Beginners Guide To Getting Your First Fishing License

In the United States, and many other countries, a fishing license is required to legally fish most waters.

If you plan to fish both saltwater and freshwater, you may need to obtain more than one license.

The money raised by issuing angling licenses goes towards funding your state's fish and wildlife management services to perform upkeep and preserve our land and waters so future generations can take joy in their own outdoor adventures too.

What do I need to get a fishing license?

Usually all you'll need to get a fishing license is a photo id and proof of residence. Many stores will accept your driver's license.

When purchasing a license through your state's Department of Fish And Wildlife (DFW) online service, you may also need to provide your social security number to register with the state.

How much is a fishing license?

The cost to obtain a fishing license varies wildly between states.

For example, in the state of Oregon, a state resident's recreational angling license cost $44 USD, while in North Dakota a license cost $18 USD.

Some states offer a free or discounted angling license for minors, veterans, seniors, and disabled individuals.

Check with your state's DFW to find out if you're eligible for a discount.

Where to get a fishing license?

You can obtain a fishing license from most any sporting goods store or directly through your state's department of fish and wildlife. Check out your state's DFW website by using one of the link's at the bottom of this page.

There are many national chain retailers that offer fishing license services as an alternative means to purchasing one directly from your state's DFW. To name a few:

  • Bass Pro Shops (or Cabela's)
  • WalMart
  • Dick's Sporting Goods

How long is a fishing license good for?

Most states offer a fishing license that's good for angling season.

Not all states go by calendar year. For example, the state of Oregon's is a normal calendar year, meaning a fishing license is good from January 1st through December 31st of that same year. However, North Dakota's season is from April 1st through March 31st of the following year. You're fishing license should have a "good through" date on it.

Can you get a lifetime fishing license?

Many states offer some form of lifetime fishing license. However, pricing and age requirements for each state's lifetime fishing license varies greatly. Some states have age ranges for "lifetime" licenses, while other's have true lifetime licenses. As usual, check with your local DFW for more information.

Is there a national fishing license that covers all 50 states?

Currently in the U.S. there is no nationally recognized fishing license available. Though, some states do have reciprocity agreements with nearby states and will accept each others state fishing licenses. Check with your state's department of fish and wildife for more information.

Do you need an angling license for catch and release?

Most states require a fishing license even if you do not plan on keeping any fish. The cost of your license goes towards upkeep of our land and waters. If you are catching and releasing fish on public lands, you are using its resources.

Do you need a fishing license on private property?

In most cases, no, you don't need a license to fish on private property so long as you own the land, are related to the owner, or are a guest.

Currently, 40 of the 50 states don't require a fishing license to fish on private property, however each state differs on what is elligble.

In Oregon anglers do not need a license if fishing from their property, even if the water is not privately owned unless fishing for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, or halibut.

Many states will require a license if the body of water has any connecting streams. Some states such as Delaware require a license on land smaller than 20 acres.

As usual, there isn't a straight answer for state specific questions. So, make sure you check with your state's DFW to see if you can legally fish private property without a license.

What happens if you get caught without a fishing license?

Getting your fishing license is simple and generally inexpensive. There is no legitimate reason to not get yours.

That said, if you get caught without a fishing license, you could face a license suspension, fines and fees, the forfeiture of your fishing supplies, and probation.

Just get it.

Find Your State's DFW

Many states offer online services for obtaining your fishing license. You can find your state's department of fish and wildlife website below.