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Learn How to Get Your Fishing License

A recreational fishing license is often required to fish in any state. Sport fishing license requirements vary by state and territory, depending on age, residency, type of water and length of time. Licenses can be offered as a game fishing license, a resident or a non-resident license, or a combined hunting and fishing license. Individual states are responsible for issuing fishing licenses, so there are no permits issued by the federal government for use in all states and territories. Each state also has different exemptions, depending on age and military or disabled veteran status.

A fishing license can be purchased through each state's fish and wildlife office but can usually also be purchased from state designated third party organizations and retailers. Permits may not be required on scheduled state free fishing days or events when offered. To learn more about licenses for fishing, review the sections below.

Saltwater Fishing Licenses

In some states, a saltwater fishing license is required in order to fish in bodies of salt water, such as the sea or ocean. A saltwater fishing permit allows for certain kinds of marine animals to be caught, such as saltwater fish, crabs and clams. In some states, a special fishing license is required to catch certain protected or endangered saltwater fish, including a:

  • Recreational lobster permit.
  • Snook fishing license.
  • Gulf reef angler permit.
  • Exempt angler red drum tag.

Few states offer resident saltwater fishing license options, as not all states have bodies of salt water. Non-resident saltwater fishing license selections are also made available by some states for those planning a fishing trip. States such as Florida offer different kinds of saltwater fishing permits based on location. A shoreline saltwater fishing license or pier license might be available in states with an ocean shore for those who only fish from the land. Fees for saltwater fishing licenses vary by state and license type, if offered.

Freshwater Fishing Licenses

A Freshwater fishing license is usually required by states for fishing in bodies of fresh water such as ponds, lakes, rivers and streams. A freshwater fishing permit authorizes catching freshwater fish, with regulations as to what species and weight of fish can be taken or must be live-released.

Recreational freshwater fishing license options vary by state. While it is a simple option between a resident freshwater fishing license and a non-resident freshwater fishing license for some states, other states have several different categories for licensure, including:

  • 3-day sport fishing license - A cheaper option, these licenses are offered for those who will be fishing for a short period of time
  • Trout/Salmon fishing license - This license allows holders to catch and keep trout and salmon in states where it is available
  • Private pond fishing license - This permit allows for fishing in ponds that are either privately owned or for hire
  • Disabled Veteran fishing license - Most states offer free or reduced-fee licenses for disabled veterans of the U.S. Military

Freshwater fishing license cost or fees also vary by state and license type. Reduced-fee or free freshwater fishing permits may also be available for youth, seniors, military veterans and those with certain disabilities, depending on the state where the permit is being requested.


Although fishing courses are not required by most states to obtain a fishing license, they can be beneficial for aspiring fishers or experienced anglers looking to fish in new waters. States often hold fishing classes, educational events or fishing clinics at state parks or conservation centers. Fishing lessons range from classes for children and youth to sessions for the seasoned fisherman.

Vacationers can find private fishing classes or hire guides at popular fishing destinations as well. Private fishing lessons from local guides are a good option for those fishing in a new area.


The best lodging options for fishing are often the ones closest to your chosen destination. Opt for the best fishing hotel alternative by camping in a state park campground or staying in a cabin in the woods. The best places to stay on fishing trip vacations depend on what kind of fishing you want to do on your trip. Staying at a beachside hotel might work best if you are going saltwater fishing on the coast, but you might prefer camping if you are fishing on a lake.

Fishing lodging options are easy to find when you choose to visit popular destinations. There are always hotels or motels just a short walk or drive away from your fishing spot. You can find out where to stay when fishing from previous visitors through online reviews or local fishing guides at your destination.


Joining a fishing organization or club is a great way to meet other anglers in your state. Finding the best local fishing organizations is as simple as checking with your state's fish and wildlife department. Each state's department has at least one organization or club that it runs or is affiliated with.

  • Women-only clubs - There are several fishing clubs just for women anglers.
  • Fishing style clubs - If you like a specific style of fishing, like fly-fishing, you can join a club specific to that style.
  • Organizations for children and youths - Volunteering with an organization for children is a great way to help teach the sport to the community.
  • Conservation organizations - There are fishing conservation organizations in most states. Some focus on the conservation of specific kinds of fish.

Join a bass fishing club if you enjoy bass fishing, or join a freshwater or saltwater fishing club. You can find a club or organization for almost any fishing interest in any state.