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Florida Fish Busters Bulletin November 2013

Holidays bring fishing bonuses

By: Bob Wattendorf Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday and for many represents the only four-day holiday on their calendar. So what better time to offer license-free fishing days? Friday, Nov. 29, will be a license-free freshwater fishing day, which will immediately be followed by a saltwater license-free day Nov. 30. To round out the gift-giving, Saturday, Dec. 28, has also been designated as a license-free freshwater fishing day. The 2013 Florida Legislature gave the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) authority to offer four additional license-free fishing days each year. Gov. Rick Scott helped announce the four additional licensefree fishing days, which now total eight each year, this past September. During the FWCs Sept. 5 public meeting, Commissioners implemented a long-term strategy to encourage introducing new anglers to recreational fishing, and to give those who havent been fishing recently another incentive to enjoy time on the water. Since the dates for some of these long-term options had already passed in 2013, they also picked some one-time-only dates to make sure anglers got all the free-days the Legislature authorized. Floridas license-free fishing days are the perfect opportunity for people to try, or introduce a friend to, some of the finest fishing in the world. Floridas

recreational freshwater and saltwater fishing industry has an $8.9 billion economic impact and supports nearly 80,000 jobs. Events like these help grow the industry even more. These days are a great way to introduce more Floridians to the lifetime sport of fishing. Florida previously offered the public four license-free fishing days per year, where the requirement to have a recreational fishing license is waived for residents and visitors. The original saltwater license-free fishing days for 2013 were on June 1 and Sept. 1 and freshwaters were April 6 and June 8. The additional saltwater license-free fishing days added for 2013 were Oct. 12 and Nov. 30 and additional freshwater license-free days will be Nov. 29 and Dec. 28. The Commission also set dates for 2014 and beyond. All eight days will now fall on the same weekend days from year to year, allowing potential anglers to plan fishing trips in advance and businesses and nonprofit groups to plan events around these fishing license holidays. The recurring days will be:


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


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

To make these events accessible to as many people as possible, the FWC generally planned these dates around holiday weekends and national events, such as National Fishing and Boating Week. National Fishing and Boating Week ( gets significant national media coverage by promoting boating and fishing across the country as fun and healthy outdoor activities. Their website is available to cross-promote local fishing or boating events as well. In addition, VISIT FLORIDA, which promotes Florida as the Fishing Capital of the World (, designates June as Fishing Month. April is one of the best freshwater fishing months and the weather tends to be especially comfortable. It is a great time to host educational and outreach events that promote recreational fishing and conservation stewardship. Businesses with fishing ties such as outdoor retailers, fishing guides, marinas and outfitters; nonprofits that work with youth and conservation groups; and local governments promoting fishing in their local waters will all benefit. The FWC encourages them to sponsor events, taking advantage of these free days, which can be cross-promoted in a variety of ways. To learn more about promoting your freshwater fishing events, contact Bob Wattendorf ( One way to cross-promote is to encourage anglers to participate in the FWCs angler recognition programs. For freshwater programs, go to and register. Registering instantly enters the angler into an October 2014 drawing for a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury. Anglers

can also submit photos of their catches for recognition. Big Catch certificates are available to those who post a photo of any of 33 different freshwater fishes that simply exceed a quality length or weight standard. There are also certificates for youth who catch fish on a slightly smaller scale to help encourage them. And, for real afiicionados, there are Master, Elite and Specialist certificates, and Slams for catching a variety of different fish within a specified time frame. However, the big prizes are reserved for anglers who catch, document and release largemouth bass over 8 pounds. To join the TrophyCatch clubs and claim prizes, anglers should take a photograph of the entire fish (head to tail) showing on a scale with the weight legible, then release the bass and post the photo and information on the website. Not only do anglers get the bragging rights and prizes but they help conserve the resource by practicing catch-and-release on these older trophy bass. By documenting their catch, anglers help the FWC determine how best to manage trophy bass fisheries and provide support for promoting Florida as the premier bass fishing destination. Prizes start with a $50 Bass Pro Shops gift card and Bass King custom Tshirt and go up from there. For bass over 13 pounds that are properly documented and released, the prize package is worth over $1,000. Registration is free and claiming your bragging rights is fun with either of these great programs. For saltwater, there is a Grand Slam program that is conducted in collaboration with the International Game Fish Association. To learn more, visit and select Saltwater then Grand Slams.

Plan your fishing experience today, but dont forget to check the rules ( Regulations such as seasons, size limits and bag limits still apply, even on license-free days or if you are exempt from a license. Meanwhile, if you cant wait for a license-free day or decide fishing is for you, resident licenses are affordable. An annual license is just $17 for either fresh or saltwater fishing, and a combination to do both is $32.50. Since a typical angler fishes an average of 17 days per year and more than four hours per tripthat comes out to about a quarter per hour for healthy fun and doesnt even include the value of any fish you take home, or rewards you earn. Simply go to or call 888-FISH FLORIDA (347-4356) to purchase a license. Youll receive a special code enabling you to start fishing right away.

Report violators by calling 888-404-3922, *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or texting to Visit and select more news, or for more Fish Busters Bulletins. To subscribe to FWC columns or to receive news releases, visit