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Indulge us this fantasy: Beckoned by summer’s end, you escape work early and head for the sandy shores of your favorite Florida beach. It’s fishing time!
As you stand near gentle waves, fishing rod in hand, an authority figure approaches with a buzzkill of a question: Where’s your license, pal?
Yep, there’s really a requirement for a saltwater shoreline fishing license under state law. We were as surprised to hear about it as Gov. Rick Scott during his recent "listening tour" for tax and fee cuts around the state.
"You have to get a license to fish on our beaches. I didn't know that," Scott told health care workers in Tampa on Sept. 18. "We're going to get rid of that."
Good news for amateur anglers: It’s free to state residents (not counting convenience fees for ordering by phone or Internet). So repealing it is a freebie for Scott’s promise to cut $500 million in taxes and fees.
Florida used to have no such requirement, but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission requested it during the 2009 legislative session. Otherwise, a federal registration requirement carrying a $15-$25 fee would have gone into effect in 2011, according to a Q&A about the license.
"I think it’s important for people to realize that fish and wildlife resources belong to everyone," said FWC spokesman Gary Morse. "One of the most important reasons that we have to have the license is for the ability to manage our fisheries. We need to know how much pressure is being put on the fishery for both commercial (purposes) and recreation."
With more information in hand, officials can make better decisions about fishing rules and regulations, he said.
Popped for fishing on the beach without a license? Officials generally issue a warning -- the first time, Morse said. After that there could be fines.
The shoreline license only covers people fishing from land or a structure attached to land, not someone fishing from a boat or a shore reached by boat. Wading into the water is okay, as long as you can stand on the bottom.
You don’t have to have the free version if you already possess a saltwater fishing license (annual license starts at $17) or if you are under age 16 or a senior resident. There’s an exemption from the shoreline license for people approved for food stamps, temporary cash assistance or Medicaid by the Department of Children and Families.
Actually, there are a lot of regulations and exemptions with all fishing licenses, and you can read more about them from FWC here. (If you want to avoid registration altogether, the state offers two upcoming license-free saltwater fishing days on Oct. 12 and Nov. 30.)
Scott may have said he wants to get rid of the requirement, but his press office said there are no plans to formally propose a repeal.
As for his statement about needing a license to fish on the beach, we found nothing fishy about it. We rate his claim True.
Notes from Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Bousquet, Sept. 18, 2013
Interview with Jackie Schutz, Scott spokeswoman, Sept. 19, 2013
Interviews with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokespeople Gary Morse, Susan Smith and Katie Purcell, Sept. 19-20, 2013
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Q&A about saltwater shoreline fishing
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