3 questions to ask before fishing without a fishing license

So if you’re a resident or visitor of Florida, you must have a valid Florida fishing license.  Much like every other state, the use of the fees collected from state licensing supports the agencies efforts to fund the programs that help sustain the wildlife resources.  I’ll write a future post on this topic but for now, just know, the monies are put to good use.

To be honest, the regulations and exemptions can be confusing.  Even if you haven’t been fishing in Jacksonville your entire life like I have, you always seem to need a refresher.  There’s something about that legalese that is just sounds like something from the 13th century.  Nevertheless, they are there and we must know and understand them.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Will this guy just tell me how to fish without a license already!”  Well, the reality is, there are only a few instances where you are able to fish without a license in Jacksonville.   Below are the three that I feel most will fall into a category of.  Please note, the below is just a summary of the exemptions.  For a more detailed definition of the exemption, head over to the FWC website.

Are you under the age of 16?

Children under the age of 16 can fish in Florida without a license.  However, This doesn’t prevent an officer may not ask for proof of age.  Even though the child may be exempts from a fishing license, all bag and size limits must still be observed.

One other note, children aren’t required to be with a licensed adult.  In my opinion though, why pass up a chance to fishing with your kids.

Are you over the age of 65?

Folks over the age of 65 are not required to have a fishing license in Florida.  But, the individual must be a resident of Florida.  An officer may require you to produce proof of age and residency.

Are you just along for the ride?

Now you’re also not required to have a fishing license if your just “along for the ride” so to speak.  What I mean is, if you’re just observing or filming a person fishing, you’re not required to have a fishing license.  This means, however, you’re not allowed to participate or assist in any way.  Baiting hooks, gaffing fish, pulling nets, would be participating or assisting and likely cause an officer to issue a citation if caught.  If you’re seeking to just relax and hang out while others fish, then this is another exemption to the licensing requirement.

Bonus:  Free Fishing Days

Hey!  One bonus that we can’t leave out.  Free fishing days.

Free fishing?  Yes.  There are “free fishing days” that provide an opportunity for people who are either new to fishing or parents who want to try out fishing with their kids.  On these selected days, the license requirement is waved for all recreational anglers.   Remember though, all other rules still apply (i.e. bag limits, size limits, etc.)

According to the FWC website, the dates are as follows:

License-free freshwater days

  • First Saturday and Sunday in April
  • Second Saturday and Sunday in June

License-free saltwater days

  • First Saturday and Sunday in June
  • First Saturday in September
  • Saturday following Thanksgiving


Finally, these rules apply to Florida residents only and remember, the rules and regulations are there for a reason.  They are not to be broken without some sort of consequence.  I’d encourage you pick up one of those FWC pamphlets at one of Jacksonville’s bait shops or head over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions website for rules and regulations page to get acquainted with the rules.

If you have any questions or notice an exemption not listed, give me a shout! or leave a comment below.

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