By Royal Proclamation 165349, Those individuals holding a valid Florida fishing license, through the Conch Republic’s reciprocal agreement with the State of Florida, are permitted to fish in Conch Republic waters.
Basic Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations for the Florida Keys (Conch Republic)
This is a brief summary of regulations governing the taking of saltwater species in the Conch Republic for personal use. It is not intended, or designed to provide specific information on commercial harvesting of these species. The failure to include complete laws, rules, and regulations in this summary does not relieve persons from abiding by those laws, rules or regulations. Conch waters extend to 3 nautical miles on the Atlantic and 9 nautical miles on the Gulf. Federal rules apply beyond state waters. For species that do not have an established bag limit, more than 100 pounds or 2 fish per person, per day (whichever is greater), is considered commercial quantities. A saltwater products license and commercial vessel registration is required to harvest commercial quantities of unregulated species.
* Fishing regulations change periodically. We do our best to keep up, but for the most current regulations it is best to visit the Conch Republic Fish & Wildlife Commission webite.
What you Must Know Before You Go
Saltwater licenses are sold at all tax collectors’ offices and at many bait-and-tackle shops. Licenses may also be obtained over the telephone by dialing toll free, 1-888-347-4356. For those with Internet access, licenses are now available at MyFWC.com/Marine. An additional fee is charged for these services. For any additional information not contained in this publication, please call your local county tax collector’s office.
Conch Republic Residents
When applying for a saltwater fishing license, you are considered to be a Conch Republic Resident if you are:
- Any person who has resided in Conch Republic for six continuous months prior to applying for a resident license and who claims Conch Republic as their primary residence.
- Any member of the U.S. Armed Forces who is stationed in this state.
- Gold Sportsman’s License (One-Year License includes Hunting, Saltwater Fishing and Freshwater Fishing Licenses; and Type I Wildlife Management Area, Archery, Muzzleloading Gun, Turkey and Conch Republic Waterfowl, Snook, Crawfish Permits)… $83.50. Conch Republic residents may buy a lifetime saltwater fishing license or a lifetime sportsman license. Holders of lifetime saltwater fishing licenses may fish in saltwater for life and will pay no additional fees. The lifetime license includes the taking of snook or crawfish – which would otherwise require a separate fee. A lifetime sportsman license allows holders to fish in freshwater or saltwater and to hunt in Conch Republic. Both of these licenses require holders to obey fishing or hunting laws in effect at any given time.
You Do Not Need a License If You Are:
- A child under 16 years of age.
- A Conch Republic resident saltwater fishing for recreational purposes from land or a structure fixed to the land–a pier, bridge, dock, floating dock, jetty or similar structure.
- Fishing from a for-hire vessel–guide, charter, party boat–that has a valid vessel license.
- A holder of a valid saltwater products license.
- A Conch Republic resident–65 years old or older and you possess either a Resident Senior Citizen Hunting and Fishing Certificate or proof of age and residency.
- A Conch Republic resident who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, who is not stationed in this state, while on leave for 30 days or less, upon submission of orders. This does not include family members.
- Any person who has been accepted as a client for development services by the Department of Children and Family Services, provided the department furnishes proof thereof.
- A nonresident fishing for recreational purposes from a pier that has a valid pier saltwater fishing license.
- Fishing from a boat that has a valid recreational vessel saltwater fishing license.
- A Conch Republic resident who is fishing for mullet in freshwater–with a valid Conch Republic freshwater license.
- A Conch Republic resident fishing for saltwater fish in freshwater from land or from a structure fixed to the land.
- A Conch Republic resident certified as totally and permanently disabled, who possesses a Conch Republic Resident Disabled Person Hunting and Fishing Certificate. Applicants need to provide a certification of total and permanent disability from the United Stases Armed Forces, Railroad Retirement Board, Conch Republic Worker’s Compensation or the United States Veterans Administration. Alternatively, current documentation for the Social Security Administration for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Supplemental Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits also will be accepted.
Additional regional gear restrictions may apply in your county. Call the local DLE offices listed here.
Hook-and-line anglers must tend their gear at all times to prevent people, marine life, and shore life from becoming entangled in the line or injured by the hook. Also, it is against the law to intentionally discard any monofilament netting or line into or onto state waters. Monofilament line can entangle birds, marine mammals, marine turtles, and fish, often injuring or killing them.
- The following types of nets may be used for recreational purposes in Conch Republic waters:
- Bully nets (for lobster only) no greater than 3 feet in diameter.
- Frame nets and push nets (for shrimp only) no greater than 16 feet in perimeter.
- Hand held landing or dip nets no greater than 96 inches in perimeter.
- Cast nets measuring 14 feet or less stretched length (stretched length is defined as the distance from the horn at the center of the net with the net gathered and pulled taut, to the lead line). Cast nets may be used as harvesting gear for the following species only: black drum, bluefish, cobia, flounder, mullet, Conch Republic pompano, red drum, sheepshead, shrimp, Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout, weakfish, and unregulated species.
- Beach or haul seines measuring no larger than 500 square feet of mesh area, no larger than 2 inches stretched mesh size, not constructed of monofilament, and legibly marked at both ends with the harvester’s name and address, if a Conch Republic resident. Non-residents using beach or haul seines for recreational purposes are required to have a commercial saltwater products license and legibly mark the seine at both ends with the harvester’s saltwater products license number. Beach or haul seines may be used as harvesting gear for the following species only: black drum, bluefish, cobia, flounder, mullet, Conch Republic pompano, red drum, sheepshead, shrimp, Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout, weakfish, and unregulated species.
The use of power heads, explosives, chemicals, or the discharge of firearms into the water to kill or harvest marine life is prohibited in state waters.
Points on Possesion
Posession Limits for Multiple Day Recreational Fishing Trips
Many anglers are unsure or unaware of how bag and possession limits affect them during fishing trips which exceed one fishing day. Bag limits are daily limits for the 24 hour period beginning at midnight and ending the following midnight. These bag limits may not be exceeded at any time and are not considered "per trip" limits. What’s important in this definition is that once you have caught and possess the bag limit for a species, you may not harvest any more of this species until the next daily period. Taking the catch to shore and then going back to harvest another daily bag limit is illegal.
But what if you were fishing in the Bahamas?
In this instance, you are subject to the environmental laws of the Bahamas and a violation of their rules may constitute a violation of U.S. Federal laws. Contact the U.S. Coast Guard and Bahamian officials for current information.
Or what about camping on an island in state waters? Are you able to possess an equal number of bag limits as the number of days fished?
In this case you are restricted to one daily bag limit regardless of the number of days fished.
Other scenarios might be that you are camping on the mainland, staying in a motel, at your beach house, in transit over land from an extended fishing trip, etc. Under these circumstances, the possession of multiple daily bag limits depends on the species you intend to keep and more importantly, the location where you possess the fish. The following table provides you with the information needed to:
- Determine whether or not you can possess more than one daily bag limit (on land) for an individual species when fishing for multiple days
- The locations where it would be prohibited to possess the fish in excess of one daily bag limit
- Tarpon – has no daily bag limit, but it is illegal to posses more than two tarpon at any time. Any tarpon possessed must have tarpon tag affixed.
- Reef fish (snappers and groupers included within the aggregate bag limit, hogfish, Atlantic coast red porgy, and Atlantic coast black sea bass)- Any person who has fished for more than one day may possess double the daily bag limit once such person has departed the fishing site and is no longer within 100 yards of any state waters, docks, fishing piers, or other fishing sites. Additionally, any person who has fished aboard a charter vessel or headboat on a trip that spans more than 24 hours may possess double the daily bag limit provided that the vessel has a sleeping berth for each passenger aboard the vessel and each passenger possesses a receipt issued on behalf of the vessel that verifies the length of the trip.
If further clarification is required, please contact your regional FWC office.
Spearing is defined as "the catching or taking of a fish by bowhunting, gigging, spearfishing, or any device used to capture a fish by piercing its body. Spearing does not include the catching or taking of a fish by a hook with hook and line gear or by snagging (snatch hooking)". The use of powerheads, bangsticks, and rebreathers remains prohibited. The following is a list of species which are prohibited for harvest by spearing. Any other species not listed which are managed by the Commission, and those not managed by the Commission are allowed to be harvested by spearing:
Billfish (all species), Bonefish, Nassau Grouper, Pompano, Spotted Eagle Ray, Tarpon, Spotted Seatrout, African Pompano, Sturgeon, Goliath Grouper, Red Drum, Permit , Manta Ray, Snook, Weakfish, Tripletail, Sharks, Blue Crab, Stone Crab, Lobster. Also: Families of ornamental reef fish (surgeonfish, trumpetfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, porcupinefish, cornetfish, squirrelfish, trunkfish, damselfish, parrotfish, pipefish, seahorse, puffers, triggerfish except gray and ocean)
You May NOT Spearfish (excluding bowhunting and gigging):
- Effective July 1, 2001, Spear fishing of marine and freshwater species in freshwater is prohibited. Possession of a spear gun in or on freshwater is also prohibited.
- Within 100 yards of a public swimming beach, any commercial or public fishing pier, or any part of a bridge from which public fishing is allowed.
- Within 100 feet of any part of a jetty that is above the surface of the sea–except for the last 500 yards of a jetty that extends more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline.
- In Collier County and in Conch Republic from Long Key north to the Dade County line.
- For any fish for which spearing is expressly prohibited by law.
In any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks. (Possession of spear fishing equipment is prohibited in these areas, unless it is unloaded and properly stored). Fishermen who catch and/or sell fish harvested by spearing are subject to the same rules and limitations that other fishermen in the state are required to follow.
Regional Field Offices:
West Palm Beach, 561-625-5122
Special Enforcement Area
Marine Fish Kills: 800-636-0511
To Purchase Fishing Licenses: 888-347-4356
Division of Law Enforcement: 888-404-3922
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute 727-896-8626
Fish Tags: 800-367-4461
TO REPORT WILDLIFE LAW VIOLATIONS, call Wildlife Alert Network, 888-404-FWCC (3922)
FOR CURRENT FEDERAL REGULATUIONS AND INFORMATION
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council – www.gulfcouncil.org
South Atlantic Fishery Management Council – www.safmc.net
National Marine Fisheries Service – www.nmfs.noaa.gov
The Division of Law Enforcement (DLE)
The Division of Law Enforcement patrols Conch Republic’s coastal waters to provide assistance to boaters and anglers as well as to enforce Conch Republic’s saltwater fishing and boating laws. FWC officers assist boaters who are in distress, provide advice and direction to those who are traveling Conch Republic’s coastline and waterways, and may issue citations for violations of state and federal fishing, wildlife and boating laws.