Bringing Fish Back to Florida from The Bahamas
Bahamian waters near southeast Florida begin at the end of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. To ensure you know what jurisdiction you are fishing in, learn more about the U.S. EEZ limit line location.
As many as 50 recreational boats travel to and from the Bahamas every day.
If you are considering fishing in the Bahamas and bringing fish back to the U.S. by water, here is what you need to know:
- Bahamian and U.S. fishing regulations are not always the same.
- When fishing in the Bahamas, follow Bahamian Sportfishing Regulations
- Follow the more restrictive bag and possession limit when traveling to and from the Bahamas. South Atlantic federal regulations
- Private vessel owners must visit Bahamian Customs and Immigration and have a stamped passport and valid Bahamian cruising and sportfishing permits.
- The requirement to clear Bahamian customs applies to all U.S. fishing vessels, regardless of whether they are embarking on a single- or multi-day trip.
- Visit Bahamas.gov.bs for more. Sportfishing Permit Application
- If you use the new Click2Clear online system, you may electronically declare entry at a Bahamian port of entry and pay for your cruising permit.
- You must still physically arrive at that port to obtain authenticated documents from Bahamian Customs. Filing and paying for the permit in advance does not authorize formal entry into or fishing in The Bahamas.
- Check with Bahamian authorities for all legal requirements.
- Passengers must possess a valid government passport with current Bahamian stamps and travel dates.
- When leaving the Bahamas, you must declare exit at a port of entry. Bahamian Customs will provide an authenticated certificate of departure.
- U.S. vessels may not fish in Bahamian waters after obtaining exit clearance from Bahamian Customs (i.e., on the way home).
- Reef fish (managed as snapper grouper in the U.S.) as well as dolphin and wahoo may be brought back from the Bahamas as fillets.
- All other species must be brought back in the condition specified in U.S. federal rules (example: cobia, tuna, swordfish must be brought back in whole condition).
For fish brought back as fillets:
- Skin must remain on the entire fillet
- Two fillets, regardless of their size, count as one fish toward the bag limit
- Must follow U.S. Atlantic federal bag and vessel limits, as well as seasons
- Fish brought into the U.S. cannot be sold
- Travel through U.S. federal and Florida state waters must be continuous and gear must remain stowed. (Terminal gear such as hooks, leaders, sinkers, etc. must be disconnected and stowed separately from rod and reel.)
- Bahamian rules allow you to possess whole and wrung (tailed) lobster; however, when returning to Florida, lobster must be in whole condition (head and tail intact).
- Can only be transported into U.S. waters during the Florida recreational season (Aug. 6-March 31)
- Spiny lobster cannot be brought back into U.S. waters during the 2-day sport season (last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July) because, in the Bahamas, the season is closed during that time period.
- Lobster lawfully harvested by spear in the Bahamas can be returned to Florida.
- Species prohibited from harvest in U.S. (queen conch, Nassau/goliath grouper, etc.) cannot be transported through U.S. federal and Florida state waters by boat.
Contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service for regulations related to transporting fish or conch by air carrier back to Florida or other locations in the U.S. (CITES documents may be required.)
For more information, please see 50 CFR 622.186(b) and 50 CFR 622.276(b).
Links for more information: