What Happens If You Get Caught Without A Fishing License?

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Fishing does not require any definition, but formally it means catching fish from freshwater and saltwater for the purpose of business or sports.

You may not know this, but there are many benefits to fishing. It enables you to enjoy the great outdoors with your friends and families. But it can also help people earn a living.

Fishing can give you full-body strength, strengthens your immune system, makes your family bond strong, promotes relaxation, patience, and teaches self-reliance, encourages travel, and last but not least, improves mental health.

You can get a holder for your fishing license here.

Assume yourself to be an environmental conservation officer. You are patrolling, as regular routine work, and you come across four people packing their fishing gear. As they are about to leave the fishing spot, you ask them for their fishing licenses.

As a person, you might be thinking “what sort of license?”. Under the “Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act 1997,” it is illegal to go fishing without a license. Many of us don’t know that there is a need for a license if you want to go fishing. There are a few exceptions where you do not need a fishing license and we will talk about these exceptions further.

Many of the fishermen or the correct word anglers (a person fishing using a rod and line) do not know that they may be penalized for not having a license. The penalty is way more than the cost of the actual license. So, it is better to have a license instead of paying the penalty and bearing the consequences of being caught fishing without a license.

So, what happens if you get caught without a fishing license? You might get away with a warning and any fish confiscated.  You might also be ticketed and heavily fined up to $500, and if you’re really unlucky, or a repeat offender, you may face jail time.

What Happens If You Get Caught Without A Fishing License?

The consequences of fishing without a license differ from region to region. However, the overall policies and range of fine is almost the same.

It is a violation of government rules and fish and wildlife conservation if you fish in salt water or fresh water. You might be fined for this or jailed if you are found guilty more than once. Since 2006, these laws have been implemented strictly and are followed by everyone.

In Florida, fishing without a license is considered as level one violation. The section that covers this offense is 379.354. It is a noncriminal offense. In this offense, the culprit is to be penalized with a fine of the license cost plus an additional $50. If you are found breaking the same rule more than once in the period of 36 months the penalty fine is increased to $100.

Generally, if you are caught fishing without a license, you will be given a ticket, that is, a citation is issued to you. You are required to accept this ticket and append your signature. You have to pay the fine within 30 days of the issued ticket date. By doing this, you accept your mistake and your right to a hearing.

However, your acceptance is not liable for other proceedings. It will just help to device appropriate fine for further violations. The final verdict is in the hands of the county court. It determines your guilt and decides the fine applicable to you.

Fines are always more than $50 if it is your first violation. For any subsequent violation, the fine is greater than $50 and less than $500.

If you have a license, but it was not available when you were convicted, you can produce the same in the county court. In this case, you will have to pay only $10 as court fees.

If you fail to attend the hearing, did not pay the fine or did not accept the ticket, then your offense is considered as a second-degree misdemeanor. This offense is punished by 60 days of jail and a penalty of $500 fine.

If there is a constant violation of the rule of fishing with a license, the conservation officer can seize any property they find reasonable. There are chances that you will lose your possession and a fine of $25000 or jail for one year will be the final decision. This is decided under section 92.1 of the conservation activities.

Exemptions to the fishing license

Certain exceptions are there to a fishing license. The age criteria for having a fishing license is 16 years to 65 years. Any age group below or above this specified range need not have any fishing license.

If you want to go fishing in a homestead (a house or a farmhouse) of your own or your child or spouse’s, then there is no need of a license. You do not need a license when you are minor as well.

There are also some exemptions for military personnel. Like, there is no need for a license if you are fishing in your home county. This is only if you do not use fish management areas and rod and reel mechanism and have a natural or live bait for fishing.

Besides these are also some exemptions to fresh and saltwater fishing licenses.

Types of fishing licenses

To avoid the big penalties and consequences of breaking the conservation act, it is suitable to purchase the fishing license and follow the rules of fishing.

The rules devised for fishing are different for different types of licenses. It is mandatory for you to follow the rules that abide by your type of license.

Sports fishing license is a type of license that limits the number of species of fishes you can catch. The benefit of this license is that you can have the majority of the fish caught by yourselves.

Another type of license is a conservation license. It is suitable for those who want to release almost all of their catches, keeping the lesser number of fishes to themselves. This license type also has certain rules on the type of species to be caught.

The conservation license is less expensive than the sports license and is suitable for people who go fishing rarely or comparatively less.

Buying a fishing license

To avoid the heavy penalty, make sure you have bought a fishing license that is up-to-date. The license for fishing expires every year on June 30. So you can update your license in the month of June. It is not a good idea to let a license lapse.

Many fish stores and convenience stores sell these licenses. You can also search on google for fishing license sales. You can also search for license information to decide the type of license suitable for you. You can make the payment with different methods like MasterCard, credit card, etc.

There are also certain contact numbers provided through which you can purchase your license for fishing. The fishing licenses can also be purchased at the offices of wildlife and fisheries.

The fees for a basic fishing license for fishing in fresh water is $17.50. For a saltwater fishing license, an onshore recreational fishing is free. With it, you can fish with live bait and a cane pole.

There are also lifetime licenses available for serious fishing enthusiasts. Their price range between $200 and $500. Your age and the type of license you want would decide the actual cost of your license.

What do the laws say?

The following points are covered under the Environmental Conservation Law that needs to be followed by every individual willing to go fishing. Failing to abide by these rules, one may be convicted by fine and potential jail penalties.

A person without a license must not:

  • Hunt or trap any animal, bird, or fish or parts of them in any way and for any purpose.
  • Hunt or trap any animal, bird, or fish or parts of them in any way and for any purpose, exemption to few places and at certain time duration formulated by the law or any prescribed department.
  • Hunt or trap any animal, bird, or fish or parts of them in any way and for any purpose, and should not purchase, sell, import or export them without any license or permit from the concerned department.
  • Hunt or trap any animal, bird, or fish or parts of them in any way and for any purpose, if the person is not resident.
  • Hunt or trap migratory bird or fish without the license from the concerned department.
  • Hunt or trap any animal, bird, or fish or parts of them in any way and for any purpose, if the said animal or fish is wounded.

Do You Need A Fishing License For Catch and Release?

The exact rules vary from state to state, however, in the vast majority of cases you will need a fishing license regardless if you intend to catch and release.

National Parks may even require additional permits, while others won’t require any sort of license, so you must do your research before you start catching and releasing.

Texas doesn’t require a license for fishing in state parks if you’re practicing catch and release.  While Florida will require a license no matter where you’re fishing or the type of fishing you’re doing.  T confuse matters further, California can in certain circumstances allow fishing from a pier without a license.

Final Thoughts

It is mandatory to have a fishing license if you are fishing in areas which are not exempted from a fishing license. It is also necessary to abide by the rules formulated by the type of license you have.

According to the Environmental Conservation Law, those who desire to go for fishing and are above 16 years of age must purchase the license.

The fishing license does not cost more than 10 dollars. But if you are caught fishing without the license the fine and the penalty is very heavy.