When is a Fishing License Required?

Ready to hit the water to catch a stringer of fish? Before you drop a line, you need to know the license requirements. Every state has different fishing license regulations.

Free for some

Some states allow residents a free permit for certain kinds of fishing. Anglers under 16, over 65, handicapped and disabled veterans often get free or very reduced fishing licenses.

Non Resident License

If you are not a resident of that state, you will need a license to fish. This is the only universal rule for fishing licenses. Non-resident licenses are more expensive than resident licenses.

Most states also sell a non-resident license that is good for one to a few days. These are cheaper than an annual or seasonal license.

Special permits

Some states also regulate fishing by species. For example, Georgia has up to four licenses required to fish, depending on what and where you fish. You need a fishing license for fresh or saltwater. You need a trout stamp to catch stocked and wild trout in Georgia’s northern streams and lakes. If you also want to fish a wildlife management area (WMA), you need a WMA stamp. About half the states have WMAs. Georgia allows property owners and immediate family members to fish on water they own without a license.

Other states have restricted areas and species that require special permits. Alaska sells fishing licenses with an additional stamp needed for king salmon. Alaska also requires a free Sport Fishing Harvest Record Card for fishing in places and for species that have annual harvest limits.

Freshwater and saltwater means two licenses

States that border the ocean often have freshwater and saltwater licenses. New Jersey requires a freshwater fishing license for all freshwater fishing. A saltwater license is only required for certain species. For instance, no license is needed “for recreational surf casting, deep sea or bay fishing,” but a shellfish license is needed to go clamming.

Florida’s saltwater license covers everything except spiny lobster, snook and tarpon. Special permits are needed for those fish. In the Sunshine State, you can catch scallops, sea trout, grouper and much more with just a saltwater license. If you are a resident of the state, you can fish from land or a pier reaching out from land with a free shoreline license.

Get fishing

Every year each state offers a free fishing day, weekend or week. No license is needed. Take Me Fishing lists the free fishing opportunities in every state. The site will also help you get a fishing license if you do need one.

Image credit: Stillwellmike

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