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

Do You Need a Fishing License to Fish in the Ocean

Before fishing, every angler should get a valid fishing license. You may wonder why you need one, and the answer is conservation of fish population.

Of course, various licenses exist, and sometimes you can even get a discount. Detailed info is available on official government websites, so you can always check the requirements. You probably know about all of these rules for freshwater fishing, but what about fishing in the ocean?

Do you need a fishing license to fish in the ocean or you can do it without? The answer is: Yes, you need a license to fish in the ocean, except if the authorities specifically stated otherwise. Saltwater license is different from freshwater license, and you can’t use the same one.

Luckily, even saltwater licenses have discounts for seniors and youth, or for local residents, so you could save a couple of dollars if this applies to you.

Keep in mind that fishing in the ocean frequently has many restrictions, so make sure that you read all the rules and regulations that go with it.

Here I will tell you more about saltwater licenses, and how to get one.



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Can You Fish Anywhere in the Ocean? [Is it Legal?]

Fishing in the ocean offers almost endless possibilities. From shores to boats and piers, anglers have a variety of places to choose from. But is it legal?

The answer highly depends on a location you are fishing at. You should always check for a specific area before you start. Mostly, you can fish almost anywhere, but some restrictions exist.

Fishing is forbidden in protected areas and some specific places like certain coral reefs. Even if allowed, fishing in such areas has many restrictions, and you should obey the rules. This is especially important if you are travelling to some other state/country.

Oceans are home to hundreds of fish species, and make sure that you can recognize the protected ones. If you accidentally catch it, you must release it. Also, there are size and quantity limits which vary from one place to another.

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

This highly depends on a situation. In the majority of cases, you need one. Even if you are just helping a minor, or you are there to bait hooks for fellow anglers, you need a license.

Besides on beaches, you can also fish in the international waters. In that case, you can fish freely. But, if you are on a territory of a specific state/country, you definitely need a license.

Some exceptions exist, and one of them is Florida. Anglers who are fishing from licenses piers in Florida do not need a license. But, if you are fishing from a boat or shore, you need one.

In some states in the USA you can participate in free fishing days, when licenses are not required. However, rules about protected species and similar still apply. Shortly, every state in the US requires a fishing license for fishing in saltwater.

Do You Need a Fishing License to Fish in the Ocean - Pier

What Kind of Fishing License Do You Need to Fish in the Ocean?

Fishing license for ocean fishing is a separate category of a license, and you can`t use the freshwater one. Similar to freshwater option, different categories are available, and those are for youth, residents, seniors, disabled, veterans and some special types that can get a discount. 

Adults (usually 18-65 years old but these numbers can vary) pay the most expensive one. The same goes for non-residents. It is interesting that younger than certain age (like 14 or 16) are exempted from having one even if they are non-residents, while senior non-residents have to pay a full price. Here you can also check at what age do you need a fishing license.

Saltwater fishing license is valid for coastal waters and waters which are a territory of a specific state/country. Of course, you may need additional permits/stamps for certain species. Those are frequently used for big game fishing or some specific species.

For example, in Florida you can find various saltwater licenses, and there are options like shoreline only, shore-based shark fishing, or tarpon tags. These tags must be purchased along with the license for any kid of tarpon fishing.

Where to Buy a Fishing License for Fishing in the Ocean?

Now you know do you need a fishing license to fish in the ocean, but where (and how) to buy one?

My favorite way of buying fishing licenses is online. Official websites are available for every state in the USA and most of the countries around the world. At these websites, you can find detailed info about closed seasons, permitted techniques, and additional requirements like previously mentioned tarpon tags. Also, you can buy it at anytime, from anywhere, which is convenient for travelers.

Besides online, you can buy licenses in tackle and bait stores, and even some supermarkets. And the last option is in the authorities’ offices, if there are any. Keep in mind to check opening hours if buying it like this.

You need to have a license with you at all times while fishing, and in addition to that, you need a valid ID to prove your credentials.

How Much is a Fishing License for Fishing in the Ocean?

Fishing license for ocean can vary in price a lot, depending on a type of license and any special categories. Some average is 20 to 70 dollars for a basic yearly license, without a discount.

But, getting additional tags may be pricey, and cost around 50 dollars for a tag (like tarpon tag), which enables you to land just one per year. There is no discount on tags.

As already mentioned, there are discounts for various categories of anglers. If applicable to you, you can buy it for just a few dollars, especially licenses for 3//7/14 days instead of a yearly option.

Same as in freshwater fishing, children do not need a license, and of course, it is free. However, if you are helping your child, or even just supervising, you need one. Even if children are exempted, they still have to obey rules and regulations.

What Documents Do You Need to Buy a Fishing License for the Ocean?

Fishing license for ocean can be bought using different documents. Most often, anglers use driver’s license, ID cards or passports.

The reason why you need a document is to prove your residency or age if buying some of the special license categories. In some states, you will even have to provide your SSN.

Of course, children are exempted from this even if they are in the age group that needs a youth license (as low as 12 in some states).

When fishing, you always need to have this ID with you, in case you need to show it to the authorities. When buying a license in stores, you will have to present it.

What Happens If You Get Caught Without A Fishing License?

Conservation of fish species is extremely important, and as an angler, you must know that protecting healthy fish populations benefits all of us.

By obtaining a license and paying fees which are quite affordable, you are enabling research and conservation projects.

But, what if you accidentally forget it? What will happened depends on a situation. You may get lucky and end up with just a warning. Of course, your catch will be taken away from you.

If you are a bit less lucky, you may end up paying a fine which can be a few hundred dollars. But, if you are repetitive offender or you caught some highly regulated species, fines can cost you thousands of dollars. There is a chance that you end up in jail.

All of this is easily avoidable if you purchase a license in time. When you think about how much money you are spending on gear and fishing trips, a few dollars extra for license is nothing.

Do You Need a Fishing License to Fish in the Ocean - Fine


Do you need a fishing license to fish in the ocean is a very important question. You need one unless specifically stated otherwise by the local authorities. Always check up to date official information before you go fishing.

Some categories of anglers can fish without a license (kids) while others can get a discount (youth, seniors, disabled).

There are different types of licenses and they differ from one state to another. For some species you may need to buy additional tags or permits.

Fishing without a license is both irresponsible and pricey, if you get caught. Buy one before you go to your next fishing adventure and fish safely!

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