Do Kids Need a Fishing License in California?


I wondered if kids needed a licence to fish, so I did a little digging. Now I understand why I didn’t need one when I was younger!

So do kids need a license to fish in California? In California, children under the age of 16 do not need a license. Anybody over the age of 16 does need to purchase one online, at a license agent or CDFW license office. Licenses cost around $50 per year or $10 per week if you are not a resident.

Buying a license is simple, but getting kids interested in fishing can be hard, but with a few tricks, you might be able to pique their interest.

Sparking an Interest in Fishing

Getting your child into fishing can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. You will make memories that will stick with them for their entire life! The trouble is that fishing can be scary for people in this day and age, especially kids.

Before you even take your child out to the lake, you need to give them some exposure. It’s best to start really young and walk them along lakesides, looking for minnows, and talking to other fishermen about their catch.

When you expose them to fishing early, it won’t seem so foreign when they get old enough to actually hold a rod in their hand. There is a great deal of preparation that you need to do beforehand to ensure success.

Be Prepared

As the boy scout motto suggests, you need to be prepared. There are several things that you should do before heading out to your favorite spot with your child.

Kids will want to fish, and they may get easily frustrated if you are taking forever to teach them how to tie knots and cast. It is probably best for you to show them these things before you actually get to the lake.

Some great things to talk to them about before the excursion might include:

  • Casting and reeling
  • Tying a proper fishing knot
  • Rigging a line
  • Handling hooks safely
  • What it means to catch a fish (some children will get upset when they see a fish gasping for air)

If you teach them these things on a Saturday at a popular public lake, chances are good that you will get all sorts of attention from other fishermen. The best thing you can do is find other people that will act as mentors and friends to your son or daughter.

You want your first trip to be as simple as driving to the lake, river, or pier and ploppin your bait in the water. Everything should be prepared ahead of time.

Ideally, on their first trip, you need to get something on their line. They probably will not care what is tugging and pulling at their pole. If you show them the excitement of catching a fish, they’ll usually get excited too.

Do some research on the lakes in your area, and find out what species are really easy to catch. Even if the fish is not particularly tasty, you want your child to catch something. Your job here is to make a memory that will connect them to fishing.

Suggested Equipment

I recommend getting a simple pole with a closed face reel. I know a lot of you might prefer your fancy open-faced reel, but your kid doesn’t want to try and learn how to cast with one. Using a button is much easier. My suggestion is something like this.

Finding something on Amazon is great because you can look at the reviews and see which ones are light and low maintenance (the one I linked has superb reviews). Simplicity is key, and your child isn’t going to care how fancy his/her pole is. Let them learn with something basic.

Another great option is to have them pick it out themselves. This will help them have a more personal connection. Just make sure they don’t pick a gimmick rod like a bait launcher because these usually break pretty quickly.

Find something in the $20 price range that will last, but won’t be a huge loss if they decide fishing isn’t for them.

Take your child to the store and let them participate in getting some cheap spinners or spoons. Ask them to pick out things that are shiny and attention-grabbing. The best thing you can do is explain how a fish thinks and help them to come up with a plan to catch the big one!

A really important part of the first trip is not letting your kid get hurt. Bring hats, sunscreen, good shoes, pliers, food/water, a sweater, and be aware of poisonous plants. If your kid has a rough experience their first time, they won’t want to try again.

For Parents Who Don’t Know How to Fish

Fishing is a really simple hobby to learn. You are probably here because you child has an interest in fishing already. This could become something that you both enjoy doing together for years to come.

Take it slow, and ask other people what to do. I learned a lot of how to fish from people that I met on the shoreline. People are always willing to share their tips and tricks. Fishing can be frustrating at first, but it can become really relaxing and rewarding.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers free or low-cost programs to teach fishing basics, and could be a great event to go to with your kid.

Make sure you obey local regulations. you should be going to a specific place trying to fish a specific type of fish. If you go to any body of water and just drop some bait in, you might be breaking the law.

For Parents Who Know How to Fish

You are here because you love fishing, and want to share that with your child. As you know, fishing can be wildly complicated or extremely simple. When you are teaching somebody new to fishing, make sure and stay on the simple side. Focus on one type of fishing.

A child will not understand multiple types of knots and set-ups. Stick with one knot and rigging for their first time. I start people on spinners because it lets them focus on casting and reeling.

If you take it slow, they will ask you for more information, and therefore learn at their own pace. If you let them make fishing the thing their dad tells them to do they will hate it. Let them do things on their own!

If Your Child Doesn’t Like Fishing

Sometimes, kids just don’t like fishing. It happens. My first reccomendation is to just let it go for a while. My father and I have only been fishing together twice, and that is because I didnt get into it until I was much older and had moved away.

Sometimes you just have to grow up to appreciate things. Try again when they are older.

The second thing I recommend is to get creative. Try and involve your child in fishing in a way that maybe you didn’t expect. For instance, maybe your kid is really interested in gadgets and emerging technology!

If this is the case, maybe its time to invest in a drone and try out drone fishing, and nominate your teenager as the pilot. Or maybe your child likes hiking, and you could go hike to a secluded lake somewhere. There are plenty of options.

Related questions

Do children need to be accompanied by an adult to fish? Children are allowed to fish by themselves in the state of California. They do have bag limits and restrictions that they need to follow and should have a place to go if the weather turns sour.

When should kids start fishing? Three-to-five-year-old kids will be able to handle a rod and develop memories that will last their entire life. Children that are this age might not be able to last very long and might need something else to do after an hour or two.

What is the penalty of fishing without a license? According to California’s Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule, Section 4175 (a), with all the surcharges, additional penalties, and fee, you’re looking at $485 for fishing without a license (each incident).

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Stripped Bass.

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