Fishing in Pennsylvania? Know the License Requirements

Fishing is a beloved pastime in Pennsylvania, with its abundance of pristine waterways teeming with a variety of fish species. However, before you can cast your line into the state’s waters, it’s crucial to understand and comply with the licensing requirements. This guide will provide you with a detailed overview of everything you need to know about obtaining a Pennsylvania fishing license.

Understanding License Requirements

In Pennsylvania, anyone aged 16 or older is required to possess a valid fishing license to fish or angle for any species, including taking fishbait, baitfish, amphibians, and reptiles from the state’s waters. This requirement applies to both residents and non-residents, regardless of whether you’re fishing on your own or with a guide or charter.

Residency Requirements

To qualify for a resident fishing license, you must be a bona fide resident of Pennsylvania. This means you must have a fixed intent to return to the state and can provide positive proof of permanent residency, such as a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license, non-driver photo identification card, previous year’s state income tax return, local earned income tax return, or a current voter registration card.

Active-duty military personnel stationed in Pennsylvania under permanent change of station orders (PCS) for six months or more are also eligible for a resident fishing license upon providing proper documentation.

Types of Fishing Licenses

Pennsylvania offers a variety of fishing license options to cater to different needs and preferences. Here’s an overview of the available licenses:

Annual Licenses

  • Resident Annual License: Valid for one year from the date of purchase. Cost: $22.97.
  • Non-Resident Annual License: Valid for one year from the date of purchase. Cost: $52.97.
  • Senior Resident Annual License: For Pennsylvania residents aged 65 and older. Cost: $11.97.

Multi-Year Licenses

For those who plan to fish regularly over an extended period, Pennsylvania offers multi-year licenses, which can provide significant savings compared to purchasing annual licenses.

  • 3-Year License: Available for residents ($63.90), senior residents ($31.90), and non-residents ($154.90).
  • 5-Year License: Available for residents ($106.90), senior residents ($51.90), and non-residents ($256.90).
  • 10-Year License: Available for residents ($211.90) and non-residents ($511.90).
  • Senior Resident Lifetime License: A one-time purchase for Pennsylvania residents aged 65 and older. Cost: $51.90.

Short-Term Licenses

For visitors or those planning a brief fishing trip, Pennsylvania offers short-term licenses:

  • 1-Day Tourist License: Valid for one day, except from March 15 to April 30. Cost: $26.90 for non-residents.
  • 3-Day Tourist License: Valid for three consecutive days. Cost: $26.90 for non-residents.
  • 7-Day Tourist License: Valid for seven consecutive days. Cost: $34.90 for non-residents.

Discounted/Free Licenses

Certain groups may be eligible for discounted or free fishing licenses in Pennsylvania:

  • Disabled Veterans: Pennsylvania residents who are disabled veterans with a disability rating between 60% and 99% can obtain a reduced-fee resident fishing license ($2.97) by applying to the Fish & Boat Commission or a county treasurer. Those with a 100% disability rating or who have lost a limb, lost the use of a limb, or are totally blind can obtain a free resident fishing license.
  • Active Military Personnel: Certain active-duty military personnel who are Pennsylvania residents and stationed outside the state while on authorized leave are exempt from the fishing license requirement. However, they must carry proof of residency, military ID, and valid orders showing their place of assignment and leave status.
  • Youth Under 16: Children under the age of 16 do not require a fishing license in Pennsylvania.

Additional Permits and Stamps

In addition to the basic fishing license, Pennsylvania anglers may need to obtain additional permits or stamps depending on the type of fishing they plan to do:

Trout Permit

A current Pennsylvania trout permit ($14.97 for residents, $9.97 for non-residents) is required to fish for trout in the state’s waters, including stocked trout waters, Class A Wild Trout Waters, Wilderness Trout Streams, and their tributaries. This permit is printed on the fishing license.

Lake Erie Permit

Anglers fishing in Pennsylvania’s waters of Lake Erie, Presque Isle Bay, and their tributaries, including waters that flow into those tributaries, are required to possess a valid Lake Erie Permit ($9.97 for residents, $9.97 for non-residents) or a Combination Trout/Lake Erie Permit ($15.97 for residents, $15.97 for non-residents).

Voluntary Permits

Pennsylvania also offers voluntary permits that support various fishing-related programs, such as the Musky Permit, Wild Trout and Enhanced Waters Permit, and Habitat/Waterways Conservation Permit. While not required for fishing, the funds generated from these permits are reinvested into their respective programs to improve fishing opportunities and habitats.

Obtaining a License

Anglers have several convenient options to obtain their Pennsylvania fishing licenses and permits:


The easiest way to purchase a fishing license is through the HuntFishPA online portal or the FishBoatPA mobile app. Licenses purchased online are valid immediately upon purchase and can be printed or saved digitally on a smart device as proof of possession.


Licenses can also be purchased in person at nearly 700 retail license-issuing agents across the state, including sporting goods stores, hardware stores, county treasurers’ offices, and Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission offices.

By Phone

Anglers can purchase their licenses over the phone by calling 877-707-4085.

Gift Vouchers

Fishing licenses and permits also make great gifts. Gift vouchers can be purchased online or at license-issuing agents, with the recipient’s name provided at the time of purchase. These vouchers can then be redeemed at any issuing agent.

License Costs and Fees

The cost of fishing licenses and permits in Pennsylvania varies based on the type of license, residency status, and duration. A detailed breakdown of costs for different license types is provided in the “Types of Fishing Licenses” section above.

It’s important to note that replacement licenses, including any previously purchased permits or privileges, can be obtained at a cost of $6.97 through any issuing agent or reprinted for free online through HuntFishPA.

Exemptions and Free Fishing Days

While a fishing license is generally required for anyone aged 16 or older, there are a few exceptions and special occasions when a license is not needed:

  • Youth Under 16: Children under the age of 16 do not require a fishing license in Pennsylvania.
  • Assisted Fishing: An adult who assists a child (aged 15 or younger) by baiting hooks, removing fish from the line, netting fish, preparing the fishing rod for use, or untangling the line does not need a fishing license. However, if the adult casts or retrieves the fishing line or rod, a valid license is required.
  • Free Fishing Days: Pennsylvania offers two annual “Fish for Free Days” when anyone (resident or non-resident) can legally fish on state waterways without a fishing license or trout/salmon and Lake Erie permits. In 2024, these free fishing days are scheduled for Sunday, May 26, and Thursday, July 4.

Regulations and Resources

In addition to obtaining the necessary licenses and permits, anglers in Pennsylvania must familiarize themselves with the state’s fishing regulations, which cover aspects such as seasons, creel limits, and special regulation areas. These regulations are outlined in the Pennsylvania Fishing Summary/Boating Handbook, which can be accessed online or through the FishBoatPA mobile app.

The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) also provides educational resources on fishing techniques, safety, conservation, and recognition programs for record catches. These resources can be found on the PFBC website or through local PFBC offices.

Reciprocal Agreements

Pennsylvania has reciprocal agreements with several neighboring states, allowing anglers to fish in certain border waters using their Pennsylvania fishing license:

  • Maryland: Along the Conowingo and Youghiogheny Rivers when fishing from a boat.
  • New Jersey: On the Delaware River, from New Jersey’s shores or in its waters on a boat.
  • New York: On the Delaware River, from New Jersey’s shores or in its waters on a boat (same as New Jersey).
  • Ohio: Along the Pymatuning River when fishing from a boat.

It’s essential to note that these agreements are specific to the designated border waters and may have additional regulations. Anglers should always check the latest information and regulations before fishing in these areas.

By understanding and adhering to Pennsylvania’s fishing license requirements, anglers can enjoy the state’s abundant fishing opportunities while contributing to the conservation and management of its aquatic resources. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, a beginner or an experienced angler, this comprehensive guide will help you navigate the licensing process and ensure a enjoyable and responsible fishing experience in Pennsylvania’s waters.

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