Florida bowfishing laws: everything you need to know

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When you research Florida’s bowfishing laws you will not find much information on the FWC website. I have put together everything you need to know so that you can enjoy this fun sport and stay out of trouble with Florida’s FWC officers.

ALSO READ: TOP 10 BOW-FISHING ARROWS FOR THE MONEY

You need a fishing license to bowfish in Florida. Even though you are taking fish with a bow and arrow it is still considered fishing by the state and you need a license if you want to do it legally. All you need is a freshwater or saltwater fishing license depending on what type of water you’re fishing in. 

Bowfishing in freshwater

First you should know what type of freshwater fish you can legally take. Florida breaks up freshwater fish into two categories. Game fish are terms used by the state to define which type of fish can be taken by different means. Below is a list of both types and can be used later on to help you determine what to take with your bow in freshwater.

Game fish may only be taken with pole and line or rod and reel. Game Fish are listed on the FWC website as black bass, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, warmouth, redbreast sunfish, spotted sunfish, flier, mud sunfish, longear sunfish, shadow bass, peacock bass, white bass, striped bass and sunshine bass. These fish may only be taken by rod and reel. So basically if the fish is not one of these species you can take it with your bow.

Nongame Fish – all other freshwater fish are defined as non-game fish, except grass carp

 Note: Alligator gar require a special scientific collector’s permit to take by any means.

An alligator gar can be identified by the wide alligator like jaw structure. When compared to other gar species the alligator gar typically has a solid coloration unlike many species of spotted Gar.

Legal gar

Nongame fish may be taken:

  • At night by bow and arrow
  • During daylight hours by manually operated crossbow or bow and arrow from a boat or from shore except at the spillways of the Eureka and Rodman dams on the Oklawaha River or on the spillway of the Jim Woodruff Dam on the Apalachicola River or in Dade County canals south of the C-4 and east of the L-31N and L-31W canals inclusively.
  • Using a bow and light at night. Night bowfishing tournaments do not require a permit in the Northwest Region.
  • Bowfishing in saltwater

The first thing you need to know about bowfishing in Saltwater is Florida defines Spearing as “the catching or taking of a fish by bow hunting, gigging, spearfishing, or by any device used to capture a fish by piercing its body. Spearing does not include the catching or taking of a fish by a hook with hook and line gear or by snagging (snatch hooking).” So, the laws regarding bowfishing are the same as all other methods in which you pierce a fish’s body in order to catch it.

  I made a list of all the species of saltwater fish which the state of Florida prohibits from being taken by spearing. Any other species not listed may be harvested by spearing.

  • Billfish (all species)
  • Spotted eagle ray
  • Sturgeon
  • Manta ray
  • Sharks
  • Bonefish
  • Tarpon
  • Goliath Grouper
  • Snook
  • Blue Crab
  • Nassau grouper
  • Spotted seatrout
  • Red drum
  • Weakfish
  • Stone Crab
  • Pompano
  • African pompano
  • Permit
  • Tripletail
  • Lobster
  • Families of ornamental reef fish (surgeonfish, trumpetfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, porcupinefish, cornetfish, squirrelfish, trunkfish, damselfish, parrotfish, pipefish, seahorse, puffers, triggerfish except gray and ocean)

Fishermen who catch and/or sell fish harvested by spearing are subject to the same rules and limitations that other anglers in the state are required to follow.

Gear you need

To begin bowfishing you need a bow, a fishing reel, heavy fishing line and a bowfishing arrow. I have an article laying out exactly where to buy for the best prices. To read it check out my article on how to get started bowfishing.

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