How Much Does A Fishing License Cost?

If you’re someone who’s eager to become an angler and reel in some trophy fish, you may want to slow things down just a touch. Something you might not know is that many states require fishing licenses.

Barring a few exceptions, a fishing license is an important part of becoming an expert fisherman. In this article, we’ll go over the cost of these licenses and why they’re so important. 

When Do I Need A Fishing License?

When learning to fish, there is admittedly a little bit of confusion when it comes to the necessity of licenses. Some people think that you only need a license if you plan on keeping the fish that you catch. Others might question why you don’t need a license for boating but then need a fishing license. 

To put things simply: If you are planning on catching fish in any capacity on state or publicly owned lands, a fishing license is required. There are sometimes exceptions to this, as some states may hold free fishing days during the season.

Fishing licence or fishing permit

In many places, it’s illegal to go fishing without a license.

Another exception is if you’re fishing on private property. Another factor as to when you need a fishing license is dependent on your age. Most states require people 16 or 17 years of age to become a license-holder. If you aren’t that old, then you do not need a license. 

If you’re visiting another state for fishing, then you’ll need a non-resident license. This is because a general requirement for owning a license is to be a citizen of the state you’re fishing in. The unfortunate part about these types of licenses is that they’re generally a lot more expensive than a normal one. However, paying the license fee is a better alternative to receiving a fine for illegal fishing. 

Why Do I Need A Fishing License? 

While this question might seem like a no-brainer to some, it is important to explain why fishing licenses are important. It really boils down to the fact that the money made from these licenses helps fund public projects. Additionally, it ensures that the catching of fish is well-regulated while on public and state lands. 

“But what kind of public projects does this money go to?” You might ask. This is a good question to ask, it’s good to know where exactly your money is going. Probably the biggest thing your fishing license money goes to is the maintaining of public and state maintenance programs. 

Without the proceeds from these fishing licenses, it is likely that your favorite fishing spot would become riddled with trash and pollution. Funding from licenses allows states to conduct clean-up operations to ensure that the habitats of these fish are well taken care of.

Without them, your lake, river, or pond would look terrible! To add to this, without the added funding from the license sales, your favorite spot could potentially run out of fish! That’s right, the money state services receive from licenses goes directly towards something known as fish stockings.

To put it simply, the populations of fish in the state and publicly owned bodies of water are monitored. If it is found that a population of a certain fish is low, more can be added due to the extra funding. Cleanup and fish stocks are not the only habitat projects that are funded with help by license sales.

As a part of habitat maintenance, state services will add things like fish ladders to lakes, rivers, or ponds. The purpose of these projects is ultimately to help other populations of fish grow so that the food chain is never disrupted. This ensures there’s plenty of other baitfish for the bigger ones to eat! 

But habitat maintenance isn’t the only thing that benefits from the sales of fishing licenses. These funds also go towards educational programs! This can be anything from fishing workshops, hunter education, and other state-sponsored fishing events.

Some states will hold youth fishing days, for example. Along with other free educational materials, such as books on how to fish, license sales help maintain areas around the water. Docks, piers, and boat launches are all great examples of places that benefit from these sales.

Depending on how much funding state services are allowed along with license sales, they may even be able to build new things! As you can see, purchasing a fishing license really helps to create an excellent experience not just for you, but your community as well. This is why it’s very important that you buy a fishing license if you plan to use public and state lands. 

Where Can I Get A Fishing License? 

Now that you understand the importance of fishing licenses, it is time to go out and get one for yourself! “But where can I get myself one?” You might ask. Well, thankfully, the answer to this question is simpler than the others in this article. 

There are a lot of options for buying fishing licenses. The most convenient option is to just buy the license online on a DNR (Department of Natural Resources) website or your state’s fish and wildlife website. They offer a variety of options and you don’t have to do any driving to go get your license.

Just make sure you’re registered and use a credit card of your choice. It should be mentioned here that the only safe place to buy these licenses online is what we’ve just mentioned above. Sometimes, people will make fake websites with the goal of stealing credit card numbers and other personal information such as social security numbers and your driver’s license.

If you come across a website like this, make sure to report it. Your other options are to go to retailers that sell licenses. Thankfully, the list of retailers that sell licenses is pretty big. Most sports and outdoor stores will sell them either at the cash register or have a dedicated spot for them.

Additionally, there are superstores and even grocery stores that will sell them. The licenses usually have different buying options, such as annual licenses or one-day ones. They even have options for non-residents and discounts for seniors and disabled veterans.

On top of that, for our hunters out there, there are even deals that include combination licenses on top of the fishing ones. These combo licenses come with hunting licenses alongside the fishing ones. They’re perfect for any serious sportsman.  

How Much Do They Cost? 

Now that you know more about fishing licenses and where to get them, you must be dying to know how much it’ll cost you. The answer really depends on what state you live in. Each state tends to have different stipulations and requirements for how much your license will cost. 

A good example is the difference in prices and options between California and Michigan. A license in Michigan will cost significantly less than one in California. Specifically, an annual fishing license will cost you $26 in Michigan while one from California costs $52.66.

If you’re a non-resident, the price for a license is about double what is listed. Something that you can also do is buy a temporary license. Temporary licenses allow you to go fishing over a certain amount of consecutive days. These are handy for short-term fishing while camping in a new area or for people who don’t go fishing during the entire season.

Thankfully, they’re not much more expensive than commercial licenses. As we’ve said there are certain stipulations that allow for discounts or even free licenses! Most of these only apply to recovering active duty military members, Native Americans, and seniors. It’s best to find out what discounts are offered by checking your state’s DNR website or something similar. 

Regulations, Permits, and Report Cards

Something that needs to be said alongside fishing licenses is the requirement of report cards and regulations regarding certain species of fish. This is not something that is found within every state, but it is important. Essentially, different states will have different regulations when it comes to different fish. 

Going back to Michigan as an example, you are only allowed to catch and keep 5 largemouth or smallmouth bass daily. On top of that, they must be a minimum of 14 inches in length. And this is just a general regulation, there are others that specifically apply certain fish species, such as trout and sturgeon, archery, and spearfishing.

Remember to do your research before you go out catching fish! Now we’ll talk about fishing report cards. These are special cards that you have to pay for that allow you to go fishing for specific species. Not all states use these and instead just have general regulations over different species.

Otherwise, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper report card. It’s essentially a way for wildlife services to keep track of fish since you’re recording what you catch for them. Mind you, these only apply to people who are required to have a fishing license.

So those under the age requirement or during special events like free fishing days do not need a report card. Permits are very similar to report cards. The only real difference is that you do not need to record your catches, like on a report card.

There is a lot of different fish that require some sort of extra documentation. Trout permits in particular are something that always seems to be in high demand. 

Does My License Apply To Amphibians and Reptiles? 

The answer to this question is that it depends on the state that you live in. That being said, many states allow you to catch all sorts of reptiles and amphibians in one way or another. There are usually restrictions on the use of firearms of any sort when it comes to catching them.

This means you can’t even use bb guns, a bow and arrow, or crossbows. Again, make sure to find all of the regulations on your state’s appropriate website. 

Do I Need A License To Fish in the Ocean? 

This is another issue that is dependant on the regulations in your state. Generally speaking, a separate saltwater fishing license is required if you plan on doing any fishing in the ocean. Additionally, these licenses also come with their own separate fees and have their own regulations about the type of fish you can catch and keep with them.

fisherman fishing from a boat in an ocean

There are many regulations around fishing in the ocean so it’s best to do your homework before you grab your fishing gear and set sail.

Again, this is another topic that solely depends on how much research you do regarding your state’s fishing regulations. There are sometimes exceptions to the license rule when it comes to saltwater fishing. As an example, Californians do not need to have a saltwater fishing license if they plan on fishing off of a public pier.

Then there are also free fishing days that are sponsored by the state. Finally, children are not usually required to have a license for saltwater fishing but sometimes can voluntarily get their own license. 

Extra License Fees

Something you should watch out for when shopping for fishing licenses is extra costs and fees. While each license has a base price in your state, there are sometimes extra fees tied to them. It is never a great deal of money, usually less than $5.

Additionally, these fees will be listed to you once you’re about to purchase your license. These fees are usually some sort of processing or dealer-specific fees. You may also need to watch out while purchasing permits for fish such as trout or sturgeon as your state will require an extra endorsement fee.

Remember, it’s very important to be aware of all of the regulations of the specific species of fish you’re going for. 

Illegal Fishing and the Consequences

If you’re going to go fishing on public or state land, it is very important you do so with a license. While this might seem nonsensical, you have to think about the consequences of not getting a license. This is especially serious for multiple offenses. 

In most states, fishing without a license will result in some sort of fine. It won’t be anything super expensive, especially if you’re not going after a specific or protected species. However, after multiple offenses is when things start to get bad. Multiple offenses result in increasingly expensive fines along with the possibility of jail time. Eventually, you will be both fined and jailed by law enforcement. 

Common Misconceptions About Fishing Licenses

1. Do Fishing Licences Also Include Water Fowl? 

No, waterfowl or small game licenses need to be purchased separately from your fishing license or can be bought as part of a combo. A fishing license does NOT permit you to hunt waterfowl. 

2. Are There Lifetime Fishing Licenses?

Lifetime licenses do exist in certain states! However, they are not very common. They can be convenient options for sportsmen and women who enjoy the outdoors and plan on fishing their entire lives. Additionally, some of these lifetime licenses can also come with hunting licenses and other activities. 

Closing Thoughts

As you can see, there are many nuances when it comes to fishing licenses. However, they’re a very necessary part of wildlife and habitat conservation. We hope our article cleared up everything for you! Now all that’s left is for you to get a license of your own and start angling!

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Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.