How Much Is A Fishing License In California Detailed Guide?

How much is a fishing license in California detailed guide? California is the perfect place to catch a trophy-sized largemouth trout or a river salmon with a trout spinning rod! Choosing to fish in California will provide good possibilities for freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing. If you want to start this sport, get a fishing license first.

In California, being caught fishing without a license carries a penalty. Several criteria determine the cost of your fishing license. The primary determinants of licensing costs are time and type of fish. Your residency status in the state also determines the fishing license fees.

This article will emphasize the costs of all applicable licenses and any validation and report card fees when fishing in California.

Fishing Licenses in California

Since implementing the California Fish and Wildlife Plan in 1965, fishing has become so popular among California residents and visitors that rules have had to be enacted.

Every angler over 16 in California must purchase a California fishing license, including freshwater and saltwater fishing. This applies to state residents and non-residents if you are fishing with a guide or on a charter boat. Like other fishing rules, the license requirement is meant to maintain fish populations to have good fishing opportunities for future generations of anglers.

Knowing that you don’t require a license to fish from a public pier in ocean waters is vital. In addition, the state provides two free fishing days every year, allowing anglers to try sport fishing without purchasing a license. These dates are available on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website.

How Much Is A Fishing License In California Detailed Guide?

It is essential to understand that a California fishing license includes freshwater and saltwater fishing. If you intend to fish in both bodies of water, you do not need to get two licenses. Aside from obtaining a fishing license, you may be required to acquire validation and report cards.

To obtain a fishing license in California, you have numerous alternatives. The decision is based on where you reside and how many days you intend to fish.

  • Resident Sport Fishing License
  • Non-resident Sport Fishing License
  • Annual Licenses (valid January 1 through December 31 or for the remainder of the year if purchased after January 1)
  • Short-Term Licenses
  • One-day Sport Fishing License
  • Two-Day Sport Fishing License
  • Ten-Day Non-resident Sport Fishing License
  • Lifetime Licenses

A resident in California is defined as someone who has lived in the state continuously for six months or more immediately preceding the date of their application for a license or permit. 

In addition to citizens and non-residents, individual anglers who meet specific criteria can acquire reduced-fee licenses. These are some examples:

  • Disabled Veterans
  • Low-Income Seniors
  • Recovering Service Members

In California, free sport fishing licenses are given to:

  • Mobility Impaired, Blind, or Developmentally Disabled Individuals
  • Low-Income Native Americans

Annual Sport Fishing Licenses

Those who have purchased a lifetime fishing license will receive an annual sport fishing license for the rest of their lives.

From January 1 to December 31, the annual sport fishing license is valid. Any license purchased after January 1 will be valid only for the rest of the year, regardless of whether the one-year cycle has been completed or not.

  • Sportfishing for residents aged 16 and up – $52.66
  • Non-resident sport fishing for those aged 16 and up – $142.05
  • A disabled veteran can get a sports fishing license for $7.98 at the CDFW office or $8.38 via a licensed agent.
  • The sportfishing license for a recuperating United States military member is $7.98 when purchased at CDFW offices.$8.38 when purchased at licensed agents.
  • Low-income senior California residents 65 and older pay $7.98 for a sport fishing license.
  • Free Sport Fishing License-Low Income Native American who is a resident of California and cannot pay for a resident sport fishing license.
  • Free Sport Fishing License for People Who Are Mobility Impaired, Blind, Or Developmentally Disabled. This is available to blind, developmentally disabled, or mobility-impaired persons. The CDFW License and Revenue Branch must issue the first free license.

Short Term Fishing Licenses

The Ocean Enhancement Validation requirement does not apply to one-day and two-day fishing licenses.

  • One-day sport fishing license allows residents and non-residents to fish for a day. This license exempts you from the obligation for Ocean Enhancement Validation – $17.02
  • A two-day sport fishing license permits residents and non-residents to fish for two days. This license exempts you from the responsibility for Ocean Enhancement Validation – $26.49
  • A ten-day sport fishing license allows a non-resident to fish for ten days in a row – $52.66

Lifetime Fishing Licenses

Suppose you live in California and don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of obtaining a sport fishing license every year. In that case, you can purchase a Lifetime Fishing License. This license entitles the bearer to a lifetime supply of fishing licenses, supplied each year via an annual fishing license. The lifetime license is only available via the CDFW sales office, and the individual’s age determines the price. Here’s a breakdown of the pricing based on the angler’s age:

  • Ages 0-9 – $579.25
  • Ages 10-39 – $946.75
  • Ages 40-61 – $853.00
  • Ages 62 and above – $579.25

You can also purchase a Fishing Privilege Package that includes an Ocean Enhancement Stamp, a Lifetime Second-Rod Stamp, a North Coast Salmon Report Card, and a Steelhead Report Card if you are a serious angler. The Fishing Privilege Package costs $391.50; however, it is subject to change.

Additional Requirements: Report Cards and Validations

Suppose you want to take your fishing hobby to the next level and possibly move into more exciting sports fishing. In that case, you will need to obtain extra permissions such as validations and report cards.

Report Cards

You must take a report card when fishing for a particular species restricted by the state. All recreational fishermen (including those not obliged to purchase a sport fishing license) must complete report cards when fishing for these species, such as anglers fishing from a public pier, people under 16 years old, etc.

All anglers pursuing spiny lobster must have this permit. Suppose the Spiny Lobster Report Card is not returned by the end of April each year. The fisherman will be charged a $21.60 non-return fee when purchasing a card for the following season.


Ocean Enhancement Validation

You must purchase an Ocean Enhancement Validation to fish in ocean waters south of Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County. The OEV is $5.40 in price. It is also worth noting that anglers with a 1- or 2-day sportfishing license are exempt from purchasing validation.

Second Rod Validation

When fishing in inland waters, anglers who use two rods or lines must purchase a Second Rod Validation for $15.12. This validation does not apply to waters where anglers must only use barbless hooks and artificial lures.

Fees for Replacement

Don’t worry if you’ve misplaced your fishing documents. Licenses can be bought at the following costs to replace lost or stolen ones:

  • Duplicate Sport Fishing License – $11.37: It returns the original sport fishing license, which could have been stolen or lost.
  • Sport Fishing Validation – $3.24: You will replace an initial validation ( Ocean or Second-rod ) that was stolen or lost.
  • Abalone Report Card – $18.54: You will replace the original Abalone Report Card lost or stolen. Replacements are not only available at CDFW’s License Sales Offices.
  • Sturgeon Report Card – $16.22: It will replace the original Sturgeon Report Card lost or stolen. Replacements are not only available at CDFW’s License Sales Offices.

Fishing Regulations in California

Please educate yourself on the freshwater and saltwater fishing rules before embarking on your fishing excursion in California. Knowing what is permitted and what is demanded of you will save you money. You will not be fined for punishable behaviour.

You must present an approved form of identification and proof of your age. That’s on top of verifying whether you’re a resident or not or whether you’re eligible for a free or reduced licensing price. That is, assuming you intend to utilize them. Otherwise, a valid ID is sufficient.

California’s Most Popular Fishing Spots

You should know how much your licenses and report cards will cost, and your next step should be deciding where you will fish. When it comes to fishing in California, there are many fantastic possibilities; here is a list of prominent fishing destinations:

  • Santa Monica Pier
  • The McCloud River
  • The Delta
  • Lake Shasta
  • Coronado Ferry Landing Pier
  • Russian River 
  • Clear Lake
  • Lake Cuyamaca
  • Castaic Lake
  • Lake Almanac

Common Questions about CA Fishing Licenses

Q: Do valid CA sports fishing permits allow you to fish in interstate waters?

California and adjacent states share various fishing areas, including Lake Tahoe, Topaz Lake, and the Colorado River. A California sport fishing license is required when fishing in these waters.

Q: How extended is my license valid?

Single-day, two-day, and 10-day licenses are valid from the day of purchase or purchasing ahead of time from a date of your choosing. Annual licenses are only valid for the calendar year they are purchased. This implies that your yearly license will expire after December 31, regardless of when you buy it.

Q: Do I need a license if I’m not fishing?

No. You don’t need a license if you’re watching someone else fish. However, a valid license is required if you engage in any way. For example, if you take your children fishing, you should have a license on hand if you need to help bait hooks or set the drag.

Q: What is the list of freshwater fish in California?

In saltwater, California anglers target lampreys, barracudas halibut, halibut, sea bass, sand bass, albacore tuna, cod, halibut, white sea bass, golden amber, and perch. Besides, freshwater fish found in California include large, smallmouth bass (spotted, striped), panfish, crappie and bluegills, blue and flathead catfish, and white bass. You can also catch salmon (rainbow, brown, river, lake, kokanee), Lohantan squid, Chinook, carp, white sturgeon, and mountain whitefish. Also, you can find many anglers using baitcasting for frog fishing here.


Many anglers’ bucket lists include fishing in California. This post should have answered your questions about the license, validation, and report card costs. If you are going fishing, please research the fishing areas indicated above to ensure that you select your ideal fishing location.

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