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What is a Fishing License?

J. Beam
J. Beam

A fishing license is a legal permit to fish in public lakes and waters within the state or jurisdiction where the license is issued. A valid fishing license is required by law to legally fish in any public waters, even if you plan to catch and release the fish. In most states within the US, anyone over the age of 16 must obtain a fishing license before fishing.

Obtaining a fishing license is simple and involves purchasing the permit for a fee and signing that you have read and understand the fishing laws that pertain to your area. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) typically oversees fishing laws and the official issuing of fishing licenses, but the license itself can be purchased from several sources. Sporting goods stores, bait and tackle shops, as well as some major department store chains with sporting goods departments all sell fishing licenses. Fishing licenses can also be purchased online from most state’s DNR departments.

An Atlantic salmon.
An Atlantic salmon.

There are only a few things to keep in mind when purchasing a fishing license. One thing to remember is that a fishing license is valid for a season only. When fishing licenses go on sale for each season, the license is only valid for that season, regardless of when it was purchased. Once the new season begins, typically in the early spring, a new fishing license must be purchased.

A quiet lake harbor.
A quiet lake harbor.

While you must obtain a fishing license for your home state to fish there, the license is not valid in other states. This means if you plan only to fish while on vacation out of your home state, you will have to purchase a non-resident fishing license. Be sure to research the cost of purchasing a non-resident fishing license thoroughly, as some states offer three or five day permits rather than requiring you to have a valid annual license. The cost is typically higher than it would be for residents, regardless of type. However, the fee is typically less than the fee you would be required to pay if caught poaching fish.

To learn more about purchasing a fishing license and the fishing laws in your area, visit your state’s Department of Natural Resources online or call your local office.

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    • An Atlantic salmon.
      By: Witold Krasowski
      An Atlantic salmon.
    • A quiet lake harbor.
      By: keller
      A quiet lake harbor.
    • Guests at a private fishing pond are not required to possess fishing licenses.
      By: Evgeniy Drogozhilov
      Guests at a private fishing pond are not required to possess fishing licenses.