Shrimping Laws



The Florida Constitution implements laws that regulate recreational shrimping in the State of Florida and gives powers to the Fish and Wildlife Commission to enforce the laws in Article IV, Section 9Article IV, Section 9.  Effective January 1st, In 2001, the State designated shrimp as a restricted species, placing its regulation underneath the power of the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

According to their role in enforcing the laws, the Fish and Wildlife Commission have published several administrative rules that clarify what we are and are not allowed to do when we go shrimping. These generally define the bag limits (maximum amount of shrimp we are allowed to catch) and the rules about when we are allowed to catch them.

Florida Administrative Rule 6B-31.007 (1) (Statewide Recreational Shrimping Restrictions) specifies statewide bag limits and conditions for recreational shrimpers.  The following paragraph is taken directly from the rule and we have taken the liberty of highlighting the key sections and definitions in green:

Except for persons harvesting shrimp commercially as either a food shrimp producer or a live bait shrimp producer, each person harvesting shrimp in or on the waters of the state shall comply with the requirements specified in this rule.

  1. Bag Limit

    1. No person shall harvest more than five gallons of shrimp, heads on, per day; provided, however, that two or more harvesters aboard a single vessel in or on the waters of the state shall be subject to the vessel possession limit specified in paragraph (b).

    2. The possession of more than five gallons of shrimp, heads on, aboard a vessel in or on the waters of the state or on any dock, pier, bridge, beach, or other fishing site adjacent to such waters, at any time is prohibited.

    3. All shrimp harvested pursuant to this rule shall be landed in a whole condition. The de-heading of such shrimp before landing is prohibited.

As you can see, this simple paragraph can come with a few complexities.  Accordingly, this article is going to address these three different sections and provide some examples of how to comply with recreational shrimping bag limits A.K.A "The Five Gallon Rule." It will examine what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission interprets as maximum catches state wide and how their definitions impact your ability to catch shrimp.

Keep in mind that this article will not focus on the impact of shrimping seasons or regional restrictions on recreational shrimping that may be in effect. For this information, please consult the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission websiteFlorida Fish and Wildlife Commission website.

Five Gallons Per Person ... Unless,

It sounds pretty simple doesn't it?  You go out, catch five gallons and you come home.  Are you in compliance?  Surprisingly, you may not be.  It depends on whether or not you went out with a friend, took a boat, cleaned the shrimp or took a break in between.  What is this you say??  How did it get this complex?

Heads On and in Whole Condition

heads_on_ok
Heads On and In Whole Condition

It should go without saying that all shrimp you catch need to be cleaned when you a completely finished shrimping - ideally when you get home. Like cleaning a fish before you have gotten home prevents officers from determining the length of a fish you caught, cleaning your shrimp catch prevents FWC officers from determining the amount of shrimp you caught.

There is also a huge difference between catching five gallons of shrimp with their heads on versus five gallons of shrimp that have already been cleaned and had their heads removed - about three times more shrimp can fit in a five gallon bucket once their heads are off than shrimp in whole condition.

Do Not Clean or Dehead Your Shrimp Prior to Landing them or Going Home
Potential Violation / Ticket

To keep things fair and set a standard that everyone can understand, all shrimp must be kept in whole condition - with their heads, tails and legs intact until you return home or have finished shrimping for the day. You are allowed to clean your shrimp at the beach once you are finished shrimping but, be advised, you cannot return shrimping if you clean you shrimp. You must be completely finished shrimping.

Cleaning your shrimp and then returning to the water to go shrimping again could subject you to fines. Why? Because once you have cleaned the first batch of shrimp, FWC officer are unable to determine the total number of shrimp you caught. The volume of cleaned shrimp cannot accurately be added to the volume of new shrimp you will inevitably catch and officers cannot verify that your catch is within the scope of the law. At the very least, it looks suspicious so, do yourself the favor and save the dirty work of cleaning your shrimp until you are ready to call it a day or are in the comfort of your home - preferably the latter.

Per Day

The first section of the above rule (a) sets out that you can catch no more than five gallons of shrimp per day.  A day is defined as the 24 hour period between midnight and midnight.  So, if you came back from shrimping on a Tuesday morning with five gallons of shrimp and then decided to go shrimping again the next night, you couldn't go shrimping again until Wednesday morning.  If you caught any shrimp before midnight, you would be breaking the law.

Possession of More than Five Gallons

You may be thinking that you have the system figured out now that you know that you can catch five gallons of shrimp a day. Don't make the same mistake as many shrimpers who think they can catch five gallons before midnight and then another five gallons after midnight!

According to rule (1) (b), you are not allowed to posses more than five gallons of shrimp at any moment in time if you are generally near the water and this includes the trunk of your car!

in or on the waters of the state or on any dock, pier, bridge, beach, or other fishing site adjacent to such waters, at any time

Many shrimpers have made the mistake of going shrimping before midnight, putting their catch in their cooler and then going out again. When the night was finished, FWC searched their vehicles and discovered they had more than five gallons of shrimp in their possession. Instead of five gallons, they went home with a ticket and no shrimp. Don't let it happen to you. 

This doesn't mean you cannot successfully pull off a double bucket night but that you must be smart about it and take a break to go home. If you have only one night to go shrimping and the shrimp are running hard, you can catch your limit before midnight, stop shrimping, go home, drop of your catch, and then return to the water to start shrimping again after midnight. Just remember that you will be unable to shrimp until after midnight the next evening.

Don't forget, the penalty for possessing more than five gallons of shrimp ranges from seizure of your equipment, loss of license, fines, misdemeanor penalties and/or imprisonment. Be smart, follow the law.

Aboard a Vessel

The rules change again when you step foot upon a boat.  The second you get on a boat, you limit the maximum number of shrimp you and anyone else aboard your boat catches to a total of five gallons.

This rule impacts anyone who shrimps from a boat, rides a boat out to go shrimping or asks for a ride from someone with a boat to return to shore. The basic rule of thumb is that there can be no more than five gallons of caught shrimp on a boat.

This rule is especially important for shrimpers seeking to go far away from shore and shrimp their secret spots. If you take anyone else with you, you will need to divide your catch.

Speaking with FWC officers, the only way to catch a total of five gallons per person in a night when bringing a boat is to leave it on the trailer so, keep that in mind when planning your shrimping trip!

Summary - Don't Get Too Greedy

Thine Bucket Should Not Overfloweth
Thine Bucket Should Not Overfloweth

Five gallons of shrimp is an awful lot of shrimp and is more than enough shrimp for anyone to catch. Heck, it's a lot of shrimp for four people to catch!

The rules established by the FWC ensure that you can catch your fill and protect the shrimp population for future generations.

Following the rules is easy. The only time when they become difficult to comply with is when greed becomes our motivation and we decide to skirt the law or find loopholes to justify catching more than our allotted amount.

Chances are you will have a few five gallon nights in the course of recreational shrimping. Celebrate them and have a good time shrimping but remember, the point of recreational shrimping is recreation. If you want to catch more, you should consider applying for a commercial license.

 

Disclaimer:  This article has done its best to explain the existing laws related to recreational shrimping bag limits in the State of Florida as presently exist and in the best manner known to the author at the time of this writing.  In cases of ambiguity or uncertainty, please contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission for further clarification.  These instructions in no way constitute official legal advice.


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