If you plan to go on a fishing trip to California or you simply want to start a new hobby, then you must learn about the rules and regulations that apply to the waters of this state. Just like all regions in the U.S.A., you should respect the aquatic wildlife in order to preserve its beauty for the future.

In a nutshell, California provides two sets of regulations such as freshwater licenses and saltwater license. You need to purchase one according to the type of fishing activity you intend to engage in.

Anyone older than 16 years old must possess a sport fishing license in order to take any kind of fish, mollusk, invertebrate, amphibian or crustacean. The rule doesn’t apply for fishing in a public pier in ocean or bay waters. Moreover, a fishing license is required for catching reptiles, except for rattlesnakes.

Anglers that don’t need a sports fishing license, such as those that are younger than 16 years of age and people that fish on Free Fishing Days, need a report card for catching North Coast salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon. These report cards must be reported online or returned to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife by January 31 of the following year.

The purchased license that is issued through the Automatic License Data System is printed on a durable thermal paper. The permit is entirely waterproof, stain proof, and tear resistant. Each license comes with a permanent ID number on the front that can be used for retrieving your personal information.

The cost of a resident sport fishing license is $47.01 and is the same for both saltwater and freshwater licenses. Non-residents have to pay $126.62 while a lifetime sport fishing license ranges from $518.25 to $846.75, depending on the age of the owner. There are free sport fishing licenses that are given to blind people, low-income Native Americans, and disabled persons.

Sport fishing licenses and report cards can be bought online from this address wildlife. ca.gov/licensing/online-sales or via telephone. Within 15 days of purchase, the permit will be delivered by mail.

Below you’ll find a short presentation of the prohibited acts you must take into consideration prior to going fishing in the waters of the state of California:


  • There is an agreement between 26 American states called The Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact which allows for a reciprocal recognition of hunting, fishing, and trapping license suspension. If you’ve had your privileges suspended in another state, the suspension could be recognized in California, as well.
  • It is illegal to fish without a valid fishing license if you are 16 years of age or older.
  • If you fail to return the report card by the deadline indicated on the card you might end up paying a certain fine.
  • Under no circumstances you are allowed to transfer your license, tags, validation, or reservations to another person.
  • It is forbidden to alter, mutilate, duplicate or counterfeit any license, tag, permit, application or reservation.
  • You can’t catch fish without having the required report card on a free-fishing day.
  • According to the laws of California, it is illegal to cause deterioration or through the waste of any fish in the waters of this state.



Some other angling laws that should be worthy of your attention:


  • You must always exhibit your license, tags, validations, permits or applications to any peace officer or authorized California Department of Fishing and Wildlife employee if you are demanded to do so.
  • You need to be aware that it is prohibited by law to litter into or within 150 feet of state waters.
  • The usage of explosives in waters inhabited by fish is against the law.


The penalties for not obeying these rules and regulations are established by the authorities and vary from fines to final suspensions of the sports fishing license.



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