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Florida Gar

Interesting and Fun Alternatives to Conventional Freshwater Fishing

The reasons to go fishing are many. It is a time-honored relaxing sport, that is fun and contributes to a healthy lifestyle. A rod and reel are what most think of as the primary tools, but a few alternatives to conventional methods for catching freshwater fish, namely bow fishing, cane pole and survival fishing can also bring another level of fun and excitement.

Catching a fish is challenging enough even with the most sophisticated equipment and years of experience. On the other hand, it is a sport that can be done with success by a young child under adult supervision with equipment that can cost less than $20. To the angler who is experienced and thinks they would like to try an alternative, using more primitive methods can be rewarding to connect the fisherman with traditional methods, ways that were once the only means to provide fare for the table. Additionally, the target species of fish caught by these primitive methods are nongame and non-native fish, which are a threat to native game species.

Bow Fishing is a fun and healthy outdoor activity, which is a natural follow up for archers.

Photo by Gus Koerner

Alternative Fishing Methods

Bow Fishing is done with archery equipment using a fiberglass arrow with a barbed point. The arrow is connected to the bow via a mechanical reel or simple spool. Done from land or by boat, during the day or night, this is an exhilarating challenge. Image left is Gus in 1976 with Gar and bow in hand. There are many non-game species that can be taken with a bow or cross-bow.  See the 2018 FL FWC Fresh Water Fishing Regulations, pg. 11.

Cane Pole Fishing often referred by Florida statute as the cane-pole exemption. The law states, “In Florida you must be a resident who is fishing with live or natural bait, using poles or lines that are not equipped with a fishing line – retrieval mechanism, and you are fishing for noncommercial purposes in your home county. However, you must have a valid fishing license to fish by any method in a fish management area.” See the 2018 FL FWC Fresh Water Fishing Regulations, pg. 12.

Survival Fishing is simply cane pole fishing, but without the pole. Using natural or artificial bait, natural or synthetic string wrapped around a soda bottle, this method will strip away most of the technology and just leave the fisherman verses the fish. If successful, it will bring a sense of confidence to the angler that perhaps they could survive in the wilderness with minimal tools. Exciting!

Laws May Vary

Although Florida fishing laws are used as an example, other states have similar laws and/or exemptions. Checking with the state game commission on a regular basis is important. Fishing regulations change so what may be legal this year may not be the next.

Since not all Florida fish can be taken by all methods, clarification is necessary. Freshwater fish are divided into game fish that have specific bag and length limits, and may only be taken with conventional fishing gear. Non-game fish, which are all others, may be taken by these alternative methods.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Freshwater Fishing Regulations, 2017-2018.

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