Fishing has been so popular in California among locals and tourists that regulations have had to be put in place since 1965, when the California Fish and Wildlife Plan was completed. If you are planning to start this hobby now, be sure to secure a fishing license first. Being caught in the act of fishing without a license in California would mean a penalty. Not a good start for a new-found diversion, right?
Average Cost of California Fishing License
The California fishing license cost ranges from $7.73 to $919.00 depending on several factors, like your age, your status, the validity period, and whether you are a resident or not, among others.
To explain further, the following are the California fishing license prices per category:
An annual sport fishing license is given each year for life to those who have availed themselves of the lifetime fishing license.
The annual sport fishing license is valid from January 1 to December 31. Any license purchased after January 1 will only be valid for the remainder of the year, regardless of whether the one year cycle is completed or not.
- Resident sport fishing for 16 years or older – $51.02
- Nonresident sport fishing for 16 years or older – $137.73
- Reduced-fee sports fishing license for a disabled veteran – $7.73 at CDFW office, $8.13 from a license agent
- Reduced-fee sport fishing license for recovering member of the US military – $7.73
- Reduced-fee sport fishing license for low-income senior California residents 65 years of age and older – $7.73
One-day and two-day fishing licenses are exempt from the Ocean Enhancement Validation requirement.
- One-day sport fishing license that allows resident and nonresident to fish for a day – $16.46
- Two-day sport fishing license that allows resident and nonresident to fish for two consecutive days – $25.66
- Ten-day sport fishing license for a nonresident to fish for 10 consecutive days – $51.02
Lifetime Fishing Licenses
If you can’t be bothered having to go and renew your license every now and then, getting a California lifetime fishing license is the way to go. The following are the fees for different age group:
- Ages 0-9 – $562.25
- Ages 10-39 – $919.00
- Ages 40-61 – $828.00
- Ages 62 and above – $562.25
- Fishing privilege package that includes a lifetime Second-Rod Stamp, Ocean Enhancement Stamp, North Coast Salmon Report Card and Steelhead report Card – $380.25
Validations and Report Cards
If you need to get your fishing diversion to the next level and perhaps want to venture into more exciting sports fishing, you need to secure additional permits like validations and report cards.
- Ocean Enhancement Validation – $5.66
- Validation of the second rod – $15.94
- Sturgeon Fishing Report Card – $8.90
- Abalone Report Card – $24.33
- North Coast Salmon Report Card – $7.05
- Steelhead Report Card – $7.82
- Spiny Lobster Report Card (valid for the entire lobster season) – $10.29
If you happen to have lost your fishing documents, don’t fret. Duplicate licenses can be secured to replace the lost and stolen ones for the following rates:
- Duplicate Sport Fishing License – $11.37
- Sport Fishing Validation – $3.24
- Sturgeon Report Card – $16.22
- Abalone Report Card – $18.54
Beside the list of rates above, you will also find additional fees that typically represent surcharges for securing licenses and permits for fishing more conveniently for you.
- Licenses that are purchased from license agents include a 5% license agent handling fee.
- Licenses that are purchased from license agents and CDFW offices include a 3% non-refundable application fee. $7.50 maximum per item.
Factors Affecting California Fishing License Cost
As seen above, different factors play into how much you would be spending on a license to fish in the waters of California. There’s no one-size-fits-all rate, and some considerations are being offered towards residents, young and old, among others.
Below is the complete list of each factor that determines what you have to pay to be allowed to go fishing in CA:
- Residency – residents and non-residents have different fishing license rates as residents are given priority, thus are charged a lower rate.
- Age – Different rates are charged based on age. But does a child need a fishing license in California? As per regulation, children 15 years of age and below are not required to secure a fishing license. However, make sure that the adult companion has a license when fishing with a kid.
- Income – how much you earn will make a difference in the CA fishing license price when you are a senior resident.
- Validity – rates also depend on how long the license is valid. You may purchase a one-day, two-day, 10-day, annual, or lifetime fishing license.
- Race – Native Americans or lineal descendants are given free fishing licenses.
- Capacity – rate reduction for the fishing license for a disabled person in California is also being implemented. For example, special rates are given to disabled veterans, while the fishing license is given for free for severely incapacitated, blind, and developmentally disabled.
- Source of the license – CDFW license sales office (either on-site or online), CDFW license agent, licensed retailers like Walmart fishing license online, Big 5, and even local tackle shops are some of the ways you can secure your fishing license. Expect different rates from each source.
Free Sport Fishing Licenses
California offers special consideration for people with disabilities and issues free fishing licenses for the disabled, especially for the following people:
- Any blind person or considered legally blind. Certification from an optometrist or ophthalmologist is required for a free license to be issued.
- Any person who is severely incapacitated and permanently unable to move from place to place without the aid of a mobility-related device such as wheelchairs, crutches, etc. Verification by a licensed physician or a copy of the previous year’s free fishing license is required.
- Any person who is developmentally disabled. Certification from a licensed physician or the director of a State Regional Center is required.
- Any resident of California who is a Native American or lineal descendant and whose total annual income does not exceed $12,490 for the head of household plus $4,420 for every additional member of the family living in the same household.
Certification from the Bureau of Indian Affairs or any proof of being on a tribal registry is required for a free license to be issued to Native Americans or lineal descendants. Also, verification of income is required every year.
What Are The Requirements?
The most common question that people ask when planning to acquire a fishing license is “Do I need an ID to get a fishing license?” The answer is YES!
You need to provide an acceptable form of ID where your age can also be proven. That’s besides having to prove whether you are a resident or not, or if you’re entitled to a free or discounted license fee. That’s if you’re planning to use them. Otherwise, a valid ID would suffice.
- The California Department of Fish and Wildlife or the CDFW’s offices like branches and regional counters does not accept cash payments. Only checks, debit, and credit cards (either Visa or Mastercard) are accepted.
- The reduced fee sport fishing license for recovering service member and low-income seniors are only available at CDFW License Sales Offices.
- The reduced fee sport fishing license for low-income California senior residents is only applicable to those whose total monthly income does not exceed $931.72 for single persons or $1,564.14 combined income for married persons.
- Income verification from the Social Security office is required every year for the reduced fee sport fishing license for low-income senior residents.
Fines for Fishing Without A License In CA
You cannot go easy with California’s fishing regulations as being caught without a license would definitely mean a penalty of around $485. This can be reduced, however, when you can present your valid license when you go to court. This instance can happen in cases when you have secured a license but were caught not having it in your possession at the time of inspection (either misplaced, left at home, or stolen).
Also, expect your penalties and fines to pile up when you are caught illegally fishing a conserved type of fish or one that is undersized. Further, illegally using certain fishing gear and gill nets can get you in deep trouble. Expect penalties and fines to go upwards of $8,000.
Can you fish without a license?
If you are thinking, when and where you can fish without a license in California, or if that’s even possible, yes it is. For one, California designates days in a year as “Free Fishing Days” where everyone can go fishing with or without a license. You don’t also need a license to fish from a public pier.
However, while children under 16 years old are allowed to fish without a license, they still need to secure a permit to fish for other species that are regulated under the regular license.