Florida is undoubtedly the “Fishing Capital of the World.” The Sunshine State is full of high-quality fishing with more than 7,700 lakes, 10,500 miles of rivers, and 2,200 miles of shoreline. From largemouth bass inland to sport fishing just offshore, its wide range of species and settings delivers excitement and that “one more cast” feeling all fishermen crave. Another added bonus is that the weather is good for fishing year-round. It’s a pastime that has long been a focal point of the state’s economy, which is why now, more than ever, Florida is focusing on sustainability to keep its fisheries at their best for generations to come.
The state recently launched a new program for eco-minded fishing guides. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is leading the charge to create safe, sustainable fishing experiences from the Panhandle to the Keys. The Florida Friendly Fishing Guide certification recognizes saltwater and freshwater fishing guides who are committed to preserving the future of Florida’s fisheries through sustainable boating and fishing techniques. This program is all about environmental stewardship. Guides can share their angling expertise while teaching sustainable boating, catch-and-release, and other tips designed to protect the environment and marine life. The state believes this commitment to sustainability is the only way to keep Florida on top as a global fishing destination.
Cities are rising to these challenges as well. Palm Beach is a perfect example of a city-wide commitment to sourcing sustainable seafood catches. Responsible sourcing is paramount in most city restaurants, with a “local catch of the day” common at the top of the menu. Local marketplaces keep a close look at each supplier and personally inspect the stock. In the Keys, where 41 percent of tourists engage in fishing, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has partnered with fishing guides for the Blue Star Fishing Guide program, which recognizes charter fishing captains committed to sustainable fishing practices and educating their customers about resource protection in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The voluntary training and compliance program seeks to increase fishing guides’ knowledge and, ultimately, that of their clients, to conserve the mangroves, seagrass meadows, and reefs that are the foundation for world-class fishing in the Florida Keys.
Visiting anglers can help by adhering to regulations (bag limits) to prevent overfishing, avoiding specific species at certain times of the year, avoiding overfished areas, and using eco-friendly fishing gear. Biodegradable fishing lures, lead-free fishing weights, biodegradable monofilament line, kinder hooks, and gear made of recycled material are all becoming more and more popular.
Fishing in Florida is available to all; it can be budget-friendly and offers options from pier fishing to chartering a boat for some amberjack, grouper, or swordfish action. Looking for a saltwater fix? Some of the state’s most popular fishing destinations include Destin, Stuart, Fort Lauderdale, Cedar Key, and Islamorada. But if a spinnerbait for big bass is more your style, Lake Okeechobee delivers in spades. No matter what your style, Florida is working to make sure those big ones keep biting year after year.