How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Fishing License? (All States Covered)

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While adults have to have a fishing license in all US states, children are able to fish for free.

But at what age does the requirement to buy a fishing license kick in?

That varies from state to state, but in this article, we will explain the exact age at which you can fish for free in all 50 states.

At What Age Do You Need a Fishing License?

For the most part, you will need a fishing license in most states if you are aged 16 or above. But it does vary.

If you live in Arizona, you’ll need a license from age 10! Similarly, those aged 12 need a fishing license in the states of Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah.

At the other end of the spectrum, you can enjoy fishing without a fishing license until age 18 in Alaska! In Texas, you can fish without a fishing license until age 17.

Age Requirements for Fishing Licenses: State-by-State Table

This table provides the ages at which you need to buy a fishing license in each state. If you need to purchase a license, but sure to check out our article on how much a fishing license costs in each state.

StateAge at Which a Fishing License Is Required
Alabama (see here for Alabama fishing license info)16
Alaska (see here for Alaska fishing license info)18
Arizona (see here for more Arizona fishing license info)10
Arkansas (see here for Arkansas fishing license info)16
California (see here California fishing license info)16
Colorado (see here for Colorado fishing license info)16
Connecticut (see here for Connecticut fishing license info)16
Delaware (see here for Delaware fishing license info)16
Florida (see here for Florida fishing license info)16
Georgia (see here for Georgia fishing license info)16
Hawaii (see here for Hawaii fishing license info)No fishing license needed
Idaho (see here for Idaho fishing license info)14
Ilinois (see here for Illinois fishing license info)16
Indiana (see here for Indiana fishing license info)18
Iowa (see here for Iowa fishing license info)16
Kansas (see here for Kansas fishing license info)16
Kentucky (see here for Kentucky fishing license info)12
Louisiana (see here for Louisiana fishing license info)16
Maine 16
Maryland 16
Massachusetts15
Michigan17
Minnesota (see here for Minnesota fishing license info)16
Mississippi (see here for Mississippi fishing license info)16
Missouri (see here for Missouri fishing license info)16
Montana (see here for Montana fishing license info)12
Nebraska (see here for Nebraska fishing license info)16
Nevada (see here for Nevada fishing license info)12
New Hampshire (see here for New Hampshire fishing license info)16
New Jersey (see here for New Jersey fishing license info)16
New Mexico 12
New York (see here for New York fishing license info)16
North Carolina (see here for North Carolina fishing license info)16
North Dakota16
Ohio (see here for more info on Ohio fishing licenses)16
Oklahoma16
Oregon12
Pennsylvania16
Rhode Island16
South Carolina16
South Dakota16
Tennessee13
Texas17
Utah 12
Vermont15
Virginia16
Washington15
West Virginia15
Wisconsin 16
Wyoming 14

How Old Can You Be Without Having to Get a Fishing License?

Fishing Licenses

You can fish without a fishing license right up until you turn the nominated age in the table above. 

For example, in Wyoming, you can fish without a license throughout your thirteenth year, but as soon as you turn 14, you will need to buy a license.

Basically, treat the numbers in the right-hand column as birthdays – when you celebrate that birthday, then you’ll need to buy a fishing license. Did you know you can easily buy a fishing license at Walmart?

If you are young enough to fish without a recreational fishing license, make sure that you carry some form of ID so you can prove to game wardens that you are younger than the applicable age.

When you are “of age” and need to buy a license, there is a range of options, from short-term fishing licenses covering a day or a week to annual fishing licenses. Some states also offer a lifetime license, which makes more sense when you are young to get more value out of it!

Age Requirements for Residents vs Non-residents

Most states have different minimum age requirements, exemptions, and costs for fishing licenses depending if the person is a resident of the state or not.

Generally, you can expect to pay more for a non-resident fishing license, and there are fewer discounts and exemptions available to you compared to anglers who are residents of the particular state.

In Alaska, for example, you can fish without a fishing license up until the age of 18 if you are a resident, whereas non-resident anglers need a fishing license from age 15.

On the other hand, in Florida, for example, both resident and non-resident anglers need fishing licenses from age 16.

States have varying definitions of what constitutes “residency,” but generally, you need to have your home address in that state and have lived there in your main residence for a particular period of time to prove residency.

Use the links below to get detailed information about fishing licenses in each state.

Exceptions for Us Military Personnel and Veterans

Fishing Licenses (1)

Many states offer discounts or exemptions for fishing licenses for military personnel who are active service. In some cases, being on active duty will mean that you can fish for free regardless of age.

Similarly, many states also offer discounts and exemptions to fishing license fees for veterans, although many only apply to veterans with some level of disability, unfortunately.

Check out our article on fishing license discounts and exemptions for veterans and military personnel for more details.

Exceptions for Seniors

Senior citizens are another group where discounts and even exemptions to having to buy a fishing license apply in some states.

If you are a senior, see if your state offers a discount by navigating to our article on seniors’ discounts for fishing licenses. The article also explains the age at which a person is deemed a senior – generally, it is about 65, but it does vary, so be sure to check out that article.

Be aware that these discounts and exemptions usually don’t apply to visiting anglers – you can only obtain senior fishing licenses in your home state.

Exceptions for People With a Disability

Some states, but not all, offer discounts for anglers with a disability. Check out our article on discounts for anglers with a disability to see what discounts apply in your state and if there are other requirements you need to satisfy (such as type or extent of disability) before you can enjoy free fishing or discounted fishing.

Conclusion

The rules and regulations governing fishing licenses are complex and differ a lot between states. As a general rule, children can fish without a fishing license up until the age of 16 or so.

But it is critical to remember that age is different in many states, and young anglers need to use the table in this article to determine the exact age at which they need to buy a fishing license.

That way, they can ensure they are fishing within the state’s fishing rules. If above the relevant age, but sure to buy and carry a valid fishing license at all times when you are on the water.

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AUTHOR
Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.