In the regulations, Florida freshwater fishing limits govern both statewide bag and length for specific species and also certain areas. And absolutely no species of sturgeon found in Florida can be taken except as allows by specific federal or state permit or authorization.
In addition, there are special Florida freshwater fishing limits for lakes in the system that you’ll need to be aware of. By paying attention to these rules, you’ll not only be in compliance but help ensure safe and sustainable recreational fishing for all.
Fishing in Florida in the winter can be challenging due to the constantly changing conditions. The key to angling success in Florida in the winter is understanding how these constantly changing conditions affect fish behavior.
Both resident and migratory game fish species undergo some type of migration throughout the year. As the front moves through it will bring strong northwest winds and perhaps a bit of rain.
This is a good day to stay home as conditions will not only be tough to fish, they can be downright dangerous. The next day will bring north and northeast winds, bright sunshine and cool temperatures.
That afternoon will warm up and the next couple of days will be very pleasant with mild temperatures and winds out of the east. Finally, the winds turn southwest then northwest as the cycle completes and then begins to repeat itself.
This means they must understand how these changes will affect the locations and feeding habits of the game fish that they are targeting. This is much more difficult in winter in Florida than it is at other times of year, as conditions are much more consistent in spring, summer, and fall.
Also, no matter which way the wind is blowing, docks in protected areas can usually be found that will offer anglers the chance to catch a few fish. Finally, water clarity is much less of an issue with sleepyhead, drum, and other bottom fish.
Bridges are usually found in deeper water and have abundant structure as well as good current flow. Seawalls, jetties, oyster bars, and artificial reefs are other productive areas to do some bottom fishing.
Sleepyhead, black drum, redfish, flounder, grouper, snapper, and shook will all be found in these spots. The bait is then presented back to the structure in a very natural manner as it drifts with the tide.
On shallow spots, anglers can simply pinch on a couple of splits shot 18 inches above the hook. No matter what the rig, anglers should use the minimum amount of weight required to get the bait down to the bottom.
Due to the extreme low tides and lack of water, fish will gang up in deeper depressions, holes, and channels. Anglers who locate a pothole or channel in an otherwise very shallow flat can experience non-stop action.
As the tide rises and the water warms, fish will move up onto the flat to forage in the afternoon. While the game fish may be more in a mood to feed, they are also more difficult to locate as they scatter about over a large flat.
Submerged grass beds in deeper water can be great spots to fish in Florida in the wintertime. Game fish will seek out slightly deeper areas when water temperatures are low.
The best approach when fishing the deep grass flats is to drift with the wind and the tide while casting artificial lures or live shrimp. Often times in winter, the key to success when fishing the deep flats is finding “clean” water.
Flats near the passes are especially prone to being covered up as the incoming tide floods the area with dirty water. Fish will not be as active in the colder water and fast, aggressive retrieves that work in the summer are usually less effective in the winter.
Soft plastic baits rigged on a jig head or swim bait hook are especially productive. Anglers casting spoons and plugs will also catch fish, especially if they go with smaller baits and more subtle presentations.
Live shrimp are also extremely effective when fished over submerged grass under a noisy float. Cold weather will push shook and other species up into area creeks, rivers, and residential canals.
Game fish move up into these waters as they are generally significantly warmer than the exposed, open flats. Along with shook, anglers can find jack crevasse, redfish, snapper, juvenile tarpon, and other saltwater species.
Anglers fishing brackish rivers will also have the opportunity to land freshwater species such as large mouth bass, catfish, and gar. Creeks and rivers are great places to fish in Florida in the wintertime for several reasons.
First off, as previously mentioned, shook, jacks, and other saltwater game fish will migrate up into these bodies of water in the winter. In brackish rivers in creeks, bluegill and tilapia are abundant and are great forage for larger game fish.
While the scenery might not be as nice as when fishing creeks and rivers, these canals are generally more accessible to anglers in larger boats. Most canals are dredged and therefore fairly deep within an abundance of structure including docks and seawalls.
In most instances, artificial lures are the best choice when targeting shook and jacks in rivers, creeks, and canals. More often than not, game fish will be scattered throughout the body of water as opposed to being bunched up in one spot.
Docks, seawalls oyster bars, and limestone shorelines are also worth a few casts. The top two artificial lures for fishing Florida creeks and rivers are shallow diving plugs and soft plastic baits.
Plugs are great “locator” baits as they will cover a lot of water fairly quickly and tend to elicit reflex strikes. These plugs are cast out towards likely shoreline cover and structure and brought back to the boat using a sharp twitch or two followed by a pause.
Plugs are also terrific lures to use when trolling, which is a very effective technique that will locate fish in a short amount of time. However, the same basic baits anglers use for inshore saltwater fishing will produce and rivers as well.
Shad tail and fluke style baits can be used either on a jig head or a swim bait hook. They are also good choices when the water temperature is low and fish may not actively chase a faster moving plug.
For this reason, in order to fish efficiently, most anglers real the bait back in quickly after working at the first several feet. It’s not that the fish have lockjaw, or that they don’t eat, you just need to switch up your strategies from other times in the year.
If you cast a line or catch and release, you need a fishing license. Someone who is passively participating (setting decoys, calling birds or baiting hooks), whether actively fishing or hunting or not, must have a license and appropriate permits.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 379.354, the following individuals are EXEMPT from recreational hunting, freshwater fishing or saltwater fishing licenses as well as Florida waterfowl, migratory bird, deer, turkey, shook, spiny lobster, archery, crossbow, muzzle loading and management area permit requirements (unless noted, these exemptions do not apply to federal duck stamp requirements): Youth under 16 years of age (also exempt from federal duck stamp requirements).
Disabled veterans or active or reserve duty military service members and their immediate family members and assistants, who are participating in a permitted outdoor recreational event, for which the Commission has issued a Military/Disabled Veteran Event License Exemption Permit to the event organizer. A fishpond is a man-made pond constructed for the primary purpose of fishing, entirely within the property lines of the owner and with no surface water connection to public waters.
Florida's residents saltwater fishing from land or a structure fixed to land who have been determined eligible for the food stamp, temporary cash assistance, or Medicaid Program by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Proof of identification and a benefit issuance or program identification card issued by DCF or the Agency for Health Care Administration must be in possession when fishing.
Florida's residents saltwater fishing with live or natural bait, using poles or lines that are not equipped with a fishing -line-retrieval mechanism, for noncommercial purposes in their home county (does not include fish management areas within the home county). When walking the beach look for areas that have Dips, Hollows, Sandbars and any structure that is driving tide or current.
If the beach has two surf breaks note how deep the trough is and watch for any activity in this area. Fish will use the troughs as highways while moving around, and they will also hang out in the trough waiting for the breaking surf to dig bait out of the sand or confuse a bait fish.
This rig is by far the best if live bait fish are to be used as it allows them to move around in a more natural manner. This rig works great with frozen bait or live sand fleas.
Using more weight than needed will negatively affect the presentation of the bait as well as the sensitivity of your line. They allow for the bait on the end of the line to move in a more natural manner and in slight current they will gently roll along the bottom allowing the bait to cover more ground.
A sputnik sinker is shaped like a teardrop but with 4 long spikes sticking out of the sides causing it to resemble the Russian satellite. These are used almost exclusively in a dropper rig and are excellent at holding the bottom in moderate to high current.
The draw back to these sinkers is the can bury themselves in the bottom making it difficult to set the hook on a fish. There are three primary concerns when selecting the type of line you plan on using.
The strength of the line will not only determine how large of a fish that can be caught, but also how much weight can be reliably cast. And finally stability can be a vital factor as often times when surf fishing long casts are required.
Is highly visible in clear water conditions and is the most expensive of the options. If using a high quality leader, these disadvantages are heavily out weighed by its advantages and is the preferred line for most surf fishing situations.
Near invisibility, good casting distance and is the most affordable of the options. Live and frozen bait are the most frequently used options when surf fishing.
Lures can be successful, but not at near the rate that frozen and live bait can produce. Because of the long casts and heavy weights that are often required to get a bait into the strike zone setting the hook on a fish can sometimes be difficult.
Once a strike is detected use a firm upward motion at a moderate speed to set the hook. Do not move the rod tip to quickly as this could pull the hook out of the fishes mouth or even worse, snap the line leaving the hook stuck in the fish.
After setting the hook keep the rod tip high and reel the fish in. Simply lift the rod tip up, with a gentle but deliberate motion, and reel the fish in.