When you need them and when you don’t
School’s out, summer’s here, and with that comes a time for vacation.
Parents often wait to take their vacation time when their children are out of school for the longest period, which in Florida extends from the end of May to early August. Some like to fill a portion of those vacation days with pleasurable outdoor activity, often including fishing.
Until a few years ago, no fishing license was required for saltwater fishing in Florida, only for fishing in freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. But now licenses are required for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, although the state makes allowance for several groups based on age and disability. It also has what it calls “free days” when people who don’t regularly fish may give it a try without having to buy a license.
Having rules and regulations that don’t always apply – and even if they do, don’t apply equally to everybody – can be confusing. This story is aimed at eliminating the confusion.
“We give [license] free days to allow new people to gain the experience of fishing and see if they will enjoy it, and also for those who haven’t fished in a long time and want to see if they’d like starting back up,” said Amanda Nalley, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission in Tallahassee.
“Another thing,”she said, “is maybe a child who has tried fishing, and likes it, wants to interest a parent so they can go together.”
With more than 12,133 square miles of water touching 53,927 miles of land with an additional 12,000 miles of fishable freshwater rivers, streams and canals, fishing is important to Florida because of its high economic impact.
More than $1.75 billion and 14,000 jobs are brought into the state annually from freshwater fishing; and $7.15 billion with 65,000 related jobs from saltwater fishing. If boating is added, the figures go up another $10.56 billion and show 82,000 more jobs.
With more than 200 freshwater species and 500 saltwater, Florida’s waterways are a great place to fish, said Nalley.
This year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission celebrates 75 years of regulation to see that the species are preserved, she said.
The South County/Brandon area and northern Manatee County is included in the Commission’s Southwestern Division, which states that its lakes and rivers are filled with high quality largemouth bass, black crappie, channel cats, rainbow trout and walleye, among others.
As for the saltwater areas nearby, fishermen can find striped bass, king salmon, bluefish, redfish and Pacific halibut. Some of these are found wading inshore and on flats near the shore and others must be fished farther out.
The Commission’s website lists at least seven subspecies of bass.
Otherwise, children younger than 16 don’t require a license; children 16 and older do, as do persons up to age 65. Those 65 and older and some disabled persons of any age do not have to buy any license to fish. The disability exemption is income-based, as some disabled persons are considered in a high enough income bracket to pay. All persons age 65 and older are exempt.
A Florida freshwater or saltwater license is $17 for one year, and $79 for five years. A combination of both freshwater and saltwater licenses is available for $32.50. If you want to add hunting, it is $48 annually. Special packages for several things and various year plans are available online as well.
To find out more about the Commission and its rules, or to pay for a license on line, visit www.myfwc.com/license.