Can You Fish If You Forgot Your License?


If you’ve ever lost your fishing license or forgotten it at home, you’ve probably wondered if you can continue on your fishing trip anyway. With the digitalization of legal documents–ranging from your taxes all the way to your fishing license–you may think that the game warden can just pull it up all on his/her own and it won’t be a problem that you forgot it.

By law, you must have your fishing license with you any time you are fishing or you risk facing a fine. If you get to your fishing spot and realize you don’t have your license, you could stop by the game wardens office and explain the situation. They may print out a copy of your license or look it up for you. Otherwise, you’ll want to go back and get it. 

If you would like to learn more about the rules surrounding fishing licenses, and some tips that may help you to prevent yourself from losing or forgetting yours on your next trip, you’ll find the information we have gathered here useful. We’ll go over everything from who’s exempt from licenses to whether or not yours is good across state lines. So get ready to ease your mind and enjoy a stress-free fishing trip!

Do All States Require Fishing Licenses?

Every state has different rules and regulations around fishing, and each one has different fishing license requirements. It is vital to check with the state you plan to fish in to see what they require of you in order to legally fish. But, if you don’t have your license, there are some ways you can fish without it.

Fortunately, there are some instances where a license isn’t necessary, though these laws vary by state and you’ll want to make sure it is okay where you live before you go out and do it yourself. Below is a list of possible exemptions from needing to have a fishing license.

  • You are fishing on private property: If you are fishing in a privately stocked body of water, you do not need a license. However, anytime you fish on private property make sure you have the owner’s consent. You can end up in a lot more trouble than just having to pay a fine for fishing without a license if you get caught trespassing.
  • People who are too young to need a license: If you’re fifteen to sixteen years old or younger, in most states you can fish without a license. You will want to keep in mind that youngsters may be limited in the type of fishing they can do, however.
  • People who have senior status: In some states, adults over the age of 65 can fish without a permit. In other states, however, seniors merely get a discount on their license. 
  • People with certain disabilities may be exempt: If an individual has a specific intellectual or developmental disability like down syndrome or autism, they may not need a fishing license. Additionally other disabilities like palsy, sometimes carry exemptions.
  • Certain veterans: In Missouri for example, honorably discharged veterans with a service-related disability do not have to have a fishing license (though they do need paperwork to confirm their service).

Are Fishing Licenses Good In Every State?

So maybe you’ve remembered your license but you are thinking of traveling to another state to go fishing. You’ll want to know if the license you currently have is good enough or if you need to go buy another one at your next destination.

Unfortunately, fishing licenses are issued on a state by state basis. Licenses from different states often cover different types of fishing and are only meant to be used within that state’s borders. You’ll have to get another license if you’re going on an out of state fishing trip.

Do You Have the Right Kind of Fishing Licence?

Believe it or not, in many states there are multiple forms of licenses for fishing. Some of them just have to do with how long the license is good for, however others dictate where and what you can fish for. Depending on if you are fishing in saltwater or freshwater you may need a different license. Below is a list of the most common types of fishing licenses.

  • Freshwater licenses: If you only plan on fishing in an area with freshwater, you may be able to save some money by picking up a freshwater license. Please note that if you live in or are visiting a coastal area and want to fish in saltwater, this will not have you covered.
  • Saltwater licenses: If you’re only going to be fishing in the ocean, a saltwater license will have you covered. Like the freshwater license, however, it does not cover other bodies of water.
  • Combination licenses: These generally allow you to fish in either fresh or saltwater. They can be more pricey than individual licenses. If you know you’re only going to fish in freshwater, for example, you can save a buck by getting that license instead.
  • Temporary licenses: If you are fishing out of state, or you only like to go a few times a year, most states offer temporary licenses. Many of these last for one to three days. These are really only worth it if you’re not going to fish again because they would be expensive to keep buying.
  • Shellfish license: In some places like Washington state, you have to have a special license to catch things like clams, crabs, barnacles, muscles, etc. This license is usually separate from saltwater licenses, so make sure you double-check your state requirements or talk to the game warden.

Can I Fish If I Forgot My License? Tips to Avoid Forgetting Your Fishing License

You must have your license on you in order to legally fish. So, whatever type of fishing license you have, you can follow a few tips to help make sure you never forget or lose it again. Below are three easy tips that will help make sure you never forget your fishing license and have a backup plan in case you lose it.

  • Keep your fishing license in your tackle box. You’re probably not going to go fishing without your tackle box. Leaving your license inside it saves you the step of searching for it if you store it willy nilly.
  • If you’ve printed your license yourself, laminate it for protection. It is important to note that you should never laminate your license if you got it at a bass pro shop, due to the material they print it on. However, if you print and laminate it yourself, you can keep it protected from moisture in your tackle box.
  • Keep a file on your computer. It used to be that if you lost your license, you just had to pay for another one. In the digital age, however, you can get your license online and keep a file on your computer to reprint in the event you lose yours. 

So, Do You Really Need Your License With You to Fish?

Unless you fall into one of the exempt categories in your state, you do need your fishing license to fish. If you’ve forgotten or lost it, it is a good idea to speak with the local game and wildlife warden to find out if they can print you a new one or look yours up. In all likelihood however, you will either have to print yourself a new one or go back home to pick up the one you already have.

Keep in mind that just because you have a fishing license in one state, does not mean that it is good all the way across the country. If you’re planning a fishing trip in another state you should check their local laws and get a fishing license for that area. When you do get your license you should also remember that there are specific types for freshwater and saltwater respectively. Once everything is in order, it’s time to catch a keeper!

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