Florida is called the "Fishing Capital of the World" in part because it is the destination of choice for anglers from throughout the United States and numerous countries around the world.
With great natural resources and the efforts of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 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.
The latest national statistics showed Florida has 2.8 million resident anglers (versus Texas at No. 2, with 2.5 million) and Florida annually attracts 885,000 tourists who fish here (versus 395,000 who visit No. 2 North Carolina). As a result, Florida's economy benefits by a billion dollars in direct sales (No. 2 Wisconsin receives $600 million from non-residents). 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) as Texas (218,000).
With summer vacations in full swing (or cast, as the case may be), and gas prices restricting travel, Florida will likely see more anglers from neighboring states and those along the I-10 and I-95 corridors. Moreover, more Floridians are likely to stay within the state borders to conserve fuel and avoid paying for non-resident fishing license fees. A Florida resident freshwater or saltwater license 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 of fishing with many fishing trips lasting four or more hours, fishing remains an exceptional recreational value, even without catching dinner and bringing it home.
From April 1, 2007, to March 31, 2008, the state sold 201,768 non-resident fishing licenses with nearly 5 percent of that total sold to non-U.S. residents, especially Canadians. Of the U.S. portion (194,251 licenses), 26.5 percent were to residents of Georgia and 9.8 percent from Alabama. New residents and snowbirds, who have lived in Florida for less than six months or don't claim Florida as their permanent residence, make up 7.7 percent.
Anglers can help maintain Florida's standing by following sound conservation practices and encouraging others to as well by:
Promoting, through personal example, ethical behavior in use of aquatic resources.
Valuing and respecting the aquatic environment.
Avoiding spilling or dumping pollutants, such as gas or oil.
Keeping fishing sites litter-free by disposing of trash, including worn lines, leaders and hooks, in appropriate containers, and recycling when possible.
Purchasing and maintaining a current fishing.
Taking precautionary measures to prevent spread of exotic plants and animals.
Learning and obey angling and boating regulations.
Treating other anglers, boaters and property owners with courtesy and respect, and never trespassing on private lands or waters.
Keeping no more fish than needed for consumption, and never wastefully discarding fish.
Carefully handling and releasing alive all fish that are unwanted or prohibited by regulation. Use tackle and techniques that minimize harm to fish when "catch and release" angling.For more information, visit www.TakeMeFishing.org or www.VisitFlorida.com. Instant fishing licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356).
Bob Wattendorf is Marketing and Special Projects Coordinator and Webmaster for Freshwater Fisheries Management in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He can be reached at Bob. Wattendorf@MyFWC.com.
From Staff and Wire Reports