Florida Friendly Fishing Guides New Online Course 

By Shelly Krueger, University of Florida IFAS Extension, Monroe County 

Did you know more than 65% of Monroe County residents have a recreational saltwater fishing license?  This is the highest percentage in Florida.  We are definitely a community with a fishing problem!  We all know fishing is big business in Florida, contributing billions of dollars each year to the state’s economy.  Fishing guides are an important part of that industry, providing locals and tourists alike with authentic Florida fishing experiences and memories that last a lifetime.  The Florida Keys has some of the most esteemed fishing guides in the world, and our local guides are fishing ambassadors that can demonstrate best practices for ethical angling to their customers.  The University of Florida IFAS Extension has developed a program with FWC and input from fishing guides called Florida Friendly Fishing Guides.  The target audience is flats guides, charter boat and headboat captains and crew; recreational fishers are welcome to take these courses, too.  

This online course teaches best practices for catch and release fishing, onboard waste management, introduction to fisheries management, and more.  One environmental impact of fishing is what we call discard mortality — this is when a caught fish is released but does not survive. Up to 60% of fish that are caught recreationally are released, which is why it is so important to have proper fish handling skills.  Fishing guides are role models that can teach ethical angling through their onboard behaviors.  This is a great opportunity for professional development, and a benefit to list your business and contact information on the Florida Friendly Fishing Guides website.  The cost is $130 and includes a welcome package with boat decals, CaddyCan boat trash can, dehooker, public listing on the Florida Sea Grant website, and an optional social media promotion.  For more information and registration, go to https://www.flseagrant.org/florida-friendly-fishing-guide-certification/ or contact your local Florida Sea Grant agent, Shelly Krueger, at shellykrueger@ufl.edu.