Florida is one of those rare angler's paradises where all your fishing dreams can come true. Not every state offers a perfect combination of both fresh and saltwater fishing opportunities like the Sunshine State. In fact, it can be tough to choose whether you want to target snook and redfish in the mangroves inshore, mahi mahi and tuna offshore, or pot-bellied largemouth bass in the many large inland lakes.

We leave the choice of what species you'd like to target up to you. The hard part is figuring out what fishing license you need for the specific type of fishing you plan to do. That's what we're here to help with today. We'll break down the different types of recreational licenses, their costs, and how long they're good for so you can purchase the proper tag for your next angling adventure.

Obviously, Florida residents are going to pay less than non-residents for the privilege of taking advantage of the state's many angling opportunities. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission breaks down the basic fishing licenses as follows. Included are the costs for quick and easy reference.

Freshwater Fishing Licenses

  • Resident - annual license: $17.00
  • Resident - five-year license: $79.00
  • Non-resident - annual license: $47.00
  • Non-resident - three-day license: $17.00
  • Non-resident - seven-day license: $30.00

Saltwater Fishing License

  • Resident - annual license: $17.00
  • Resident - five-year license: $79.00
  • Non-resident - annual license: $47.00
  • Non-resident - three-day license: $17.00
  • Non-resident - seven-day license: $30.00

Now, we know plenty of anglers want to target both freshwater & saltwater. Thankfully, Florida has you covered on that. The only downside is that you're limited to an annual license only for the freshwater and saltwater license. As of 2023, the FWC does not offer these combo licenses for a five-year time frame. However, the other upside is you can pick up a hunting license for cheap to go with it. Sadly, these are available for residents only.

  • Annual resident freshwater fishing/saltwater fishing combination license: $32.50
  • Annual resident freshwater fishing/hunting combination: $32.50
  • Annual resident freshwater fishing/saltwater fishing/hunting combination: $48.00

At the end of the day, Florida is one of the more affordable states to fish in if you're a non-resident. We should mention there is also a no-cost saltwater shoreline fishing license for anyone sticking to casting from the beach, fishing ponds, or the fishing piers. Just know you cannot use this license to fish from a boat. If you get invited along on someone else's boat, you'll need to purchase another license. Fortunately, the FWC makes it rather simple to do through their website using a credit card. I found the site to be rather quick and easy to deal with when buying a license for a press trip recently. And you can print out your license and keep it in your wallet just in case a conservation officer asks to see it.

You can also buy from any of the state's many license agents. Most bait and tackle shops on the coast offer them for sale. You can also purchase them from box stores such as Walmart rather easily. If you want a resident license, make sure you bring your Florida driver's license or other identification card that clearly shows you're a resident.

The licenses we listed above are just the most basic packages. Florida also offers some great one-year combination packages for people who want to do a lot of hunting and fishing. There are some truly great deals here for seniors and active military, too. We'll start with the two sportsman's licenses. Once again, license requirements are for residents only. Sorry to any non-residents planning an extended vacation.

  • Annual resident sportsman's (freshwater fishing, hunting, wildlife management area, archery, muzzleloading gun, crossbow, deer, turkey, and waterfowl): $80.50

The sportsman's license is a good deal, but if you want to fish in the salt, you'll need to step it up a notch to the gold sportsman's license. The other plus side to this license is you get snook and lobster permits thrown in, too. We love the fact there's a five-year option. Just make sure you pay attention to the expiration dates carefully when it comes time to renew. The cost breakdown is as follows:

  • Gold sportsman's license: $100
  • Gold sportsman's license - five-year: $494.00

Then there's the silver sportsman's license. This one is limited to residents age 64 or older. It doesn't include the saltwater fishing license or snook and lobster permits, but it has everything else mentioned in the sportsman's license. And it's offered in a five-year package.

  • Annual resident silver sportsman's: $13.50
  • Five-year resident silver sportsman's: $61.50

While the gold sportsman's license is a good deal, active military get the best deal in the state with a military gold sportsman's license. This one is good for saltwater, freshwater, wildlife management area, archery, deer, turkey, muzzleloading, waterfowl, snook, and lobster. It's an annual license, and the license fee is only $20.

The only catch is that you'll need to visit a Florida county tax collector's office with your current military ID and proof of residence to purchase. Still, if you're in the armed forces and living in Florida, this one is a no-brainer. Even if you aren't planning to participate in all of those activities, you're literally covered for almost anything.

A quick note on youth license. Technically, anyone under the age of 16 does not need a fishing license in Florida, according to the FWC. But they will still need to abide by the same fishing regulations as the adults. The FWC also notes that a conservation officer may still ask for proof of age. In that case, it's not a bad idea to buy an optional youth license. These are only for ages 8 to 15 and are valid until a child reaches 17, so you only need to buy it once.

  • Resident youth saltwater: $17
  • Resident youth freshwater: $17
  • Resident youth gold sportsman's license: $100

Note that the gold sportsman's license also requires proof of hunter education since it includes a hunting license. But it's not a bad way to make sure all of your youngster's legal bases are covered until they get a little older.

Written by Scott Kerecman

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