Do Kids Need a Fishing License in PA Exploring Family Fishing Laws.jpg

Family Fishing Fun in PA: Your Guide to Youth Fishing Licenses & Regulations

Fishing is a cherished pastime for many families across Pennsylvania, offering the perfect opportunity to bond with loved ones while enjoying the great outdoors. The Keystone State boasts an abundance of freshwater fishing spots, from the shores of Lake Erie to the winding streams of the Allegheny Mountains. However, before heading out on your family fishing adventure, it’s crucial to understand the fishing license requirements and regulations, especially as they pertain to young anglers.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about youth fishing licenses in Pennsylvania. We’ll cover age requirements, costs, exceptions, and special programs designed to get kids hooked on this rewarding outdoor activity. By the end, you’ll be fully equipped to plan a fun, safe, and legal fishing trip the whole family can enjoy.

Fishing License Requirements in Pennsylvania

In general, anyone age 16 and older must have a valid Pennsylvania fishing license to fish in the state’s waterways. This applies whether you’re fishing on public waters like lakes and streams, or on private property with the owner’s permission.

Fishing licenses can be purchased online through the HuntFishPA website, at more than 700 retail license issuing agents across the state, county treasurer’s offices, or Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) regional offices. Licenses are typically available starting December 1 of the year prior to the license year.

Pennsylvania offers several fishing license options based on residency and duration:

  • Resident annual license: $22.97
  • Non-resident annual license: $52.97
  • Senior resident annual license (ages 65+): $11.97
  • 1-day tourist license (non-resident): $26.97
  • 3-day tourist license (non-resident): $26.97
  • 7-day tourist license (non-resident): $34.97
  • Multi-year licenses (3, 5, 10 years) at discounted rates

In addition to the base license, trout anglers 16 and older must purchase a trout permit ($9.97) to fish for trout in Pennsylvania waters. Anglers fishing in Lake Erie, Presque Isle Bay, and their tributaries also need a Lake Erie permit ($9.97) or a combination trout/Lake Erie permit ($15.97).

Exceptions and Special Provisions for Youth Anglers

The good news for families is that children under 16 years old can fish without a license in Pennsylvania. This allows kids to experience the thrill of reeling in their first catch without the added cost or paperwork of obtaining a license.

However, there are a couple voluntary options and special provisions for young anglers to be aware of:

Mentored Youth Trout Day

To participate in the popular Mentored Youth Trout Day that precedes the statewide opening day of trout season, kids under 16 must obtain either:

On this special day, youth anglers with a license or permit can fish in stocked trout waters and keep up to two trout (combined species) that are at least 7 inches long. Their licensed adult mentors can fish but are not allowed to keep any trout.

While both the permit and license provide the same privileges for Mentored Youth Trout Day, the Voluntary Youth License offers an added benefit. For each license sold, the PFBC receives $5 in federal funding to support youth outreach and education programs. So by purchasing a Voluntary Youth License, families can directly contribute to initiatives aimed at getting more kids involved in fishing.

Assisting Youth Anglers

Many young children need hands-on assistance from an adult to get started with fishing. Pennsylvania regulations allow an unlicensed adult to help a child with tasks like baiting the hook, casting, and removing the fish from the line, as long as the adult does not hook the fish themselves.

So go ahead and show your child how to rig up their rod and reel, bait the hook, and cast it out into promising waters. Just be sure to let them do the actual fishing and reeling in any keepers!

Other Fishing License Exemptions

Besides the youth exemption, Pennsylvania offers several other scenarios where anglers may fish without a license:

  • PA residents on active military duty stationed outside the state can fish without a license while on leave, with proof of residency and official orders
  • Certain disabled veterans and former prisoners of war may qualify for free licenses with proper documentation
  • Landowners and their immediate family residing on their land can fish on that property without a license
  • During the state’s two annual Fish-for-Free Days (Sunday before Memorial Day and July 4), anyone can legally fish without a license

Remember, even when a license isn’t required, all other fishing regulations like seasons, size limits and creel limits still apply.

Fishing Regulations and Best Practices

Speaking of regulations, it’s essential for both adult and youth anglers to familiarize themselves with the rules before casting a line. Pennsylvania’s fishing regulations vary by water body, species, and season to protect fish populations and ensure fair access.

The PFBC publishes an annual Fishing Summary/Boating Handbook that outlines the statewide and special regulations. The handbook is available in print at license issuing agents and online in digital format. Be sure to review the current regulations relevant to where you plan to fish.

Some general guidelines to follow whenever fishing in Pennsylvania:

  • Respect size and creel limits for each species
  • Use proper catch-and-release techniques for fish not in season or over the limit
  • Dispose of fishing line and tackle responsibly to avoid harming wildlife
  • Practice good stream etiquette and avoid disturbing sensitive habitat
  • Consider using lead-free tackle to minimize toxins in the water
  • Always wear a life jacket when fishing from a boat or wading in deep water

By setting a positive example and teaching kids to be responsible stewards of the environment, parents can help ensure that Pennsylvania’s fisheries remain healthy and productive for generations to come.


Fishing is a fantastic way for families to spend quality time together outdoors, learn new skills, and develop a lifelong appreciation for nature. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s youth-friendly fishing regulations and license exemptions, it’s easier than ever to get kids hooked on this classic pastime.

To recap, here are the key takeaways for parents:

  • Kids under 16 can fish without a license in Pennsylvania, except for certain special events like Mentored Youth Trout Day
  • A Voluntary Youth Fishing License ($2.97) provides the same privileges as the free permit, with the added benefit of supporting youth fishing programs
  • Adults can assist kids with fishing tasks like baiting and casting, but should allow the child to do the actual fishing
  • Always check the current regulations for seasons, size limits, and creel limits before fishing
  • Use responsible fishing practices to help conserve aquatic resources and set a positive example for young anglers

So what are you waiting for? Gather up the kids, purchase any necessary licenses or permits, and head out to one of Pennsylvania’s countless fishing holes for an unforgettable family adventure. With a little patience, practice, and plenty of smiles, you’ll be swapping fish stories around the campfire in no time!

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