How To Get A Freshwater Fishing License

You’re after your freshwater fishing license, and I’m here to tell you that it’s a lot easier to acquire than you think… for most people.

Truth is, this is a state-level issue. Many different states have weird or otherwise awkward laws that make it difficult or at the very least egregious to get your fishing license.

We’ve outlined the process, and any questions you may have regarding acquiring a fishing license.

The process has become fairly easy. You need to get a state-specific freshwater fishing license through local government websites.

Nearly every state has a way for you to buy them online. This process can take 5-10 minutes, or it can take 2-3 weeks. It all depends on if they need to send them out, or if they allow you to print them.

Fishing licenses are almost never called upon or checked. It’s rare that you’re going to actually have to present them, but even with that, “It’s in the mail” isn’t an excuse.

Be sure to have it on you to avoid fines and potential jail time for illegal fishing. You don’t get a temporary fishing license number or anything of the sort.

Differences Between Freshwater And Saltwater Licenses

Truth be told, there aren’t many differences a tall.

There are some states where you, very obviously, cannot get a saltwater license since they are landlocked states.

Those states can’t have ridiculous stipulations for licenses, just like how other states (usually don’t) have inflated prices.

Since these costs are mostly going towards maintaining the preservation of waterways and freshwater sources (ocean maintenance is normally a different department), states will always charge for licenses.

In some states, saltwater licenses may be available at no cost if you are 65 years of age or older.

Other states either do not offer free licenses for senior citizens, or their threshold is much higher (like 73).

How Often Do State Regulations On Freshwater Fishing Change

State regulations will update every single year, but that’s not the same as them changing.

Many states will send out updates (in either print form or PDF) to fishers who have licenses in order to keep everyone up-to-date on the latest information regarding fishing in their state.

On occasion, updates don’t even have any new information on it. States like to put out updated date ranges, but keep the same material.

This is just to keep fishers updated on important information about fishing.

Some states, like Wyoming (where there isn’t much legislative change), are known for just rehashing the same information year after year.


Nothing changes, but as a fisherman in that state, you still need access to up-to-date information.

With pollution and harm to wildlife, it’s actually more common to see changes and new notices on saltwater fishing.

We’re seeing new boating regulations and fuel content requirements, but for the most part, freshwater fishing is minimally impactful to the environment.

One Day Vs. Season-Long Fishing Licenses

Year Long Fishing Licence

Why would anyone want a one-day fishing license?

Travel. Vacation. Any other reason that you wouldn’t be in a state for more than a day or two (you can buy two separate one-day licenses).

It’s important to know the distinction between the two if you’re applying for a season-long license in your home state where you plan to use it often.

Every form, whether online or in-person is just a little bit different.

One-day licenses are cheap, and effective for vacation use, or if you’re visiting a friend out of state.

Even though non-residents are the ones that are more likely to use a one-day fishing license (really, who else are they for?), most states have a 40% price hike over resident prices for one-day licenses.

Non-resident seasonal fishing licenses can cost a lot of money, so be absolutely certain about which state you want to fish in at the start of the season.

Last but not least, some states such as California will issue lifetime fishing licenses.

These operate just as you’d expect: a lifetime of fishing licenses that are usable during the appropriate fishing seasons. These do not exude you from fishing outside of those seasons.

In this instance, prices are usually high for those ages 10-40 (in the ballpark of $800-$1,100 depending on the state), but never need to be renewed or reinstated.

If you’re not planning on moving out of your state, this could be a wise investment to avoid annual fees.

Why Do State Governments Charge For Fishing Licenses?

Taking Money From Wallet

State governments have a lot of different sectors and programs to maintain.

For that, they need taxes. The thing is, if we increased taxes to support these, it would go across the board.

It wouldn’t be good for everyone.

Instead, to offset the costs, they charge licensing fees (normally annually) that pay for wildlife foundations and the cost to maintain public areas, such as public land used for hunting and fishing.

Hunting licenses and fishing licenses basically pay for the same things.

While we can dispute many reasons why state governments charge X amount for certain licenses and permits we need in other areas of residency, this is pretty straightforward.

Do I Need A Fishing License On My Own Property?

Yes, you absolutely do.

While it seems difficult to enforce (and let’s be honest, nobody is prowling around your property trying to get you in trouble), if you pull back a fishing rod and cast a line, you need a license for it.

If your property is on or contains a portion of wetlands, you could face rather large fines in excess of $10,000.

Fishing on your own property also gets very tricky if any area of your property borders with or contains neighboring private property or public lands.

Plenty of fishers like to find gray areas to this, such as a catch and release style of fishing. It is important to remember: if you’re casting a line, you need a license.

Do Children Need Freshwater Fishing Licenses?

They absolutely do.

If a child is under a certain age (usually 3-4 or under), then they’re not going to be fishing anyway.

You’ll notice that when you go to purchase a fishing license, or when you review what we’ve already covered in this article, you’ll see that most licenses have a 10 and under the category.

These are usually cheaper than the 10-40 range, but they’re still going to cost you quite a bit. They operate in the same capacity as a one-day, two-day, seasonal and lifelong licenses.

This means that you can get a lifetime fishing license for your child, and it will carry over to adulthood.

They will have it forever, and you will have saved a good amount of money on it. No more registering annual licenses, just endless trips without worrying about the legality of it all.

One Step Closer To Your Fishing Trip

You’re either one step closer to getting that fishing license, or if you’re in a state that’s properly adopted online license purchasing, you might have already bought one before finishing out this article.

Either way, get ready to enjoy your time on the lake. As a last reminder, be sure to keep tabs on how long your freshwater fishing license is good for.

Every state is different, every season is different, to stay on top of things to ensure that you keep your license.

Now you’re ready for the best baitcasting reel!

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