With more than 3 million anglers in the state, it is likely you either know someone who fishes, or you are someone who fishes. Either way, Florida's license-free fishing days are the perfect venue to try your hand or introduce a friend to some of the finest fishing in the world.
During its Feb. 13 meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission selected Saturday, June 1, and Sunday, Sept. 1, as the 2013 saltwater license-free fishing days. On these days, the requirement to have a recreational fishing license is waived for Florida's residents and visitors while they are saltwater fishing.
The FWC offers four license-free fishing days a year: two saltwater and two freshwater. While the commission selects new saltwater license-free fishing days on an annual basis, freshwater license-free fishing days are set to the first Saturday in April and the second Saturday in June.
This year's freshwater license-free fishing days are Saturday, April 6, and Saturday, June 8. Sign up for an FWC freshwater angler recognition program in advance at www.TrophyCatchFlorida.com and you will be entered into a drawing for a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury. If you catch, photograph and release a largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds, you'll be eligible for great rewards or certificates for catching qualifying freshwater fish from among 33 exciting species in the program. The FWC will honor license-free freshwater fishing days as a legal exemption for fish caught on these dates.
To make these events accessible to as many people as possible, the FWC plans these dates around holiday weekends and national events.
This year's June 1 saltwater and the June 8 freshwater license-free days are during National Fishing and Boating Week. Highlighted by significant national media coverage and public events, this week promotes boating and fishing across the country as fun and healthy outdoor activities. In 2012, 37 states had at least one license-free fishing day during this annual event.
The Sept. 1 saltwater license-free day falls on Labor Day weekend, when many families will be out on the water, enjoying one of the last big fishing weekends of summer. The ever-popular bay scallop season is also open to harvest on this date.
License-free days not only introduce new anglers to the lifetime sport of fishing, they also economically benefit the state as those 3 million anglers cited by the American Sportfishing Association's "Sportfishing in America" report, shop at tackle stores, purchase boat fuel and bait and travel to their favorite fishing hole. Some of this money even finds its way back to the FWC via the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program specifically to create more fishing and boating opportunities.
Go ahead and plan your fishing experience in advance. Ask friends to show you their favorite fishing spot. Get out the fishing poles for the kids (children under 16 are not required to have a fishing license year-round). Get ready to get into fishing in 2013.
But don't forget, all other regulations such as seasons, size limits and bag limits still apply on these days. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing to learn more about saltwater and freshwater fishing in Florida from current regulations to fishing hotspots.