What are the regulations to follow when fishing in The Bahamas?
When fishing in The Bahamas, anglers are required to follow Bahamian fishing regulations which can be found here: Bahamian Sportfishing Regulations. Note that upon entering Bahamian waters in a private vessel, you must visit Bahamian Customs and Immigration to receive a Cruising Permit and stamped passports. You are also required to obtain a Sportfishing Permit, which can be found here: Sportfishing Permit Application. Be sure to check with Bahamian authorities for all legal requirements.
Can I return to the U.S. with fish, lobster, or conch legally caught in The Bahamas?
When returning to the U.S. from the Bahamas, you may transport any fish or invertebrate not currently under a closure, or any species not prohibited from harvest in U.S. waters. Species prohibited from harvest in U.S. waters (such as goliath grouper, Nassau grouper, and queen conch) cannot be transported back into U.S. waters by boat; however, contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service for regulations related to transporting fish or conch by air carrier back to Florida or other locations in the U.S. (CITES documents may be required.)
What bag limits and seasons should I follow when returning with fish or lobster to the U.S. by boat from The Bahamas?
When returning with fish from The Bahamas, you must abide by the bag limits, seasons, and closures in U.S. federal waters. Before leaving on a trip to The Bahamas, familiarize yourself with the current U.S. federal regulations here: South Atlantic federal regulations.
Bahamian rules allow you to possess whole and wrung (tailed) lobster; however, when returning to Florida, lobster must be in whole condition(head and tail intact). You may only bring back lobster during the open recreational season in Florida, Aug. 6th – March 31. Additionally, lobster lawfully harvested by spear in The Bahamas can be returned to Florida.
Can I fillet my catch before returning to U.S. federal and state waters?
Federal regulations exempt anglers from the requirement to maintain snapper, grouper, dolphin, and wahoo with heads and fins intact when returning to the U.S. from The Bahamas with fish legally harvested in Bahamian waters. For a complete list of species exempt from this requirement, please see South Atlantic federal regulations. To return to U.S. federal and state waters with fillets of snapper, grouper, dolphin, and wahoo, anglers must:
1) Keep the skin on the entire fillet of the fish
2) Have valid Bahamian fishing and cruising permits on board the vessel
3) Have valid government passports with current stamps and dates from The Bahamas
4) Be in continuous transit through U.S. federal waters with fishing gear appropriately stowed
Note that for the purposes of counting fish towards U.S. federal bag limits, two fillets equals one fish. For more information, please see 50 CFR 622.186(b) and 50 CFR 622.276(b).