You picked a fishing kayak, rigged it with all the right gear – tackle boxes, swiveling rod holders, and all that – and have your eyes set on a specific fish species. You can’t wait to cast a line and kick off your weekend fishing trip.
Not so fast.
Before you get out there as the lean, mean fish-catching machine that you are, take a second to learn more about where to get a fishing license near me. Otherwise, you might easily end up getting in trouble with the law – and ruining your trip.
My guess is that you’d prefer to avoid that and catch all your fish legally – and that’s where this detailed guide can help!
Where Can You Buy A Fishing License: A Quick Summary
- Fishing licenses can be purchased at the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department, outdoor sporting goods stores, local tackle shops, and online via authorized resellers.
- Fishing licenses are required in all 50 states, although certain exemptions may apply for kids, seniors, and veterans.
- You have the option to apply for an annual or short-term fishing license. Depending on the type of water, you can obtain either a freshwater or saltwater license, or even a combination of both. However, you may need to acquire additional endorsements for Trout, Salmon, or Crab fishing.
- The average cost of a fishing license for residents is approximately $25, while non-residents are required to pay an average of $80.
Where To Buy A Fishing License Near Me?
Okay, by now, you’re aware that you definitely do need a fishing license. The next question is – who sells fishing license near me?
Licenses for recreational fishing are generally easy to obtain – and can be purchased from your state’s Fish and Wildlife Department, many outdoor sporting goods stores, local tackle shops, or the nearby marina.
Of course, you can also choose to buy a fishing license online – a highly recommended option if you reside in a remote area, for example – but I’ll get to that in a second.
There are other options that many folks aren’t aware of, though – including stores where most of us get our household staples.
Can You Get A Fishing License At Walmart?
Yes, it’s possible to purchase a perfectly legal fishing license in most, but not all, Walmart stores in the US – so best to phone ahead to check.
Your state’s inland fisheries and wildlife department website will likely list specific stores that offer this service – but you can also head straight to Walmart’s Sports & Outdoors section and speak to the staff about it.
And before you get a chance to ask, yes, a fishing license bought at Walmart is the same kind that’s issued by the state, meaning you get the same rights and privileges on public waters.
Can I Get A Fishing License At Bass Pro Shop?
I’ve already mentioned that outdoor sporting goods retailers that carry fishing and hunting gear are generally a great place to look for a fishing license. And that applies to Bass Pro Shops, as well.
So, yes, you can most definitely purchase a fishing (or even hunting) license in Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s retail stores across the US.
Can I Get A Fishing License At Big 5?
Yes, fishing licenses can be bought in most Big 5 Sporting Goods stores throughout the US. It’s essential to note that, when I say “most,” I mean – all states, except for Arizona, feature in-store terminals linked to the state’s department that allows you to purchase and print out your license while in the store.
As for Arizona, Big 5 still allows you to buy fishing licenses in store, but they sell paper licenses only, meaning you fill them out on the spot.
Can You Buy A Fishing License Online?
Now that you know that you can get a fishing license at your Walmarts and your sporting goods stores, let’s get back to the pandemic-friendly way of buying things – online.
Sure, it’s nice to know that getting a license has been made so easy and accessible, but buying a permit from the comfort of your bed?
That’s just a good deal.
That said, you have to be careful where you’re looking for them. Only the state departments are allowed to sell any kind of fishing license online. So, take a step back before entering your debit card or credit card number and ID information on a random site that’s supposedly providing online permits for fishing.
Come to think of it, be careful before giving your credit card information to any random website, period.
Where To Buy A Fishing License Online?
Getting a fishing license online is technically as straightforward as looking up your state’s official Fish and Wildlife Department’s website. But if you’re a traveler, and I have a feeling that many of you are, it can get exhausting and annoying going through all these different websites.
The fact that so many websites promise you licenses for fishing doesn’t help, either – especially since you should only purchase one from the state departments of wherever you plan to go fishing.
So, is everybody else selling smoke?
Well, not exactly.
Sure, you could actually get a valid license from some unofficial site that offers you a good deal. Some of them just act as a middleman between you and the state department – with whom they may have an agreement.
But you can never really know what you’re dealing with, can you? Plus, the “deals” are typically so minimal that you’re better off just getting the license the old-fashioned way.
So, what’s my suggestion?
There you go. Now you have all the states and their official sites in a nice interactive UI that you can pretty much navigate with your eyes closed.
How Much Does A Fishing License Cost – Prices For Each State
Alright, how about I talk a bit more about the pricing? Sure, there’s an average that we can look at that’ll give you a good idea of what to expect – but I’m sure you’d prefer more than just rough estimates here.
So, for starters, does every state have its own price for a fishing license?
Well, while some states might accidentally match the price, yes, each state determines the cost on an individual basis. Not only that, depending on where you plan on going fishing, there might be some additional costs that you need to consider.
That usually means that you’re paying a little extra to fish certain species, or you plan on having more than one rod. Nothing too fancy, really.
With that said, the average cost will be about $25 if you’re in your own state; a non-resident will usually pay a bit more than that, around $80 on average – which, I realize, is quite a jump in the price.
As for additional “endorsement” permits, depending on the state, these can cost anywhere from $5 to $15.
There are some discounts available to Youths, Seniors, Veterans, and Active Military Personnel, though.
While there aren’t any “official” rules, members of these groups can generally expect to get 30% to 40% off – and in some states, might even get a free license.
It’s also important to mention that people with disabilities are often exempt from paying, and as such, may get a no-cost state-issued license.
Now, remember what I said about those no-permit days? If you’re looking to save more or want to give fishing a try before committing to an annual license, you can find more information about free fishing days here.
If that’s not enough, here are the National Go Fishing Days in the USA:
- 2023 Sunday, June 18th National Go Fishing Day
- 2024 Tuesday, June 18th National Go Fishing Day
With that said, here are the typical fishing license costs for adults in each state:
Fishing & The Law 101
There was a time when having a fishing license wasn’t a thing. You could just grab your fishing rods and some bait and head to the nearest body of water – where you could catch fish to your heart’s content.
Telling someone back then that they had to pay some governmental body for their right to catch fish would’ve been an insane concept.
The concept of wildlife management entered the stage, and the public finally understood that, without specific regulations being put in place, the vast wildlife populations would eventually be depleted. Unfortunately, it took quite a bit of time for that concept to extend to how we view the oceans.
Fast forward to today, and a lot was achieved in that department, with strict laws and regulations put in place to preserve fish populations and maintain waterways.
And one major part of these achievements was the widespread adoption of specialized fishing permits.
Do I Need A Fishing License?
I’ll start with the short, straight-to-the-point version of the answer:
Yes, you do need to obtain a fishing license to catch fish in the United States legally; these are mandatory in every state throughout the US.
And before you get a chance to ask, yes, that generally applies to catch and release practices, too.
If you’re caught without it, you may get away with a warning and have your catch confiscated – but more often than not, you’ll also get a hefty fine, which might also include penalties for each fish you caught.
So, if you thought that not buying a fishing license would save you money, think again. You may potentially end up paying thousands of dollars in fines – which will be a lot more expensive than a permit, believe me.
That said, the actual type of license you’ll need will vary – so, make sure that you’re getting the right kind of license for your intended activities.
Can You Fish Without A License?
While all anglers technically need to obtain a valid fishing license before catching a single fish, I should mention that there are some exceptions to this rule.
Fishing regulations can be a bit confusing, huh?
Here’s the deal:
Some groups of anglers are exempt from the general fishing license requirements – mainly kids and the elderly. So, if you meet the state-prescribed age limit, you might be able to fish without a license.
That’s not all, though.
In some places – like Washington, for example – you might not need a license if you’ll be fishing for rough fish species, such as the common carp.
There’s one more scenario where you’ll be able to go fishing without a license – and that would be the so-called “no-permit days.”
As the name implies, these are official state-approved free fishing dates when amateur anglers are allowed to fish on public waters without permits. Check with your state’s local government to see if there’s such an event in your area.
Do You Need A Fishing License For Every State?
Each state has a specific set of fishing laws and regulations regarding who, when, and how can legally fish within the given state. I already told you that, broadly speaking, a fishing license is a must-have in all states across the US – save for a few unique exceptions to that rule.
So, I’d say that you’ve already got your answer there.
And just because you have a license in one state doesn’t necessarily mean it will be valid in any other states you may travel to; you’ll likely need a separate permit for every state – unless these states share a body of water, that is.
Do You Need A Fishing License On Private Property?
Some states do allow property owners (and their family members) to fish on private land without a permit – as long as they do so for recreational rather than commercial purposes.
If your land has access to a body of water, don’t get your hopes up too soon:
Unless the entire body of water is contained within your property, you will still need a license.
In essence, that means that, if you have a river flowing through your property, a permit is still a must – since the river isn’t technically yours. However, if you have a small, private-owned pond, then yes, you might be able to fish without a license.
Do You Need A License To Drone Fish?
Well, as far as I can tell, drone fishing is still fishing; the fact that you’ve decided to upgrade and use a waterproof drone in addition to the good, old fishing rod doesn’t change much. The rules I mentioned above stay the same.
While we’re on the subject of kayaks and licenses, do take note that some states require kayaks to be registered, as well.
Why Do You Need A Fishing License To Fish?
As counter intuitive as it might seem at a glance, issuing fishing licenses can, indeed, protect the fish populations by implementing regulations that dictate open season dates or limit the number and size of the caught fish.
That’s far from the only reason why you need a fishing license, though.
The money collected from fishing license sales directly contributes to the state’s restoration and conservation efforts. So, in essence, by purchasing a fishing license, you help fund:
- Fish management
- Habitat and species restoration
- Habitat protection and clean-ups
- Research and educational programs
- Improvement of fishing and boating access for the public
What Age Does The State Require You To Have A Fishing License?
There’s no such thing as a USA-wide age threshold when it comes to fishing laws or license requirements. The truth is, each and every state has its own set of rules regarding when an individual is considered old enough to need a fishing license.
But while I can’t give you a single, one-size-fits-all answer here, kids between the ages of 12 to 16 may already qualify for a youth license.
So, if you have kids that might be interested in coming along on your next fishing trip, be sure to check the state laws. And more importantly, explain to them why getting a fishing license is such a big deal and how it contributes to managing habitats and improving the overall experience.
Here’s some excellent news for parents:
Youth licenses are usually significantly cheaper than those for adults; you can expect to pay 50 to 70% less when getting a fishing license for younger anglers.
Can You Buy A Fishing License For Someone Else?
Yes, there are circumstances where it’s legal to purchase a fishing license for someone else, but only in situations when:
- You’re getting the license for a spouse or child
- You’re getting the for a non-resident
Otherwise, buying a license for someone else isn’t an option – unless you’re filling out the forms online and have access to that individual’s state-issued ID, that is.
Type Of Recreational Fishing Licences
You may – or may not – be aware of this, but each state offers several different types of fishing licenses, mainly depending on the bodies of water they apply to and their duration.
By Water Type
Remember what I said about getting the right type of license? Well, based on the environment you’ll be fishing in, you have two options:
- Freshwater Licenses – Required for fishing in rivers, streams, lakes, and other bodies of water that are landlocked and contain fresh water
- Saltwater Licenses – Required for fishing in salt and brackish waters, including beaches, piers, and the ocean
If you’re an avid angler who frequents both fresh and saltwater environments, you’ll be better off getting a combination license that applies to both, allowing you to catch both fresh and saltwater fish species.
Based on how long the fishing license remains valid, there are generally two broad categories of fishing licenses:
- Annual Fishing Licenses – These licenses are available in all 50 states and are valid starting from the date of the purchase.
- Short-Term Fishing Licenses – These allow residents and non-residents to legally fish for one or more specified dates. There are one, three, and seven-day versions of these short-term licenses available in some states.
While most licenses are time-limited and will require renewal, in some states, it’s also possible to purchase multi-year or even lifetime permits.
It also worth noting that all Maine annual fishing licenses renew and expire at the end of the calendar year, December 31st – you can find all the information on the state department of marine resource website
Extra Fishing Endorsement
While we’re on the subject, it’s worth noting that, in many states across the US, you might need additional fishing endorsements – sometimes known as “stamps” – in addition to having a fishing license.
These are usually required for catching certain species of fish – including salmon and trout – and taking part in activities such as crabbing. It’s also possible to buy combination licenses that allow the person to both hunt and fish in a given state.
You can get additional endorsements at any time during the effective dates of your license.
Requirements To Get A Fishing License
Okay, so you know where to get the license and how much it will cost you. Now it’s time for the most crucial bit – the requirements. You know, the things you actually need to get the license.
Resident Fishing Licenses
Again, getting a license is not a complicated process – but you do need certain documentation to show your name and physical address.
On that note, as a resident of the state where you’re buying a license, you’ll need proof that you do reside in – and have resided in – that state continuously for the last six months.
You’ll need to provide a social security number and your state-issued ID along with any three of the following things (as a means of proving your residency):
- Paycheck receipts for the past six months
- Utility bills for the past six months
- The latest tax return from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- A statement from a parole board or a probation officer stating that you have continuously resided in that state for the six months immediately before purchasing a license or permit
- A valid state driver’s license
- Current vehicle registration
- A valid state voter registration certificate
If you haven’t been a resident of the state for that long, you can still get a license – but only as a non-resident.
Non-Resident Fishing Licenses
A non-resident is someone who resides out-of-state, outside of the country, or has lived in the state for less than 6 months.
These people will need to purchase a non-resident license at the non-resident license fee.
While getting a non-resident fishing license might be a bit more expensive, it’s incredibly simple. The requirements are minimal – your social security number and state-issued ID are typically all you need.
As long as you have that, you’re good to go – so, enjoy your stay and fish away!
If Claiming Exception/Reduced Rates
If you belong to any of the groups that might be eligible for discounts – Youth, Seniors, Veterans, or Active Military Personnel – you’ll be asked to provide some form of proof, such as a Disability ID, Military Personal ID, or Veteran ID Card (VIC).
Renewing Your Licence
If it isn’t your first time applying for a fishing license, but your current one has expired recently, and you’re looking to renew it, you’ll need to bring your license information when getting a new one.