Florida Attracts Anglers Like Chum Attracts Fish

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There is a reason Florida has earned the title of “Fishing Capital of the World.” With great natural resources and the efforts of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and responsible anglers, Florida is home to some of the highest quality, most diverse fishing in the world.  The results are like a well-chummed fishing hole, attracting anglers who vote for their favorite fisheries with their best cast and hard-earned cash. It has also earned Florida the title of “Fishing Capital of the World.”

The latest national statistics showed Florida has 2.8 million resident anglers, while annually attracting 885,000 tourists who fish here. As a result, Florida’s economy benefits by a whopping billion dollars in direct sales.  And even though Texas has more inland water area (5,056 square miles vs. 4,672 for Florida) and people (22.9 million vs. 17.7 million from the 2006 Census data), Florida has more resident anglers and more than four times as many tourist anglers (885,000) than Texas (218,000).

With summer vacations in full swing (or cast, as the case may be), and gas prices restricting travel, we will likely see more anglers from neighboring states and those along the I-10 and I-95 corridors coming to wet a line in our prolific waters. Moreover, more Floridians are likely to stay within the state borders to conserve fuel and avoid nonresident fishing license fees.  A resident freshwater or saltwater license only costs $17 and is valid for 365 days from date of purchase.  Since the average number of fishing trips per angler in 2006 was 17.2 days, with many fishing trips lasting four or more hours, fishing remains an exceptional recreational value, even without catching dinner and bringing it home.

Florida earned the title “Fishing Capital of the World” by coupling its great resources with responsible management of those resources by the FWC. Anglers will be coming in abundance to test their skills, and we hope to get them to try out some new fishing opportunities. By targeting a wide variety of species and spreading anglers out across the state rather than over-fishing historically publicized locations, we can lessen the strain on any specific fishery and help promote sustainable use.

You can help keep Florida the fishing capital by following sound conservation practices and encouraging others to do so as well. It takes only a small effort to make a big difference, by following a few key standards:

  • Promote, through personal example, ethical behavior in the use of aquatic resources.
  • Value and respect the aquatic environment and all living things.
  • Avoid spilling and never dump pollutants, such as gas or oil.
  • Keep fishing sites litter-free. Dispose of trash, including worn lines, leaders and hooks, in appropriate containers, and recycle when possible. 
  • Purchase and keep current your fishing license.  If you are exempt, you may still purchase a license as an easy way to contribute directly to conservation.
  • Take precautionary measures to prevent spread of exotic plants and animals.
  • Learn and obey angling and boating regulations.
  • Treat other anglers, boaters and property owners with courtesy and respect, and never trespass on private lands or waters.
  • Keep no more fish than needed for consumption, and never wastefully discard fish.
  • Carefully handle and release alive all fish that are unwanted or prohibited by regulation. Use tackle and techniques that minimize harm to fish when “catch-and-release” angling.
  • Our Web site (MyFWC.com) and publications, along with work we do with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (TakeMeFishing.org) and VISIT FLORIDA (VisitFlorida.com), provide additional information to help anglers locate new areas and learn to fish ethically for a variety of species.

Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling *FWC or #FWC on your cell, or 1-888-404-3922. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing/Updates for more Fish Busters’ columns.