California Fishing Licenses, Laws, and Regulations –

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If you have your mind set on reeling in a trophy-sized largemouth trout or a river salmon, California can definitely give you that experience! The state gives tourists and seasoned anglers a variety of fishing licenses to choose from, ranging from short-term to annual ones. This section will walk you through the different types and fees for each license, making it easy for you to choose one based on your current need. Securing one can be done online or you may personally buy one from authorized representatives or local athletic shops.

It is easy to apply for and secure your own fishing license online. This can be done through the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission or you may personally buy one from authorized retailers like tackle shop or at a local athletic shop.

  • Buy Your California Fishing License Online
  • Fishing License Types and Fees
  • Free and Reduced-Fee Sport Fishing Licenses
  • Lifetime California Fishing License Information
  • Fishing License Agent Information

Before your trip, do not forget to research and familiarize yourself with the local fishing laws and protocols in the region. You must also keep an eye out for recent updates since some rules change from time to time. And since fishing is available in both the fresh and saltwater areas of California, you must research on the laws for each since they have a separate set for both types. These laws exist to sustain and safeguard the marine life in the area.

All proceeds from fishing licenses are allotted for the different programs that aim to promote the proliferation of marine and wildlife and their habitat in the area. Your awareness in these efforts will help in preserving the ecosystem for generations to come.

If there’s a place in the United States that reminds you of the ocean, it’s California. Not only that, it is the home of beautiful beaches and windy cities, it is also a great place to go fishing. California is one of the states in the U.S. that has wonderful saltwater and freshwater sites where fishers and anglers from all walks of life will enjoy.

Because of the increased fishing activity in California, the state has decided to regulate fishing across its waters. The regulations are designed to make sure that the fishing activity in its waters remains sustainable, and the natural resources that belong to the people will not be quickly depleted because of irresponsible fishing.

Interestingly, California has an extensive fishing regulation that applies to anglers, and the rules are separate from those who fish in saltwater areas and those who fish in freshwater sanctuaries. It is for the same reason that California requires anglers to secure a fishing license before they go to the water and reel their lines. Different fishing licenses are available to both resident and non-resident anglers. The cost of each permit typically depends on your residency status or the duration of its validity, among other factors.

So if you are eager to know more about fishing in the waters of California, this article will walk you through all the things that you need to know when purchasing a fishing license. It will discuss the different permits and who they are for, as well as how to buy them. But before anything else, let’s talk about the basics first: who exactly needs to procure a California fishing license?

Who needs to acquire a CA sportfishing license?

In general, every angler, resident or non-resident, who are 16 years old and older are required to purchase a CA sportfishing license. It is essential to understand that a fisherman is considered a “resident” when he/she has been living in California continuously for at least six months before the purchase of the license.

When you purchase a license in California, you will be eligible to fish in both saltwater and freshwater all across the entire state. Please note that every angler in your group must purchase a fishing license. This applies even when you are fishing with a guide or onboard a fire-hire charter boat.

Where can you purchase a CA sportfishing license?

A CA sportfishing license can be purchased directly online by following this link. You can also buy licenses instantly and in person from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife license sales office. The fishing license is also available to be purchased from a licensed agent, as a sporting goods store.

Different Types of Licenses in California

Basic CA Sportfishing Licenses

Generally, licenses in California, including those that are required from both the residents and non-residents, are valid for a year. Fishing licenses expire on December 31 each year, and the permits for residents and non-residents are sold separately. However, there are also special licenses that are only sold to a specific group of people based on certain accreditations. It is also worthy to note that fishing licenses for residents and non-residents are sold separately.

In California, residents and non-residents can buy a one or two-day license for the same price. However, other permits vary for the two. Interestingly, non-residents may also avail of a 10-day license, which is not available for residents. The annual licenses are also available at a different price for both residents and non-residents. Here’s a breakdown of the necessary licenses that you can purchase from the state of California:

License Type





1-Day License


2-Day License


10-Day License



Annual License



Lifetime CA Sportsfishing License

If you are a resident in California and you don’t want to hassle yourself in procuring a sportfishing license every year, you can also opt to purchase a Lifetime Fishing License. This license grants a holder a lifetime worth of fishing licenses, which will be received through an annual fishing license delivered every year. The lifetime license can only be purchased from the CDFW sales office, and the cost depends on the age of the person availing the lifetime license. Here’s a summary of the price relative to the age of the angler:

0-9 years


10-39 years


40-61 years


62+ years


As you can see in the table above, the best time to buy the lifetime license is when you are at the age of 0-9 years old (for kids) because it costs the least and covers you for the most years.

Fishing Privilege Package

If you are a hardcore angler, you also can purchase a privilege package, which includes an Ocean Enhancement Stamp, a Lifetime Second-Rod Stamp, a North Coast Salmon Report Card, and a Steelhead Report Card. The Fishing Privilege Package costs $360.75, but this price is still subject to change.

Important License Information

Special Licenses

Special licenses and discounts are offered to those who can meet specific criteria. Privileges and discounts are given to veterans, blind anglers, developmentally disabled anglers, and mobility impaired anglers. Other special considerations are also offered, depending on the case. These discounts would grant the eligible anglers an option to buy licenses for under $8.

Who is exempted?

Of course, there are also some exceptions to the license requirements for anglers. For one, anglers are not required of a fishing license if they are casting from a public pier and those that are under 16 years of age. However, if they are fishing for regulated species, they may be required to bring with them permits and report cards.

Lost or Stolen Licenses

If you have misplaced, lost, or your license was stolen, you can buy a Duplicate Sportfishing License for $10.80 (price is still subject to change). Please note that duplicates can only be purchased online and in CDFW license sales offices.

Other Fishing Regulations in California

Report Cards

When fishing for a specific species that are regulated by the state, you need to carry with you a report card that will record every time you catch one of the regulated species. All recreational anglers must take report cards when fishing for these species, including those who are not required to buy a sport fishing license (such as anglers fishing from a public pier, people under 16 years old, etc.). It is also important to note that the report card should be turned over to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife by January 31 of the following year (Spiny Lobster Report Cards must be reported after Lobster season closes, by April 30) either by submitting it online or by mailing it to the address specified on the card. Here’s a summary of the species that require a report card as well as the cost of buying one.


Specific Area

Cost of Report Card


Klamath, Trinity, and Smith Rivers only








Spiny Lobster



Ocean Enhancement Validation

If you are planning to fish ocean waters south of Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County, you need to buy an Ocean Enhancement Validation. The cost of the OEV is $5.40. It is also important to note that anglers who already possess a 1- or 2-day sportfishing license are not required to purchase validation.

Second Rod Validation

Anglers who are using two rods or lines while fishing in inland waters are required to acquire a Second Rod Validation, which costs $15.12. Please note that this validation does not apply to waters where anglers are required to use only barbless hooks and artificial lures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are CA sports fishing licenses that are valid grant access to fish in interstate waters?

California has several fishing spots shared by neighboring states, including Lake Tahoe, Topaz Lake, and the Colorado River. A CA sport fishing license is valid when fishing in all of these waters.

Q: How much is the disability discount for disabled veterans?

There is a disability discount for disabled veterans. If you are one, it allows you to purchase a license for $ 7.82. For more information, follow this link.

Q: What disability grade is required for disabled veterans to avail of the discounted rates?

Disabled Veteran’s license requires a disability grade above 50%.

Q: Are people with a disability, but are not veterans also eligible for a discount?

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the blind, developmentally disabled, or mobility impaired can apply for a Free Sport Fishing License.

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