How Long Does it Take to Get a Fishing License? [Step-by-Step]

How Long Does it Take to Get a Fishing License

As you probably know, fishing license is mandatory to have before you engage in any fishing activities.

Licences are easily obtainable, affordable, and funds gained by selling licences go towards preservation of fish and waters.

So, how long does it take to get a fishing license and is it complicated? Well, it takes just a few minutes, depending on how much experience you have with online purchases. And the whole process is very simple. Here I am talking about US, however, it is similar in almost all developed countries.

Rarely, it is allowed to fish without the licences, but those are isolated occasions, and every angler should assume that licence is required.

Getting caught without it can cost a fortune and ruin a fishing trip. To avoid that, I created this step-by-step guide that will show you how easy it is to get one!

Read on to find out the details!



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Do You Need a Fishing License in Every Situation?

First, let`s see if license is always required. What I always say is: YES, you need it, unless the local fishing authorities say otherwise.

When you are fishing in public waters, no matter if those are freshwater or saltwater / ocean, you need to have a license. Sometimes, license does not cover all species, and you need to pay extra to be legally allowed to catch those.

License can be purchased for a period of one year, one day, or a number of days like 3 or 14, depending on a state. Some states even offer lifetime options.

Special categories of licences exist, like those for residents, non-residents, seniors, children, disabled, veterans, and more. Some of these categories can get license at reduced price or even for free.

Common misconception is that free license (like for seniors in some states) means they don’t need license. That is a mistake, because they can get the license without paying, however they still need to have one.

With the license, you are obligated to follow all rules and regulations that apply to given state and waters, such as daily limits, baits and techniques allowed, closed seasons, off-limit species, and everything else.

There are a few exceptions. One is when you are fishing in private ponds, where you are likely to pay some fee to the owners.

Another exception is children who are allowed to fish without licenses in some places, however, they still need to obey the rules.

And the last exception is fishing during the “free fishing day” that is one day in the year, when fishing is allowed without it. Dates vary from state to state, and it is not applicable to all species.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Fishing License - Do You Need

How Long Does it Take to Get a DAILY Fishing License? [How To Apply?]

Now when you know that you definitely need it, let’s see how long it takes to get a fishing license. Process for daily license is quite simple ...

Here are steps to follow:

  • STEP #1: Take your laptop (can be done with a phone too, but it is easier on bigger screen and websites work better on versions that are not mobile).

  • STEP #2: Use Google or some other search engine and search for “fishing license STATE NAME”. To narrow down the search, you can add “resident”, “non-resident” “senior” or any other category into search.

  • STEP #3: Open the official fishing authority website that will be among the first results.

  • STEP #4: Follow the instructions and enter all required data.

It takes less than 10 minutes!

Step number 4 or this list depends on a state and how the website is designed but you will need to provide information such as name, residency, drivers licence or some other document number, and you must choose the date or the dates for which you are buying. Fill it out carefully because licences are non-refundable.

Special categories like disabled must provide more info to prove their status.

Licences can be in printed form, or you can get a card for an extra fee. Some states (like UT) accept mobile versions and have apps where you can save the license, access all info, and even get notifications about expiry dates.

If you are not a fan of online purchases, you can simply take your drivers license or a travel document if you are a tourist from abroad and go to a local Walmart to buy it there, or in local fish and game offices. It also takes just a couple of minutes.

How Long Does it Take to Get a YEARLY Fishing License? [How To Apply?]

For a yearly license, it is very similar to daily. What is important here is that the license is valid 365 days from the date of purchase, unless stated otherwise.

For example, in CA or NY, it is valid 365 days, while in TX or NJ there are specifically set dates until when the yearly license is valid. TX has set August 31st as expiration date, so even if you buy it in July, it will expire in the end of August.

So, the best would be to buy it and renew every year in August.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

  • STEP #1: Type in Google yearly fishing license STATE NAME and add resident or non-resident.

  • STEP #2: Open official authorities’ website.

  • STEP #3: Fill in required data.

And that’s it! Personal information required is the same as for other license categories!

The whole process can be done in less than 10 minutes as already said. If you have done it before or you have all the document numbers and required info ready, you can do it in 5 minutes!

For a yearly license, I would advise to pay to get a card instead of printed paper because you will be carrying it around for a year, and paper will get pale, torn, wet, and destroyed.

Same as daily license, yearly license can also be bought in stores like Walmart.

FAQs about Getting Fishing License:

How long does it take to get a fishing license depends on how fast you can fill in required data online, and it is usually very short. But, before you even start the process, here are some additional answers to questions you may have.

What Documents Do You Need to Get Fishing License?

Of course, some documents are required to get the license, but nothing too complicated. If you are a resident, you only need your driver’s license. For non-residents, ID cards are required. Tourists form abroad need their passports.

Sometimes, states (like Texas) will give resident license to people who have been residing in Texas for longer than 6 months. If you don’t have official residency there, you can prove it with documents like pay check slips or utility bills. But those are isolated cases and if you are in such situation, check what local authorities require.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Fishing License - Documentes

Do You Need a Fishing License for Catch and Release?

License is always required, even if you are not keeping your catch. Any engagement in fishing activities should be performed only by a person holding a valid license, even if you are not the one doing the fishing. If you are on a boat preparing baits for a friend or accompanying your elderly grandfather and setting up his equipment, you need a license.

How Much is the FINE for Fishing Without a License?

Fines depend on a state and your specific situation. First time offenders who accidentally forgot to renew license that expired 2 days ago may get out with a warning and their catch confiscated.

Otherwise, you will pay a low fine, like $50. But, considering that is usually a price of a license, it is not worth a risk.

Those who are caught fishing without a license, on prohibited species, in closed season, and are repeated offenders can pay thousands of dollars and end up in court.

Exact fines and consequences vary from one state to another.

What Age Do You Need a Fishing License?

Age limit for a license depend in which state you are fishing at, but it is usually 16 to 18 years of age. Younger than that are exempted. But some states like Arizona, have very low age limits, just 10 years.

Keep in mind that state rules may require non-resident of all ages to obtain a license, and there is no exception, even for children. For residents, different age rules can apply.

In Hawaii, everyone needs a license, regardless of age.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Fishing License - What Age

Can a Non-Resident Get a Fishing License?

Non-residents can get a license in every state; however, they will pay the highest price and no discount applies. Even if the non-resident is senior or disabled, full price has to be paid unless stated otherwise by the authorities.

Tourists can get licences online or buy it in stores by presenting a valid travel document. The process is simple, and it takes just a few minutes.

Are there any FREE Fishing Licenses?

Yes, there are free licences! As already mentioned, free doesn’t mean that you don’t need it.

Free license can be given to veterans, blind anglers, seniors, or disabled citizens in certain states. Some states offer discounts while other give it absolutely free.

One of the examples is Ohio that provides 5-year free licenses to disabled veterans. If course, they must fill the application form and wait for approval. Status of such anglers must be checked and confirmed by authorities, and although you can fill in the application in 5 minutes, approval may take several weeks.

Can I Fish With Someone Who Has a Fishing License?

To be on the safe side, you can assume that the answer is NO. In some circumstances exemptions may apply, however in 99% of the cases even if you are just accompanying someone, you must be a holder of a valid license.

Don’t ruin your fishing trip by getting caught in illegal fishing and check the reasons why do you need a fishing license ...

How Long Does it Take to Get a Fishing License - Partner


If you were wondering how long does it take to get a fishing license, the good news is that it takes less than 10 minutes!

You can easily purchase it online on websites from local fishing authority by entering some basic personal information.

If you are not a computer person, you can spend a few minutes in a local Walmart to buy it, but don’t forget to bring your documents!

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. 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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