Local Species

Local Species

We get asked all the time, when is the best time of year to fish in Southwest Florida?  The truth is, there really is no “best” time of the year to fish in Southwest Florida; with our sub-tropical climate the fishing is great all year around.  There are better times of the year for some species of fish than others, for example, tarpon are more plentiful during the spring and early summer months than the fall or winter.  Redfish, spotted seatrout, and sheephead don’t mind the cooler water temps of winter, neither do ladyfish or jack crevalle.  Both spanish and king mackeral can be found at times along the beach, along with bluefish and tripletail.  Something is always biting.

The information below is subject to change without notice. Check the Florida Fish & Wildlife website for up to date regulations.
snook

Season: Closed Dec. 1-end of February and May 1-Aug. 31 NOTE: All state waters from the Pasco/Hernando county line through Gordon Pass in Collier County is catch-and-release ONLY through Aug. 31, 2019

Slot Limit: Not less than 28" or more than 33" total length

Daily Bag Limit: 1 per harvester per day; zero captain and crew for-hire limit

News: Snook and redfish are catch-and-release only in areas affected by red tide. This includes all state waters from the Pasco/Hernando county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County, including all waters in Hillsborough County. This temporary change remains in effect through May 10, 2019, but snook will remain catch-and-release through Aug. 31, due to a regularly scheduled annual season closure. FWC plans to discuss the impacts of red tide on these fisheries at the May 1-2 Commission meeting.

spotted seatrout

REGULATION CHANGE:
Starting Feb. 22-May 10, 2019, recreational anglers will no longer be able to harvest spotted seatrout over 20 inches total length when fishing in state or federal waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line south to Gordon Pass in Collier County. This is a proactive change to conserve spotted seatrout impacted by the prolonged red tide in southwest Florida. While these species need additional time to recover, the red tide that was impacting southwest Florida has subsided.

Minimum Size Limit: More than 15" and less than 20" total length (may possess one over 20 inches included in bag limit)

  • Feb. 22-May 10, 2019: fish over 20 inches total length must remain catch-and-release only from the Pasco-Hernando county line through Gordon Pass in Collier County.

Daily Bag Limit: 4 per harvester

Season: Open year-round

Gear Requirements:

  • Allowable Gear: Hook and line; cast net
red snapper

Minimum Size Limits: Gulf - 16"

2019 season in Gulf state and federal waters: June 11 - July 12
2019 season for federally-permitted for-hire vessels: June 1-Aug. 1

Daily Recreational Bag Limit: Gulf - 2 per harvester. Zero daily bag and possession limit for captain and crew on for-hire vessels.

gray snapper

Minimum Size Limits: State - 10"  Federal - 12"

Open Season: Open year-round

Daily Bag Limit: State - 5 per person within the 10 snapper aggregate bag limit. Federal - 10 per person within the 10 snapper aggregate bag limit

black grouper

Minimum Size Limits: 24"

Open Season: Gulf - Open year-round

Daily Bag Limit: 4 per person within 4 grouper aggregate.

gag grouper

Minimum Size Limits: 24"

Open Season: Gulf State Waters & Federal Waters - Open June 1 - Dec 31

Daily Bag Limit: 2 per person within 4 grouper aggregate

greater amberjack

Minimum Size Limits: 34" Fork Length

Open Season: May 1-31 and Aug 1 - Oct 31

Daily Bag Limit: 1 per person

great barracuda

Collier-Martin Counties

Minimum Size Limits: 15-36" fork length with 1 fish greater than 36" per person or vessel per day

Open Season: Open year-round

Daily Bag Limit:2 fish per person, 6 per vessel

greater amberjack

Minimum Size Limit: Cannot be less than 14" or greater than 22" fork length

Daily Bag Limit: 5 per person aggregate of the two species

Season: Open year-round

 

 

king mackerel

Minimum Size Limit: 24" fork length

Daily Bag Limit: 3 per harvester

Season: Open year-round

Gear Requirements: Legal Gear - hook and line and spearing only

spanish mackerel

Minimum Size Limit: 12" fork length

Daily Bag Limit: 15 per harvester

Season: Open year-round

Gear Requirements: Legal Gear - beach or haul seine, cast net, hook and line, spear

red drum

News
Snook and redfish are catch-and-release only in areas affected by red tide through May 10, 2019. This includes all state waters from the Pasco/Hernando county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County, including all waters in Hillsborough County. 

Red Drum Map

South Zone
Fred Howard Park Causeway through Monroe County (west coast) and Miami-Dade through Volusia counties (east coast)

Slot Limit: Not less than 18" no more than 27" total length

Daily Bag Limit: 1 fish per person per day; 8 fish vessel limit

All state waters from the Pasco/Hernando county line through Gordon Pass in Collier County is catch-and-release ONLY through May 10, 2019

Other Regulations
Bag limits apply in areas adjacent to fishing sites such as docks and parking lots

6 fish per person transport limit applies when traveling in a vehicle on land away from a fishing site.

Must remain in whole condition until landed ashore

Commercial harvest prohibited

Gear requirements:

  • Legal Gear: hook and line, cast nets
  • Illegal Gear: Spearing (includes spearfishing, gigging and bowfishing) and/or use of multiple hooks in conjunction with live or dead natural bait is prohibited
tarpon

Minimum Size Limit: None. Tarpon over 40 inches MUST remain in the water

Daily Bag Limit: Tarpon is a catch-and-release only fishery. One tarpon tag per person per year may be purchased when in pursuit of an International Game Fish Association (IFGA) record. Vessel, transport and shipment limited to one fish.

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: hook and line only.
  • Snagging, snatch hooking, spearing and the use of a multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait is prohibited

Tarpon Handling Guidelines
Tarpon is an iconic saltwater fish. When handled properly, these large fish are more likely to survive and evade predators. Follow these guidelines to ensure tarpon remains the strong and viable fishery it is today.

Know tarpon regulations

  • Tarpon over 40 inches MUST remain in the water unless a tag is used.
  • Tarpon tags may only be used to harvest potential IGFA record-sized tarpon. Taxidermy mounts can be made with length and girth measurements and a photograph.
  • Don't tow a tarpon unless it is necessary to revive it. If you must tow, go as slow as possible while still moving water over the gills.

Keep head and gills in the water

Do not target from bridges or piers - Releasing tarpon from bridges or piers requires specialized lifting gear or cutting the line, which leaves long amounts of line trailing behind the fish.

Use proper tackle

  • Use barbless, single, non-offset circle hooks for natural bait.
  • Use single hooks rather than treble hooks.
  • Use tackle heavy enough to land the tarpon quickly, minimizing exhaustion, and helping the fish avoid predators after release.

Other tips

  • Do not drag tarpon over the gunnel of a boat.
  • Use a dehooking tool.
  • Tarpon smaller than 40” should be supported horizontally when removed from the water. Tarpon larger than 40” must remain in the water.
  • Do not fish for tarpon when large predatory sharks are in the area feeding.  If sharks show up, move to another fishing location.

Boca Grande Pass Regulations
Fishing with gear that has a weight attached to a hook, artificial fly or lure in such a way that the weight hangs lower than the hook when the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited when fishing for any species year-round within Boca Grande Pass. If this gear is on board a fishing vessel while inside the boundaries of the Pass, it cannot be attached to any rod, line or leader and must be stowed. Natural bait is not considered to be a weight. If the jig fishes in an illegal manner it is prohibited. Any jig that allows the attached weight to slip down the shank so that it hangs lower than the hook while the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited, and must be stowed so it is not readily accessible.

If the weight can slip down the shank to the bottom of the hook, as demonstrated in this video, it is prohibited.

During the months of April, May and June, no more than three fishing lines may be deployed from a vessel at any one time.

During the months of April, May and June, no person shall use, fish with, or place in the water any breakaway gear.

 

 

sheepshead

Minimum Size Limit: 12"

Daily Bag Limit: 8 per person

Vessel Limit: 50 per trip during March and April

Season: Open year-round

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: hook and line, cast net, seine, spear or gig
  • Illegal Gear: Harvest prohibited by or with the use of any multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait; Snatching prohibited

*State regulations extend into federal waters.

bluefish

Minimum Size Limit: 12" fork length

Daily Bag Limit: 10 per harvester

Gear Requirements: Legal Gear - hook and line, spears, gigs, seine, cast net

flounder

Minimum Size Limit: 12" total length

Daily Bag Limit: 10 per harvester

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: spears, gigs, hook and line, seine, cast net
  • Illegal Gear: harvest prohibited by or with the use of any multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait; snatching prohibited

*Note - Regulations on this page apply to Gulf flounder, Southern flounder, summer flounder and fringed flounder.

pompano african

Minimum Size Limit: 24" fork length

Daily Bag Limit: 2 per harvester

Vessel Limit: No more than 2 per vessel

Season: Open year-round

Gear:

  • State waters: Hook and line only.
  • Federal waters: Hook and line and spearing.
permit

Slot Limit: Not less than 11" or more than 22" fork length; may possess 1 over 22" included in the per person bag limit

Daily Bag Limit: 2 per harvester

Vessel Limit: No more than 2 over 22" per vessel

Season: Open year-round

Gear:

  • State waters: Hook and line only.
  • Federal waters: Hook and line and spearing.
sand sea trout

State Waters:

Minimum Size Limit: None

Daily Bag Limit: 100 pounds per person

Regulations include weakfish-like fish such as sand seatrout and hybrids of the two.

Gear Requirements:

  • Allowable Gear: Hook and line; cast net

Slot Limit: 14-24" with one fish over 24"

Daily Bag Limit: 5 per harvester per day (can include one over 24")

Season: Open year-round

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: hook and line, cast net, seine, spear or gig
  • Illegal Gear: Cannot harvest using any multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait; Snatching prohibited

Minimum Size Limit: 11" fork length

Daily Bag Limit: 6 per harvester

Season: Open year-round

Gear: Hook and line, cast net and beach or haul seine

Regulations apply to Mugil cephalus (striped mullet), Mugil curema (silver or white mullet), Mugil gyrans (fantail mullet) and Mugil gaimardianus (redeye mullet).

Minimum Size Limit: None

Daily Bag Limit: 50 fish per person

Daily Vessel Limit: 50 fish from Sept. 1-Jan. 31; 100 fish from Feb. 1-Aug. 31

Season: Open year-round

Note: More restrictive seasonal bag limits apply to portions of Pinellas County, and seasonal night closures apply in portions of Charlotte County. Florida Rule 

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: hook and line, spears, gigs, seine, cast net
  • Prohibitions: spearfishing mullet in fresh water prohibited
tripletail

Minimum Size Limit: 18"

Daily Bag Limit: 2 fish per person

State regulations apply in federal waters.

Season: Open year-round

Gear Regulations:

  • Legal Gear: hook and line gear only (no nets or spearing)
  • Harvest prohibited by or with the use of any multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait; snatching prohibited

For more information about Florida Fishing Recreational Regulations please visit Florida Fish & Wildlife.