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Fishing Without a License — Here’s What You Should Know

Fishing is a popular pastime. Yet, some anglers are unaware that a license is required to fish on most bodies of water.

Suppose you love catching and want to avoid incurring penalties, then it’s important to be in the know about fishing licenses.

Still, there are a few exceptions to the rule. In some areas, you do not need to get a fishing license. Similarly, several states offer free fishing days, and you also do not require permission.

If you’re curious to know what happens if you fish with no license, this article is for you!

Read more to discover the restrictions and what may occur if you are found fishing without a license.

Do You Need a Fishing License?

Depending on where you’re fishing, you could need a license to fish. It’s always advised to check your local regulations before fishing.

For example, in California, there are certain areas where a fishing license isn’t required. There are also a few days a year that are open to the general public without a license.

fishing without a license
Source: Canva Pro

What Happens If You Fish Without A License?

There are several possibilities. All bodies of water are regularly monitored by authorities. They are always on the lookout for anglers who are fishing without a permit. So, avoiding them is practically difficult.

What happens to you now is determined by three factors:

  • the officer who apprehended you,
  • the state in which you are caught, and
  • whether or not you have any past offenses.

In the best-case scenario, the officer will issue a warning, and you will be forced to exit the water. But, you will not be allowed to return to fishing unless you get a valid fishing license.

But, if this does not happen very often, purchasing fishing permission is so easy that there is no excuse not to have one. Besides, the “I didn’t know” reason won’t work either, even in your own home county.

As a rule, if this is just your first offense, you will most likely receive a modest fine and a ticket. The amount you must pay as a fine varies by state.

Violations and Scenarios

Generally, if you’re caught you’ll get a ticket. Bear in mind that penalties always differ depending on the state you are caught fishing in without a license.

For example, Florida has a law that makes fishing with no valid permission is the first-level violation. Here, it implies it is not a criminal act so, if you are detected, you are unlikely to go to jail. Even yet, if you have any fish caught in your possession, the fine will rise.

Before getting fish into your possession, make sure you have the right license proof and search for the fishing rules of states. Besides, purchasing a license will be far less expensive than paying a fine.

In most cases, you must pay the penalty within the following 30 days. You will commit another violation if you do not cooperate. So, there will be another fine or perhaps some jail time.

Keep in mind that once you pay, that’s a sign you are admitting guilt and waiving your right to a hearing. So, if you don’t think you did anything against the law as an angler, you may always try to defend yourself in local courts. But still, you have to pay court fees.

If this is not your first fishing violation, the fine will be raised. As a matter of fact, you may lose your fishing privileges for some time. That is why you shouldn’t even try the idea of fishing without a license, as the final verdict might be severe.

Types of Fishing License

You may not be fully aware, but there are several types of fishing licenses available depending on where you’re fishing. Some of the types include:

  • freshwater
  • saltwater
  • combination
  • recreational
  • commercial.

Obviously, a freshwater fishing license cannot be carried as a permit to fish in seawater. If you want to fish in both sorts of waterways, purchase a combination license.

The fact that you have licenses but not the correct ones will not protect you. You will still be fined and given a ticket. So before you cast your line, be sure you have a valid permit.

Keep an eye out for your permit’s expiration date. An expired license is the same as having none at all. Many states provide a wide range of licenses with varying expiration periods. So, you may select the one that best meets your requirements.

A 24-hour permit, for example, is the perfect solution if you love the occasional fishing expedition. If you are an avid and active angler, you may also obtain an annual license.

Fortunately, getting a fishing license is a simple task because they are readily accessible in sporting goods stores, wildlife departments,  and internet sellers.

More so, the wildlife department utilizes the money collected from fishing tickets to pay for the maintenance of all fisheries. So, just consider the licensing fee to contribute to the good of the ecosystem rather than an obligation.

Who Can Fish Without a Fishing License?

Check your local regulations.

Final Thoughts 

Fishing without a license is a severe offense and there are fines to be paid, as well as jail time. To avoid offenses, make sure you have the proper sort of valid fishing license before you embark on your angling trip. You don’t even have to be bothered knowing free fishing days.

This extensive knowledge will give you peace of mind. At the same time, you catch fish and enjoy the enjoyment of this rewarding outdoor pastime.


The Anglers Behind This Article:

Johanes Godoy
Fishing Editor

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler

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Johanes Godoy
Fishing Editor
Johanes is a talented Editor for Cast & Spear. She's helped edit and write hundreds of articles on fishing and the outdoors. When she's not editing, she's exploring the world and documenting it on her own blog.
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Articles » Techniques » Fishing Without a License — Here’s What You Should Know