How Much is the FINE for Fishing Without a License? [Updated]

How Much is the FINE for Fishing Without a License

Fishing licenses are required almost everywhere in the world, including all US states. There is a good reason for that too.

Fees collected through licenses are used to finance conservation of fish populations and for environmental protection too. But what if you decide to fish without it?

How much is the fine for fishing without a license? The answer depends on a state, and are you a repetitive offender or not. Fines can be as low as $50, or go up to several thousands of dollars. Of course, if you get caught, your fish will be confiscated.

Here I will tell you more about fishing licenses, why is it necessary to have one, and where you can get it.

In addition to that, I will tell you how much irresponsible anglers have to pay if caught without a license in different states.

Even if the fine is low, don’t risk it!



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Do You Need a Fishing License? [When And Why?]

Fishing licenses are mandatory in all 50 states, for everyone, unless stated otherwise by the local authorities. As an angler, you are responsible to check up to date info that is stated on official websites. You need a license at all times while fishing or participating in fishing and helping others.

Various types of licenses exist. Two main types are saltwater and freshwater, which are then divided into adult, junior (kids), senior, resident, disabled, and other special categories. For certain saltwater species or locations (like oceans), you may need additional permits and tags.

Most often, children are exempted from this rule, and depending on a state, need a license when they are older than 14/16/18years. Seniors have discounts or even free licenses. If it is free, you still need one, and free doesn’t equal to no license at all.

Some states have so called “free days”. On those day, anyone can fish without a license, but every angler must obey rules and regulations about closed season, allowed baits and fishing techniques, and everything else that is mandatory by law.

In Florida, if you are fishing from licensed piers, you do not need a license. There are many special requirements, and they differ from one state to another.

But why do you need a license? The answer is fish conservation. Money earned through permits is used for various purposes.

Conducting research about fish populations, water quality, and environmental changes is one of them. Research results are then used to implement laws for fish protection.

Besides that, money is used for infrastructure like boat ramps or docks. A part of it goes for stocking lakes and rivers with fish from hatcheries.

And lastly, there are educational expenses. In some places young anglers have a variety of opportunities to learn about fishing.

How Much is the FINE for Fishing Without a License?

A lot of people want to know how much is the fine for fishing without a license. This number depends on a few factors. First of all, every state has a different fine. If you are caught for the first time, and you forgot to renew your license that expired 10 days ago, you may even end up with just a warning. If not, you will pay the lowest amount, usually around $50.

In many states fishing without a license is a non-criminal offense, at least if you were not catching protected species.

But, if you are a repetitive offender you may pay a lot more. Maybe even face some jail time, especially of you were caught with fish species you should not have. Besides fines, you may pay additional fees if you are caught with fish that is protected, or you caught them during closed season. If this happens, you can expect to pay thousands of dollars!

You can pay more than 20 000$ and have your equipment confiscated if caught by conservation officers and they conclude that you are a repetitive offender. This can even lead to one year in jail. Of course, it is the worst possible outcome.

As you can see, it is not worth the risk. Even if you have to pay the lowest amount, you will have your fishing day ruined and your catch confiscated. Buying a license is easy and quite affordable. I will tell you about it in the end of the article.

How Much is the FINE for Fishing Without a License - Money

Fine for Fishing Without a License in Different States:

Fine for fishing without a license can vary a lot, and as already mentioned, it depends on you and your actions too.

Here are some basic numbers for popular fishing states!

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Tennessee

In Tennessee, licenses are mandatory, same as in every other state. If you get caught without it, the lowest amount you will pay is $35. But, if the case goes to court, you can expect to pay up to $500 for court fees.

If caught more than once, fine can go up to $1000.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Oregon

Oregon has a bit different rule. The lowest fine is $15, but almost no one will pay just that. You will have to pay penalties for every fish caught. These penalties can be from $5 to $1000 per fish.

Also, if caught multiple times, fine itself (without penalties) can be as high as $12 000.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Florida

If caught fishing without a license in Florida, you will pay for a license, plus additional 50 dollars. If you get caught again within 36 months after the first offense, you will have to pay $100. This will rise to $500 after you get caught again.

If you fail to pay or show up in court, you can expect up to 60 days of jail time.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Mississippi

Fine for freshwater fishing without a license in Mississippi is between $100 and $250 for the first offense. In saltwater, it can be up to $500. For non residents, fine in freshwater can be up to $500 on first offense.

If you were caught during closed season, fine will be from $500 to $1000 in saltwater. Same fines are given for second offense. Third or any other offense will be fined from $2000 to $4000 if done in a period of less than 3 years.

If you get caught four or more times you may end up in jail and get a one year fishing ban. As you can see, saltwater rules and fines are much stricter here than freshwater. Five violations may end up in confiscating all of your equipment, including a boat if you have any, and you can be required to pay up to $10000.

How Much is the FINE for Fishing Without a License - Jail

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Illinois

Illinois has very high fines. If you are a repetitive offender, you may get one year of prison sentence and $2500 fine. But luckily if it is your first time, you will pay a lot less, around $100.

This state has rules similar to those applicable to drivers. You collect negative points in a specific time frame, and your fine is calculated based on that.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Texas

Texas is a great place when it comes to fines. Wondering why? Well, they have a price list of fines available online for you to see. You can compare it with the license price yourself, and see that licenses are much cheaper.

Expired or nonexistent license will cost you $130 on your first offense. Illegal fishing methods will cost you $155. Size and bag limit violations cost $205.

Of course, these numbers may rise if you are caught more than once.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Nevada

In Nevada, minimum fine is $50 for your first offense. Additionally, you may pay penalties for various fish species, and those penalties go from $25 to$1000. If you do not pay within 3 months, you may be denied a license in the future.

Altogether, you are facing a very expensive fishing day if you decide not to buy a license.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Ohio

In Ohio, fines start at relatively low $75. But that is for your first offense. Of course, if you make some other offenses, like fishing for protected species or closed season, fine can be significantly higher.

Also, officials will confiscate your catch, and you may end up in court.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Oklahoma

Fine for fishing without a license in Oklahoma is similar to many other states when it comes to lower amount. It is $25-$200 for residents and $50 - $200 for non-residents.

These numbers can be a lot higher is you are fishing for species that require additional permits. If you are caught without, you may pay a few thousand dollars and face some jail time, depending on the severity of your offense.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in South Carolina

Basic rule about fines for fishing without a license in SC is that anglers who are caught will pay not less than $50 and not more than $500 for their first offense. In addition to that, you may end up in jail for up to 30 days, depending on your offense.

For repetitive offenders and those who are breaking some other laws like bag limit, fines can go up.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Kansas

Kansas is very strict and has very high fines. First offense will cost you between $250 and $1000. Any subsequent one will cost at least $1000.

Just for comparison, yearly non-resident license, which is the most expensive option, cost just a bit over $50. If you ask me, trying to fish without it is not worth it.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Louisiana

In Louisiana, depending on circumstances, you will pay $50 to $500 if caught without a license. Lowest price is for first time offenders, while higher ones are for repetitive offenders or those who had their license revoked.

In addition to the fine, you may have to pay the value of caught fish that will be confiscated. All of this can lead to arrest, court hearing, and even jail.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Utah

In Utah, fines can go up to $1000 and in addition to that, you may be suspended from getting a new license for another 3 years. All of this can lead to 180 days in jail!

If you are lucky, and it was your first time, or you license expired a few days ago, you may get a lower fine. But, if I were you, I wouldn’t try my luck.

Just for comparison, Shimano Stella or some other good fishing reel can be bought for similar price. Which one would you rather have? New top of the line reel, or a paper that says you are an offender?

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in Alaska

Alaska is a fishing paradise for adventurous anglers. If you forget to buy a license, you will immediately have to pay $100-$150. Of course, authorities will confiscate all of your fish.

If you are a repetitive offender, you will get arrested and taken to court where you will also have to pay for court fees.

- Fine for Fishing Without a License in California

For first time offenders, fines are between $100 and $1000. For second time offenders who are caught again less than 5 years after the first time, fine is $250 to $1000. If you have a license, but you don’t have it with you, you will still be fined with $25.

Of course, fines stated above can be significantly higher if you broke other laws too, like caught over the bag limit, or you kept juvenile fish.

How and Where to Buy Fishing License? [To NOT Get a Fine!]

Fishing licenses can be bought in various places. Bait and tackle stores sell them. You can get them in official authority’s offices. Most often, large supermarkets like Walmart have them. But, if you are buying in a store, you are risking crowds, long waiting lines, and of course, the store may be closed at time of your arrival.

I would advise you to buy a fishing license online. It is easy, convenient, and can be done from anywhere at any time. This is very useful for travelers.

Official websites also provide info about all the rules and regulations (like at what age do you need a fishing license, etc.), and you can carefully study it. Some states allow you to have your license on a mobile phone, while others require printed versions. Inform yourself about it and do what is mandatory.

Just keep in mind that if you want to buy some special category license, like resident or senior, you will have to provide a valid ID to prove your age/residency.

How Much is the FINE for Fishing Without a License - Buy Online


If you ask me how much is the fine for fishing without a license, I will say too much to risk it! Not just because of pricey fines, but because you are deliberately doing harm to fish populations and the environment.

Licenses are required for a reason, and responsible anglers know that they must have them at all times. Yearly license for many states can be bought for less that $50, and that is not too much.

No matter where you plan to fish, learn about local rules and regulations and obtain all relevant documents so that no one can ruin your day on the water!

About Me

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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