The operator of a vessel involved in a boating accident where there is personal injury beyond immediate first-aid, death, disappearance of any person under circumstances which indicate death or injury, or if there is damage to the vessel(s) and/or personal property of at least $2,000, must, by the quickest means possible, give notice to one of the following: the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the sheriff of the county in which the accident occurred, or the police chief of the municipality in which the accident occurred, if applicable.
It is unlawful for any person operating a vessel involved in a boating accident to leave the scene without giving all possible aid to the involved persons and without reporting the accident to the proper authorities.
Anyone who operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property will be cited for reckless operation (a first-degree misdemeanor).
All operators are responsible for operating their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for other vessel traffic, posted restrictions, the presence of a divers-down flag and other circumstances so as not to endanger people or property. Failure to do so is considered careless operation (a non-criminal infraction).
A violation of the Federal Navigation Rules is also a violation of Florida law.
Any vessel operating in a speed zone posted as “Idle Speed – No Wake” must operate at the minimum speed that allows the vessel to maintain headway and steerageway.
Any vessel operating in a speed zone posted as “Slow Down – Minimum Wake” must operate fully off plane and completely settled in the water.
The vessel’s wake must not be excessive nor create a hazard to other vessels.
It is a violation of Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. A vessel operator suspected of boating under the influence must submit to sobriety tests and a physical or chemical test to determine blood- or breath-alcohol content.
In Florida, a vessel operator is presumed to be under the influence if their blood- or breath-alcohol level is at or above .08.
Any person under 21 years of age who is found to have a breath-alcohol level of .02 or higher and operates or is in actual physical control of a vessel is in violation of Florida law.
Each person operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear an approved non-inflatable Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device (PFD). Inflatable PFDs are prohibited for personal watercraft use.
The operator of a personal watercraft must attach the engine cutoff switch lanyard (if equipped by the manufacturer) to his/her person, clothing or PFD.
Personal watercraft may not be operated from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, even if navigation lights are used. Remember, both federal and state law requires the use of navigation lights from sunset to sunrise.
Maneuvering a personal watercraft by weaving through congested vessel traffic, jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably close or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed, or swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision is classified as reckless operation of a vessel (a first-degree misdemeanor).
A person must be at least 18 years of age to rent a personal watercraft in Florida.
It is unlawful for a person to knowingly allow a person under 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft (a second-degree misdemeanor).
Anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 is required to either have successfully completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved boating education course or have passed a course equivalency or temporary certificate examination and have in their possession a boating education ID card and a photo identification card before operating a vessel with a motor of 10 HP or more in Florida. Identification cards for persons completing the course or the equivalency exam are good for a lifetime. Temporary Certificate exams are made available to the public through contractors. The temporary certificate is valid for 12 months from the issue date.
Anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more must pass an approved boater safety course and have in his/her possession photographic identification and a boating safety education identification card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The following operators are exempt:
- A person licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as a master of a vessel.
- A person operating on a private lake or pond.
- An operator who is accompanied onboard by a person who is least 18 years old and possesses the required Boating Safety Education Identification Card, provided that person is attendant to and responsible for the safe operation of the vessel.
- An operator who is accompanied onboard by a person who is exempt from the educational requirements, provided that person is attendant to and responsible for the safe operation of the vessel.
- A non-resident who has in his or her possession proof that he or she has completed a NASBLA-approved boater safety course or equivalency examination from another state.
- A person who is operating a vessel within 90 days after the purchase of that vessel, provided they have available for inspection aboard that vessel, a bill of sale meeting all the requirements as established in Chapter 328.46(1), Florida Statutes.
- A person operating a vessel within 90 days after completing an approved boating safety course, as required in Chapter 327.395(1), and has a photographic I.D. and a boater education course completion certificate showing proof of having completed the required boating safety education course. The course completion certificate must provide the student’s first and last name, date of birth, and the date the course was successfully completed. (Effective Oct. 1, 2011.)
The size of divers-down flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Divers-down flags on vessels must be displayed above the vessel’s highest point so that the flag’s visibility is not obstructed in any direction.
Diver-down symbols displayed from the water must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches and can be in the form of a flag or a buoy. The buoys must be three or four sided and have a divers-down symbol displayed on each of the flat sides. A divers-down buoy may not be used or displayed on a vessel.
Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy on open waters (all waterways other than rivers, inlets or navigation channels) and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.
Vessel operators must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from divers-down flags or buoys on open waters and at least 100 feet from flags or buoys on rivers, inlets or navigation channels. Vessels approaching divers-down flags or buoys closer than 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and navigation channels must slow to idle speed.
When divers are out of the water, a dive flag or buoy may not be displayed.
Except in the event of an emergency, it is unlawful for any person to anchor or operate a vessel in a manner that will unreasonably interfere with the navigation of other vessels.
The owner and/or operator of a vessel is responsible to carry, store, maintain and use the safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
All vessels are required to have onboard a wearable USCG-approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each person. The PFDs must be of the appropriate size for the intended wearer, be in serviceable condition, and within easy access. The state of Florida urges all people onboard a boat to wear a life jacket.
Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must also have at least one USCG-approved throwable Type IV PFD that is immediately available in case of a fall overboard.
A child under the age of 6 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III personal flotation device while onboard a vessel under 26 feet in length while the vessel is underway. “Underway” is defined as anytime except when the vessel is anchored, moored, made fast to the shore or aground.
Vessels with built-in fuel tanks or enclosed compartments where gasoline fumes can accumulate are required to carry at least one fire extinguisher (depending upon vessel length) which is approved for marine use.
All vessels are required to carry an efficient sound-producing device, such as a referee’s whistle.
The use of sirens or flashing, occulting or revolving lights is prohibited except where expressly allowed by law.
Recreational vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of reduced visibility (fog, rain, haze, etc.). The U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules specify lighting requirements for every description of watercraft.
The facility is prohibited from renting a vessel that does not have proper safety equipment, exceeds the recommended horsepower or load capacity, or is not seaworthy.
The facility must provide pre-rental or pre-ride instruction on the safe operation of the vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower or more.
This instruction must include, at a minimum, operational characteristics of the vessel, safe operation and right-of-way, operator responsibilities and local waterway characteristics.
The person delivering this information must have completed a NASBLA/state-approved boater safety course.
All renters required by law to have a boater education ID card must have the card or its equivalent before the facility may rent to them.
The livery must display boating safety information in a place visible to the renting public in accordance with FWC guidelines.
PWC liveries must provide on-the-water demonstration and a check ride to evaluate the proficiency of renters.
PWC liveries may not enter into rental agreement with anyone under the age of 18.
PWC liveries must display safety information on the proper operation of a PWC.
The information must include: propulsion, steering and stopping characteristics of jet pump vessels, the location and content of warning labels, how to re-board a PWC, the applicability of the Navigation Rules to PWC operation, problems with seeing and being seen by other boaters, reckless operation, and noise, nuisance and environmental concerns.
A law enforcement officer may stop any vessel for the purpose of checking for compliance with boating safety equipment requirements.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, sheriff’s deputies of the various counties, and any other authorized enforcement officer, shall have the authority to order the removal of vessels deemed to be an interference or hazard to public safety, enforce all boating safety laws, or cause any inspection to be made of all vessels in accordance to state law.
Paddle Board Rules & Regulations
Did you know the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has determined that a paddleboard is a vessel in most situations and is required to have the same safety equipment as other small human-powered vessels (canoes/kayaks)?
Here is what this means if you are using a paddleboard:
- Unless the paddleboard is being used within a “swimming, surfing or bathing area,” the paddleboard must have a USCG-approved life jacket for each person and a sound-producing device on board while on the water.
- Although persons on the paddleboard are not required to wear the life jacket while on Florida waters (unless they are less than 6 years of age), it is advisable to find a comfortable life jacket that you can wear or easily carry while on the water.
- A “sound-producing device” is a small whistle or horn that can be heard for a least one-half nautical mile. “Referee-type” whistles or other similar devices that can be attached to your life jacket should work well.
- If you are operating in limited visibility or at night, you will also need a flashlight or lantern that produces a white light. It should be displayed to approaching vessels in enough time to prevent a collision. The light should not be continually displayed.
- If using a paddleboard offshore or on certain coastal waters at nighttime, visual distress signals may be required, per the Code of Federal Regulations.
Fishing License Rules
Who needs a recreational hunting or fishing license or permit?
Florida Residents and Visitors need a Florida hunting, freshwater fishing or saltwater fishing license unless they are a member of one of the “exempted” groups of people listed below. Your license is required to be with you when you are engaged the licensed activity. Replacement licenses cost $2.
A fishing license is required to attempt to take fish. If you cast your line, catch nothing, catch and release, or catch and keep and you are not a member of one the groups listed below; you need a license. A saltwater fishing license is also required to attempt to take any native or nonnative marine organisms, such as crabs, lobsters, and marine plants.
Licenses and permits are required to help or assist in the take. Someone who is passively participating (setting decoys, calling birds or baiting hooks), whether actively fishing or hunting or not, must have a license.
Who does not need a license or permit?
Some of the exemptions listed below apply to “Florida Residents” only. Please be aware of the Florida state residency requirements.
The exemptions listed below may also apply to hunting, saltwater fishing, or freshwater fishing, or all three.
These exemptions DO NOT apply to:alligator licenses or tags, many limited entry and quota hunt permits, persons with disabilities crossbow permits, tarpon tags or boating safety requirements.
Limited entry/quota hunts
Due to lease agreements, size and other factors, some limited entry hunts on wildlife management areas do not allow exemptions. Exemptions to quota hunt permits and other limited entry hunt permits are granted or denied by specific area regulations. Hunts where exempt persons must have quota permits are shown in bold print on the quota hunt worksheets.
Quota Hunt Permit Exemptions
Seniors and children – Children under the age of 16 and resident seniors who are 65 or older are not required to purchase *most recreational licenses. However, officers may ask exempt children and seniors for proof of age. Seniors should also be prepared to show proof of residency.
Nonresident seniors, need to have a Florida hunting license and permits and/or a recreational fishing license and permits, unless fishing with a charter captain, from a charter vessel or otherwise properly licensed vessel or from a licensed pier.
Food stamp, temporary cash assistance, or Medicaid recipients
The “food stamp” exemption below only applies to Florida residents who are saltwater fishing from the shore or a structure attached to the shore. It does not apply to freshwater fishing or to saltwater fishing from a vessel or when swimming or diving.
You do not need a recreational hunting, freshwater fishing or saltwater fishing license or a *Florida waterfowl, migratory bird, deer, turkey, snook, spiny lobster, archery season, crossbow season, muzzleloading season permit or *management area permit if…
- You are a child under 16 years of age (also exempt from federal duck stamp requirements).
- You are a Florida resident age 65 or older possessing proof of age and residency (a valid Florida Driver License or Florida ID Card meets this requirement) or possessing an optional Resident Senior Citizen Hunting and Fishing Certificate. Residents age 65 or older may obtain, at no cost, complimentary hunting and fishing certificates from some county tax collectors’ offices.
- You hunt or freshwater fish in your county of residence on your homestead or the homestead of your spouse or minor child, or if you are a minor child hunting or freshwater fishing on the homestead of your parent.
- You are a Florida resident certified as totally and permanently disabled and you possess a Florida Resident Disabled Person Hunting and Fishing License (hunter safety and migratory bird permit requirements apply).
- You are a resident who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, you are not stationed in this state, and you are home on leave for 30 days or less, upon submission of orders.
- You are hunting wild hog on private land.
- You are observing or filming someone else who is fishing or hunting and you are not assisting (setting decoys, calling birds, etc.) in the take in any way.
- You are a disabled veteran or active or reserve duty military service member and his or her immediate family members and an assistant who are participating in a permitted outdoor recreational event, for which the Commission has issued a Military/Disabled Veteran Event License Exemption Permit to the event organizer.
* These exemptions do not apply for the federal duck stamp.
In addition to the exemptions listed above, you do not need a freshwater fishing license if…
- You have been accepted as a client for developmental disabilities services by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities . The agency must furnish proof to such clients.
- You are fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or less which is located entirely within the private property of its owner. A fish pond is a man-made pond constructed for the primary purpose of fishing, entirely within the property lines of the owner and with no surface water connection to public waters.
- You are fishing in a fish pond of 20 acres or more, whose owner has purchased a fish pond license at a fee of $3 per surface acre.
- You possess a Resident Freshwater Commercial Fishing License.
- You are fishing in the St. Mary’s River or Lake Seminole (but not including tributary creeks in Florida) and have a valid Georgia fishing license.
- You are freshwater fishing during Free Freshwater Fishing Days.
- You are a resident who is fishing with live or natural bait, using poles or lines that are not equipped with a fishing-line-retrieval mechanism, and you are fishing for noncommercial purposes in your home county. However, you must have a valid fishing license to fish by any method in a fish management area.
In addition to the exemptions listed above, you do not need a saltwater fishing license or a snook or spiny lobster *permit if…
- You have been accepted as a client for developmental services by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. The agency must furnish proof to such clients.
- You fish from a for-hire vessel (guide, charter, party boat) that has a valid vessel license.
- You fish from a vessel, the operator of which has a valid vessel license issued in the name of the operator of the vessel.
- You fish for recreational purposes from a pier with a valid pier saltwater fishing license.
- You have a valid Individual Saltwater Products License (SPL) or a valid FWC Charter Captain License issued to you. NOTE: This exemption does not apply to Charter Boat or U.S. Coast Guard licenses, a Vessel SPL (even if you are the named applicant), or to the crew operating under any charter license or Vessel or Individual Crew SPL.
- You are a resident who is fishing for mullet in fresh water and you have a valid Florida resident freshwater fishing license.
- You are a resident who is saltwater fishing from land or a structure fixed to land who has been determined eligible for the food stamp, temporary cash assistance, or Medicaid Program by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Proof of identification and a benefit issuance or program identification card issued by DCF or the Agency for Health Care Administration must be on your person when fishing. A license is required when fishing from a vessel or when swimming or diving.
- You are saltwater fishing during Free Saltwater Fishing Days.
* These exemptions do not apply to tarpon tags.
** National Saltwater Angler Registration
Persons who are listed on the National Saltwater Angler Registry are required to have a Florida recreational saltwater fishing license unless they are a member of one of the exempted groups listed on this page.
Shoreline saltwater fishing license
Residents who are fishing for a saltwater species (other than mullet in fresh water) from land or from a structure fixed to the land are required to have a no-cost saltwater shoreline fishing license unless they have a regular saltwater fishing license or are exempt.