Fishing License

fishing license

Most likely, you will need a fishing license of some type no matter what state you are in. The type of the fishing license can vary, however.

A saltwater license does not give someone permission to fish in freshwater lakes and streams, and vice versa. In Maine, by way of example, all anglers must apply for a freshwater license. If they want to fish offshore, they would then add a saltwater permit on top of that. Some states combine all kinds of fishing into one license. In some other states like California, you are not required to purchase a fishing license if you are fishing on a public pier.

Additionally, some states require trout cards to pull trout, or there might be other more specific ones. Louisiana has some specific regulations about the kinds of equipment that you can use on fish, crawdads or any other species. Meanwhile, in Michigan, a fishing license even allows you to take amphibians, crustaceans and reptiles.

Some states have different licenses for different people. For example, licenses for minors are at a discounted rate or sometimes free. Veterans, seniors, the disabled and other groups might be able to get discounted or free licenses.

Additionally, if you are accompanying a child, teaching them to fish, but you are not fishing, then some states require you only to buy a license for the child.

Residents of a state often have a discount. So, make sure you are buying the right license. A lifetime fishing license is more expensive at the outset but pays for itself after several years.

Types by country

Depending on the jurisdiction, licenses or permits may be required by a government, a property owner, or both.

United Kingdom

The government requires a rod licence for anyone over the age of 12 who fishes in England, Wales or the Border Esk area in Scotland for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, smelt or eels. In addition, anyone who fishes in a non-estuarine stream, lake, or canal needs a permit from the owner of the fishing rights to the water body, which might be a local angling club, a landowner with riparian rights, or an organization such as the Canal & River Trust.


In Ireland, rights to fish in non-tidal freshwater also are owned either by the government or by private entities such as angling club. The ownership of fishing rights in Ireland derives from the confiscation of lands by the British Crown in the 17th century; the boundaries of fishing rights areas typically follow the boundaries of estates granted by the Crown.

United States

The U.S. state of Oregon instituted a requirement for commercial fishing licenses in 1899, the same year that the state’s sturgeon fishery had collapsed due to over-harvesting. Oregon began requiring recreational fishing licenses in 1901. Indiana began issuing hunting licenses in 1901 and added fishing privileges to its hunting license in 1913. The state of Pennsylvania first issued recreational fishing licenses in 1919. Licenses were required only for nonresidents, and only 50 licenses were issued that first year. In 1922, when the state first required licenses for state residents, over 2,700 nonresident licenses and over 200,000 resident licenses were sold.

How to get a license

Residency Qualifications

  • Persons who have been a bonafide resident of the city, county, or state for six consecutive months immediately preceding the date of application for license;
  • Persons who have been domiciliary residents of the state for at least two months upon approval of a completed affidavit to be furnished by the DWR;
  • Legal voters in Virginia;
  • Any member of the armed forces of the United States, or a member of the immediate family of such a member as defined in § 2.2-3101, upon execution of a certificate of residence if the member (i) resides in the Commonwealth, (ii) is on active duty, and (iii) is stationed at a military installation within, or in a ship based in, the Commonwealth; 5. Students (including nonresident students boarding on campus) residing in Virginia who are enrolled in bonafide Virginia schools;
  • Any unnaturalized person who owns real estate in the county or city and who has actually resided there not less than five years next preceding the date of the application for the license in the county or city where they qualify.


All persons, except those listed below, must purchase the proper licenses before fishing.

  • Resident or nonresident landowners, their spouses, their children and grandchildren and the spouses of such children and grandchildren, or the landowner’s parents, resident or nonresident, do not need a license to hunt, trap, or fish within the boundaries of their own lands and inland waters.
  • Residents under 16 years of age (also do not need a trout license).
  • Resident, active-duty members of the armed forces while on official leave. However, when trout fishing they must have copy of their Military Orders in their possession.
  • Tenants, on the land they rent and occupy, are not required to have a license, but must have the written permission of the landowner.
  • Guests fishing in individually owned private ponds.
  • Nonresident children under 16 years of age (also do not need a trout license).
  • Legally blind persons.
  • Any Indian who “habitually” resides on an Indian reservation or a member of the Virginia-recognized tribes who resides in the Commonwealth is not required to have a freshwater license; however, such Indian must have on his person an identification card or paper signed by the chief of his tribe, a valid tribal identification card, written confirmation through a central tribal registry, or certification from a tribal office. However, a saltwater fishing license is required.
  • Stockholders owning 50 percent or more of the stock of any domestic corporation owning land in Virginia, his or her spouse and children and minor grandchildren, resident or nonresident, to hunt, trap and fish within the boundaries of lands and inland waters owned by the domestic corporation.
  • Persons 65 years of age or older do not need a saltwater license but must comply with the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) requirements.
  • Any person not fishing but aiding a disabled license holder.

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