“I recently purchased a bay boat and want to start fishing my local bridges. I know there will be times when it will be advantageous to drift, but what’s the legality of anchoring in the vicinity of a bridge? Am I allowed to tie off to the bridge when targeting sheepshead and redfish? With my new boat payment the last thing I want or can afford are any unwarranted citations.” – Joe Strahova
The most important consideration when fishing near a bridge is not to impede or interfere with navigable waterways and channels. Safety trumps everything and should be your number one priority. You should never be in a position that could harm yourself or those around you. Taking this into consideration, it is illegal to anchor within a marked channel and it is also against the law to tie up to bridge fender systems. Navigational markers and fixed buoys are also off limits. Florida Statute 327.44 refers to interference with navigation and states that anchoring underneath a bridge or adjacent to heavily traveled channels constitutes interference if unreasonable under the prevailing circumstances. There’s a lot of gray area here and not everyone has the same understanding of “unreasonable interference,” but you likely won’t get in trouble for anchoring under a bridge if you are well out of the way. In fact, it’s common practice across the Florida Keys for charter captains to anchor under bridges while tarpon fishing. You will also notice boaters tied off to and anchored adjacent to bridges while targeting a variety of species all around the state. There are some bridges where “No Trespassing” signs are clearly posted and there are some bridges that have special regulations, but if it is not posted and you are in no way impeding traffic, then you should be fine. Still, before tossing the anchor you should also make note of any signage noting the presence of underwater cables.
With that being said, in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, USCG and the Department of Homeland Security have created security zones to protect high risk areas beneath specially noted bridges, near locks and dams, around cruise ship terminals, power plants and commercial ports. Under these new regulations, you cannot anchor near any of the aforementioned areas or you’ll be in strict violation of the law.
The bottom line is that safety should be your number one consideration and it is highly advised to contact your local FWC branch and USCG office for special navigation rules applicable to bridges in your region. You should also keep in mind that written warnings and citations may be selectively enforced and at the discretion of nearby officers who are simply doing their job by looking out for public safety.
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