Kentucky Fishing License (2024): Cost, Types & How to Buy

Kentucky has great diversity in options for anglers. But it is important to make sure you get the right fishing license for your situation. In this article, we break down …

Kentucky has great diversity in options for anglers.

But it is important to make sure you get the right fishing license for your situation.

In this article, we break down which license you need, where to get it and how much the license costs, along with any discounts and exemptions available.

Fishing in Kentucky

Many anglers think of big blue catfish in the Ohio River when they think of fishing in Kentucky.

But there is much more to fishing in the Bluegrass State.

Cave Run Lake is known as the muskie capital of the south, which Dale Hollow Lake is home to record smallmouth bass.

Kentucky also boasts good stream fishing for trout, along with opportunities to catch panfish, largemouth bass and a range of other species.

How Much is A Kentucky Fishing License?

For resident anglers, an annual Kentucky fishing license costs $23.

For non resident anglers, an annual Kentucky fishing license costs $55.

There are a range of other types of licenses available in Kentucky and we’ve summarized the prices of those in the tables below.

Who Needs a Fishing License In Kentucky?

All persons (residents and nonresidents) must fill out and carry the proper license and permit to fish in any Kentucky waters or to hunt in Kentucky. 

Kentucky Fishing License Age

Children can fish without need a fishing license up until age 16. This is fairly standard among all states.

Who is Exempt from Needing a Fishing License in Kentucky?

  • Resident and nonresident children under the age of 16 may fish without a license.
  • Resident and nonresident hunters under the age of 12 are not required to purchase hunting license or permits, except for the elk lottery application, elk quota hunt permit, out-of-zone elk permit and bear permit.
  • Resident owners of farmlands, their spouses and dependent children hunting or fishing on their lands. This also applies to tenants actually engaged in work and residing on farmlands, their spouses and dependent children. To be classed as a tenant, a person must both live and work on a farm.
  • Kentucky resident servicemen or women on furlough of more than three days, carrying proper identification and papers showing furlough status.
  • Residents or nonresident participating in a field trial authorized by the department are exempt from license requirements if game is not taken.
  • Persons fishing on the first Saturday and Sunday in June during Free Fishing Days are not required to have a license or permit
  • Persons fishing within the boundaries of Mammoth Cave National Park.


Fishing License Types in Kentucky

Muskie fishing at night 2
Muskie fishing is popular in Kentucky

Anglers who want to fish in the waters of Kentucky have the option to avail of an annual fishing license. If you are planning to go fishing for a few days, you also have the option to buy a one-day fishing permit. A combination license, which can be used to participate in both hunting and fishing activities legally, is also available to be purchased by residents.

Resident Fishing Licenses: Cost

A resident is any person who has established permanent and legal residence in Kentucky, and resided in Kentucky for 30 days prior to applying for a license, full-time students enrolled in an educational institution for at least six months, or military service personnel on permanent assignment in Kentucky.

Fishing License Type (Resident)Cost
Annual Fishing$23.00
Joint/Spouses Annual Fishing$42.00
1-Day Fishing$7.00
3-Year Fishing (Online Only)$55.00
Trout Permit$10.00
Annual Combination Hunting/Fishing$42.00
Sportsman’s License$95.00
Senior Sportsman’s$12.00
Disabled Sportsman’s$12.00
Youth (ages 12-15) Sportsman’s License$30.00

Non Resident Fishing Licenses: Costs

A person who does not meet the definition of a Kentucky resident is considered a nonresident and must purchase nonresident licenses and permits.

Fishing License Type (Non-Resident)Cost
Annual Fishing$55.00
1-Day Fishing$15.00
7-Day Fishing$35.00
Trout Permit$10.00

Who Can Purchase Discounted Kentucky Fishing Licenses?

Kentucky offers a discounted Senior License (65 years of age and older) and a Disabled License that is good for the license year.

See also:

Special Fishing Licenses in Kentucky

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources also offers several special permits, ​​aside from the general hunting and fishing licenses. Special permits have very specific regulations, application processes, and license calendar years associated with them. Read more here.

Where Can I Buy An Kentucky Fishing Licence?

There are three different ways to purchase a Kentucky fishing license.

Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources

Fishing licenses can be purchased throughout the State in more than 900 locations. Follow this link to buy a fishing license in your area. You can always buy your license from Walmart too.


Any type of resident or nonresident fishing license can be purchased online through the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Online License Sales site.

Payments are accepted via Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover card, or a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife gift certificate, which you can also buy online.

By Phone

Purchase of your fishing license can also be via phone. Just dial the number 877-598-2401.

What Happens with Kentucky Fishing License Fees?

If you get one, you will do more than catch fish. In fact, you will also help the environment:

  • Enhancing Water Quality
  • Maintaining Fish Habitat
  • Helping with Long-Term Conservation
  • Protecting Aquatic Natural Places
  • Teaching the Next Generation How To Do the Same

For each fishing license sold, the federal government sends monies back to Kentucky from excise taxes on fishing tackle, trolling motors, electronic sonar units for boats, commonly called fish finders, and boat motor fuels.

Does Kentucky Have Reciprocal License arrangements with neighboring states?

Kentucky has entered into reciprocal agreements with neighboring states regarding fishing requirements on common bodies of water. The agreement stated that persons fishing in Dale Hollow Lake, the Big South Fork portion of the Cumberland River, a portion of the Kentucky Lake, the Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Big Sandy and Tug Fork rivers shall comply with the fishing requirements in the reciprocal agreements incorporated by reference in this administrative regulation. The relevant states are:

  • Tennessee (see here for licence info)
  • Missouri (see here for licence info)
  • Ohio (see here for licence info)
  • Indiana (see here for licence info)
  • Illinois (see here for licence info)
  • West Virginia (see here for licence info)


Does Kentucky offer Lifetime Fishing Licenses?

Yes. A senior lifetime combination hunting and fishing license, which remains valid until the death of the holder and authorizes the holder to perform all acts valid under a sport fishing license, a sport hunting license, and a state permit to take deer, turkey, trout, waterfowl, and migratory shore and upland game birds, and which shall be available to a Kentucky resident who is sixty-five (65) years of age or older.

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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.
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