Bringing fish caught recreationally in the Bahamas back to Florida by water will become a little easier soon. A new exception goes into place Sept. 13 in state waters, allowing anglers to possess and land filleted dolphin, wahoo and reef fish that were caught in Bahamian waters. Similar allowances for dolphin and wahoo, as well as modifications to existing recreational regulations for reef fish managed as snapper-grouper being brought back from the Bahamas by water went into effect in Atlantic federal waters in January 2016. These regulations apply to fish being transported by water only and do not apply to fish being transported or shipped by air.
The changes will allow more fishing freedom for Florida’s residents and visitors while creating consistency between state and federal regulations.
Some things to keep in mind when bringing recreationally-caught dolphin, wahoo and reef fish managed as snapper-grouper back from the Bahamas by water:
• Skin must remain on the fillet (to aid in identification by law enforcement).
• Anglers must comply with Atlantic federal bag and vessel limits.
• Two fillets count as one fish toward the bag limit.
• Vessels must have valid Bahamian cruising and sport-fishing permits.
• Passengers must possess a valid government passport with current Bahamian stamps and travel dates.
• Travel through state waters must be continuous and gear must remain stowed. Fishing gear that is appropriately stowed means terminal tackle, such as hooks, leaders, sinkers, etc., must be disconnected and stowed separately from the rod and reel.
• Fish landed under these exceptions cannot be sold.
Bahamian regulations may be different than those in U.S. state and federal waters. Before you return with your catch, make sure you comply with the more restrictive U.S. and Bahamian recreational bag and possession limits. For example, species that are prohibited from harvest in the U.S., such as queen conch, goliath and Nassau grouper, cannot be transported back into U.S. waters by boat. Spiny lobster must be in whole condition and can only be transported into U.S. waters during the recreational season (Aug. 6 through March 31).