How Much Does a California Fishing License Cost?

california fishing license
CA fishing License
how much is a fishing license in california?

Each state has a different price and standard set for their fishing licenses. I was curious about what a California fishing license would cost, so I did some research and here is what I found for you.

So, how much does a California fishing license cost? California Fishing licenses vary in cost depending on age, location. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife does not accept cash as a form of payment when purchasing a fishing license of any kind. However, they do offer an online site where you can purchase licenses, report cards, and validations.

Since California has so many variables affecting the price of a single fishing license, it was a little more complicated to answer in a single sentence. Continue reading to learn about the cost of each fishing license, what some of the differences between each fishing licenses are, and where you can find a location to buy a fishing license in California.

Cost of California Fishing License

Annual LicensesPrice
Resident Sport Fishing License$49.94
Non-Resident Sport Fishing License$134.74
Reduced-Fee Fishing License$7.47
Short-Term LicensesPrice
One-Day Sport Fishing License (resident or nonresident)$16.20
Two-Day Sport Fishing License (resident or nonresident)$25.10
Ten-Day Nonresident Sport Fishing License$49.94
Ocean Enhancement Validation$5.66
Second-Rod Validation$15.69
Report CardsPrice
Varies by location and species$6.74 – $23.76
Duplicate FeesPrice
Sport Fishing License (Annual)$10.80
Second-Rod Validation$3.24
Sturgeon Fishing Report Card (CDFW license sales offices only)$15.45
Lifetime Sport Fishing LicensesPrice
Age 9 years or younger$550.25
Age 10 to 39 years$899.25
Age 40 to 61 years $810.25
Age 62 years or older$550.25
Additional Lifetime Fishing Privileges (Includes: Second-Rod Validation, Ocean Enhancement Validation, North Coast Salmon Report Card and Steelhead Report Card)$372.25

Content Credit:

Along with the base fee, there is the included 5% license agent handling fee and 3% nonrefundable application fee.

Annual licenses must be renewed on the first of January of each year.

If you are going to be participating in commercial fishing there is a whole other list of fees that applies to the licenses, registrations and stamps needed for commercial fishing.

You can find that list from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.

California offers several options for fishing licenses and report cards that help the state and the local fisheries keep tabs on the local fish populations. This information will help them to sustain natural levels for each species.

One of California’s fishing license options that I found while doing my research is unique to me. The lifetime fishing license offers you the ability to purchase one single fishing license without needing to renew it every year. They even offer a lifetime fishing privileges fee.

If you were set on being an avid fishermen for life, purchasing the lifetime fishing license and privileges can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Where You Can Purchase Your California Fishing License

Finding somewhere to purchase a license can often be the toughest part in the quest to begin fishing (I know I have struggled with this problem a few times in my home town).

However, California has around 20 locations throughout the state where you can buy a fishing license.

Since new businesses are opening every day, I am sure there are even more than 20 locations to find and purchase your fishing license today.

In fact, California has designed a website meant to help you find the closest Department of Fish and Wildlife to you!

Check it out here!

Some of California’s fishing licenses can only be purchased at a certain type of Fish and Wildlife outlet.

So, before going out to purchase your fishing license, be sure that you did the research online to know precisely which outlet you should be looking for.

You wouldn’t want to travel all the way to the outlet just find out you went to the wrong one after all!

For those who don’t want to drive all the way out to a Department of Fish and Wildlife outlet, there is an online option for you to make your purchases on. Be sure to give the site a look!

Visit our Fishing Page For More Great Content!

Do Kids Need a Fishing License in California?

Every state differs in its laws and regulations concerning needing a fishing license. Most states do not require children to have a license to fish.

In the state of California, children under the age of sixteen are not required to purchase a fishing license. Once they turn sixteen, a current California fishing license must be obtained. 

If your child falls within the age range of 1 to 15, you might be required to obtain tags or stamps for them to fish in different water bodies, but a fishing license is not necessary. It’s important to consult local regulations for any catch or size restrictions.

However, there is one exception to this rule. Suppose you have an older child aged sixteen or above who is severely disabled, developmentally disabled, or blind. In that case, California allows them to apply for a free sport fishing license. Click the link to find the appropriate forms to apply for a free license. 

To read more on Kids Fishing in California, click here!

What Happens if You Get Caught Fishing Without a California Fishing License?

There will be consequences if you get caught fishing without a license. For most fishing offenses in California, penalties typically involve citations with fines ranging from $100 to $1,000. If it isn’t your first offense, the fines could be higher. 

According to a California law firm, “a fish and wildlife violation could be charged as a felony, a misdemeanor, or an infraction depending upon the severity of the conduct. Usually, fish and wildlife violations are misdemeanors, which include the potential of a $1,000 fine and the potential of spending six months to a year in jail.”

Be sure always to have your fishing license with you. If you lost yours, you can purchase a replacement for a nominal fee either online or at any license sales office. 

Are There Free Fishing Days When a License is Not Required?

If you want to try fishing but don’t necessarily want to spend the money on a California fishing license, you may wonder, “Are there free fishing days when a license is not required?”

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the state of California allows everyone to sport fish two days a year without endorsements or a license. Because these days always land on a Saturday, the dates differ every year.

In 2023, these days are July 1st and September 2nd. To see the free fishing days for the current year, click here!

These free fishing days are a great way to get the family out to the lake, river, or ocean and try fishing, possibly for the first time. Take advantage of these day every year!

How Long Is a California Fishing License Good For?

For the last few years, California has had a new 365-day fishing license valid for 365 days from the day you purchased it. So, if you bought one on October 1, 2024, the license would be good until September 30, 2025.

These year-long licenses vary in price depending on whether you are a resident. In order to be considered a resident of California, you need to have lived there for over 6 months. The costs are as follows…

  • 365-day Resident Sport Fishing –> $58.58
  • 365-day Nonresident Sport Fishing –> $158.25

California Fishing Regulations

Before you set out on your Californian fishing adventure, be sure to check out the state’s fishing regulations! These are categorized into 3 different subsections and I will explain a little bit of each section.

Fishing Methods and Gear Restrictions

This section goes very in detail for each piece of equipment that is used during fishing.

Starting with hook regulations:

When fishing in the state of California it is only legal to catch a fish either with one rod and line or one hand line.

Each of those lines may have no more than three hooks, or if you are choosing to use lures, three lures (each lure can have three hooks itself). If you want to use a second rod, there is a Second-Rod Validation that you can purchase, which allows you to use a second rod except in restricted areas.

Do not attempt to “snag” a fish. The only lawful area to attempt to hook a fish is in the mouth. Impaling a fish in any other part of the fish’s body is qualified as snagging and is prohibited.

“it is unlawful to kill, or retain in possession any fish which has not voluntarily taken the bait or artificial lure inside its mouth.”

California regulation

An interesting regulation California includes in their fishing methods section is that “it is unlawful to kill, or retain in possession any fish which has not voluntarily taken the bait or artificial lure inside its mouth.”

This regulation seems to back up the anti-snagging regulation before, but raises the question of how does a fish involuntarily take the bait?

In additional rules, gaffs are not permitted for use in inland waters and are considered to be illegal gear. Be sure you stick to the proper gear when fishing and follow all laws and ordinances set for where you are fishing.

Be sure to check the bag limits for the body of water where you are fishing since each has a different bag limit per species.

If you are curious to any other gear or method regulations be sure to read the regulations handbook at the link below.

Fishing Hours in California

california fishing license
CA fishing License
how much is a fishing license in california?

Since fishing takes place around a body of water, and we all know that this raises extra risks that do not normally occur during the day. Many states have regulations concerning the time of day that fishing (or any water activity) can take place.

California allows for all fish to be caught during either the night or the day, with 9 very specific exceptions. Check the signs around the water you are planning to fish. There should be posted regulations for that water area somewhere near the access point.

In case you are curious as to what qualifies as “daytime” in terms of the law, California defines a day as starting an hour before sunrise and ending an hour after the sun has set. Anything after or before the day has started qualifies at night time.

Bait Regulations in California

When fishing in California the acceptable types of bait are invertebrates, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians (excluding salamanders), fish eggs and any other processed or treated foods. All of these are fine as long as they were obtained in a legal manner.

However, no species under any of the above categories that are seen as endangered, threatened, or fully-protected is prohibited from being used.

Another fun fact regarding the regulations for bait use is that it is not legal to keep a living trout in a container, for any reason.

Check out any other special regulations in the handbook!

Regulations by Area

If you are skimming through the regulation handbook and still aren’t sure that you found all the regulations and rules for the area you are fishing, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife publishes an updated map of the regulations by area.

This website is the perfect tool to ensure you know each of the regulations and rules to help you have a fun and lawful fishing trip.

Be sure to give it a look:

Related Questions

Who does the reduced-fee fishing license apply to? The California reduced-fee fishing license applies to disabled veterans, recovering service members, and low-income senior citizens.

However, if you are considered as either a low-income Native American or have a mobility impairment such as blindness, or a developmental disability there is no fee for a license (you still need to obtain one though).

Why are California fishing licenses so expensive? The cost of fishing licenses in many states helps to fund the fish hatcheries as well as the states water and land conservation efforts.

For these reasons, California charges a little higher than some other states to help fund the hatcheries and conservation efforts. In fact, California has the most expensive fishing license nationwide.

Tim Butala

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

Recent Posts

outdoortroop-21 outdoortroop-20