Charter and Headboat Operators' and Guides' Licenses
A Charter Captain or Boat License is required to carry paying customers (where a fee is paid directly or indirectly) for the purpose of taking, attempting to take, or possessing saltwater fish or organisms.
To be a saltwater fishing guide in Florida, you must comply with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requirements. The U.S. Coast Guard (USGC) requires all operators of for-hire vessels to have a Captain license/Merchant Mariner Credential.
Charter, headboat and saltwater fishing guide operations must have an FWC charter captain or boat license to cover their passengers, who are not required to hold a recreational saltwater fishing license. Customers authorized to fish under the vessel license are not required to hold a recreational saltwater fishing license.
Dive charters: Scuba divers engaged in fishing or lobstering must have an individual saltwater fishing license and all necessary permits if the vessel they are on does not have the necessary vessel license.
Charter Captain Licenses allow a licensed captain to go from boat to boat to do business. A current Coast Guard License to Operate or Navigate Passenger Carrying Vessel License must be provided in order to purchase these licenses. Any vessel then used by a charter captain to do business must be commercially registered or have a U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation with a commercial designation.
- Charter Captain - 4 or fewer customers $201.50
- Charter Captain - 10 or fewer customers $401.50
- Charter Captain - 11 or more customers $801.50
- Charter Snook Permit $10.00
- Charter Lobster Permit $5.00
Charter Boat Licenses may only be used on the boat designated on the license and are available for vessels that are commercially registered. A commercial vessel registration or U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation (with a commercial designation) must be provided in order to purchase these licenses.
- Charter Boat - 4 or fewer customers $201.50
- Charter Boat - 6 or fewer customers $401.50
- Charter Boat - 10 or fewer customers $401.50*
- Charter Boat - 11 or more customers $801.50*
- Charter Snook Permit $10.00
- Charter Lobster Permit $5.00
*Issued to Coast Guard inspected vessels only.
How to Apply
In order to purchase an FWC Charter Captain license, you must have a Coast Guard Captain's license. Call 1-888-427-5662 for information on the Coast Guard Captain's license. USCG charter boat captain information is available on the USCG web site.
The FWC Charter Captain and Charter Boat licenses and commercial registration can be purchased at your local tax collector's office only. For information about vessel registration visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Titles and Registrations.
What the FWC charter license authorizes:
- The vessel license holder to carry up to the number of fishing passengers specified on the license.
- The number of customers specified on the FWC vessel license to take, attempt to take, or possess a limit of saltwater fish or organisms for non-commercial purposes without purchasing a recreational saltwater fishing license.
- A person who holds the “Charter Captain” License does not need to purchase his own recreational saltwater fishing license to recreationally fish from a vessel. He may use his “Charter Captain” because it’s tied to him, this does not apply to a Charter Boat/Vessel License.
What the FWC charter license DOES NOT authorize:
- Harvest in commercial quantities or the sale of fish.
- Passengers (whether licensed, not licensed, or exempt from licensure) in excess of the number specified on the FWC vessel license to take, attempt to take, or possess a limit of saltwater fish or organisms (even if licensed by the USCG to carry more paying passengers).
- The captain and crew to take, attempt to take, or possess a limit of fish or organisms under the vessel license.
More Information for Charter Operators, captains and guides
Surf fishing and freshwater fishing guides and their customers are subject to Florida's recreational fishing license requirements. The FWC does not require additional guide licenses.
A charter vessel captain who possesses a six-pack license under USCG and an FWC charter vessel license for up to 4 people may carry up to two extra passengers ONLY when they are NON-FISHERS.
Additional restrictions on charter boat captain and crew and for-hire guides on a keeping their limit of fish under their own valid recreational saltwater fishing licenses are species specific. Currently, for most species of saltwater fish, with the exception of snook, grouper and red snapper in federal waters, all persons aboard a charter vessel can keep a legal limit of fish if the paying passengers fish under the vessel license and the crew fish under their own valid licenses. For-hire guides may also keep a legal limit of fish while on duty with the exception of snook, grouper and red snapper in federal waters.
- Snook: The Florida Administrative Code (FAC), Chapter 68B-21.006 (3) for snook states: On any vessel licensed to carry customers wherein a fee is paid, either directly or indirectly, for the purpose of taking or attempting to take marine fish, the applicable bag and possession limit specified in this rule shall not extend to the operator of such vessel or any person employed as a crewman of such vessel.
- Grouper: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council regulations prohibit the captain and crew of for-hire vessels from retaining a federal recreational bag limit of any grouper while under charter in the Gulf of Mexico. Please review the NOAA regulations. The FWC established a zero bag limit for Gulf gag, red and black grouper for captains and crew on for-hire vessels in or on state waters. Current information about grouper rules is available from the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management. You can read the rule in the FAC, Chapter 68B-14.0036 (2)(d).
- Red Snapper: In 2008 new regulations were implemented for red snapper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico that, among other restrictions, prohibits the captain and crew of for-hire vessels from retaining the federal recreational bag limit. More information on federal action is available from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. Refer to the FWC saltwater fishing regulations for more information. The FWC also established a zero bag limit for captain and crew of for hire vessels in Gulf state waters for red snapper. You can read the rule in the FAC, Chapter 68B-14.0036(1)(c).
An occupational license may be required by the city or county where you are doing business. Check with the city and county to see if you need an occupational license.
If you are operating a for-hire vessel in a park or a refuge (e.g., Everglades National Park), you may be required to have additional permits. Please check with the park or refuge headquarters for any specific permitting requirements for those areas.
If you are operating a for-hire vessel in federal waters (outside of 9 nautical miles on the Gulf and 3 nautical miles on the Atlantic), you may need a federal charter vessel/headboat permit before fishing for certain species. Contact the National Marine Fisheries Management Service, Licensing and Permitting Office at 727-824-5326 for information on federal charter vessel/headboat permits.