Bahamas Fishing Regulations

Ask the Experts

FSF Staff November 4, 2013

“I will be visiting The Bahamas in the near future and I’m curious as to how much or how many fish I’m allowed to keep and bring home? It seems the laws keep changing and I have read a lot of conflicting information regarding fisheries regulations. What’s the deal?” – Carlos Cruz

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Photo: Steve Dougherty/doughertyphotos.com

It’s important to note that anglers visiting The Bahamas by boat must first clear customs and obtain the required fishing and cruising permits before wetting a line within local waters. From here, the current rules are straightforward and now allow anglers to harvest a considerable amount of fish. However, fail to comply with the rules and regulations and you could be in for a rude awakening. At best you’ll receive a harsh fine, with higher penalties for substantial violations resulting in possible vessel seizure and potential jail time.

When plying the tropical waters of The Bahamas for reef dwelling snapper and grouper, anglers are permitted to keep no more than 60 pounds of fillets (preferably with skin intact to facilitate easy identification), or 20 whole fish per vessel regardless of size. For pelagic species including wahoo, dolphin, kingfish and tuna, anglers are allowed to possess a total combination of 18 fish per vessel. It is very important that you understand these are vessel limits and not to be confused as daily or per person limits. It’s easy to follow the rules when fishing in paradise, but half the fun of a Bahamian fishing adventure is bringing back fresh fish to share with family and friends. However, anglers returning to Florida by private vessel need to be aware that the rules and regulations vary greatly.

While Bahamian law permits anglers to harvest a combo of 18 pelagics, those returning to Florida must follow federal size and bag limits. In addition, all pelagic fish must have head and tail intact. Snapper and grouper regulations are a hot topic and anglers returning to Florida cannot possess any snapper or grouper species that are in direct violation of federal or state regulations. This includes all seasonal closures, size and bag limits. Just to be clear, if grouper season is closed in Florida you cannot be in possession of any grouper even if it was legally harvested in The Bahamas.

In addition to the above mentioned game fish, many enjoy snorkeling and diving crystalline Bahamian waters for conch and lobster. You should know that queen conch is protected in Florida and you cannot bring them back alive in whole condition under any circumstance. Although Bahamian regulations enable the harvest of 10 lobster per vessel, you may only return home with these tasty crustaceans during open season in Florida.

As expressed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Bahamian Department of Marine Resources, vessels returning to the United States with legally harvested marine species must be in direct and continuous transit through federal and state waters. Unfortunately, this means you’ll have to bypass any fishy features you find on the way home. No matter what the regulations allow, it’s always best to only harvest what you can eat fresh. Good luck and always play by the rules.

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