Fish for Free: When and Where to Use Your CT Fishing License

Fishing is a popular outdoor recreational activity in Connecticut, with abundant opportunities for anglers to cast their lines in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, as well as along the state’s coastline and Long Island Sound. For many fishing enthusiasts, one of the appeals of the sport is the ability to spend a relaxing day on the water without breaking the bank.

While Connecticut requires most resident anglers ages 16–64 to purchase a fishing license before wetting their lines, there are some exceptions that allow fishing without a license under certain circumstances. Understanding Connecticut fishing license regulations and the opportunities for free fishing days and access can help savvy anglers maximize their time on the water while minimizing costs.

Connecticut Fishing License Requirements

Connecticut offers both inland fishing licenses for freshwater fishing and marine fishing licenses for saltwater angling. Here is an overview of basic license requirements, fees, and exemptions:

  • Inland Fishing License: Required for residents ages 16–64 to fish in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. The current fee is $28 for the season.
  • Marine Waters Fishing License: Required for residents ages 16–64 to fish in saltwater areas like Long Island Sound, rivers that flow into saltwater, and marine district areas. The current fee is $10 for the season.
  • Combination License: A combo license can be purchased to cover both inland and marine fishing for $32, offering a small discount over buying the two separately.

In addition to a basic fishing license, anyone over the age of 16 who wishes to fish for trout or salmon in Connecticut will need an additional Trout and Salmon Stamp. This is required when fishing in streams stocked with trout, designated Wild Trout Management Areas, and salmon runs. The current trout stamp fee is $28.

There are also short-term 1-day and 3-day fishing license options available for residents and non-residents. Costs range from $16 for a 1-day inland pass up to $35 for a 3-day all-waters license.

Connecticut Fishing License Exemptions

While most resident anglers are required to purchase a fishing license in Connecticut, there are some exemptions to the licensing requirements, including:

  • Age: Residents under 16 and over 65 can fish without a license
  • Military Service: CT residents on full-time active duty in the armed forces can fish without a license
  • Fishing Education Programs: Participants in certain DEEP-approved programs like CARE Fishing without a license
  • Free Fishing Days: Two designated free fishing days per year (see next section)

So kids, seniors, and veterans can fish license-free at any time, while special programs also offer access to free fishing. But most adult-resident anglers still need to purchase either an inland, marine, or combination fishing license.

When Can You Fish for Free in Connecticut?

Connecticut offers all anglers the opportunity to fish recreationally without a license on two designated Free Fishing Days per year. These are specific dates set annually by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to encourage both novice and experienced fishermen and women to enjoy the sport.

The free fishing days for 2024 are:

  • Saturday, June 16, 2024
  • Saturday, August 10, 2024

During these Free Fishing Days, all inland and marine waters are open for license-free fishing. The only site restrictions are Kettletown State Park and the Naugatuck River TMA, which require trout stamps to fish for trout.

It’s important to note that while a license is not required on Free Fishing Days, all other inland fishing regulations and marine fishing regulations still apply. This includes rules on size and bag limits, gear restrictions, areas closed to fishing, and seasons.

So Free Fishing Days give both residents and non-residents the chance to legally fish throughout Connecticut without purchasing a license, opening up ponds, lakes, rivers, and Long Island Sound for a free fishing adventure. Just be sure to follow all other regulations.

Where Can You Fish for Free or Cheap in Connecticut?

In addition to the two annual Free Fishing Days, there are some other locations and programs that allow fishing without a license or for low-cost access fees. These include:

Fishing Education Programs

  • CARE Fishing: This program, organized by DEEP Fisheries allows groups and families to fish without licenses while learning about fishing ethics, safety, and regulations.
  • Fishing Tackle Loaner Program: Some locations like state parks, offer free fishing tackle for licensed beginner anglers.

Municipal and private lakes and ponds

Many towns and landowners allow public access to lakes and ponds for free or cheap.

  • Stratford’s Roosevelt Forest Pond: This pond allows $5 daily access without a fishing license.
  • Private lakes and ponds: Always check regulations at specific locations; some allow shore fishing without a license.

So while most freshwater fishing requires a license for CT residents 16–64, saltwater anglers have more flexibility with a $10 seasonal license. And programs like CARE Fishing or Free Fishing Days give opportunities to fish without a license twice a year.

Getting Your Connecticut Fishing License

If you need to purchase a Connecticut fishing license, there are several ways to acquire one:

  • DEEP Online Licensing Site: Purchase and print your license 24/7 from DEEP’s automated system.
  • Town Halls: Many participating town halls sell licenses over the counter.
  • DEEP Offices: Stop into offices in Hartford, Eastern, or Western CT.
  • Retail Locations: Some bait & tackle shops and big box stores sell licenses.

Licenses are valid for the calendar year and expire on December 31. Be sure to sign your fishing license upon receipt, as this is required when fishing. Consider purchasing your salt or freshwater license online early in the season to maximize your time on the water.

Key Takeaways on Fishing for Free in Connecticut

Free fishing opportunities do exist for anglers in Connecticut between license purchasing exemptions and special annual Free Fishing Days. Here are some key tips:

  • Seniors 65 and older and kids under 16 can legally fish without a license year-round
  • Saltwater licenses are only $10 for residents, compared to $28 for freshwater
  • Special programs like CARE Fishing provide free access and equipment
  • Private lakes and ponds sometimes allow shore fishing without a license
  • Mark your calendar for the 2024 Free Fishing Days on June 16 and August 10
  • Consider getting a combo license to cover both freshwater and saltwater fishing

So while resident adults need a license for most inland fishing and trout and salmon fishing, there are still ways to wet a line without paying. And Connecticut’s Free Fishing Days give everyone two opportunities to fish license-free each season.

Follow Connecticut fishing regulations carefully and take advantage of these free and low-cost fishing exemptions. Then get out on the water with your rod and reel to see what you can catch! Tight lines!

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