How Florida Anglers Steal Millions In Conservation Funds From The FWC.


Potentially $6 million dollars is gone that could have gone towards conservation here in Florida…

What a shame.

Don’t you think the state of Florida and the FWC (Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission) could have done some good for our fisheries with an extra $6 million in cash for conservation projects?

Perhaps this “stolen” $6 million could have been used for things such as:

  • Fighting big sugar over the mess they made in our waters…
  • Investing in new redfish nurseries
  • Protecting our valuable estuaries

So what happened, and where did this potential $6 million go?

Too many of our fellow Florida anglers decided they wanted to skimp out and fish without a license…

Let me explain:

Every single time that an angler buys an annual Florida fishing license, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife gives the state a percentage of extra conservation money up to a certain level.

And the more anglers that buy fishing licenses, the more conservation money each state receives.

It’s all part of the Sport Fish Restoration Act (aka Dingell-Johnson Act)

sport fish restoration act

Here’s how it works:

Each state’s share is based on:

  • 60% of the revenue is determined by the number of licensed anglers AND
  • 40% of the revenue is determined by total land and water area.

As an example, if someone in Florida buys an annual resident fishing license today, not only does it boost our state’s share because of additional licensed anglers (see above), but it also comes back to Florida in the form of money from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife (not to mention new revenue for the FWC from the purchase of the license).

Pretty sweet deal!

And considering that Florida is the fishing capital of the world, we should get the most, right?


The bad news is that we only qualify for a maximum of $12,000,000 based on the amount of anglers that actually pay for their fishing licenses (see all 50 states Sport Fish Portions here)

In total, Florida could earn close to $18,000,000 in annual conservation funds from this Sport Fishing Restoration Act per year like these states did if we had more anglers paying for licenses (these three states hit Maximum Allocation):

  • Texas
  • California
  • Alaska

But of course, that is only if the state sells enough fishing licenses. In the case of Florida in particular, that means selling a lot more licenses to max out our subsidy from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

lifetime florida fishing license
Salt Strong co-founder Joe Simonds with his lifetime Florida fishing license.

So where is the missing $6 Million?

Here is the sad news folks.

  • There are well over 3 million people that fish (and go fishing) in the state of Florida every year that are in the age bracket of needed a license
  • However, only about 2 million actually buy licenses.
  • This issue is NOT about seniors or youth (Ages 1-17 fish free in Florida and so does anyone 65 or older). It is about the anglers that are between 17 and 64 year old that are skimping out and trying to save money by not buying a fishing license when they should be.

And it’s not just Florida that is missing out.

According to a recent article on Guy Harvey Online Fisherman, there was $273,427,215 NOT claimed in potential Sport Fish Restoration payouts by states in 2015.

As you saw from above, the more active licenses Florida (anglers) has, the more money we all get back from the Sport Fish Restoration program (this includes the FREE shoreline license).

  • Let’s unite as anglers to do what’s right.
  • Renew your fishing license if it has expired.
  • Report people who are fishing without a license.
  • Encourage others to fish.

It’s up to us to keep fishing going for the future generations.

Personally, I want my kids and grandkids seeing lots more of this below for years and years to come…

underwater snook

What To Do Next

First and foremost, buy a fishing license if you fish in Florida! (

(Click here to visit the FWC page to decide what license is best for you).

Next, sign the IDO pledge!

It’s 100% FREE!

And the amazing people over the FWC donate $1 to outdoor recreation and education programs for kids here in Florida.

Click here to take the pledge

Here is the video about the IDO pledge.

Sign up for FREE to receive the latest saltwater fishing videos, tutorials, product reviews, and fishing product discounts!

Want to learn more about the Sport Fish Restoration Act?

Then click here to see how it all works (FWC site).

Related Post: “Does It Make Sense To Buy A Lifetime Florida Fishing License? Find Out Here

P.S. – If you think your angler friends or fishing networks would like to see this, please help spread the word by Tagging them or Sharing this with them.

Tight Lines. Fish On.

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Christopher Brooks
6 years ago

The presupposition that Florida fisheries belong to the FWC or any other agency or department of government is indefensible and frankly ridiculous. Merriam Webster defines stealing, “to take the property of another wrongfully”. Florida fisheries belong to us, period. It’s not the FWC’s place to tell us what we can and can not do, and they aren’t automatically entitled in any amount of money.

Granted, most people are too busy living their lives to force elected officials to control unelected and unaccountable regulators like FWC. That would require a huge amount of time and energy. So for the foreseeable future, the FWC can do what wants and ransom our resources back to their rightful owners. For now, the very least we can do is recognize the fact that these resources are ours.

Your 2nd false presupposition is that money in the hands of the FWC somehow equals conservation.
That is an unprovable political position, conservation is the result of effective action not a particular amont of money.
The assertion that the FWC should hold “big sugar” responsible for environmental issues in the Everglades is also a flawed political position. It was actually the Army core of engineers who created the current mess down there.
Sure, large sugar companies have benefited from that situation, but they didn’t create it and they can’t fix it.

How exactly does the FWC know how much money they lose to people who fish without a license?
As a stakeholder in the industry, I can tell you first hand state and federal fisheries regulators aren’t afraid to make a wild guess. But in this case, they probably get their numbers from issuing fines to unlicensed people. If so the state would receive a lot more than the $17 an individual fishing license costs. I wonder if somebody can define in clear terms how much conservation we get for a dollar of FWC funding.

In this context “conservation” is a shell game regulators play to implement an agenda at the direction of special interests.
And these special interests believe conservation is best achieved by preventing you from fishing, period.
Instead of calling out small infractions we shoud concentrate our efforts on preserving public access to our natural resources and preventing regulators and special interests from dictating the rules without our approval.
Blindly supporting the FWC does far more damage to Florida fisheries than people who fish without a license.

roy noblin
6 years ago

you are entitled to your beliefs but i disagree and if i see you fishing without a licence i will turn you in. what you say here is long and contradicting. we do have a voice and without a governing body the poachers would have cleaned us out years ago. i agree the FWC has to many tree counters and need more officers to catch poachers. here is best i can do on their budget–they do the best they can to save what we have and not paid well at all –

6 years ago
Reply to  roy noblin

Absolute nonsense. You have no way of knowing that “poachers” would wipe out anything. You don’t even know if the FWC really has an effect at all. You choose to believe they do, but you can’t suport that belief with a shrewd of real objective evidence.

The FWC is just another government organization there to take control of resources and ransom them back to us for a fee. They’re primary function is to protect government control and collect revenue. They aren’t your friends and don’t give a damn about your rights. The idea that we owe them anything is repugnant and you have to be a deeply perverse thinker to believe otherwise.

roy noblin
6 years ago
Reply to  Chris

excuse me— i am 72 years old and born in florida–my family and wife’s family go back generations. we have seen what poachers can do to a forest–guess what–a buck will roam a large area looking for a doe. but the does stay where they are born and roam little. when poachers kill all the doe there is no reason for a buck to roam that area–guess what the buck can smell does a long way off. now lets talk fishing–when people clean out a bedding area what few bream are left will take 3 to 4 years to get back to eating size and it don’t take long for bass to realize they need to move on to other areas or die. with the cel phone in the last few years i have gone to bedding areas that i have fished for years and got my supper. today someone will see you and can smell them same as you–next thing you know you have so many boats around you you can step from one to another. then watch a boat get it’s limit head in and back within the hour pulling out more. i have 9 areas that i haven’t caught a decent size fish in for years. so to end this i have this number in my cel phone 888-404-3922–let me see you break the law. if you can’t afford a licence don’t hunt or fish–it helps support the fwc and we will have nothing left without them. also would you please add you picture to this just in case you fish near me. you do not have to show me your licence but you will who ever responds to my call –have a good day sir

6 years ago
Reply to  roy noblin

Not only do I have a fishing license, I’ve got federal fisheries permits that cost more than most cars. I’m what the government refers to as a “steak holder” someone with actually skin in the game, not just some big mouth on the internet. Your antidotal observations aren’t really that interesting, and I’ve seen how the FWC collects data and how much influence anti-fishing envio-nuts have in the process. The point here, something you aren’t capable of understanding, is that ALL natural resources belong to the people. Regulations are just a vehicle for collecting cash. Environmental groups lobbying to restrict public access to resources do more damage than we ever could. I understand that it makes you feel good to take side with the “good guys” but you’re a sucker.
The FWC is just another government agency. They’d cut down and burn every blade of grass and tree in the state if it would save their pentions and salaries. Everything that you think you’re standing up to defend by supporting government control over resources is nothing but a means to an end. It is now, and will always be about the money and power.
I’m a multi generational native Floridain, the guy who wrote this article is not.
We deserve to have access to our resources, and shouldn’t need permission from regulators and their sympathizers who don’t even belong here.

ricardo rivas jr
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Simonds

My brothers and I have stopped fishing the areas we used to fish with our Grandpa and Dad . I am 62 years old . We would see nets and now the area has few fish . what was plentyfull (croakers)are rarely caught.
I am glad for Game Wardens and as to the person who says nobody should give us direction. If people would limit them selves we wont need to be directed .
This has happened in Port Mansfield,Texas

mark morgan
4 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

exactly and we as fisherman need to ban together and stop this nonscense its out of control

4 years ago
Reply to  Chris

exactly and they keep changing the damn regs just to catch you keeping something ,I hate looking over my shoulder everytime I want to go out and enjoy the day because a cop and there are many different divisions scouting me out ,it BS and needs to stop the harrassment is too much

4 years ago

Couldn’t agree more! Fishermen put blind faith into the Government agencies, too often. First of all, property taxes kill more fish than fishermen will ever, through habitat loss. When will the public realize that destroying areas where the fish fry spend it’s first days/months of life, does to the fish population. No shelter/habitat = little to no survivors of a fish spawn. It only gets worse from there.

J. B. Hillard
7 years ago

I just joined this site and looking over all it has to offer I saw the article about ‘stealing’ from the FWC by not buying a license. I’m aware of the promotion effort by various organizations to encourage everyone who fishes to buy a license, including retirees over age 65.
Like Rick I’m retired (age 79) and have purchased hunting and fishing license all my life and I do support and contribute to conservation efforts in Florida. This is my alternative to buying a hunting and fishing license in retirement. Using the word ‘steal’ in the article will rub retirees the wrong way and is a poor choice of words since the article is generic and applies across the board.
I fully understand how FWC needs more funding for conservation and improvement of hunting and fishing resources. The certainly need more Wild fLife Officers for sure. Personally, I would have no problem if the state implemented a discounted license for those 65 and over. I believe some states may have this type of license for seniors.

4 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Simonds

haha I seriously doubt there are that many unlicensed fisherman

ricardo rivas jr
3 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

you would be surprised if you could somehow count those people. Maybe while buyng gear at a sportsstore you can here people talking about fishing area where gamewardens dont show up .Not knocking the gamewardens .

4 years ago
Reply to  J. B. Hillard

J.b Hillard as long as the regs suite you you are fine with more regulation ,what about the law abiding people like myself ,we have to be constantly harrassed because the excuse that poachers and unlicensed fisherman are wrecking the fisheries ,you know thats bologna ,maybe FWC should take some of that new boat and motor money and do something for the wetlands ,as far as I see they burn plenty of fuel and sport their taxpayers money super expensive boats

7 years ago

Are you saying just because I’m 66 and have purchased a fishing license my whole life and now I don’t have to, that I’m stealing from the State of Florida, from which I retired.

ricardo rivas jr
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Simonds

I am retired and have bought my license every year and I am glad you call it as it is .I live in Texas and fish port mansfield.
the fish we keep are slot size trout ,reds =20-26in ,black drum =16-22in. That is what is allowed on my boat . I am not telling you this to slap myself on my back. Its’for my grandchildren and greatgrandchildren to have a chance to enjoy nature.
If we dont care enough what will be left for them.


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