MANATEE — The tide is running out on the long-cherished right of Floridians to fish without a license from any of the state’s saltwater beaches
Starting Aug. 1, resident anglers must have a $9 shoreline fishing license or a $17 regular saltwater fishing license.
The $9 license will allow resident anglers to fish from the shorelines, or from structures such as piers and bridges affixed to the shoreline.
Previously, only non-resident anglers needed a license to fish from the shore, while all anglers needed a license to fish from a boat.
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Tan Stillman was fishing from the Anna Maria City Pier this week. He said he already has his fishing license and does not believe the new fee will benefit first-time fishermen.
“I enjoy taking friends out for their first time fishing, but now my friends will have to pay money for a one-time fishing trip to the pier,” Stillman said. “It doesn’t make it fun anymore.”
However, many piers, such as Rod & Reel Pier and Anna Maria City Pier, have “blanket licenses.” At Rod & Reel Pier, that means buying a $2 daily fishing ticket. The fishing is free at Anna Maria City Pier.
Coastal Conservation Association executive director Ted Forsgren said that the money from the removal of the shoreline exemption will go toward marine fisheries management research and law enforcement.
Without the legislation’s removal of the shoreline exemption, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service would have imposed an angler registration system in order to record more data on the number of Florida fishermen and the quantity of fish they are catching. Florida anglers would have paid between $15 and $25 for a regular saltwater fishing license.
“Anglers who have been paying the bill for fishery management will now get help from those who have not been paying anything,” Forsgren said. “But the removal of the shoreline exemption is not designed to target those people who have financial difficulties or food stamps.”
The shoreline requirement exempts resident anglers who fish in their home county, using live or natural bait, with a pole that does not have a reel or any other line-retrieval mechanism. The exemption doesn’t apply to netters, giggers, trappers, spearfishermen or those who gather seafood by hand or any type of gear besides hook and line.
Also, there are exemptions for anglers who qualify for temporary cash assistance, food stamps and Medicaid. Resident anglers over 65 or under 16 may fish without a license, as well as active-duty military personal who are on leave and at home on orders in Florida.
Some say the $9 won’t affect their fishing time.
“It doesn’t affect me at all because I still have to buy a license for snook-fishing from a kayak,” said Anna Maria City Pier manager Rocky Corby. “A lot of people can’t afford to pay for their whole family to go fishing offshore and off the bridges and so-forth. But like out here, we have a blanket license so it helps them so they can come out here and go fishing.”