Under Governor DeSantis, Florida Remains the Top Destination for Fishing, Hunting and Outdoor Recreation

by FWC 20th December 2023


Under Governor Ron DeSantis’ steadfast leadership, Florida remained one of the country’s top destinations for world-class fishing, hunting and recreation. The economic impact on our state through these opportunities is tremendous with nearly $15 billion contributing to our state’s economy. Governor DeSantis continues to make conservation a priority, ensuring that residents and visitors benefit from our environmental resources for generations to come.


“Governor DeSantis continues to make protecting Florida’s natural resources one of his top priorities. Because of his leadership, our conversation legacy will thrive for generations to come, and Florida will remain the Fishing and Boating Capital of the World,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto.


“We are thankful to Governor DeSantis and the Legislature for their continual support of Florida’s natural resources and environment. Having our mission supported is crucial for keeping this State the most beautiful place to live and recreate,” said FWC Executive Director Roger Young.  


Great Outdoors Initiative


At the direction of Governor DeSantis, through Executive Order 23-209, FWC and the Department of Environmental Protection partnered to provide 50% discounts on Gold Sportsman hunting and fishing licenses and annual state park passes to get more Florida families outdoors. Since the initiative began, FWC has sold a total of $13.6 million and 45,000 sportsman licenses with more than 12,000 being first-time license holders. This discount is available through January 13, 2024.


FWC Gold Sportsman licenses, which include saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing, hunting privileges and all associated permits, are discounted by 50%, in the spirit of the holiday season, and available at the following rates, plus applicable fees:


  • Annual Gold Sportsman – $50.75.
  • Five-year Gold Sportsman – $247.75.
  • Lifetime Sportsman License
    • Age 4 or younger – $201.50.
    • Ages 5–12 – $351.50.
    • Ages 13 and older – $501.50

To learn more about the Great Outdoors Initiative and to purchase your annual park pass or sportsman license, click here.


Burmese Python Removal


The 2023 Florida Python Challenge® resulted in 209 Burmese pythons being removed from the Everglades ecosystem and increased awareness both nationally and internationally about invasive species and the threats they pose to Florida’s ecology. For this year’s competition, 1,050 participants from 35 states and two countries registered to remove the invasive constrictors. Every python removed helps protect the Everglades and our native wildlife. The annual competition encourages the public to get directly involved in Everglades conservation through invasive species removal.


Within the past five years, thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the legislature, and partnerships with the South Florida Water Management District and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) held four annual Florida Python Challenge® events – in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. To date, over 20,000 wild Burmese pythons have been removed from Florida since 2000, with more than half of those since 2019.


Protection and Rehabilitation of Manatees



The FWC continues to dedicate resources to manatee care and rehabilitation. Under the Governor’s leadership, over $20 million was invested in the FY 2022-23 budget to enhance and expand the network of acute care facilities for the treatment of injured and distressed manatees. Further, an additional $8 million was appropriated to restore manatee access to springs and provide habitat restoration in manatee-concentrated areas. Together with our partners, the FWC conducted 493 manatee rescues statewide from Nov 2018 through Nov 2022.


Red Tide Mitigation and Research


Since Governor DeSantis took office, he has dedicated more than $14.5 million to the FWC-FWRI Center for Red Tide Research, which has funded more than 20 new collaborative projects to enhance monitoring and applied research associated with tracking, predicting and mitigating the effects of harmful algal blooms. In 2021, the cutting-edge experimental facility at Mote Aquaculture Research Park in Sarasota officially opened, allowing scientists to test compounds and technologies before pilot field implementation. The partnership between the FWC and the Mote Marine Laboratory will enable the development of technologies and approaches to control and mitigate red tide and its impacts. 


Below are additional highlights:


  • Provided the longest Gulf red snapper season since the state assumed management, totaling 87 days, which included both a fall and summer season. The Gulf red snapper season provides recreation opportunities for anglers and supports local economies throughout the Gulf Coast.
  • In the past five years, the FWC has provided over 100,000 acres of new public hunting opportunities throughout the state by working with partners and cooperators to grow its wildlife management area (WMA) system. As part of this effort, the FWC established 7 new WMAs, which provide over 30,000 acres of additional hunting opportunities.
  • Hosted a record-breaking Lionfish Challenge, removing over 30,000 lionfish from Florida state waters in just four months and nearly doubling participation.
  • Through partnerships with local governments and private landowners, Freshwater Fisheries Management staff created additional access to freshwater fishing locations for anglers across the state, including the Florida Fishing Trail and Doral Glades Fish Management Area.
  • Provided technical and financial assistance in the deployment of over 4,000 artificial reef patch reefs to date, creating incredible recreational opportunities including fishing and diving. 
  • Implemented conservation measures to help improve the survival of released reef fish by requiring anglers fishing from a vessel targeting reef fish in state waters to have on board a descending device or venting tool that is rigged and ready for use. 
  • FWRI’s Wildlife Research Section coordinated the monitoring of approximately 212,400 sea turtle nests on 1,352 km of the beach, including a record-breaking number of nests for green and loggerhead turtles. They also documented approximately 2,300 dead, sick, or injured (i.e., stranded) sea turtles and were able to determine a cause of stranding for about 80% of these cases.  These data have contributed to the management and recovery of all five species of Florida sea turtles.
  • Implemented a holistic inshore fisheries management approach for snook in Florida state waters, ensuring future generations of anglers have access to this iconic Florida fishery. 
  • The Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management continues to manage Florida’s outstanding and unique black bass fisheries through conservation and management actions for native shoal bass populations and by increasing focus on Florida’s trophy largemouth bass fishery.
  • The FWC proudly selected 14 new sites across nine counties to be designated as official members of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Every year, millions of people, residents and visitors alike, participate in wildlife viewing activities. This contributes billions of dollars to Florida’s economy and advances the ultimate goal of the Trail—to encourage the conservation of Florida’s native habitats and species.
  • FWC received 25 applications for the Florida Boating Improvement Program (FBIP) 2023-24 period. On June 28, 2023, the Committee reviewed and scored the remaining applications and available funding was distributed starting with the highest scoring application. Based on the Committee’s scoring and the funding available, five applications were awarded grants totaling $1,999,601.00.


These accomplishments will continue to support Florida’s economy while providing residents and visitors numerous opportunities to enjoy all of Florida’s great outdoors. 


For more information about these and other fish and wildlife conservation projects, visit

Posted by Recreation
20th December 2023 3:14 pm.
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