Do Kids Need a Fishing License? Know the State Regulations

Do Kids Need a Fishing License? Know the State Regulations

For parents and guardians looking to introduce their children to the joys of fishing, a common question arises: do kids need a fishing license? The answer isn’t always straightforward, as regulations vary from state to state. This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the complexities of fishing license requirements for children across the United States.

Understanding Fishing License Types

Before diving into the specifics of children’s fishing licenses, it’s essential to understand the different types of fishing licenses available:

  1. Resident Fishing License: Designed for residents of a particular state.
  2. Non-Resident Fishing License: Intended for those who don’t reside in the state where they plan to fish.
  3. Special Permits: These licenses cater to specific types of fishing, such as trout or saltwater angling.

Each license type comes with its own set of regulations, but generally, they allow for both freshwater and saltwater fishing in public waterways within the state.

State-by-State Regulations for Children

The majority of states do not require children below a certain age to possess a fishing license. However, the age limit varies from state to state, typically around 16 years old. Some states, like Maryland and Michigan, may require fishing licenses for children as young as 12.

It’s crucial to check your state’s specific regulations before planning a fishing trip with your kids. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service provides a comprehensive list of state fishing license requirements, including age limits and any special provisions for children.

In cases where a fishing license is mandatory for children, they will need to obtain a license just like any other angler. The cost of a child’s fishing license is usually lower than that of an adult’s. Some states even offer free fishing days, allowing children to try out the sport without any financial commitment.

Adhering to Fishing Regulations

Even when a fishing license isn’t required for children, it’s essential to follow all state fishing regulations. These include:

  • Catch Limits: The maximum number of fish an angler can keep per day.
  • Size Limits: The minimum and/or maximum size of fish that can be kept.
  • Seasonal Restrictions: Certain fish species may only be caught during specific times of the year.

Failing to comply with these regulations can result in penalties and fines, which apply to minors as well. By teaching children to respect these rules, you’re setting them up for a lifetime of responsible fishing.

Teaching Kids Responsible Fishing Habits

Fishing is not only a fun activity for children but also an excellent opportunity to teach them about conservation and responsible angling practices. Here are some tips for instilling good fishing habits in kids:

  1. Catch and Release: Encourage children to release fish back into the water if they don’t plan to eat them. This helps maintain healthy fish populations.
  2. Respect Limits: Emphasize the importance of adhering to catch and size limits to protect fish species.
  3. Proper Fish Handling: Demonstrate how to handle fish gently to minimize harm and increase their chances of survival upon release.
  4. Leave No Trace: Teach children to dispose of fishing line, bait containers, and other waste properly to keep waterways clean.

By instilling these values early on, you’re helping to create a new generation of responsible anglers who appreciate and protect our natural resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do kids need a fishing license in every state?

No, fishing license requirements for children vary by state. Some states allow children under a certain age to fish without a license, while others require all anglers to have one regardless of age. Always check your state’s regulations before heading out.

At what age do kids need a fishing license?

The age at which children need a fishing license varies by state. In some states, children under 12 can fish without a license, while in others, the age limit may be higher. Some states also offer discounted licenses for children under a certain age. Consult your state’s fishing regulations for specific details.

Can kids be covered under a parent’s fishing license?

This depends on the state. Some states allow children to fish under a parent’s license or permit, while others require a separate license for each angler. In some cases, a parent may need to have a separate license for each child they accompany. Check your state’s fishing regulations to be sure.

What happens if a child fishes without a required license?

Fishing without a valid license, when one is required, can result in fines and other penalties. This applies to children as well as adults. To avoid any legal issues, always ensure that everyone in your fishing party has the necessary licenses and permits.

Where can I find more information about my state’s fishing license requirements?

The best place to find up-to-date information on your state’s fishing license requirements is your state’s fish and wildlife agency website. You can also visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s website for a comprehensive list of state fishing license requirements and links to each state’s agency.


In summary, fishing license requirements for children vary by state, making it essential to research the specific regulations in your area before planning a fishing trip. Regardless of whether a license is required, it’s crucial to teach children to follow all fishing rules and regulations and to practice responsible angling habits. By doing so, you’re not only ensuring a fun and safe fishing experience but also contributing to the conservation of our nation’s aquatic resources.

For more detailed information on fishing license requirements in your state, consult our Fishing License Requirements by State guide. Happy fishing!

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