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California recreational fishing permits give anglers in the state the right to fish for both freshwater and saltwater fish in all public waters. All anglers are required to buy fishing licenses prior to embarking on any fishing trips in state waters. The official CA sport fishing permit is an umbrella license with many sub-categories of fishing licenses, each based on a number of factors including the applicant's age, residency status, the type of fish being caught and the length of the fishing license's validity.

Fishing permits in the state are issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to both residents of the state and visiting non residents. Fees for fishing licenses vary based on the applicant's residency status, with residents receiving a discounted fee rate compared to non residents. Additional discounts apply to qualifying members of the military, senior citizens and Native Americans. Fees also vary based on the length of the license's validity, with short-term fishing licenses offered at lower fee rates than annual or lifetime licenses. The state wildlife department also offers lifetime fishing licenses to California residents planning on fishing in the state for the rest of their lives. With lifetime fishing licenses, anglers only have to complete the fishing license application process once and then never again. Before completing the fishing license application process, anglers must first gather any required documents, including proofs of identity and residency (if applying for a residential fishing license). Anglers applying for youth or senior fishing licenses must also present proof of their age. A state-issued driver's license or ID card is sufficient to prove all of the above stipulations. For more information on California recreational fishing licenses, read the information below.


What is the difference between a California resident and non-resident fishing license?

Including California, every state in the country distinguishes between residential fishing licenses and non resident fishing licenses. Residents of California are offered residential fishing licenses at reduced rates compared to non resident fishing licenses. All fishing licenses are issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to qualifying applicants. Prior to applying for a residential fishing license, applicants must submit proof of their residency. A valid driver's license or state-issued ID card is sufficient to prove residency, identity and age to wildlife officials. The state fish and wildlife department defines a resident as any person who has lived in California for six consecutive months directly prior to completing a fishing license application.

What is a California lifetime fishing license?

Lifetime fishing licenses in California are permits that give the holder the right to fish in all state waters for the rest of their lives without having to complete the fishing license application process each year as anglers with annual fishing licenses must do. As the lifetime fishing license has no expiration date, the fees for lifetime fishing licenses are much higher than the fees for fishing permits that have expiration dates. Fees for lifetime licenses are also categorized based on the age of the applicant, with older applicants paying less for their lifetime permits than younger applicants. The exception to this rule is that senior citizens and children younger than 9 years of age are both given the same discounted fee rate for lifetime permits. Regardless of the applicant's age, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife only offers lifetime fishing licenses to anglers who are residents of the state.

How do I replace a California recreational fishing license?

Recreational fishing licenses must be kept on anglers at all times while they are out on fishing trips. In the event that an angler misplaces the fishing permit or has it stolen, he or she must apply for a fishing license replacement through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. To complete the replacement fishing license application process, visit a local CA authorized licensing agent or California Department of Fish and Wildlife office and ask for a replacement. Anglers are required to pay a small fee to receive their fishing license replacement.

What sport fish species require special California fishing tags?

Anglers must buy fishing tags for certain types of fish species native to the state. Fishing tags are issued in addition to fishing licenses with the fee for each depending on the type of fish being caught. Types of marine life that require fishing tags include spiny lobsters, steelhead sturgeons, abalones and salmon. Anglers who do not purchase the correct fishing tags are prohibited from catching any of these species.

How can I fish for free in California?

The groups of individual anglers that are allowed to fish for free without having to purchase a fishing permit in California are regulated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Currently, the state wildlife department does not require the following groups to have fishing licenses out on the water: low-income Native Americans, blind residents, developmentally disabled residents and mobility-impaired prospective anglers. Additionally, the Department of Fish and Wildlife also offers certain free fishing days during which the general public can fish in state waters without having to purchase a fishing license. Free fishing days generally occur at the beginning of July, as well as the beginning of September.

Do I get a reduced price if I am a senior or a military member in California?

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers discounted fee rates for fishing licenses to residents of the state. Additional parties that are afforded discounted rates on fishing licenses include members of the military (active, disabled, recovering or retired) and low-income senior citizens. To apply for discounted fishing licenses, applicants must provide wildlife officials with proof of age (if applying for senior fishing licenses) and/or proof of military membership (if applying for a military fishing license).

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.
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