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California Fishing Licenses Explained

When fishing in California you are required to hold a fishing license with few exceptions. In this post, we will walk you through the process and the different fees based on your needs.

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Who Needs a Fishing License in California

Everyone over the age of 16 or not fishing from a public pier requires a fishing license in California.

Who Doesn’t Need a Fishing License in California

A license is not required for anglers under the age of 16 or fishing from a public pier. Additionally, there are two free fishing days each year. For 2022 these days take place on July 2 and September 3.

If you are fishing for a regulated species they still would require a report card which ranges from $6.48 to $9.72 depending on the species.

Types of California Fishing Licenses

When fishing in California you have several options when it comes to getting licensed. There are options for both residents and non-residents as well as different lengths of time depending on how many days you plan to fish.

Resident & Non-Resident California Fishing Licenses

In California, a resident is considered anyone who has resided continuously in the state for six months or more prior to the date of their application for a license. Additionally, anyone on active military duty or any person enrolled in the Job Corps is eligible for resident licenses.

Non-residents are any visitors who do not reside in the state for at least 6 months. Licenses for both residents and non-residents are available for a variety of lengths of time.

California Fishing Licenses by Length of Time and Cost

License LengthCost for ResidentsCost for Non-Residents
1-Day License$16.20$16.20
2-Day License $25.10$25.10
10-Day License Not Available$49.94
Annual License$49.94$134.74

Lifetime California Fishing License Cost

For residents, California also offers lifetime sportfishing licenses. These licenses give the holder a free annual fishing license each year for their lifetime. These licenses’ costs vary depending on the holder’s age at purchase.

Age at PurchaseCost
0-9 Years Old$550.25
10-39 Years Old$899.25
40-61 Years Old$810.25
62+ Years Old$550.25

Purchase or Renew a Lifetime License

California Fishing License Discounts

California offers discounted fishing licenses for veterans, blind, developmental disabled, and mobility impaired. Special considerations are also offered on a case-by-case basis. These discounts allow the angler to purchase a license for $8.24 at CDFW offices. These licenses are available for both residents and non-residents.

Purchase a Reduced Fee License

Additional California Fishing Licenses

Second Rod Validation

Anglers who want to use two rods while fishing inland waters are required to purchase a Second Rod Validation, which costs $15.12. This validation does not apply to waters that require the use of barbless hooks and artificial lures.

Fishing Privilege Package

A privilege package includes an Ocean Enhancement Stamp, a Lifetime Second-Rod Stamp, a North Coast Salmon Report Card, and a Steelhead Report Card. This package costs $360.75. 

Report Cards

Certain species including salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, and spiny lobster require you carry a report card. You must record every time you catch one of these species. You must turn these cards into the California Department of Fish and Wildlife by January 31 of the following year. Spiny Lobster Report Cards must be reported after Lobster season closes, by April 30.

You can submit your report card by submitting it online or by mailing it to the address specified on the card. The following species require a report card and their cost. 

SpeciesAreaCost of Report Card
SalmonKlamath, Trinity, and Smith Rivers only$6.48
Spiny LobsterStatewide$9.72

Ocean Enhancement Validation

To fish in the ocean south of Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County, you need to buy an Ocean Enhancement Validation. This validation cost $5.40. If you possess a 1 or 2-day sportfishing license you are exempt from this validation and don’t need to purchase it separately.

Lost or Stolen License Replacment

If you misplaced, lost, or your license was stolen, you can buy a replacement for $10.80. Duplicates Licenses can only be purchased online and in CDFW license sales offices. 

Learn More About Fishing in California


Do You Need to Have a Fishing License on You at All Times in California?

In California, your license must be in your immediate possession while fishing. The only exception is when you’re diving.

Does a California Fishing License cover freshwater and ocean fishing?

California fishing licenses allow you to fish both saltwater and freshwater across the entire state. Every angler in your group must purchase a fishing license.

What is California’s Fishing License Calendar Year?

A California fishing license is valid from January 1 through December 3.

When do California Fishing Licenses Expire?

California fishing licenses expire on December 31 each year.

Does California Offer Junior Fishing Licenses?

An angler under the age of 16 doesn’t require a fishing license in California. Kids up to the age of 9 can purchase a lifetime license at a reduced price of $550.25.

Does California Offer Senior Fishing Licenses?

California doesn’t offer discounts for seniors on annual or short-term fishing licenses. Anglers 62 and over can purchase a lifetime license at the reduced rate of $550.25.

Does California Offer Fishing License for Veterans?

California offers veterans who meet specific criteria reduced-fee for fishing licenses. To eligible veterans must have a 50% or higher service-connected disability rating.

When is California’s Fishing Free Day?

There are two free fishing days each year in California. For 2022 these days take place on July 2 and September 3.

When is Trout Season in California?

In California, trout season starts on the last Saturday in April. In 2022 opening day is 4/30/2022. The last day of trout season is 10/15/2022.

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