As one of the most popular sports in the US, fishing provides new and experienced anglers alike with exercise, fresh air, exciting challenges, and memorable experiences—all with a pretty low barrier to entry in terms of ability needed and basic equipment costs.
However, one of the most overlooked fishing necessities is also one of the most important: a fishing license. We answer the question, how much is a fishing license? And what it will cost in your state, as well as what kind you’ll need and how to obtain it.
History Of Fishing Licenses In The US
Fishing licenses weren’t always required in the United States. Catching fish wasn’t regulated due to low population numbers and vast natural areas.
In the early 1900s, however, the American population quickly grew—nearly doubling between 1880 and 1910.
What’s more, private fishing for recreation was so commonplace, the total number of fish caught annually was actually comparable to those caught by commercial fishermen.
This quickly posed a threat to America's natural resources, which weren’t yet studied and tracked to ensure species populations avoided endangerment.
President Theodore Roosevelt, an enormous proponent of nature conservation and preservation, passed the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act in the 1930s, which quickly led to more legislation regulating natural resources and habitats. Later, The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, also known as FASFRA, required hunters and fisherman to obtain licenses for their activities from their respective states.
Requiring licensure protects game populations against overfishing and overhunting, which further benefits their ecosystems and other species—as well as our overall environment. Additionally, the fees associated with obtaining your fishing license help support state wildlife programs and key research, which is needed to keep America’s resources plentiful and thriving.
Who Needs A Sport Fishing License?
While not all states require fishing licenses in certain scenarios, every state does have some regulations in place that anglers should research before casting.
In Florida, for example, you don’t need a license if you’re fishing on a chartered boat that has a license of its own. You also aren’t required to get a license in Florida if you’re under 16, over 65, active military, are permanently disabled, or are an American citizen fishing without a reel and with live bait.
These rules might seem random, but they’re actually crafted based on Florida’s fish populations and known fishing demographics—and the same holds true for every state’s unique laws and guidelines.
The requirements also change in some states if the body of water you’re fishing rests entirely on private land. Meanwhile, others might offer residents “no-permit days,” in which recreational fishing is completely free and requires no license at all.
Apart from variances like these, each state has its own rule about the age at which an angler has to get a fishing license. Arizona requires people as young as 10 years old to obtain one, while other states allow all minors to fish license-free. Most states set the age for a fishing license at 16.
Barring certain situations, locations, or species, fishing in all 50 states requires a license for non-commercial fishing in at least some situations/water types.
Why Do You Need A Fishing License?
Although it might seem like a hassle and unnecessary expense—especially if you’ve already spent a small fortune on fishing gear and other supplies—a license is crucial to participating in this sport responsibly.
The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act was passed in 1950 to urge states to better manage their fish populations and habitats. Not only did this act encourage the requirement of licenses, but it also lets states charge higher taxes on fishing gear—and all of this revenue serves a very important purpose.
Fishing licenses safeguard against poaching and overfishing of certain waters or populations. Furthermore, the fees you pay to get your license help preserve state wildlife areas and protect numerous species throughout an ecosystem or food chain.
The federal Department of Fish and Wildlife also uses license fees to stock public bodies of water with more fish, usually obtained via regulated hatcheries. When you get a fishing license, you’re effectively helping to ensure more populated waters for yourself and other anglers.
There’s also a certain level of education obtained when you get a fishing license, depending on your state. Anglers are provided with knowledge of which species are safe to catch (and when), which can help you fish more productively while protecting species populations.
In short, fishing licenses aren’t just beneficial to the federal and state governments. They also help anglers by providing more fish and stabilized marine ecosystems.
How Much Does A Fishing License Cost? (All US States)
The rules and regulations surrounding fishing licenses vary by state, although you’ll notice similarities for most in terms of age requirements, license duration, and general costs. Consult the table below for information on your particular state, or click your state's name to view each one's corresponding wildlife department website for more details.
Annual Resident License
Annual Non-Resident License
$10.15 (Sport Fishing License-Saltwater: 7 Day Trip, residents 16-65 years of age). 7-day licenses remain valid for 168 consecutive fishing hours.
$22.50 with trout stamp
$70.00 with trout stamp
Arkansas also offers licenses for commercial tackle.
$52.66 for freshwater or saltwater fishing
$142.50 for freshwater or saltwater fishing
Resident youth or senior annual licenses: $9.75
$32.00 for ages 18 to 64
Discounted resident licenses also available for inland ($28.00) or marine water ($10.00) areas only. 1-day Marine Licenses can be obtained for $3 (age 18-64) or $5 (age 16-17).
7-Day non-resident passes ($12.50), trout stamps, and boat fishing licenses also available via state website.
$17.00 per water type (saltwater or freshwater), or
$32.50 for permission to fish both
$47.00 for either saltwater or freshwater
5-year fishing license (residents): $79
1-day licenses and separate trout licenses also available.
$4.00 for minors, $6.00 for adults. Freshwater fishing only; no license required for saltwater shoreline or boat fishing.
$25.00; freshwater only. Saltwater does not require license.
No age requirement.
$30.50 for legal adults; $13.75 for ages 14-17
15-day and 3-year durations are also available.
Senior discounts and one-day passes also available to residents and non-residents.
16; non-resident children are not required to have their own licenses
Senior annual resident license ($3) and senior lifetime license ($17) are also available. One-day license is $9. Trout and salmon included in all licenses.
3-year, 1-day, and 7-day licenses, senior lifetime licenses, and trout licenses also available.
Lifetime fishing for residents ($502.50), 1-day licenses, 5-year licenses, senior licenses, and trout permits also available.
1-day and 3-year versions are also available, along with trout permits.
Hook and Line license available for can pole fishing. Minors age 15 and under should carry proof of age, such as school ID.
1-, 3-, and 7-day freshwater licenses are also available. Anglers who are training new licensees are not required to have licenses themselves, provided no more than one pole is used and they remain in close proximity to one another.
$25.50 (Freshwater and trout)
$40.50 (Freshwater and trout)
Some licensees will be required to register in the Saltwater Angler Registry; see Maryland Department of Natural Resources website for exceptions and more information.
Minors aged 15-17 can obtain free licenses; 3-day freshwater adult licenses are also available.
Senior annual license ($11) also available for residents age 65+. Also applicable to legally blind persons.
1- and 3-day passes, 3-year licenses, and combination hunting-fishing licenses also available.
Small or large game combination licenses, lifetime senior licenses, and 3-day freshwater passes are also available.
Trout permit and 1-day licenses are also available ($7 each).
Licenses for 2 or more consecutive days are also available.
Lifetime licenses for residents are also available; prices vary by age.
Youth licenses ($15) and one-day passes ($9, $3 for each additional day) are also available.
Senior annual licenses ($7) and 1-day licenses ($10) are also available.
$33.00 with trout stamp
$54.00 with trout stamp
Senior annual licenses ($12.50) also available for ages 65 to 69. Buddy licenses, current, and former military discounts, and licenses for legally blind individuals are also available at various rates. Residents age 70+ are exempt from needing a license.
1- and 5-day permits as well as youth discounts are also available.
Senior licenses ($5) are available to residents over 70 years of age. 1- and 7-day licenses may also be purchased.
10-day permits are also available for purchase.
Couples licenses available for married individuals. Discounted annual licenses for disabled persons, seniors, or veterans can also be purchased—separate licenses needed for paddlefish.
3-, 5-, and 10-year as well as lifetime licenses available. Charter versions can be purchased as well.
2-day, 5-year, and lifetime versions available to residents as well.
1-,2-, and 3-day permits are also available. Separate license (1-day) required for shellfish.
$32.94 with trout stamp
$62.94 with trout stamp
Senior citizens may purchase a lifetime license for $51.90.
$23.50 with trout stamp
$40.50 with trout stamp
Shellfish can be caught within certain limits without a license only if you are a resident of Rhode Island.
14-day and 3-year versions are also available. Public saltwater piers require separate licenses based on pier length.
1-day ($8) and senior annual licenses ($12) are also available to purchase.
$56.00 with trout stamp
$99 with trout stamp
An all-inclusive sportsman annual license is also available ($166) and permits the licensee to fish, trap, and hunt. County of Residence ($11) licenses also available for fishing with natural bait in one’s resident county.
$40.00 (All Water)
$68.00 (All Water)
1-day and senior licenses can also be purchased.
$34.00 (age 18-64)
3- and 7-day permits available as well. Discounted annual licenses for persons under 18 or 65 and older.
3-day and 5-year versions are also available to purchase. Youth license ($8) for ages 15-17.
Sportsman’s license also available; includes fishing and some hunting. Reservoir license applicable to certain parts of Tennessee as well. See Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources website for more information.
Shellfish and seaweed require a separate license ($17.40).
$29.00 with trout stamp
$53.00 with trout stamp
Lifetime licenses for general fishing ($552) and trout fishing ($230) are also available.
$30.00 with trout stamp
$60.00 with trout stamp
One-day licenses are also available. Special licenses required to fish sturgeon.
One-day license is available for $6. Youth passes are $3. Additional fees for hatchery or preserve fishing.
Situations Where You Don't Need A Fishing License
While most situations in most states will require a fishing license, there are exceptions: times when a fishing license isn’t needed at all. Keep in mind that each of these scenarios depends on your state’s legislation and can also be affected by the species of fish you’re targeting.
Public Fishing Piers
When fishing off public piers in many states, such as California, you don’t need a license. Not all states have this exception, but many allow it due to the difficulty of overfishing these areas in non-commercial capacities.
Fishing On “Free Fishing Days”
As previously mentioned, many states offer no-license days, also called “free fishing days,” during which anyone can fish without paying fees or obtaining a license.
These days help to raise awareness of certain fish populations and state wildlife programs. They also encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise fish to give the sport a try by removing one of the few barriers for entry that fishing has.
Anglers Under Age Of 16
Some states require licenses at younger ages than 16, so this exception won’t always apply—but, in most states, minors under this age can fish without a license, although some will need documentation if fishing for certain species.
One reason for this is that children are usually accompanied by a licensed adult.
However, another reason for the “minors fish free" rule most states have is to encourage youth to get involved in the sport as early as possible, which will foster an appreciation and understanding of responsible fishing and wildlife conservation.
People also Ask (FAQs)
How long is my fishing license valid?
Fishing licenses remain valid for 12 months from the date you purchase them, with some exceptions. Special passes can last only a few days or weeks, while extended licenses can last 3 to 5 years. Additionally, some states offer lifetime licenses, which remain valid until the person’s death.
Do I need to have my license visible while fishing?
There is no longer a rule requiring anglers to visibly display their licenses in any state. However, if you are required to obtain a license, you’ll need to carry it on you every time you go fishing. Be prepared to prove your age if you belong to a particular age bracket, as well, such as senior citizens or youths under that state’s license age.
How much is the fine for fishing without a license?
Depending on your state's regulations, fishing without a license can land you hundreds of dollars in fines and even criminal charges. Some states are more lenient than others, charging only $50 for a first offense; others, however, can fine up to $1,000 for each fish you caught without a license.
This is also true if you do have a license but are caught fishing outside its limitations (for example, fishing in freshwater when your license specifies clearance for saltwater). In the event you'll be fishing across multiple bodies of water—traveling between fresh- and saltwater bodies—it's wise to purchase licenses for both or some kind of combination license.
What licenses do you need to fish in multiple states?
If you cross state lines—either via land or while you’re on the water—you will need a license for each state in which you’re fishing. It’s helpful to plan your fishing trip ahead of time to either ensure you stay within your state's boundaries or to pre-purchase non-resident licenses for the other states you'll visit.
Note that some exceptions do exist, such as the South Holston Reservoir License: it is valid in those specific waters in both Virginia and Tennessee, assuming you have a resident license for one of those states. In Tennessee, it is called the South Holston Lake License.
For the most part, however, you will need separate licenses for each state, even if you’re only crossing borders by a few yards. Bear in mind that the extra expense is still far less than the potential fines you can incur for unlicensed fishing.
How much is a fishing license at Walmart?
Walmart is an affordable and convenient place to obtain a fishing license. Residents should expect to pay about $19 for an annual license, while seniors get a discount and pay about $10. One-day licenses for occasional anglers or out-of-state visitors cost $11, although out-of-state annual licenses will cost $40. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines; prices will vary based on each state’s typical prices.
How much is a lifetime fishing license?
Not every state allows lifetime license options for residents, but those who do will generally charge $200-$625 or thereabouts to obtain one. Some limit this option to certain age groups, while others have no limits; a few offer them to everyone, with the fees decreasing for higher age brackets.
Can you purchase a fishing license online?
Your state’s wildlife department will usually offer an online purchase option to obtain your fishing license. In some cases, a license will have to be purchased via phone or a brick-and-mortar establishment such as Walmart.
Fishing licenses allow anglers to legally and safely fish in certain areas such as lakes and rivers and situations, preventing overfishing and helping to preserve America’s fish and wildlife ecosystems.
The requirements and cost to get a license will vary by state, age, and other factors, but are ultimately simple to navigate and will help ensure responsible participation in this popular sport.