Fishing on Private Property: Is a License Required?

Fishing, a beloved pastime in the United States, is enjoyed by millions each year. But, here’s a question that might have you scratching your head: Do you need a license to fish on private property? Well, my friend, that’s a bit of a slippery fish to catch. Let’s dive in and see if we can net an answer.

When Is A Fishing License Not Required On Private Property?

Age Exceptions

In many states, kids under a certain age can fish to their heart’s content on private property without needing a license. The age limit varies from state to state, but it’s usually around the sweet 16. But remember, this free pass only applies to recreational fishing. Commercial fishing? That’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Military Veterans

Some states salute their military veterans by exempting them from needing a fishing license on private property. But this isn’t a nationwide policy, so it’s worth checking the specific regulations in your state.

Special Events

Certain fishing events, like free fishing days or fishing derbies, might let you off the hook from needing a fishing license. These events are usually sponsored by the state or local government, and are designed to reel in people to enjoy fishing.

When Is A Fishing License Required On Private Property?

Type Of Fish

Even on private property, you might need a fishing license if you’re angling for certain types of fish. For instance, if you’re after trout, you might need a special trout stamp in addition to your fishing license.


In some states, you might need a fishing license to fish on private property if the property is a stone’s throw away from public waters. The exact distance that triggers the need for a license varies from state to state.

Size Of The Property

In some states, the size of the property can determine whether you need a fishing license. For example, in Michigan, if the property is less than 10 acres, you’re good to go without a license. But if the property is larger than 10 acres, you’ll need a license.


Whether you need a fishing license to fish on private property depends on a variety of factors, including your age, the type of fish you’re after, and the location and size of the property. So, it’s crucial to check your state’s regulations to make sure you’re not flouting any rules. And remember, even when fishing on private property, it’s important to respect Mother Nature and practice good fishing etiquette.


Q: Do I need a fishing license to fish on private property?
A: Well, that depends on the state where the property is located. Some states require a fishing license for all fishing activities, whether on public or private land. Other states give a free pass to private property owners and their immediate family members. It’s best to check your state’s fishing regulations to be on the safe side.

Q: If a private pond is stocked with fish, do I still need a fishing license?
A: Again, it depends on the state. Some states require a fishing license even if the pond is privately owned and stocked. Other states may let you off the hook if the pond meets certain criteria, like being less than a certain size or not connected to a public waterway. Check your state’s regulations to see if a license is required.

Q: Can I fish on private property without the owner’s permission?
A: No, it’s illegal to fish on private property without the owner’s permission. Even if you have a fishing license, you still need the landowner’s permission to fish on their property. Trespassing laws apply to fishing just as they do to any other activity on private land. Always ask for permission before fishing on private property.

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