Citizens may be restricted to undocumented vessels with a 5 net ton limit.

      I would recommend that you get in touch with the USCG directly and ask about which license you’re eligible for.

      I hope that helps.

      Have a great day!

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  • Bob

    Aug 25, 2019

    Can I pay someone to come with me on my boat who has local knowledge basically acting as mate?…Thanks

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      Albert

      Aug 26, 2019

      Hi Bob,

      Absolutely!

      As long as your boat is properly registered with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, anyone with a Charter Captain License can come aboard and guide you for profit.

      I hope that helps.

      Tight lines!

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      Bill

      Aug 26, 2019

      What if Albert did not have an MMC and he wanted someone who did hold an MMC to come on his boat and take him fishing and help him learn the local waters. At this point since Albert’s boat would not be registered as commercial could this be done legally? And would type1 PFDs still be required..

      Thanks,
      Bill

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      Albert

      Aug 26, 2019

      Hi Bill,

      According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, “any vessel used by a charter captain to do business must be commercially registered or have a U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation with a commercial designation.”

      In short, Albert’s boat would need to be commercially registered in order for him to legally hire someone to guide him on it.

      I hope that clears things up.

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  • charles brown

    Aug 15, 2019

    I have my 6-pack license and want to buy my boat back that I sold in 2008. It is a 22ft Aquasport, I have fished in the Everglades City- Goodland area for about 45 years now and am a very successful snook and redfish angler. How long would it take for my business to become successful with good advertisement?

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      Albert

      Aug 16, 2019

      Hi Charles,

      That’s a good question!

      It can take a little while to get your name out there. The most important thing is to make sure every customer goes home happy and stays in touch. That way, you’ll start getting more repeat customers and referrals.

      Obviously, I’d also recommend that you sign up on FishingBooker. That way, we can start advertising you online and bringing you bookings.

      Other than that, there are a bunch of articles that might help on our Captain’s Corner section on the blog.

      Congratulations on your new business. I hope you start seeing a ton of happy clients coming your way real soon!

      Tight lines!

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  • Bill Stevens

    Jul 24, 2019

    Is the only difference between a Charter Captains License and a Charter Boat License the ability to go on other commercially registered vessels or only use the boat named on the Charter Boat License?

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      Sean

      Jul 25, 2019

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for reading.

      There’s one other difference between the Charter Captain License and a Charter Boat License. A person who holds the Charter Captain License does not need to purchase their own recreational saltwater fishing license to recreationally fish from a vessel. A person who holds the Charter Boat License on the other hand, needs to purchase an additional license for themselves to fish.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a good one!

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  • Andy

    Jul 12, 2019

    A lot of great information here but I just want to add that the Coast Guard holds every captain accountable. If they can launch a boat in it, they consider it “navigatable” and you are required to possess the required license. They will teach you this in school now, if you accept any form of payment and are on a boat, you should have the appropriate USCG license. If nothing else to also protect yourself, the case of the sinking tour boat on the lake is a great example. The operator was unlicensed and therefor unprepared to handle the situation which resulted in many deaths and lawsuits. Good way to spend some time in jail.

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      Albert

      Jul 15, 2019

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Completely agreed. It’s always better to be fully licensed and insured, even if it’s not strictly required by law. It gives both the captain and their customers some peace of mind, and it’s the best way to do business.

      Tight lines!

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  • Matt

    May 7, 2019

    Great post! I’m interested in offering jet ski fishing charters. Do the same rules for a boat apply to jet skis, aka personal water craft? Obviously unlike a boat the customer would be operating the jet ski themselves, I would just be their guide getting them to the fishing hot spots on the jet skis. It’s almost like jet ski rentals but the skis are rigged up for fishing and the customers can fish from their own individual jet skis as a group. So for example I may have three customers on three individual jet skis set up for fishing which I provide. I would be on my own jet ski and they would follow me to the fishing hotspots for the day. Any thoughts on this? It seems to be undiscovered territory as far as a business model goes in Florida so there’s not much info about this that I could find. Thanks much!

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    • Reply icon

      Sean

      May 17, 2019

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for reading.

      Jet ski fishing trips sound like a great idea!

      According to the USCG, as long as you are taking paying customers on a vessel, and in navigable waters, you would need to apply for some sort of a credential.

      Now, the exact type of license you’ll need depends on which waters you’ll be fishing. To find out exactly which documents you need to obtain, please go to the Homeport website. Here, you should select your “Port Directory” from the drop-down menu. You’ll be presented with contact details for the location you need.

      Best of luck with setting things up.

      I bet people will love fishing from a jet ski!

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  • Angel L Melendez

    Mar 18, 2019

    I’m looking at starting a beach / surf guide service is there a difference in what licences I need in order to do this?

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      Sean

      Mar 22, 2019

      Hello Angel,

      Thank you for reading the blog.

      Yes, there is a difference in the licenses you’ll need. First of all, you will not need the Merchant Mariner Credential, as you will not be running your trips from a boat.

      For surf and freshwater fishing, you and your customers will both need separate fishing licenses, in accordance with Florida’s recreational fishing license requirements.

      However, according to the FWC, you are not required to have any additional guide licenses.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Tight lines!

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  • earl maier

    Mar 6, 2019

    Is there a way where a guide can take people in non-navigable waters without them having to have a licence like it is done in salt water?

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      Sean

      Mar 8, 2019

      Hello Earl,

      Thank you for reading the blog.

      I’m afraid that as long as your guests are fishing, they would need to have a valid Florida fishing license. You won’t need a USCG Merchant Mariner Credential but you’ll need to have your boat registration certificate.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Tight lines!

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  • STEVE

    Jan 29, 2019

    What requirements are their for guiding via kayak? Both single and tandem kayaks, is a captains license required for this type of charter? Any direction on where I could find this information of FWC would be appreciated, thanks!

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    • Reply icon

      Sean

      Feb 4, 2019

      Hello Steve,

      Thank you for reading the blog.

      According to the FWC, if you’re running trips for paying customers, you will need a valid Captain’s license. I’m afraid that the related FWC web page is no longer up, but you can contact FWC directly through this link.

      As far as kayaks are concerned, a boat registration document is only required if your kayak is powered by a motor. Otherwise, you’re good to go.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a great day!

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  • nate

    Jan 6, 2019

    im wanting to start taking people fishing for money in my boat , what I want to know is what is required for me to do so, ill be fishing inshore in the creeks and rivers of north east florida , hoping someone could help me learn where to start if anyone has any info id greatly appreciate

    thanks
    Nate

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    • Reply icon

      Sean

      Jan 8, 2019

      Hello Nate,

      Thank you for reading the blog.

      I’d be happy to help. You would need to do the following:

      1. Get a USCG captain’s license. This is called a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) and you can fill your application here.
      2. Have your boat registered at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
      3. Get a valid fishing license. You can get your license here.

      Once you’re finished with the paperwork, feel free to contact us and list your boat with FishingBooker.

      Have a great day!

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      jay

      Mar 23, 2021

      Been reading this article and i have made just about 5 calls to different offices regarding the charter captain license and No one seems to know. I already have my Captains license and also have my boat registered as a commercial vessel but now, who do I pay my $201 for up to 4 person charter license to? FWC does not directly sell it, they sell recreational license for you to go fishing on your boat or off the coast or whatever. so Dan, you must not have a charters captains license because that link you posted up just takes people to buy their recreational license. Not what Nate asked. But if you do know where to get this charter captain license then please post it up for me and nate.

      thanks

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      Albert

      Mar 24, 2021

      Hi Jay,

      How strange that the FWC couldn’t tell you. Charter Captain and Charter Boat Licenses are issued by the FWC, but you need to purchase them from a Tax Collector’s Office. You can find more info on this here, as well as a list of local Tax Collector’s Offices here.

      I hope this helps! I’ll make this clearer in the article too, to avoid any future confusion.

      Tight lines!

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  • Everett

    Dec 29, 2018

    Is Lake Okeechobee consider as navigable waters and what do I need to be a freshwater guide on Lakes Okeechobee?

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      George

      Jan 3, 2019

      Hi Everett,

      Thanks for reading, Happy New Year.

      Yes, Okeechobee is navigable, so you will need a Captain’s License. You will also need boat registration, plus you and your customers need to buy personal fishing licenses.

      Hope that helps,
      George

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  • Tony DuPree

    Sep 24, 2018

    George,
    I have recently passed my exam for my 6 pack license and currently jumping through all the other hoops to get my credentials. I was excited to finally get to a point that I could take customers fishing in the Gulf, only to get my bubble busted with this federal charter vessel/headboat permit. I am trying to understand what all this entails but it is a bit overwhelming. I understand that if I get the permit. it has to come from someone that already has one and is trying to sell it, because no permits have been issued since 2003 for the Gulf. The FWC site states that: If you are operating a for-hire vessel in federal waters (outside of 9 nautical miles on the Gulf and 3 nautical miles on the Atlantic), you may need a federal charter vessel/headboat permit before fishing for certain species. So, does this mean I can’t take anyone fishing in federal waters without this permit, or does the permit allow the catch of certain species? And if the permit is only for certain species what are they? Confused.

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      George

      Sep 25, 2018

      Hi Tony,

      I totally get that you’re confused, as it it very confusing.

      There are three main types of permits for chartering in federal waters:
      1. Charter vessel/headboat coastal pelagics permit
      2. Charter vessel/headboat reef fish permit
      3. Highly migratory species (HMS) charter/headboat permit

      The first 2 are not being issued, as you mentioned. The only way to get one of those is by buying or inheriting it from someone who already has this permit.

      The 3rd type, the HMS permit, you can buy. It costs $20 a year (see here). You can buy this permit on the NOAA website, here. You want to buy the one that is called ‘Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat Permit’, that one is valid for the Gulf as well. With this license, you can target sharks, tuna, swordfish, and marlin, following all regulations surrounding these fish.

      I hope that helps. Congrats on getting your 6 pack, I wish you an awesome fishing career.

      George

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      Adria

      Jan 25, 2020

      I am trying to do the same, however where must one find the person selling it? Is there a specific website that charter captains post that they are selling their federal waters license?

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      Albert

      Jan 27, 2020

      Hi Adria,

      The truth is that federal licenses rarely come up for sale. When they do, they’re often sold to somebody the owner knows.

      I would recommend looking on forums to try and find people interested in selling licenses. Places like the Hull Truth might be a good place to start.

      To be honest, though, I’m not sure where or how they get sold, as there’s no official process or guidelines for doing so.

      Good luck on the search. Be sure to give us an update when you find one!

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  • Jason

    Aug 31, 2018

    Greetings,

    Are the FWC licenses listed below annual? I assume they are, but cannot find any information that states duration of Charter Captain/Charter Boat license. Thank you

    Charter Captain License (allows a licensed captain to go from boat to boat)
    A Current Coast Guard License to Operate or Navigate Passenger Carrying Vessel License must be provided in order to purchase these licenses.

    License Type

    Price

    Charter Captain – 4 or fewer customers

    $201.50*

    Charter Captain – 10 or fewer customers

    $401.50*

    Charter Captain – 11 or more customers

    $801.50*

    Charter Snook Permit

    $10.00

    Charter Lobster Permit

    $5.00

    *Note: Prices include $1.50 administrative fee.

    Charter Boat License (may only be used on the boat designated on the license)
    These licenses are only available to vessels that are commercially registered. A commercial vessel registration or U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation (with a commercial designation) must be provided in order to purchase these licenses.

    License Type

    Price

    Charter Boat – 4 or fewer customers

    $201.50

    Charter Boat – 6 or fewer customers

    $401.50

    Charter Boat – 10 or fewer customers*

    $401.50

    Charter Boat – 11 or more customers*

    $801.50

    Charter Snook Permit
    $10.00

    Charter Lobster Permit

    $5.00

    *Issued to Coast Guard inspected vessels only.

    Note: Prices include $1.50 administrative fee.

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      George

      Sep 4, 2018

      Hi Jason,

      Yes, that’s correct, they’re annual fees.

      Thanks for reading!

      George

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  • Joe

    Aug 11, 2018

    Wondering what licenses I need to start an airboat tour company in south Florida? It would
    Be a small private boat with 5 passengers max.

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      George

      Aug 20, 2018

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for the question and my apologies for the late reply.

      This is slightly outside my area of expertise, but you can find most requirements in this article. As you’ll see, the rules have recently changed. Mind you, these are only the rules for operating an airboat for your own use, so you will also have to open an LLC or other type of business in order to operate an airboat for commercial use.

      Finally, if you also want to take customers fishing on your airboat, you will need a USCG 6-pack license in order to do so in salt water.

      Hope that helps,
      George

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  • Cindy Brown

    Jul 26, 2018

    I am looking into starting my own kayak fishing charter. Do you have any information what is needed to do this?

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      George

      Jul 27, 2018

      Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for reading, good question.

      It depends on where you want to guide. In most cases you will need a USCG license. Only if you’re fishing on non-navigable streams or lakes, you don’t need a USCG license. In general, the rules are the same as for motorized fishing charters.

      Hope that helps, thanks again.

      George

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  • Matthew McNew

    Jul 12, 2018

    Trying to get started in charter fishing but it would be mainly inshore and bay fishing. Doubt there would be much fishing in the offshore region for what I’m wanting to do. Going to be living around the Orlando area. Is there someone I can contact for help with questions on getting started or an organization? Also what license would be needed for operating a charter boat that is going to be about a 22′ or so size center console boat for inshore and bay fishing. Just trying to get started and see what is required and needed to get this ball rolling for myself. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks again

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      George

      Jul 12, 2018

      Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for reading, good question!

      You’ll need a six-pack license, formally known as the USCG Merchant Mariner’s Credential. You can find more information on how to do so here. In addition, you’ll need a Charter Boat License from the FWC. Finally, you’ll need to have your boat registered at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. You can find the appropriate links in the article above.

      For assistance in the Orlando area, you can call the local FWC office at: 352-732-1225.

      Hope that helps, let me know if we can do anything else for you!

      George

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  • TOM SCHETTLER

    Jul 8, 2018

    Hi, If I want to guide, and not be a captain, can I go in shallow 2-10 feet around Crystal River Florida?

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      George

      Jul 9, 2018

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for the question. Unfortunately, you need a captain’s license for all saltwater fishing.

      Let me know if I can help with anything else. Thanks for reading!

      George

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  • Kevin

    Jun 20, 2018

    My grandson loves fishing and wants to make it is occupation. Are you aware of any schools that teach knots, baits, seamanship – all (or some) of the basic skills he would need? Thanks in advance.

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      George

      Jun 20, 2018

      Hello Kevin,

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for the question.

      There sure are. It depends on how old your grandson is and how serious he is about pursuing this path. For adults (18+) who want to become professional fishing guides there are plenty of options. Sea School is a reliable institution with locations in Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, and Jacksonville, as well as several other places in the country.

      I hope that answers your question, please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you!

      Tight lines,
      George

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  • Gabor

    Jun 11, 2018

    Hi George!

    I’m Gabor from Hungary, Europe! I wonder a lot, how I become a freshwater fishing guide in Florida, so I don’t know it is possible to a european guy? Legally work in the US is so difficult to a foreigner. I do anything to make my dream come true 🙂

    Have you got any suggest for me?

    Kind regards,

    Gabor

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      George

      Jun 20, 2018

      Hi Gabor,

      Thank you for reading! Nice to know someone in Hungary is reading my stuff.

      Good question. To be honest, the first step is always to get a valid work permit in the US. After that, nothing stops you from becoming a licensed fishing guide in Florida, although some licenses can be a bit more expensive if you don’t permanently live in Florida.

      Hope that helps, and good luck with pursuing your dream!
      George

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  • natalie

    Jun 8, 2018

    Hello,
    Wondering if someone can help, I’m wanting to crab tour /fishing in back waters. concept is to drop a few (2) pots. then let kids fish and release for a bit. come back get pots . cook a couple crabs up for kids all in a 2 .5 window. what license would i need? would i still need captain license? Thank you in advance,
    Natalie

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      George

      Jun 8, 2018

      Hi Natalie,

      Thanks for reading!

      That’s an excellent question. I’m afraid you do need a captain’s license for all services you sell, including crabbing and backwater fishing. For recreational purposes, you only need a saltwater fishing license. For more information on crabbing regulations, you can look at this page on the FWC website.

      Tight lines,
      George

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  • Scott

    May 28, 2018

    I am a charter boat captain.. We have all the licenses for our boat.. I have been hired to take a group out fishing on a personally owned boat. I will need to buy the charter captains license.. Will that cover all four customers even if I go into federal waters and the boat is not a registered charter boat?

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      George

      May 29, 2018

      Hi Scott,

      Thank you for reading!

      If I understand your question correctly, you will take people fishing on their own boat, a boat that is not commercially registered. From what I can tell, I believe you are not allowed to do this, because you would be taking money for a fishing charter on a non-registered boat. So while the cheapest option of the Captain’s License would normally cover up to four customers, it is my impression that you need to take them out on a commercially registered boat.

      Hope that helps, let me know if I misunderstood your question.

      Tight lines,
      George

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    • Reply icon

      Scotty

      Oct 21, 2019

      If you’re hired for your services on a private vessel, you need absolutely NOTHING. No license, absolutely nothing. Scary huh. The coast guard and the courts have upheld that being hired to drive a personal vessel, is not a commercial operation. Therefore, does not fall under the below excerpt from FWC. No regulation exists that covers you being hired to drive someone else’s private vessel.

      “To be a saltwater fishing guide in Florida, you must comply with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requirements. The U.S. Coast Guard (USGC) requires all operators of for-hire vessels to have a Captain license/Merchant Mariner Credential.”

      The key term here is ‘for-hire vessel’. You aren’t providing a vessel.

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      Albert

      Oct 24, 2019

      Hi Scotty,

      That sure is scary!

      Even if the law doesn’t demand it, we’d always recommend people hire an experienced, licensed guide to pilot their boat if they want to fish safely.

      Thanks for getting in touch.

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  • Brooke

    May 25, 2018

    I was wondering when doing kayak fishing guides would you need to provide the fishing license or should the customer have their own fishing license??

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      George

      May 25, 2018

      Hi Brooke,

      Thanks for your comment!

      The customer needs to buy and bring their own fishing license. As a kayak guide, you are not responsible nor able to provide the license for your customers.

      Hope that helps, let us know if there’s anything else we can do for you!

      Best,
      George

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    • Reply icon

      Charlie Warner

      Apr 1, 2019

      As a kayak fishing guide do you need a captins license?

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    • Reply icon

      Sean

      Apr 8, 2019

      Hello Charlie,

      Thanks for reading.

      For kayak fishing in freshwater, you’ll just need your fishing license, no captain’s license is required. You will need to have a captain’s license if you’re guiding trips in saltwater.

      I hope this helps.

      Tight lines!

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  • Rob

    May 17, 2018

    Odd question, are there very many freshwater fisheries (non navigable) worth building a business on in Florida? Ideal location, an hour or so of Tampa? Not digging for names, just a yay or nay. I’m entertaining a life change and chasing a dream before it’s too late.

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      George

      May 17, 2018

      Hi Rob,

      Thanks for reading, good question.

      Strangely enough, there is no clear ruling on which waters are navigable. However, my impression is that most of the lakes around Lakeland and Winter Haven are not considered navigable. Some of these, like Lake Parker, have excellent fishing. To be sure, you can contact the local FWC office.

      I hope that helps, and I hope you manage to fulfill your dream!

      George

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  • Blake Valley

    Apr 7, 2018

    Hey! Being that there are so many charter options, what’s the best way to narrow down which is right for somebody? Anybody here really versed in Miami fishing charters??

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    • Reply icon

      Stefan

      Apr 19, 2018

      Hi, Blake,

      It’s difficult to say what would be the best way to choose a charter.
      It really depends on what you, as a customer, expect and want to experience on your trip.

      Here are just some questions that I use when choosing a charter, hope they can help you too:

      1. What kind of fishing do you want to do? Do you want to stay near the shore and get smaller fish (which can be super strong btw) or head offshore to chase really big fish?
      2. Are your companions all adults or are there kids as well? Generally, first-timers and kids may want to try staying closer to the shore in case of seasickness.
      3. How experienced is the captain and is charter fishing his full-time job?
      4. Is the gear included in the price?
      5. What are the reviews like? Make sure to read recent reviews and learn more about other people’s experience.
      6. What kind of a boat do you want to fish from? Do you mind if there is limited space or not? Do you want a stable vessel with plenty of space, toilet, kitchen, and other amenities?

      Also, have a look at the charter gallery to check out the photos from previous fishing trips.

      My teammates from customer support will reach out via mail to help out choose a charter.
      Let me know if you need more help.

      Tight lines,
      Stefan

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  • David

    Feb 28, 2018

    Do I need a license to take people fishing in Florida for money, on Freshwater?

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      George

      Mar 1, 2018

      Hi David,
      You do not need a guide license to take people guiding for money on freshwater. You do need your own fishing license, of course, and your customers have to purchase their fishing licenses. Finally, you need to register your boat with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
      Hope that answers your question, thanks for reading and commenting!
      George

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      Angie

      Jun 5, 2018

      When you say to register it doesn’t matter if it’s registered as commercial or as my personal phone? I currently have a boat registered under my name not on my business nor is it listed as a commercial. Can I keep it that way or do I need to change that To a commercial bustle then I will be charging customers for fishing guides and tours?

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      George

      Jun 5, 2018

      Hi Angie,

      Thanks for reading!

      Good question. It has to be commercially registered because you will be selling services to paying customers. You can normally complete the commercial registration at your local Fl Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles / local tax office. You can see where to go in your county on this page.

      Hope that helps! If you do start running charters, I wish you all the best. I’m sure it’ll be fantastic!

      Tight lines,
      George

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  • Justin Clark

    Feb 21, 2018

    Hey George.
    I’m interested in becoming a guide here in Central Florida. Even though I fish St. John’s and Kissimmee chain during bass tournaments, I won’t be guiding in any navagable water ways. What will I need as far as business license, insurance? I’ve researched and called numerous places and still very confused. Thanks for the help.

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      George

      Feb 22, 2018

      Hi Justin,

      As long as you don’t guide in navigable waters, all you need is:
      – Boat registration
      – A personal fishing license from the FWC

      In addition, your guests will have to each purchase their own fishing license, as your license will not cover them.
      You do not need a USCG Captain’s License or FWC Charter License.
      I strongly recommend you get your boat insured, but it is not, at this point, mandatory.

      Hope that helps!
      George

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  • Scott North

    Feb 14, 2018

    I am in the process of taking the six pack . What else do I need? With the state county, city. I need to put in application for fictuous name for my company?

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      George

      Feb 20, 2018

      Hi Scott, thanks for your comment. You do not need to provide proof of registration of your company or a company name at the time of applying. The OUPV license is separate from your business registration.
      You do need to register your company with the local Chamber of Commerce if you want to use your six pack license to do charter fishing.
      Hope that helps, let me know if you have more questions!

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      Timothy Crice

      Jul 26, 2019

      Do you have to have six pack coast guard license to guide on Okeechobee.

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      Albert

      Jul 29, 2019

      Hi Timothy,

      Good question!

      Yes, as Lake Okeechobee and its canals are considered “navigable waters,” you do need to a USCG captain’s license.

      Tight lines!

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