Florida Fishing Rules 2007-2008

Five Regions / Four Bass Zones

Florida's five fishing regions

Florida fishing rules are monitored by five regional offices. Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission divides the state into five regions however, when it comes to bass, the state is divided into four bass zones. Statewide the limit for bass is 5 bass (largemouth, Suwannee, redeye, spotted, and shoal bass, individually or in total), only one of which may be 22 inches or longer in total length.

The maps showing the five regions and four bass zones are a general division of how the state is divided up along county lines. For example, if you look at the bass zone map you’ll see the Suwannee River (in blue) as part of the Northwestern Zone, extending out into the green area of the Central & Northeastern Zone. The Big “O” (Lake Okeechobee), including all of its tributaries, is a zone in and of itself.

Florida's four bass zones

Each zone has special bag and length limits for certain lakes, rivers, chain of lakes and fish management areas. Once you decide what area to fish, go to the FWC website to learn what the specific Florida fishing rules and regulations are that pertain to the particular lake(s) you plan to fish.

Length and how to measure your fish:

Total length is the maximum length of the fish, with the mouth closed and the tail fin pinched together. The best way to obtain this length is to push the fish's snout, with the mouth fully closed, up against a vertical surface and the fish lying along a tape measure, then pinch the tail fin closed and determine the total length. The best way I have found to do this is by using a tournament board like the Golden Rule. DO NOT use a belly board or stretch a flexible tape measure along the curve of the fish. Go to FWC's illustrated instructions on measuring fish and estimating weight for more details.

Florida fishing rules regarding means for taking fish:

Game fish and non-game fish may be taken with pole and line or rod and reel. There is no limit on the number of rods an angler may use.

Freshwater fish may not be taken by use of any free-floating, unattached device, or by use of firearms, explosives, electricity, spear gun, poison or other chemicals. The taking of fish by underwater swimming or diving is prohibited. It is unlawful to sell, offer for sale or transport out of the state any freshwater game fish unless specifically permitted by the FWC. Licensed anglers may transport two days bag limit of legally harvested game fish.

It is illegal to possess any freshwater fish along with gear that cannot legally be used to take freshwater fish, including gear types listed above and below for taking non-game fish or bait. An exception is game fish may be possessed together with cast nets having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch; minnow dip nets not more than 4 feet in diameter; minnow seines having a stretched mesh size not greater than 1 inch, a length not more than 20 feet and a depth not more than 4 feet; and minnow traps not more than 24 inches in length and 12 inches in diameter, with a funnel entrance not more than 1 inch in spread. I’m not sure when the Florida fishing rules, regarding cast nets, changed because I was told by a game warden not to have my cast net (used for catching shiners) on board if I also had a bass in the livewell. He said the fine was $100 for each game fish in your possession while carrying a cast net on board. I think I’ll err on the side of caution.

Don’t clean your fish on the water:

Florida fishing rules state it is illegal to fillet or remove the head or tail fin of black bass, striped bass, white bass, Sunshine bass (striped bass x white bass hybrid), peacock bass, black crappie and pan-fish (where special black crappie or pan-fish size or bag limits are in effect) until after you have completed fishing for the day.

Game and Non-game Freshwater Fish:

Game Fish: black bass, black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, warmouth, redbreast sunfish, spotted sunfish, flier, mud sunfish, longear sunfish, shadow bass, peacock bass, white bass, striped bass and sunshine bass.

Non-game Fish: bowfin, common carp, catfish, pickerel, eels, gar, threadfin shad, gizzard shad, shiners, tilapia (Nile perch), killifish, suckers, topminnows and fishes not listed as freshwater game fish and not taken for sport. Note: A scientific collector's permit is required to take alligator gar.

Know your Limits

Florida fishing rules are pretty simple to follow as long as you take the time to find the Florida fishing regulations that pertain to the body of water you intend to fish. Florida is serious when it comes to their rules on fishing. Their main resource is tourism and fishing accounts for a lot of the tourism dollars. I remember the controversy when they put a tax on tournament entry fees forcing B.A.S.S. and Bass-n-Gals to boycott Florida for several years. What Florida realized was not only the revenues lost by the communities where the events were held. It lost also moneys spent by out of state fishermen lured to Florida from all the free T.V. and magazine exposure it received from the bass tournament organizations.

Most of the lakes will have a sign posted at the ramp detailing the fishing regulations, size and creel limits. Don’t assume these signs will be at every ramp but do your homework and research the rules on fishing for each lake you plan on fishing.

What you can count on is meeting up with one of our Florida game wardens. These guys are out to protect the resource from abuses. Some guys just seem like the Florida fishing rules don’t apply to them. They’re the ones that have to keep everything they catch no matter what the size or limit. The guides have an unwritten rule that we’ll report any violations we see. The cell phone has made it easy to report violations on the spot. I barrowed a customers cell phone and got my local game warden out of the shower one morning to report a boat keeping fish in the slot. I gave him all the information he needed to meet theses guys at the ramp as they were pulling out. The guides take it serious when they see someone raping the environment…this is where we make our living.

I hate to even bring this up but the people, like you, who take the time to do the research ahead of time like going to sites like this to get good information, are not the abusers. They’re the ones that are trying to stay within the law as to not mess up their vacation with a heavy fine. I am talking about the ones that throw a half dozen K-Mart special rods in the back of their truck and hook up the boat in disrepair on a trailer with a broken spring and bald tires and head to Sunny Florida in search of dinner…meat hunters. We see them every year. They have no regard for Florida fishing rules.

If you just follow the Florida fishing rules, always have your license on you and have the proper boating safety equipment you won’t have any problems. Florida waters get more than their share of pressure from tournaments, a large retirement population, out of state visitors and just the local growing population. It’s important that the resource is closely protected for the future of Florida bass fishing.

Whether you’re bringing your own boat or hiring a guide for your Florida fishing trip-Follow the rules and have fun!

Click to go to:
Okeechobee Zone
Central-Northeastern Zone
Northwest Zone
Southern Zone

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