How Old Do You Need To Be To Get A Fishing License?

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If you want to fish – whether for recreation, food, or commercial purposes – you need to have a valid fishing license in the state where you are intending to do it.

Fishing licenses allow local governments to compensate for the environmental harms caused by fishing. According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the proceedings from fishing license sales go directly toward conservation efforts.

You may also consider the price of a fishing license a tax that you are paying for the right to fish in a given state.

With that said, fishing license requirements drastically differ from state to state, including the minimum age. Since this is the topic of this post, let’s overview the state-by-state age requirements below.

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How Old Do You Need To Be To Get A Fishing License By State

Below are minimum age requirements for fishing licenses by state:

StateMinimal age requirement
HawaiiNo requirements for 

non-commercial fishing

New Hampshire16
New Jersey16
New Mexico12
New York16
North Carolina16
North Dakota16
Rhode Island16
South Carolina16
South Dakota16
West Virginia15


As you can see, the minimum age requirements differ quite a bit from state to state. The minimum age requirements for residents go from 10 in Arizona to 18 in Alaska. In Hawaii, you aren’t required to have a fishing license if angling recreationally.

The minimum age differences aren’t the only things that you will need to worry about though. There are many other requirements that each state may impose on anglers regardless of age. The licensing requirements differ so much that outlining them all here would take too many words and too much of your time.

You should check your local regulations to see what other requirements there are besides age. Below, we’ll overview the things that you may want to pay attention to.

Things to Keep in Mind With Fishing License Age Requirements

There are a few things that may change the minimum age requirements for a fishing license in your state. Not only that, but there are some limitations (or benefits) imposed on young or old individuals.

Resident vs non-resident licenses

First of all, the age requirements may differ for residents and non-residents. Usually, non-residents are required to purchase a fishing license at a younger age, though in some states, there are no differences between the license requirements.

If you are a resident of the given state, then the rules for residents will apply to you. Otherwise, you will need to purchase a license as per the rules for non-resident anglers.

Non-resident fishing licenses are more expensive than resident licenses, which is a thing to keep in mind. Not only that, but states may impose some limitations on non-residents. Check with the state you are intending to fish in to find out about any applicable requirements or limitations.

Keep in mind that requirements for being considered a resident may differ from state to state. In Texas, for example, a resident is a person who has continuously lived in Texas for at least six months before purchasing a fishing license.

Individuals on active duty in the US Armed Forces are considered residents in a given state no matter where they are on duty.

Maximum age of license requirement

Aside from minimal age requirements, there can also be maximum age requirements. In a few states, individuals aged older than 65 are not required to hold a fishing license. In Minnesota, individuals aged 16-89 are required to have a fishing license. In some other states, there are no upper limits on age.

Make sure to check local regulations to see whether there are any similar requirements that apply to you.

Exemptions from license owning

All states have some kind of exemptions for fishing license owning that apply regardless of your age. Among those exempt from licenses could be:

  • Residents born before a certain date. For example, in Indiana and a few other states, individuals born before April 1, 1943, aren’t required to purchase a fishing license, but they may be required to carry their driver’s license or other forms of identification.
  • Residents who are legally blind. Proof of this usually is not required.
  • Residents who have a developmental disability as defined by the given state’s regulations. Proof of this usually isn’t required.
  • Residents engaged in full-time military service. With that said, you need to be on approved military leave to engage in fishing.
  • Residents undergoing treatment in a state-owned rehabilitation facility.
  • American Indian or linear descendants whose household income is lower than what is indicated by federal poverty guidelines.

The exemptions aren’t limited to what we listed above. Some states have fewer exemptions in effect, and some have more.

Private property & state parks

You probably also won’t be required to purchase a fishing license for fishing on private property. But your state may require that the private body of water have no entry or exit to public waters. Besides, if you aren’t the owner of the private property, you will need to have permission from the owner to fish there.

Some states may also allow you to fish for free in state parks. While you will not be required to purchase a license, you will still have to comply with other fishing limitations, e.g. fish length or daily bag limits. There may be additional limitations imposed when fishing in state parks.

Free fishing day

Some states also have free fishing days when people who are otherwise required to have a license by law may angle without any licenses. Among other things, free fishing days are designed to promote fishing and educate anglers on fishing ethics and habits.

When the free fishing days are held differs from state to state. In California, for example, the free fishing days in 2020 were on July 6 and August 31. In Texas, a free fishing day is annually held on the first Saturday in June.

If you are a beginner who isn’t quite sure whether to buy a fishing license, free fishing days could be an opportunity for you to get acquainted with fishing.

Limits for underage individuals

While underage individuals aren’t required to have a fishing license, there may be some limitations imposed on them, including:

  • Limits on fish species that may be caught.
  • Limits on fishing techniques that may be used.
  • Limits on areas where an individual may fish. For example, fishing for underage individuals may be limited to freshwater.
  • Requirements to undergo training or certification before fishing.
  • Requirements for supervision from adults.

Again, check local codes to see whether there are any limitations or special requirements that apply to underage anglers.

Youth & senior licenses

Some states offer separate fishing licenses for the youth and seniors, while others offer a single license type for adults regardless of age.

Typically, youth licenses have some limitations (possibly including those described earlier), while senior licenses are sold at a discounted price. What kind of limitations or benefits to expect will again depend on your state of residence.

In some states, the youth will need to have an endorsement from a parent or guardian to purchase a youth license.

Lifetime license fee differences

In some states, lifetime license fees may also differ based on the individual’s age. The younger the individual, the cheaper a lifetime license may be. A lifetime license, by the way, is a license that you get for life by only paying a one-time fee. Regular licenses are typically purchased annually.

For example, in California, a lifetime license costs $550.25 for individuals aged 0-9, $899.25 for those aged 10-39, $810.25 for those aged 40-61, and $550.25 for those aged over 62.

You may take advantage of such fee differences if your age is right. Or, you may take advantage of such offers if you want to get your kids into fishing.

Commercial fishing license requirements

Commercial fishing license requirements may differ from those of recreational licenses significantly. This applies to the license age limitations, fees, the application process, or whatnot. If you want to acquire a license for commercial purposes, then be sure not to confuse the requirements for recreational fishing licenses with commercial ones.

How to Get a Fishing License?

Getting a fishing license is pretty easy, even though each state has its own application process.

There are a few options for buying a fishing license – you can do it online, from retailers available throughout the state, or through mail.

Buying a license online

The most convenient option is obviously ordering a fishing license online. You can find directions for your current state through the website of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Just click on your state on the US map, and you will be redirected to the page where you may buy an online license. 

You may also look for online fishing licenses through the website of the state authority that’s responsible for fishing permits and licensing. We’ve provided links to each state’s responsible agency above.

Digital copies of your licenses are acceptable proof of a valid fishing license. However, minor individuals may be required to carry a paper license signed by a parent. You do need to carry purchased tags with you though regardless of age.

Keep in mind that in some states, minors may need a signature of a parent or guardian to buy a fishing license online. For example, in Vermont, a signature is required for individuals aged 15 or younger.

Department offices/mail

In some cases, you may be unable to purchase a license online. This may apply to, for example, lifetime licenses. Some Fish & Wildlife departments may require that you purchase a lifetime license at the department’s main office.

As for mail, it’s not the most convenient option, but it’s an option nonetheless. You will need to follow the directions provided by your state.

Can I Use A State’s Fishing License In Another State?

One thing that may bother some people is whether you can use a license purchased in one state elsewhere. After all, licensing fees and requirements differ between states, and maybe you could take advantage of it, right?

Well, not really. A fishing license purchased in one state will be valid only in that state. If you are a resident of California but are intending to fish elsewhere, you will need to purchase a non-resident fishing license in the state where you want to fish. The resident/non-resident separation is there for a reason, after all. 

With that said, we want to reiterate that you should pay careful attention to the codes of a given state. If you are a non-resident, then make sure to consult rules for non-residents so that you avoid confusion.

Final Words

There are plenty of things you will need to keep in mind with fishing licenses. And while acquiring a fishing license is a fairly straightforward process, you should carefully research the regulations in your state.

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Besides, remember that fishing regulations have other requirements besides age. Your state’s requirements may apply to fish species, fishing techniques, fishing tools, and many other areas related to fishing. You should carefully read all the requirements and limitations imposed by your state’s wildlife department.

Also, make sure to get acquainted with all the different fishing license types that may be available in your state. These may provide you with sizable benefits depending on certain factors such as age, health condition, or income.