The Florida Keys are known as the Sports Fishing Capital of the World. It’s a coveted place, where sport fish are drawn near the shore, attracted by the warm water of the Gulf Stream. However, the Florida Keys are divided into four sections along 113 miles of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. This starts with the upper keys that are attached to the mainland and carry onward to the southernmost tip of Key West. 

Thus, the Florida Keys attract visitors from all over the world with the excitement of catching trophy species. From surf fishing, pier fishing, and deep-sea fishing, there are many ways to target them. Furthermore, with the shallow warm waters, it’s almost too good to not pass up an opportunity to cast a line from the shore. Which begs the question can you fish from the shore in the Key West? First, let’s talk about fishing license requirements.

Do I need a fishing license in Key West?

In the state of Florida, a fishing license is required for everyone, no matter of age. Alas, there are some exemptions to this depending on how you’re fishing (see below). If you are a resident of the state of Florida, you do require a license to fish from the shore. Although, the good news is there is no cost to this license. But, depending on the species, you may be required to purchase a permit (more below). On the other hand, if you are a non-resident, you are ineligible for the shore fishing license and must purchase a saltwater license instead for a fee.

It is important to note that the definition of a shore fishing license pertains to anything that is from the land or a fixed structure. This does not cover boats for which a different license would be required. Hence, under these criteria, wading into the water should be considered “shore fishing” under Florida regulations.

What are the fishing license exemptions?

man in gray shirt sitting on slab

Image credit: Kelbob Johnson via Unsplash

In general, a fishing license is required for all ages. Yet, the following only apply to those from the state of Florida who plan on shore fishing. Exceptions apply to the following:

  • Under the age of 16
  • Over the age of 65
  • Have a disability (within criteria)
  • Active military on leave or visiting
  • Those who fish from a licensed pier

Do I need a license for different species?

Yes, several species require a permit to catch. These include snook, sharks, spiny lobster, and tarpon. Permits must be purchased in addition to the shore fishing or saltwater licenses. Alas, it is the responsibility of the angler to check the local regulations for any restrictions or catches allotted to the target species. Refunds for fishing permits are not allowed. Additionally, when shore fishing for sharks, the definition of what constitutes the shore includes shorelines, piers, jetties, and bridges.

Can I fish from the shore in Key West?

two men fishing on sea

Image credit: The Tampa Bay Estuary Program via Unsplash

Now that you understand all the legal ramifications of fishing in Key West, the answer is yes, you can fish from the shore. This is as long as you are following the above rules set out by the state of Florida.

Where can I fish?

With the shallow inland water, anglers like to fly fish for bonefish, tarpon, and permits. Furthermore, less common species found in the shallows include sharks and barracuda. However, this only applies to wading into the flats. If you fish from a boat, you must possess a different license.

Aside from that, fishing holes are everywhere. But public locations that are hot spots among visitors include:

  • Smathers Beach
  • White Street Pier
  • Fort Zachary State Park
  • Edward B Knight Pier
  • Higgs Beach Memorial Pier
  • Old Bahia Honda Bridge
  • Mallory Square

Wading Out of The Water

There you have it, everything that you need to know about fishing from the shore in Key West, for residents and non-residents alike. Thousands of anglers flock to Key West every year for its undeniable fishing. With many ways to catch fish, it’s hard to not be enticed by the turquoise blue waters and what may be lurking in them. In closing, anyone can come to the Florida Keys to fish from the shores. As long as you follow the rules and don’t forget to have fun!