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Ohio Fishing Licenses

An Ohio fishing license is required to take any fish, frog or turtle from Ohio waters. The baseline statewide laws are applicable at most lakes, ponds and small rivers. However, there are two separate sets of fishing regulations for the rivers shared with Kentucky and West Virginia, and a final set of regulations for Lake Erie. These limits may be subject to change depending on the season, especially at Lake Erie, where even the fish size minimums change based on season.

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You can buy an Ohio fishing license online, by mail, by phone, at a participating retailer or at the Ohio Wildlife Division licensing office. However, the identity requirements are the same no matter how or where you choose to purchase a license. A standard state ID is typically enough to prove the fisher's identity and residence. Without a state ID, however, a license seeker can also prove that they are an Ohio resident with a collection of permitted residency documents. Minors can use their parent or guardian's documents to prove they are residents of the state.

Did you know? All anglers who buy a fishing license must show their Social Security verification, and to qualify for resident rates, they must show proof of their age and permanent address.

Different kinds of sport fishing licenses are available at different locations, but the simplest way to find a fishing license in Ohio is to purchase one online. While only one-day fishing licenses or three-day licenses are available by the Ohio Wildlife phone line, any kind of license can be purchased online or at any Ohio Wildlife office.

If you don't know where to get a fishing license near you, you can request a mail-in packet from the Ohio Wildlife office. Keep in mind, the processing time will take much longer through the mail than if you purchase license online or in person. However, the mail-in method may be preferable to someone who is not in a rush or has limited access to web services. Get a mail-in packet by calling the Ohio Wildlife office and ask that an application be sent to your home address. To read more about how to buy an Ohio fishing license, download our informative guide.

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There are four kinds of basic fishing licenses in Ohio: resident, nonresident, senior and youth. Nonresident licenses are available to anyone inside or out of the state and are typically sold for a period of a few days. However, nonresidents can purchase licenses that are valid for a full year.

Resident fishing licenses are only available to those who have a permanent Ohio address and have lived in Ohio long enough to satisfy the minimum time requirement. The resident licenses are further divided by age, and those who qualify for the senior citizen fishing licenses can purchase a license at a reduced cost. Lifetime fishing licenses, which are available for youth, adults and seniors, may also be of interest to a fisherman who has a permanent Ohio address and purchases a license every year. Starting in 2019, Ohio offers resident fishing licenses for seven different time variations. Residents can purchase fishing privileges for:

  • One day.
  • Three days.
  • One year.
  • Three years.
  • Five Years.
  • 10 Years.

There are no veterans fishing licenses available in Ohio. Military members who are on active duty in Ohio qualify as residents, even if they have not lived in the state for the required time period. Servicemembers are required to buy resident licenses unless they are on active leave, furloughed or have a mobility impairment. A military member who can provide proof that he or she satisfies at least one of those three qualifications is exempt from the fishing license laws.

Additionally, special licenses may be required for those who plan to fish on Lake Erie. Depending on the season, residents and nonresidents may purchase a Lake Erie fishing permit or a One-day Lake Erie Charter fishing license. Lake Erie is also subject to different fishing regulations than waters in the rest of the state.

There are three sets of fish rules and regulations in Ohio. There is a set of statewide laws, a set of regulations for the rivers and a set of regulations for Lake Erie. The east and west rivers are split into different zones, but the fish size and bag limits are the same across the east and west rivers. The final category of regulations is the site-specific rules for different lakes and dam areas throughout Ohio.

Statewide, fishing laws in Ohio do not designate a minimum size for most fish. However, there are at least seven species that do, including salmon, trout and different kinds of bass. These same fish are also restricted by a daily catch limit. For some species there is only a catch limit applied if the fish exceeds the legal fish size. To see more specific laws, download our comprehensive guide.

Additionally, fishing seasons and bag limits are not the only laws in Ohio. Certain fishing methods are also restricted. For example, clam and mussel fishing is banned, but snagging is allowed in specific areas if the angler uses a hook of the appropriate size. Other fishing regulations in Ohio include the following:

  • Cast nets, trotlines and snagging are not allowed within 1,000 feet downstream of a dam.
  • Bowfishing regulations mandate that bow equipment can only be used for frogs, turtles and forage fish.
  • Fishers are restricted to two lines per person and three hooks per line.
  • Ice anglers may not use a hole larger than 12 inches in width on Lake Erie.

In addition, federal fishing regulations impact some of the Ohio state laws. For example:

  • Fillets must stay whole until an angler reaches a permanent residence or unless they intend to eat the fillet immediately.
  • Fish may not be released in bodies of water where they did not originate.
  • It is illegal for anyone other than bait retailers to possess more than 100 crayfish.
  • It is illegal to sell fish taken with a recreational license.
  • It is illegal for the public to tag and release fish.