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Why Florida is the 'Fishing Capital of the World'

By Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Staff (FWC)
Published: March 24, 2011
Last Updated On: July 17, 2012

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Boating Fishing Wildlife Outdoors & Nature

A question-and-answer guide to facts behind Florida's fishing wonderland.

Why is Florida the "Fishing Capital of the World"?

By The Numbers

Who Loves Fishing in Florida?

What Do I Need to Be Safe?

What Should I Do to Help Sustain Resources?

When is the Best Time to Go Fishing?

Where are the Best Places to Go Fishing in Florida?

How Do I Get Started?

What are the Rules and Ethics to Follow While Fishing in Florida?

Why Is Florida the 'Fishing Capital of the World'?

Florida is the ??Fishing Capital of the World? because of its great resources and responsible management. The diversity of sport fishes, habitats, great weather, year-round fishing and superb tourism and fishing industry-related infrastructure are unsurpassed. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and our partners encourage you to enjoy a relaxing day in the great outdoors with your family and friends. This website provides basic tips about how to have a fun, safe experience while helping us conserve our aquatic resources for tomorrow. It highlights quality fisheries throughout Florida that comprise more than 7,700 lakes, 10,550 miles of rivers and 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline. With all those areas teeming with fish, we can??t list them all, but you are always within reach of a place to ??wet a line.? Check with local bait-and-tackle shops, chambers of commerce or the websites listed here for more information.

By The Numbers

Florida cannot be beat as the No. 1 place to cast a line, pitch a lure or land a lunker. No tall fisher??s tale here ?? this title has been earned, according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Every five years the Census Bureau conducts the ??National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.? This survey is the gold standard for comparing outdoor recreational activities between the states. Once again, it proves that Florida is the top fishing destination, according to the 2006 results. 

The facts tell where anglers go for the best fishing opportunities. Florida provided 46.3 million days of recreational fishing in 2006 versus 41.1 million days in Texas, the second highest state. Of fishing days spent in Florida, 4.8 million days were by tourists (nonresidents), while Wisconsin, the second highest state for tourist days, provided 3.8 million days. In terms of nonresident anglers, Florida is also number one with 885,000, versus No. 2 North Carolina with less than half that at 395,000.

But the story does not end there. Overall, Florida again ranked first in number of fishing participants age 16 and older with 2.77 million. Runner-up Texas had 2.53 million participants. 
 
Anglers in Florida spent $4.4 billion in 2006, allowing Florida to claim another No. 1 spot as the place where anglers spend the most money. The Lone-Star State was second best with $4.3 billion spent on fishing. Recreational fishing dollars helped to support 75,068 jobs in Florida, again making it No. 1, with Texas trailing behind with 58,938 jobs. This economic trend is great news for Florida partially because state and local taxes from the sale of fishing-related goods and services generated $441 million for general funds.

In spite of the national estimates of fishing participation for all U.S. anglers (does not include foreign anglers) over 16 years of age decreasing, actual fishing license sales for both freshwater and saltwater have increased in Florida. From 2001-02, with 1,070,577 licenses sold to 2006-07 with 1,188,092, there was an increase of 11 percent in the sale of saltwater licenses. Freshwater license sales increased, from 587,413 sold in 2001-02 to 630,078 in 2006-07, showing an increase of 7 percent. Although not enough to keep pace with the population increase, it is certainly better than competing states.

In calendar year 2006, the National Survey estimated 2.77 million anglers fished in Florida, and during fiscal year 2006-07 (July 1 to June 30), 1.55 million fishing licenses were sold. This discrepancy is partially the result of seniors (age 65 and older), resident saltwater shoreline anglers and several other groups, including those fishing from licensed saltwater piers or charter boats, being exempt from licensing.

Florida remains the Fishing Capital of the World because of great resources and responsible management. With a huge variety of fish, fishing waters and fishing styles to choose from, along with year-round fishing weather, there is little doubt that Florida will remain the place to go fishing. You can help ensure a vibrant future with high quality, sustainable and safe fishing opportunities by being an ethical angler, mentoring a youth or friend and keeping your license current.

Who Loves Fishing in Florida?

There is an abundance of so-called ??human dimensions research? about anglers, but the bottom line is anglers come from all walks of life and are as diverse as the fish in our lakes and seas.  The first colonists found this continent blessed with tremendous natural resources and an indigenous group of people that placed ultimate value in the living resources that thrived in the water and on land.

Those colonists depended in part on fishing for their subsistence, but they also found great release and value in the escape of fishing. Sir Izaak Walton, in his Compleat Angler, advised: ??You will find angling to be like the virtue of humility, which has a calmness of spirit and a world of other blessings attending upon it.?

To identify those blessings in today??s society, one only needs to look to the images that the marketing industry puts before us. From insurance companies, car manufacturers, or soft drink producers, the imagery of recreational fishing is presented because it reminds us of our roots and of a closeness to nature that calms the soul. Get Outdoors Florida is a nonprofit coalition that encourages Floridians and tourists to enjoy a more healthy lifestyle by participating in active nature-based recreation throughout the site. Its website provides information on events and locations to enjoy a wide variety of activities. Following publication on Richard Louv??s book, Last Child in the Woods, the Children and Nature Network compiled a vast amount of research showing how important it is to spend quality time outdoors interacting with nature. Benefits lead to a happier, healthier and smarter, more productive life style. So it is not surprising that studies have consistently shown that involvement with family members and friends is a primary reason people go boating and fishing.

It doesn't take a lot of time, money or expertise to take your first fishing trip, and once you??re ??hooked? there are plenty of resources around to help you develop your skills. Besides the relaxing aspects of a day on the water and the opportunity to commune with nature, fishing can be an enjoyable challenge that makes you want to learn more about fish and their habitats, what it takes to sustain them and how to outwit them.

What Do I Need to Be Safe?

Safety starts with awareness and common sense. When outdoors in Florida, use sunscreen to prevent sunburn and skin damage, be certain to drink plenty of water, be aware of your surroundings and be careful of sharp fishing hooks.

Please don??t feed wildlife while enjoying the great diversity of birds and animals you??ll see while fishing.

When boating, wear your life jacket, and don??t drink and boat.

Click here for Practical tips on staying safe outdoors.

What Should I Do to Help Sustain Resources?

Learn the rules that apply in the area you are fishing and to any species you might catch. Regulation summaries are available where you buy your tackle, or at MyFWC.com. When handling fish you don??t want to keep, or can??t keep legally, be gentle and release them quickly, so they can fight another day. Using circle hooks, or barbless hooks, can improve survival of released fish. Don??t litter, and pick up trash wherever you see it. Fishing line, bottles, cans and plastics should be recycled. If boating, be careful to keep gasoline and oil out of the water, and keep your prop, anchor or wake from damaging aquatic plants, animals or the shoreline. Clean your boat and trailer of any vegetation and never move fish between bodies of water, to help prevent establishing non-native plants and spreading diseases. Fish for a variety of species, such as catfish and bream in fresh water, or mackerel and sea trout in salt water, and try new areas to help spread the effort.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a variety of angler recognition programs to help commemorate your catch,and beginning October 2012, you can be rewarded by TrophyCatch for documenting and releasing largemouth bass greater than eight pounds.

When is the Best Time to Go Fishing in Florida?

Anytime that you can get out on the water safely (let??s avoid lightning storms and hurricanes). However, as you gain experience you will see that some times are more likely to be productive than others. The following bullet points provide some basic tips.

Time of Day: Typically, for freshwater fishes especially, dawn and dusk tend to be more active feeding periods and also allow some escape from the heat. However, anytime of day you can expect to catch fish, if you know where to find them and are patient. If it??s very hot and bright, the key is finding shade around structure or deeper cooler waters. A great time to fish for inshore or nearshore saltwater fish is when the tide is moving and generally early and late in the day.

Lunar Cycle: Yes, the phases of the moon also play a role in how aggressive fish are and how they congregate, especially around spawning time. The Solunar Theory helps provide some insights into peak fishing periods based on this information--but remember local variables may play an even more important role. A basic tip: The three days before and after new or full moons often make for stimulated fishing action.

Weather Patterns: Many species of fish tend to fish actively just before a front passes through and then shut down somewhat during the sudden barometric changes associated with the storm front itself. If the front lasts for a prolonged period, the aftermath can again bring enhanced fishing conditions. One good source of weather information is Wunderground; others are listed below.
 
Spawning Cycles: Each fish species tends to spawn at a certain time(s) of year. Part of this is programmed into their genes, but much of it is triggered by water temperature, lunar phase and their nutrition as well. For freshwater fish, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a chart that shows peak fishing seasons and shows their preferred spawning temperatures, as well as annually updated top fishing destinations by species and quarterly forecasts for major fisheries around the state (go to MyFWC.com/Fishing, then select Fishing sites and forecasts).

EventsFree Fishing Weekend occurs during the first full weekend in April each year. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sponsors numerous events around the state to encourage parents and other responsible adults to ??take a kid fishing? and see what they mean when they say ??Water Works Wonders. The first full week in June is  National Fishing and Boating Week and is a time when businesses around the state and our Division of Marine Fisheries concentrate many of their clinics. Watch ?the agency event schedule for other special opportunities.

Where are the Best Places to Go Fishing in Florida?

Florida is the ??Fishing Capital of the World? because of its great resources and responsible management. The diversity of sport fishes, habitats, great weather, year-round fishing and superb tourism and fishing industry-related infrastructure are unsurpassed.  Quality fisheries throughout Florida comprise more than 7,700 lakes, 10,550 miles of rivers and 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline. With all those areas teeming with fish, we can??t list them all, but you are always within reach of a place to ??wet a line.? A great start is our online guide to Florida the Fishing Capital of the World (PDF), which lists 30 top freshwater destinations and numerous state parks that provide saltwater access. (You can order one at http://www.visitflorida.com/planning/guide/).

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also has annually updated lists of top freshwater fishing destinations by species and quarterly forecasts for major fisheries around the state (go to MyFWC.com/Fishing, then select Fishing sites and forecasts).

How Do I Get Started?

Basic fishing tackle is reasonably priced, and enthusiasts can find the rod and reel of their dreams in specialty stores, bait-and-tackle shops or general retailers throughout Florida. Many guides or charter captains furnish them for free. Floridians from 16 to 65 generally need an inexpensive, annual fishing license (certain exemptions apply), and non-residents 16 or over need a license and can purchase a short-term or annual license to suit their needs. However, everyone is encouraged to buy a license, even if they are exempt. Fees go to the FWC as funding for programs that help to ensure healthy habitats, to sustain fish and wildlife populations, to improve access and to help ensure public safety. By purchasing a license, you also help Florida receive additional funds from Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration, a program into which anglers already pay via federal excise taxes on fishing tackle and motorboat fuel taxes.

To purchase a license, go to License.MyFWC.com, call 1-888-FISH FLOrida (347-4356) or buy one where you get your tackle.

What are the Rules and Ethics to Follow?

You can find the Angler's Code of Ethics below.

AN ETHICAL ANGLER:

  • Supports conservation efforts.
  • Practices effective catch-and-release of fish that are unwanted or prohibited to retain.
  • Doesn??t pollute; recycles and disposes of trash.
  • Practices safe angling and boating, by following the laws and using common sense practices to prevent injury to themselves, others or property.
  • Learns and obeys fishing and boating rules and regulations, and purchases appropriate licenses.
  • Respects other anglers?? and boaters?? rights.
  • Respects property owners?? rights and does not trespass.
  • Shares fishing knowledge and skills, and introduces others, especially youth, to the healthy lifetime sport of fishing.
  • Doesn??t release live bait into waters or spread exotic plants and fish.
  • Promotes ethical sport fishing and encourages others to reconnect on the water.