Getting a Fishing License for Lake Okeechobee Fishing on Lake Okeechobee is a unique one-of-a-kind experience that everyone should enjoy. And with the purchase of a Florida Fishing License, everyone can! Fishing licenses are required to catch and take fish home. The kind you purchase depends on the body of water you are fishing in. The fishing license system is in place to help maintain a balance in our bodies of water so that residents and visitors alike can enjoy the fun that is fishing in Florida, especially on Lake Okeechobee. Required Fishing Licenses To fish on Lake Okeechobee, the second largest freshwater lake in the continental United States, everyone over the age of 16 is required to have a freshwater fishing license by law. Anyone under the age of 16 does not need to have a fishing license, but must abide by the same regulations, such as gear type and bag and size limits, and may need to show proof of age. Other exceptions to the required fishing license law include Florida residents 65-years-old or older, Florida residents who are in the military, Florida fishing in saltwater from a structure attached to land, Florida residents fishing in saltwater from a boat with a vessel fishing license, and anyone fishing in a pond on private property. Out of state fishing licenses are not valid in Florida. How to Buy a Fishing License Florida residents can purchase a 12-month freshwater fishing license for $17. The fishing license is valid for 12 months after the date of purchase. Those who do not reside in Florida can purchase non-resident fishing licenses, valid for a shorter period of time. A 3-day non-resident fishing license costs $17, a 7-day non-resident fishing license costs $30, and a 12-month non-resident fishing license costs $47. The money you spend on a fishing license goes towards conservation and education of Florida’s fisheries and bodies of water. You can purchase a fishing license the day of your fishing trip by going online or by calling this toll-free number: 1-888-347-4350. Purchasing the fishing license online with incur a $2.25 + 2.5% convenience fee and surcharge and purchasing the license over the phone will incur a $3.25 + 2.5% convenience fee and surcharge. You can purchase a fishing license in-person from stores like Bass Pro Shops, Wal-Mart, and other fishing stores for a small fee the day before your fishing trip. You can also purchase a fishing license from the county tax collector’s office to avoid the surcharge. Rules and Regulations There are several rules and regulations in place to help maintain the quality of fishing on Lake Okeechobee. When it comes to the fish, there are bag and size limitations for certain species. For largemouth bass, you can only keep up to 5 bass a day that measure 18-22 inches long. You can only keep 1 largemouth bass a day that measures over 22 inches. For crappie, one person can only keep 25 crappies a day. Every licensed angler can only possess two days’ worth of bag limits. If you catch a crappie under 10 inches in length, it must be released back into the lake. As always, the practice of catching and releasing the fish, no matter the species, is encouraged. When releasing a fish back into the water, always use wet hands or rubberized landing nets to handle the fish. Do not use a glove or towel. And try to hold the fish horizontally when possible. Make sure to keep your hands away from the gills and eyes. Release the fish as soon as it is possible by putting them back in head first. Do not keep them out of the water any longer than is necessary. The type of fish you are allowed to keep is also defined by the type of fishing license you have purchased. If you purchased a freshwater fishing license, it does not allow you to fish in saltwater locations such as the ocean. If you purchased a saltwater fishing license, it does not allow you to fish in freshwater locations such as Lake Okeechobee. In estuaries where the salt and fresh water meet, you will need either a freshwater, saltwater, or combination fishing license. Your license also determines the type of fish you can take home. Pursuing, capturing, taking, attempting to take, or killing any fish, nests, or eggs is the legal definition of take. To take a freshwater fish home, you must have a freshwater fishing license. To take a saltwater fish home, you must have a saltwater fishing license. If you are in such estuarian areas with a freshwater license and catch a saltwater fish, even by accident, you must release back into the water. The same goes for fishing in estuarian areas with a saltwater fishing license. If you are fishing for a certain species of fish, make sure that your fishing license is specific to that species. Replacement licenses can be issued by the county tax collector. The Importance of Obtaining a Fishing License Groups such as the Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) work hard to maintain Florida’s wildlife. When you purchase a fishing license, you are ensuring that their work is not in vain. Their main goal is to protect the natural wonders that we all enjoy through research, education, and other programs. Thanks to your purchase of a fishing license, the FWC can afford to teach people about proper fishing techniques, host efforts to clean up waterways, and research and maintain the large variety of species within bodies of water such as Lake Okeechobee. It is estimated that $1.5 billion are contributed to programs like this from anglers and boaters purchasing fishing licenses and paying other taxes and fees. When the natural balance is maintained through fishing licenses and other programs, fishing is more enjoyable for everyone participating. It ensures all species of fish will be around for years to come and that future generations of anglers will get to know the same pleasure you do of fishing on Lake Okeechobee.