At What Age Do You Need a PA Fishing License?

Fishing is a popular pastime in Pennsylvania, with over one million licensed anglers casting their lines in the state’s abundant rivers, lakes, and streams each year. If you want to join the ranks of PA anglers, one of the first questions you probably have is: at what age do you need a fishing license?

Pennsylvania Fishing License Requirements

In Pennsylvania, anyone 16 years of age or older is required to have a valid PA fishing license to fish recreationally in public waterways. This includes both residents and non-residents of the state. Licenses are mandated by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC), the state agency that oversees fishing regulations and enforces licensing rules.

Some key details on PA fishing license requirements:

  • Children under 16 do not need a fishing license to fish recreationally. Once they turn 16, however, they must purchase an appropriate license to continue fishing legally.
  • Active-duty military personnel who are PA residents on leave in the state do not need a fishing license. They must carry proof of residency, a military ID, and leave papers when fishing.
  • Certain disabled veterans can qualify for free or discounted lifetime fishing licenses. Those with 100% disability get free lifetime licenses, while those with 60-99% disability pay reduced fees.

So in summary, if you are 16 or older and do not meet one of the exemption criteria, you need a valid PA fishing license to fish recreationally, no matter whether you are a resident or not.

Types of PA Fishing Licenses

Pennsylvania offers a number of different license types and durations to meet the needs of most anglers.

Resident Licenses

  • Annual Resident License: $22.97 per year
  • Senior Resident Lifetime License: $51.97 (age 65+)
  • 3-Year Resident License: $61.97

Non-Resident Licenses

  • Annual Non-Resident License: $52.97 per year
  • 7-Day Tourist License: $33.97 per week

In addition, discounted 1-day resident and non-resident licenses are available for $11.97 and $26.97, respectively.

So depending on your residency status and intended fishing duration, there are affordable options for almost all PA anglers.

Additional PA Fishing Permits

Beyond a standard fishing license, some anglers need to purchase additional permits or stamps. These include:

  • Trout/Salmon Permit: $9.97 per year; required for anyone 16 and older fishing for trout or salmon in PA waterways.
  • Lake Erie Permit: $9.97 per year. Needed for fishing in Lake Erie, Presque Isle Bay, and tributaries within the Lake Erie watershed.

You can also purchase a combination trout/salmon + Lake Erie permit for $15.90 to cover both bases.

So if you’re targeting popular trout streams or planning a Lake Erie fishing trip, don’t forget these extra permits!

When do PA fishing licenses expire?

To avoid any license issues while fishing, it’s important to know when your PA fishing credentials actually expire.

  • Annual licenses expire on December 31st each year, no matter when purchased
  • Multi-year licenses expire on the last day of the final year (so a 3-year license expires December 31st of the 3rd year)
  • Lifetime licenses do not expire but must be renewed each year with validation stickers
  • 1-day and tourist licenses expire at midnight on the final valid date

So if you have an annual license, make sure to renew it before the new year begins. And check expiration dates closely on multi-year licenses to ensure you do not lapse.

Where To Buy a PA Fishing License

Thanks to modern technology, purchasing a Pennsylvania fishing license is now quite convenient.


The official PFBC licensing site allows you to buy fishing licenses online 24/7. Just set up an account, select your desired license and permits, securely enter payment information, and print out your license.


You can call 1-877-707-4085 to purchase licenses over the phone during business hours. Just have your payment details handy.

Retail Locations

Over 1,300 retail vendors across the state sell licenses in person. These include bait & tackle shops, sporting goods stores, big-box retailers, etc. Find vendors in your county on the PFBC website.

So with the variety of convenient purchase options, buying a fishing license is a smooth process before wetting your lines in Pennsylvania!

Fishing License Fines and Penalties

What happens if you get caught fishing without a valid PA license? Well, penalties can be pretty steep!

  • Fishing without a license when required: up to $250 fine
  • Fishing with an expired license: $100-$200 fine
  • Fishing without other required permits/stamps: $100-$250 fine

Multiple offenses can also result in mandatory court appearancesconfiscation of gear, and loss of fishing privileges for a period of time.

So don’t take the chance of fishing illegally! Purchase your PA fishing license and all necessary permits well before heading out to your favorite fishing hole.

What do license fees support?

While some anglers grumble about buying licenses each year, where does the money actually go? Well, here’s a breakdown:

  • Fish stocking: stocking millions of trout, bass, walleye, muskies, etc.
  • Hatcheries: funding state fish hatcheries that raise fish to stock
  • Habitat and waterways improvements: Enhancing ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams
  • Access development: building fishing piers, boat launches, and shoreline fishing areas
  • Research: Fisheries research to track fish populations and health
  • Law enforcement: patrol officers enforcing regulations and licensing rules

So in reality, fishing license dollars directly support the resources anglers utilize across the state. The funds serve to improve and protect the fisheries that license holders are able to enjoy.

Fishing License Possession and Display

Once you have your PA fishing license in hand, be sure to follow all carry and display rules to avoid issues:

  • When fishing, your license must be on your person at all times. Keep it in a secure pocket.
  • Licenses should also be displayed visibly on an outer garment while fishing. This allows easy inspection by patrol officers.
  • Digital copies of licenses are allowed, but ensure your phone does not die!

Children under 16 do not need licenses. But they must be accompanied by an adult with a displayed fishing license to fish legally.

Following these straightforward possession and display rules will keep your fishing adventures ticket-free when the warden comes around!

PA Fishing Without a License on Private Property

Many anglers ask about the fishing license rules for private ponds and lakes in Pennsylvania. Do you need a license there?

Well, while public fishing waters require licenses for those 16 and older, most private ponds and lakes do not require fishing licenses, including pay-to-fish private operations.

However, the pond must meet certain criteria:

  • It must be a man-made pond completely confined within private lands
  • Must be closed to public access (not subject to flooding/connection with public waters)

So if fishing a small private farm pond or private lake, licenses are not mandated. But any access points to public waters still require proper licensing. When in doubt, call your local PFBC waterways conservation officer for clarification.

Future Changes To PA Fishing License Requirements

While fishing license rules have remained fairly consistent for years, some changes could be coming down the pike in Pennsylvania:

  • Multi-year license increases: Prices for multi-year licenses (3-year, 5-year, and 10-year) may see modest fee hikes in the coming years. These have stayed steady for long periods of time.
  • Digital license expansion: More smartphone license options will likely be rolled out for added convenience.
  • Changes to non-resident rules: Some legislators have proposed changes to non-resident licensing rules but have no definitive plans yet.

Of course, any regulation or fee adjustment would go through an extensive process before being implemented. But be prepared for minor tweaks.

For now, though, the long-standing PA fishing licensing system and structure remain intact for all anglers 16 and over heading out to Commonwealth waters.

Quick Recap: PA Fishing License Requirements

Just to recap the key points:

  • Anyone 16 and older needs license to fish recreationally
  • Resident, non-resident, and tourist licenses are available
  • Additional trout and Lake Erie permits required for some
  • Buy online, phone, or at 1,300+ retail locations
  • Fines up to $250 for fishing without license
  • License sales fund fisheries, habitat, access, and research
  • Display license visibly when fishing
  • Private ponds may not require licenses

So now that you know the central fishing licensing rules for Pennsylvania, you can purchase your credentials and head out with confidence!

Just remember to carry that license and display it properly whenever you hit your favorite fishing holes. That way, you can avoid fines and fully immerse yourself in the beauty of PA angling without worry.

Follow all regulations, help sustain resources by buying your licenses, and enjoy some of Pennsylvania’s world-class fishing!

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