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Free Fishing Weekends Ahead for Florida Anglers

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced saltwater fishing licenses will not be required during two weekends in June — including Father's Day weekend.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on April 19 announced at a Florida Cabinet meeting in Panama City that anglers will not be required to have saltwater fishing licenses during two weekends in June.

With support of the Cabinet and Gov. Rick Scott, the license will not be required statewide the weekend of June 4 and 5 — the first weekend of the opening of red snapper season in the Gulf — and the weekend of June 18 and 19, which is Father's Day weekend.

It is an apparent attempt to jolt the economy in a state where fishing generates $5.4 billion annually.

“Florida's beaches and waters are beautiful, pristine and ready for visitors to enjoy, whether you are here for business or a family vacation," Scott stated in an FWC press release. “I encourage Floridians and visitors to our state to make plans now to enjoy Florida fishing and seafood during the upcoming free-fishing weekends in June. Whether you catch it yourself or get it from a market or restaurant, our seafood is the best in the nation.”

Scott is tapping at our economic troubles as kitty does a ball of yarn.

If only someday fishing fanatics in central Florida could, say, snatch their poles on a whim and blast across the state to Tampa at more than 168 mph. No planning needed. Just book a Tampa Bay-area fishing guide, an appropriate hotel and hit the Gulf waters before the change of the tide. Might as well fish the "Fishing capital of the world." What an economy boost that would be.

Or what a boost that would have been, since Scott slammed the hatch on Florida's high-speed rail plans.

At least we have a couple free fishing weekends.

The weekend comes just before State Bill 744 would go into effect July 1.

Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) introduced SB 744, which states: “ … a recreational freshwater fishing or recreational saltwater fishing license or permit is not required of any resident or nonresident to fish in this state.”

So hypothetically, the free fishing weekends could come before … free fishing for the foreseeable future.

License-free fishing weekends are a welcome perk to those without saltwater fishing licenses.

License-free fishing years or decades would encourage more poaching and less conservation.

Numerous fishing guides, bait shops, recreational fishermen and those associated with the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida have screamed that it's a bill that needs to be killed because, in part, it would , which go toward fishing conservation, research and management.

The Facebook community, of course, is already on top of this one. Check out the SB 744 to Remove Fishing License Fees in Florida page.

That said, the free fishing weekends are convenient, especially for Father's Day. Mark your calendars and get dad out on the water. Patch.com will help out with a pre-Father's Day column about gift-giving ideas.

The FWC also announced it will expand bay scallop season to open June 25, one week early. The season also will be extended to end on Sept. 25. The cheap-yet-fun activity is popular in Gulf Coast communities such as St. Joe Bay, St. Marks and Steinhatchee.

Mothers have not been forgotten. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Florida State Parks will offer half-off admission on both Mother's Day, (Sunday, May 8), and Father's Day (Sunday, June 19, according to an FWC press release.

Need bait? Try:

  • on Bayshore Boulevard
  • Barracuda Bob's Bait and Tackle (on the Causeway)

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