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Fishing Licenses

Fishing is one of the great pastimes in the United States, and regardless of the state that you are living in, there are plenty of different spots for you to enjoy the sport in. Some states, as they are not on the coast of the country, only offer inland opportunities. Others, being on the coasts of the U.S., allow fishermen the chance to take both freshwater and saltwater fish. However, in order to capture any such species, or to even attempt to take them from state waters, it is a national requirement that you obtain the proper fishing license from the appropriate state department. In some states, this is the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. In other states, it is known as the Wildlife Commission. But, in any case, the requirements for obtaining a fishing permit are generally very similar. You need to submit various identification documents and pay the necessary fee for the license that you desire. Additionally, in order to make sure that you get the right license to fish when applying, it is just as important that you take the time necessary to discern the differences of all the fishing credentials that are available in your state. State departments will offer residential and nonresidential licenses, and they may offer saltwater and freshwater licenses. And, in many cases, these departments will also provide discounts on permits for certain groups of individuals. To learn more about all of the aforementioned matters, take a look at the sections that are presented below.

Types of Fishing Licenses

There is a wide range of fishing licenses available in the United States for all prospective fishermen. If you are interested in pursuing your passion and obtaining a permit to fish for the current year, then be sure to consider all of the following options and verify that your state offers the credential that you prefer.

Resident vs Non Resident Fishing Licenses

The main division that you need to be aware of when it comes to getting fishing permits is the one between residents and nonresidents. State fishing departments will split their fishing credentials into these two categories. And, if you are a resident of your state and prove it, you will enjoy a significant discount. Resident fishing licenses are typically substantially more affordable than non resident fishing licenses, and there is typically a wider variety of resident license options available, including lifetime credentials and various special fishing permits.

Note: Different licenses will have different lengths of validity as well, so be sure to purchase the license with the length that is right for you (i.e. an annual license if you are a resident, or a three-day license if you are just visiting from out of state).

Saltwater vs Freshwater Fishing Licenses

Another common licensing division is that between saltwater and freshwater fishing. While not all states offer coastal saltwater fishing licenses, those that do will offer them at different prices. If you live in a state that has both freshwater (inland) and saltwater (coastal) sport fishing, be sure to keep state regulations in mind when applying. Certain fish may be on a prohibited species list, and all fish will have their own bag limits. And do not make the mistake of purchasing a freshwater fishing license if you intend to fish in salt waters (and vice versa), as you will be fined for improper licensure.

How to Buy Fishing Licenses

As for how you can go about getting fishing licenses, the options will vary based on your state of residence. However, typically, state departments will give you a number of fishing license application methods to choose from. The most common are as follows:

  • Online – Many state fishing departments have their own personal online portal for fishing licensure transactions. These transactions include everything from getting a fishing license replacement and renewing credentials to buying new documents. In order to complete these transactions online, you will have to provide a valid debit or credit card and a few pieces of personal information. Additionally, to make sure that you purchase the right fishing fishing license, these portals will ask you questions to verify certain factors, such as your age and residency status.
  • In person – If you would prefer not to submit your request online, or you simply cannot access the digital portal, then fret not. The one option that is provided by every state fishing department is to apply in person at a local state department office. Simply bring the necessary payments and proofs of identity/residency with you.
  • By mail – The third but less common option is to buy a fishing license by mail. Certain states will allow you to submit payment and the necessary proofs via post if you cannot apply in person.
  • By phone – The final option for buying a fishing license, which is not used by the majority of states but still does exist, is to apply by phone. With this method, you need to provide personal identification information over the phone, as well as your credit card number for payment.

Fishing Frequently Asked Questions

Oftentimes you can buy a fishing license through your state’s fishing department website. You will most likely need to create an account on the webpage and have a printer nearby to finalize your transaction. Make sure to also have a valid credit card on hand, as no other form of payment is accepted by state departments online. Take note that, as proof of your residency, you may be required to enter your driver’s license number.
In a general sense, a good number of states offer the following types of fishing licenses: a regular fishing license and a commercial fishing license. Depending on where you reside, you may also have the option to get a saltwater license to fish, if you are by coastal waters. In addition to these permits, you may be required to buy a fishing stamp, depending on the specific type of fish species you intend to catch.
A regular fishing permit is often valid for the period of a full year. However, you may also have the option to obtain a license to fish that is good for 24 hours or 72 hours, for example. In some instances, a weekly fishing license or a lifetime license may also be available. Lifetime licenses to fish are the most suitable option for those anglers who intend to fish for the duration of their lives. Keep in mind that if you would like to continue fishing after the expiration date of your current licensure, you will be required to get a new permit to fish.
The fees related to a state fishing license may vary, depending on a few factors. But senior residents and military veterans can usually get a fishing license that is free of charge, as long as they can present official documentation that supports their residency or military service. Resident licenses to fish are often more affordable than nonresident licenses. The most costly licenses are for those who would like to get lifetime credentials.
In the event that you have lost your fishing license or it was stolen, the most common way to obtain a duplicate is through your state’s fishing department. You may be required to make an in-person visit to a nearby office or to contact a licensed agent directly. Depending on where you reside, you may also have the option to order a fishing permit replacement online. But, to be sure, it is important that you double check with your state department first, as you may also need to bring in certain documentation, such as your driver’s license or ID card.
This site is privately owned and is neither affiliated with, nor endorsed by, nor operated by a government agency.