A man waist deep in water holding a silver fish and his fishing rod
Freshwater Fishing Regulations

Sport fishing is allowed in designated areas in accordance with current Federal, State, and Refuge regulations except where posted as closed. Visit our Rules and Policies page for fishing regulations.

Where to Fish

Over 140,000 acres are open to freshwater fishing. Over 60 miles of trails and canals provide opportunities for bank fishing. Anglers may fish from an accessible fishing pier at the Headquarters Entrance in Boynton Beach, FL or at 20-Mile Bend in Loxahatchee, FL. Visit our Motorized Boating page to learn about boating and boat ramp locations. Refuge entrance fees apply.

Fish Species

Over 40 species of fish have been detected on the refuge. Freshwater anglers may catch native species that include largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, bowfin, redear sunfish, chain pickerel, Florida gar, bluegill, and warmouth. Additionally, anglers might also catch exotic species that occur in South Florida such as the Mayan cichlid, blue tilapia, butterfly peacock bass, oscar, spotted tilapia, sailfin catfish, bullseye, snakehead and others.

Fishing License Requirement

Visit Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's website to learn about fishing license requirements.

Fish Consumption Advisories

Fish Consumption Advisories are published periodically by the State of Florida to alert consumers about the possibility of chemically contaminated fish in Florida waters. The advisories are meant to inform the public of potential health risks of specific fish species from specific water bodies. Learn more about Fish Consumption Advisories by visiting the Florida Department of Health’s website.

Alligators and Other Wildlife

Do not feed wildlife. When fed, alligators lose their natural fear of humans and become attracted to people. It is unlawful to feed alligators or any other wildlife on the refuge. This includes allowing alligators to eat unwanted or released fish.

Fishing Guides

Fishing guides are allowed by permit only. To apply for a permit, follow the instructions on the Facility Services page for the Commercial Activities Special Use Application (FWS Form 3-1383-C).

Fishing Tournaments

Well-planned fishing tournaments can promote recreational fishing opportunities and be a source of conservation information and education for the angler. All fishing tournaments will be conducted in such a manner as to minimize disturbance to wildlife, resources, and the visitor experience. We allow up to 17 fishing tournaments a year by Special Use Permit only. The application must be submitted a minimum of 30 days in advance of the scheduled tournament date. To apply for a permit, follow the instructions on the Facility Services page for the General Activities Special Use Application (FWS Form 3-1383-G). 

  • The permit fee for a fishing tournament is $150. A check or money order should be made payable to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Cash or card is not accepted. In lieu of the fee, fishing clubs and organizations are allowed to perform in-kind services for the Refuge.
  • Refuge entrance fees apply.
  • A maximum of 20 boats with 2 anglers in each boat per tournament will be allowed.
  • Fishing tournament participants are restricted to creel limits established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
  • A Fishing Tournament Summary Report must be completed and returned to the Refuge’s Headquarters office within 5 working days after the tournament is held.
  • Registration, launching, and weigh-in will be permitted from the Hillsboro Area boat ramp only.
  • Fishing tournaments are catch and release.
  • Stringers are not permitted.
  • Fish must be brought to the weigh-in site in aerated ice chests or live wells only.
  • Solicitation, raffles, drawings, games of chance, gambling are not permitted on Refuge property.
  • Advertisements concerning fishing tournaments must be approved by the Refuge Manager prior to printing or distribution.
Laws, rules, and regulations