Do You Need a Fishing License? [Even for Catch and Release?]

Do You Need a Fishing License

Responsible fishing ensures healthy fish population and enables other anglers to enjoy it in the future. One of the best ways to control fishing is by fishing licenses.

Knowing when and where you need one can be confusing, especially when different rules apply in various venues within the same state/country.

So, do you need a fishing license? YES, you do, unless the local authority says otherwise. Different categories of licenses exist, and you should always inform yourself about the right one for you prior to your fishing trip. Otherwise, you are risking a fine.

This is especially important for anglers traveling away from home and their usual fishing locations. In addition to that, rules and regulations can change, and it is your responsibility to find up to date info.

Besides selling permits, local authorities determine closed season, allowed equipment and baits, and everything else that has in impact on specific fish population.

But, do you need a fishing license for catch and release? Or why do you need a fishing license to fish at all? Find out the answers to these and many other questions in the following chapters!



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Do You Need a Fishing License to Fish?

So, do you need a fishing license at all times and are there any exceptions?

In 99% of the cases, you need a license to fish in all waters. There are some exceptions, and I will mention those later on.

All waters that are not privately owned are under some kind of regulations (and it doesn’t matter if those regulations are state regulations or they are nation-wide) which means that permits are required.

Of course, type of the permit, price, and other rules and regulations that apply vary from state to state. If the body of water is located between 2 states, in most cases you may use one license issued by one of these two authorities.

Most often, the price is quite reasonable, and you can buy a yearly permit, a tourist permit, or some of the special categories permits that I will mention later on. It is important to mention that even if you are only assisting your friends and you are not fishing yourself, you still need a permit, even if you are just preparing their baits.

The only exception is when local authorities declare a free fishing day or. At that point, anyone can go fishing without a license, but rules about allowed catch still apply. That doesn’t mean that you can fish with 10 rods and take as much fish as you can with you. California is one of the states in the US that offers free fishing days and exact dates can be found on official websites.

Do You Need a Fishing License for Catch and Release?

Do you need a fishing license for catch and release is a common question because some people find it illogical to obtain a permit if they do not plan to keep any fish. The truth is however that you absolutely need one.

Fishing license is not only for those who keep the fish, but for everyone that has the intention to catch one. It doesn’t matter if you had a bad fishing day an caught nothing. As soon as you present your bait in the water, you are an angler, and all anglers need licenses.

The same is valid for catch and release. Of course, if you plan to keep your catch, make sure that you are keeping only the permitted quantity, and that you release fish that is too small or caught by accident (check what percent of catch and release fish die). All these details about permitted catch are available to anglers online, or in local bait stores and venues where angers can buy licenses.

Why Do You Need a Fishing License to Fish? 5 Main Reasons ...

Many people ask why do you need a fishing license to fish and think that paying for a permit is ridiculous if they catch one panfish.

The truth is, there are many irresponsible people out there and they have to be controlled somehow. Keeping fish population healthy enables all of us to fish successfully in the following years.

Here is why you need to get a license:

1. Stocking the fish – As you know, many waters are stocked with fish, and they are not there naturally. Money earned from permits is used to rase fish and stock these waters.

2. Keeping the waters clean and safe – pollution is a huge problem and regular cleaning and monitoring of waters is essential. That is not cheap, so part of the earnings from permits goes towards implementing various ecological solutions.

3. Regulating anglers’ behavior – when you sell a permit, buyer is required to obey all the rules that go with it. So, by not following them you can be fined. Also, those who responsibly buy a permit are likely to read the fine print and release a juvenile fish.

4. Monitoring fishing activity – by knowing exactly how many people fish in local waters, you can determine if their activity has a negative influence on local fish population.

5. Conservation, education, and access – money from licenses is used for conservation studies and implementation of conservation measures, as well as for education purposes for both children and adults. In addition to that, money is also used for building docks, boat ramps, and other infrastructure.

Do You Need a Fishing License - Private Property

Do You Need a Fishing License for Every State?

So, do you need a fishing license for every state? As I already mentioned, every state requires a license, and different types are available. In addition to that, licenses purchased for freshwater are not valid for saltwater (ocean) fishing.

Some national parks allow fishing in certain waters without a state license, but sometimes local permits are required in form of various fees. Even if that is the case, you still need to inform yourself about fishing rules.

Most often, there are sets of rules that include the following:

- Allowed bait
- Number of rods/hooks
- Minimum fish size
- Closed season for certain species or species that are illegal to catch at any time
- Rules about boats, nets, and similar
- Rules about prebaiting/chumming
- Rules about allowed fish quantity to keep

Many of us are aware of these rules in waters we fish regularly, but you have to know that every state is different. The same goes for privately owned waters, which will be explained in the next chapter.

Do You Need a Fishing License for Private Property?

Fishing license for every state is required, but do you need a fishing license for private property? Well, this depends. State license is not required in majority of cases, but every owner has a right to determine their own rules. As an angler fishing in private waters you have to comply with the owners requirements.

Private venues are sometimes free, but in other cases you need to pay a fee, which is logical. Owners will use this money to maintain fish population, stock their waters, feed the fish, and keep the place well maintained. That is the difference between private ponds and pay lakes. You can have the first one at home, bit if you charge the access, you need various permits for conducting a business. Pay-lakes, same as private ponds, most often do not require state license.

Of course, if the owner has additional rules about keeping the fish, you have to obey that too. But, you have to know what exactly is a private water. First of all, it has to be on a private property. It can be natural or man-made, but it can`t have a connection to other waters like streams or inlets.

Also, some states have regulations about private fishing venues and allowed size. Delaware is one of the examples.

In some states like Washington, private owners need special permits to stock ponds. In some states you do need a state license, and Arkansas is an example.

As I always say, these rules are subject to change and you have to check up to date info for every state!

Do You Need a Fishing License to Fish in the Ocean?

Do you need a fishing license to fish in the ocean is the last question about the necessity of licenses. The answer is YES, you do need one, and it is a different license than the one required for inland waters.

These licenses are sold by the authorities, and you can also get them online. Sets of rules about bait, fish species and similar factors also apply.

Some states will acknowledge licenses from neighboring states, similar to states sharing the same body of freshwater.

California has one exception, and that is fishing from public piers. Anglers fishing there do not need a state license, but of course, they must obey the same rules and regulations as everyone else. Special categories of anglers like children or seniors are sometimes allowed to fish without the license, or they do have to obtain one but it is free. The safest way to know which one you need is to check the official info.

Do You Need a Fishing License Under 16? [Or Under 18]

It is time to say a few words about special types of fishing licenses, like those for kids or senior citizens. Keep in mind that other categories exist in some states like military personnel or veterans.

So, do you need a fishing license under 16 and do you need a fishing license under 18?

Most often, anglers younger than 16 do not need a license, but that is valid only for local residents. Tourists still have to buy one even if they are younger.

But, in some states the age limit is not 16, it is 18 years. Sometimes, those aged between 16 and 18 need a junior license, which is cheaper than the one required for adults.

In Wyoming, you need a junior license if you are older than 14. As you can see, every state has a different requirement. In Oregon, the age limit is even lower, and youth license is available for those aged 12-17.

Although very young kids most often do not need a license, they still have to follow rules and regulations provided by local fishing authorities, and you as a parent are responsible for their actions.

Do You Need a Fishing License if You Are Over 65?

What if you are not a kid anymore, and you are enjoying your retirement by spending days on local waters? Do you need a fishing license if you are over 65?

The answer is the same as always, it depends on a state. Some states will let seniors fish without a license, but you need to present a proof that you are over 65 if asked by the authorities.

You don’t need it in 9 states, and those are Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, and Rhode Island. Keep in mind that this can change without notice, and you still need to check the validity of the list before you start fishing.

Other states require licenses, but they are sold on a discount. Some of those states will even give licenses for free, but you still need one. And of course, you are not exempted from obeying the fishing law even if you are senior. Age limit also varies between 60 and 70, depending on a state. And of course, this is all just for residents and not for tourists.

Do You Need a Fishing License if You Are Disabled?

Do you need a fishing license if you are disabled and are there special types of licenses for people with disabilities?

Same as with kinds and seniors, it depends on a state. Majority of them have special rates and discounts for disabled people, or even give the license for free.

Make sure that you check that info before you go out and start fishing. And depending on a state, check if these benefits are applicable on tourists.

Do You Need a Fishing License - Disabled

Can You Help Your Child Fish Without a License?

Can I help my child fish without a license and is the same as if I am helping my adult friends? I already mentioned that you need it even if you are just assisting other anglers, but is it the same if you are assisting your child?

The answer is YES, you still need one. It doesn’t matter if you are just supervising your kid without intervening in the fishing process, or you are helping your child to hold the rod, there are no exceptions.

In addition to that, you are responsible for your child, and you must ensure that the child obeys local rules and regulations.

Of course, private waters are a subject to different rules, and you do not need it in most cases as I already described in the previous chapters.

What Happens if You Get Caught Fishing Without a License?

Fishing without a license is irresponsible and should never be done in any circumstances. But, let’s say that you forgot to buy one or you didn’t notice that your license expired. What happens if you get caught fishing without a license?

In the best case you may get a warning and if you have some fish you planned to keep, it will get taken away from you.

If you are not that lucky, you may pay a fine. And what is the fine for fishing without a license? The exact amount depends on a state, but these prices can go up to $500, or even more if it is not your first offense of that kind. If you do it repetitively and get caught several times, there is a chance that you end up in court and get some jail time.

Do you need a fishing license to fish has been answered multiple times, and the only question you should ask is what kind of license do you need.

Do You Need a Fishing License - Without License


Do you need a fishing license is frequently asked by many beginners and knowing which one you need and where you need it can be confusing.

The safest thing to do is to always check official websites and get up to date info about it. Complying with rules and regulations is your responsibility and all anglers should have one.

Licenses are required to keep fish populations healthy and to enable fishing for next generations. They are not expensive and are easy to get, so there is no reason to risk a fine.

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