Trips to the islands or neighboring states are often the reason for long runs offshore, so it’s prudent to be in full compliance with the various laws. The applicable fishery agencies and customs websites provide current rules to help avoid problems.
The entire crew must have valid passports and clear customs and immigration prior to any fishing when crossing to the Bahamas or Cuba. A Bahamas cruising and fishing permit is required, and costs are based on vessel size and trip length. Get a copy of the latest fishing regulations and follow them to the letter, as they may be more restrictive than U.S. laws. Pay special attention to all bag, size and possession limits, especially when transiting. Visit bahamas.gov.bs for complete information.
If you cross into adjacent state waters, nonresident fishing licenses are required. Things can get a little confusing when a boat remains in federal waters, due to the lack of uniformity between states.
“Some states allow continuous transit, but others don’t,” says Maj. Grant Burton of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “If you don’t make a stop on the way back in through state waters, you can go from Pensacola to fish in federal waters off Louisiana without another state’s license. Fishing gear must be stowed while underway, and the burden of proof of compliance is on the boaters.” Burton suggests signing up on myfwc.com for text or email alerts on changes to existing fisheries rules, such as closures. Anglers are also urged to sign up for the free Gulf Reef Fish Angler permit to aid in data collection.