Fishing is a major pastime in the United States and purchasing a fishing license is a requirement in most states. It is a fun and rewarding sport that most anglers enjoy for a lifetime but license fees and fishing rules are often daunting for beginners.
One of the most common questions I hear is regarding the cost of a fishing license. At first glance, fishing licenses seem expensive but are actually quite cheap considering the opportunities they provide for families in every state.
So, how much does a fishing license cost in 2020? Every state sets it own price for fishing licenses. On average, an annual state resident fishing license costs around $25 while non-resident licenses cost an average of $60 to $70.
To make your life easier, we compiled a current list with the cost of basic fishing licenses for all 50 states in the year 2020. Whether you will be traveling out of your home state to fish or purchasing another annual license for a nearby lake, this list will show you what it costs this year.
Fishing License Cost for All 50 States
|State||Annual Resident License||Annual Non-Resident License|
|New Hampshire||$45.00 (Freshwater)|
|North Carolina||$25.00 (Freshwater)|
|South Carolina||$10.00 (Freshwater)|
At what age do you need to buy a license
The required age to purchase a license varies from state to state. In general, youth must start purchasing a license between the ages of 12 and 16 depending on the state.
A youth license is often sold at a discount for the first year or two. After which, an adult license must be purchased.
Most kids under 12 can fish for free but be sure to check your local regulations to learn more about specific license fees or permit requirements.
Additional license fees you may see
The license fees listed in our 50 state chart is the base price. There may be some added processing and/or dealer fees that are not usually listed until you are ready to purchase the license. These fees are mostly less than $5.
Additionally, some states require extra “endorsement” permits when fishing for specific species of fish like trout, salmon and paddlefish. These usually cost around $5 to $15 depending on the state.
It is important to review the full license stipulations for the area and species you intend to fish.
Other types of licenses
An annual fishing license is the most common type of license sold and often the most cost effective way to enjoy a full year on the water. However, you may only want to go fishing one or two days a year, in which case buying a temporary license is more affordable.
Temporary licenses are sold to both resident and non-residents in the majority of states. They are valid for consecutive days starting on a date specified at the time of purchase. You can get a 1 day or multi-day pass but at some point it is cheaper to just buy the annual fishing license.
A 3 to 10 day fishing license is a great way for non-residents to fish while on vacation in other states. Most temporary license are less than $30 for non-residents and less than $20 for residents of the state.
Can you buy a fishing license online
Just about every state allows for online purchases of a fishing license. Even non-resident anglers can buy a license online.
Keep in mind that only government websites are authorized to sell state licenses on the internet. There are several illegitimate websites that pretend to sell fishing licenses to unsuspecting anglers.
Stay away from these illegitimate websites when buying a fishing license!
Most of these sites get shut down quickly but they can pop up from time to time.
The only secure and safe place to buy a license online is through your state’s fish and wildlife government website.
You can easily find your state’s fish and wildlife website by visiting our fish and wildlife resource page. Just click on your state and you will be redirected to your state’s official government page.
Does Walmart sell fishing licenses
If purchasing a license online is a risk you don’t want to take, you can always purchase a fishing license in person.
Walmart is probably the easiest place to buy a fishing license. Almost every state has a Walmart that sells fishing licenses. Just go back to the hunting and fishing department and let a store clerk know what you want. They can help you decide on the best license for you and it costs the same as buying it online.
While you’re there, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the local fishing regulations. Walmart provides them free of charge.
Most stores that carry fishing supplies are also certified to sell fishing licenses. Many sporting good stores are also able to sell licenses. Keep in mind that there is usually a dealer fee associated with purchasing a license in person.
Why do you need a license to fish
Your fishing license helps pay for the cost to maintain a quality public fishery. Fish stocking, habitat conservation and law enforcement are critical for sustaining fishing opportunities that everyone can enjoy for generations to come.
It is a small price to pay to ensure you can continue catching the species you love.
Do you need a fishing license for catch and release
Yes. You still need to purchase a license for catch and release fishing. The license fee pays for the use and upkeep of public land and water access whether you keep the fish or not.
Do you need a fishing license on private property
In most states, you can fish on a private pond without a license. The rules regarding private property fishing vary for each state. In general, as long as the lake or pond does not have any inlets or outlets and is privately stocked with fish, a fishing license is not required.
If you are fishing on private property, you’ll definitely want to see our 50 state analysis for fishing on private property to avoid any trouble with the law.
Can you fish without a license
A fishing license is not always required for fishing. Some states, like Washington, don’t require a license when you fish for common carp or other species classified as rough fish. California allows fishing from public coastal piers without a fishing license and many states allow adults to help kids fish without a license.
Some places have even established “apprentice” programs that allow new anglers to try out fishing while accompanied by another licensed adult.
Each state has its own defined situations where a fishing license is not needed. They are too numerous to list here so be sure to check out your local regulations before fishing.
The best way to legally fish without a license is to take advantage of your state’s free fishing weekend. This is a great program that introduces new anglers to fishing every year in the spring and summer. Visit takemefishing.org to see an up-to-date list of every state’s free fishing opportunities.
Purchasing a fishing license is only the first step to getting ready for the upcoming fishing season. Make the most of this season by checking out all our how-to guides, fishing advice and gear reviews that will help you become a better angler.