Boating and Fishing in Southwest Florida

What to know before you go

Photo by Mathieu le Roux via Unsplash

From the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers to Lake Trafford in Collier County, boating and fishing are popular pastimes in Southwest Florida. Few places in North America offer such a wide variety of boating and fishing options—the choices are limitless, depending on your goal.

Before Heading Out

Familiarize yourself with the rules and laws governing boating and fishing.

Fishing: A license is required for freshwater and saltwater fishing. (There are exceptions for people younger than 16; Florida residents older than 65 or disabled; fishing from a chartered vessel or a licensed pier; or a Florida resident in the U.S. armed services.) Nonresident freshwater or saltwater licenses are available for three days, seven days, or a year. Special permits are required for lobster, tarpon, and snook.

Different licenses and prices are available for residents and nonresidents, age ranges, and fresh or saltwater fishing. Licenses are issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) at: or 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). You can also obtain fishing licenses at county tax collector offices, select bait and tackle shops, and retailers such as Walmart and local hardware stores.

Fishing Rules: Pick up or download a guide at that shows fish species, legal size, catch-number limits, and when each is in season. 

Boating: In Florida, any motorized vessel on a public waterway must be titled and registered. Find out about boat registration and legal boat operation at

Boating License: Florida does not have a boating license, but anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 is required to successfully complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators–approved boating education course or pass an equivalent course or temporary certificate examination. They must have in their possession a boating and photo ID card before operating a vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower or more.

Visitors must comply with the boating safety education requirements. If a nonresident can show proof of having successfully completed a safety course certificate or card that meets or exceeds Florida’s requirements, a Florida Boating Safety Education Identification Card is not required. Visitors planning to rent a boat may obtain a temporary certificate that is valid for one year. Learn more:

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