How to Get a Fishing License

A statue of a boy fishing sitting on top of a wall, how to get a fishing license concept.

Are you looking to cast your fishing rods this summer? Well, you might not be able to do so without a license! 

The requirements for obtaining a fishing license vary by state, with each agency setting its own rules and regulations. Having your license before putting your line in the water is crucial, no matter when you fish. 

Today, we talk about why you need a license, how to get a fishing license, and how to stay safe on the water when fishing from any size boat!

A child in a boat holds up a fish, how to get a fishing license concept.

Why Do I Need a Fishing License? 

If being able to fish legally isn't reason enough to purchase a fishing license, the money you spend on the license goes toward conservation efforts. 

You can have fun, enjoy the outdoors, and help fund fishing education and habitat protection. These programs include habitat cleanups, like removing trash to create healthier waterways for fish. 

Your fishing license also helps fund research to track the health and number of fish in a fishery. The proceeds of your license also help improve fishing and boating access so you can launch your boats and experience more enjoyable fishing conditions. 

What Happens If You Fish Without a License? 

While fishing without a license isn't a major crime, you will likely face fines. 

For example, fishing without a license in Texas can lead to a fine of less than $500, as long as you're not fishing commercially. However, commercial fishing violations can be more costly and include jail time.  

How Do I Get a Fishing License?

As we mentioned, states have different requirements and methods for fishing licenses. Be sure to check with your state agency for more information about license requirements.

For example, in Texas, residents and non-residents under the age of 17 are exempt from buying a license, but in Alabama, the minimum age required for a license is 16. In Montana, most anglers actually need two licenses: a Conservation License and a Fishing License. 

Fishing licenses are available for purchase online through each state agency's website. Take Me Fishing is also a great resource to use when looking to purchase licenses online.

How Much Does a Fishing License Cost?

Fishing licenses are generally low cost (under $50), and sometimes, depending on where or when you fish, you can cast a line for free!

However, even if getting a license doesn't require a fee with it, make sure you get it to fish legally. 

When Does My Fishing Licenses Expire?

There are many different types of fishing licenses with varying ranges of expiration timeframes. 

Some licenses last for a year, while some are good only for a day. Other licenses never expire and can be good for a lifetime. Some states also offer license packages that cover different types of fishing (saltwater vs. freshwater or resident vs. non-resident if you plan to fish in a state where you don't live) with varying timeframes for how long they are valid. 

Choose the license that matches your lifestyle. If you're testing the waters and fishing for fun (or learning how to fish), maybe try a day pass. However, if you're an avid angler, you may want a lifetime pass. 

Stay Safe on the Water When Fishing from a Boat

Fishing from a dock or the banks of a lake or river is a relatively safe pastime, as long as you don't fall into the water! However, you might need your boater education card if you plan to fish from a boat! 

We've got you covered. Boat-Ed offers state-approved boater safety courses to keep you safe on the water while operating a boat and fishing this season. Our courses are online, making them convenient for anglers to take from a mobile device or computer. 

So, when you get your fishing license, get your boating license, too! Your boating safety card never expires, and it's good in any state where you boat and fish. Find the course for your state, create your account, and start learning with our free study guide. 


Originally published June 2, 2015. Content updated February 26, 2024.