From the Gulf of Mexico to 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.
Thousands of miles of shoreline offer varied, resource-rich habitats that are home to prized Florida gamefish such as snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, tarpon, and jack crevalle. Inland, the region’s rivers, lakes, and extensive canals are ideal for catching freshwater species such as bass, speckled perch, panfish, and exotics like tilapia.
Before Heading Out
Before heading out, know the rules and laws governing boating and fishing.
Fishing: A license is required for freshwater and saltwater fishing. Exceptions are for people younger than 16; Florida residents older than 65 or disabled; fishing from a for-hire 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. Licensed charter captains and fishing guides are a great resource for vacationers and locals who don’t fish frequently. Special permits are required for lobster, tarpon, and snook.
Different licenses and prices are available for residents and non-residents, age ranges, and fresh or saltwater fishing. Licenses are issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) at: myfwc.com/license/recreational/ 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 myfwc.com that shows fish species, legal size and 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 myfwc.com/boating/regulations/
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 education ID card and a photo identification card before operating a vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower or more.
Visitors must comply with the boating safety education requirements. If a non-resident can show proof of having successfully completed a boater safety course or equivalent exam that meets or exceeds Florida’s requirements (usually in the form of a certificate or card), a Florida Boating Safety Education Identification Card is not required.
Visitors wanting to rent a vessel while in Florida may obtain a temporary certificate that is valid for one year. Learn more: myfwc.com/boating/regulations/