Free Fishing License for Veterans: Check Your Eligibility Now!

Fishing offers tremendous therapeutic benefits for veterans, including reducing stress, improving sleep, and easing the transition back to civilian life. That’s why many U.S. states offer discounted or even free fishing licenses to honor veterans for their service. This article provides a comprehensive state-by-state guide to veteran eligibility for free fishing licenses and the application process.

Overview of Free Fishing Licenses for U.S. Veterans

The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation estimates that only around 20% of the over 18 million U.S. veterans currently take advantage of special fishing programs and licenses available to them. However, fishing participation offers physical and mental health benefits that can aid in recovery, which is why states are expanding license discounts.

37 U.S. states and territories now offer some form of discounted fishing license, permit, or registration for veterans and/or active-duty military personnel. The eligibility criteria, costs waived, and application specifics vary widely depending on location.

This article will break down exactly what veterans need to know about obtaining free or discounted fishing access in different states. Keep reading for a full listing.

Overview of Key Veteran Fishing License Benefits

Before diving into state-specific details on special veteran licenses, let’s overview some of the key reasons discounted fishing access matters:

  • Financial Savings: With license fees waived, veterans can save $20, $50, or even over $100, depending on their location. These savings add up if you fish often.
  • Stress and Anxiety Relief: Research shows fishing dramatically reduces cortisol levels while inducing a state of calm and focus through the repetitive casting motion. This offers a therapeutic outlet from daily stresses.
  • Physical Exercise: casting, walking river banks to find the best spot, reeling in catches—fishing provides light physical activity without high-impact stress on joints. This makes it ideal for veterans recovering from injuries.
  • Social Connection: Fishing with a buddy or as part of an organized group trip offers camaraderie and friendship, aiding the transition from close-knit military units back to civilian life.

Now let’s explore exactly what fishing license discounts are available to veterans in each state.

Alabama

Alabama offers both resident and non-resident military veterans a completely free lifetime freshwater and saltwater fishing license. Disabled veterans can also obtain a free license.

Eligibility Criteria

Veterans must bring the following to any license commissioner to apply:

  • Alabama driver’s license or state-issued ID
  • Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214 form)

Application Process

The application process takes 5–10 minutes in person. Licenses are issued immediately and are valid for life unless revoked.

Alaska

The state of Alaska offers disabled veterans, as well as residents over 60, a free sport fishing license each year. Non-resident military personnel can obtain a discounted license.

Eligibility Criteria

Free licenses are limited to:

  • Disabled resident veterans with a 50% or greater service-connected disability verified by the VA
  • Resident veterans over age 60

Discounted licenses up to $30 off are available for non-resident active-duty military personnel and their dependents.

Application Process

Free disabled veteran and senior licenses can be obtained online or via form. Proof of eligibility must be provided.

The application process takes 1-2 weeks for review and processing before licenses are mailed out.

Arizona

Arizona Game & Fish offers both resident and non-resident disabled veterans a complimentary license covering fishing, hunting, and combination privileges.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify, veterans must be Arizona residents and have a service-connected disability of 50–100% as certified by the VA.

Application Process

Veterans can apply online using their VA-issued benefit determination letter as proof of eligibility.

Licenses will be mailed out within 15 days after application approval.

Arkansas

Arkansas offers all resident and non-resident disabled veterans, as well as former POWs, a lifetime fishing license covering sport fishing statewide.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligible veterans include:

  • Former Prisoners of War
  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities

Application Process

Veterans can download an application form and mail it along with VA documentation confirming their disability rating to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission headquarters.

The processing time is 1-2 weeks before the lifetime fishing license is mailed out.

California

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers the Veterans Discount License, which provides reduced license fees to resident vets.

Eligibility Criteria

50% or greater service-connected disabled veterans are eligible for discounted sport fishing licenses in the state of California. Recent legislation expanded eligibility to more veterans.

Application Process

Veterans can apply for discounts online using the state’s Automated License Data System (ALDS). Processing is immediate after the application payment.

Alternatively, applications can be submitted by mail with proof of eligibility.

Colorado

Colorado Parks & Wildlife offers a low-cost lifetime Colorado Resident Military Fishing License covering veterans for life.

Eligibility Criteria

The lifetime fishing license is available to Colorado veterans who:

  • I have not claimed residency in any other US state or foreign country
  • Provided honorable or general discharge paperwork (DD-214)

Application Process

Veterans can apply online instantly using their driver’s license and discharge paperwork. The cost is just $14.94—an incredible value!

Connecticut

Connecticut offers both resident and non-resident military members a free all-waters fishing license while on active duty. Disabled veterans are also eligible for a free license.

Eligibility Criteria

The following groups qualify for Connecticut’s free veteran & military fishing licenses:

  • Active-duty personnel
  • Connecticut residents disabled in the line of duty during wartime
  • Disabled veterans with VA disability ratings of 25% or more

Spouses and dependents are eligible for discounted $13 licenses.

Application Process

Printable application forms must be submitted by mail or in person with eligibility proof to DEEP headquarters.

Licenses are mailed out within 3 weeks of application approval.

Delaware

Delaware offers discounted fishing license fees to resident veterans based on their disability rating percentage. The higher the rating, the greater the price reduction.

Eligibility Criteria

Qualifying veterans must be Delaware residents with a disability rating of 10% or higher. Discounts increase at 40%, 60%, and 100% rating thresholds.

Application Process

Veterans can purchase discounted licenses online through the automated licensing system using VA rating documentation.

Florida

The state of Florida offers both residents and non-residents free military gold sportsman’s licenses covering hunting, freshwater fishing, and saltwater fishing access. These licenses are good for 5 years.

Eligibility Criteria

Licenses are available free of charge to:

  • Active-duty military members
  • Retired military members
  • 100% disabled veterans

Application Process

Eligible veterans and military personnel can apply online instantly using a Florida driver’s license number and documentation confirming their status.

Georgia

Georgia offers a combination hunting and fishing license free of charge to resident veterans who are certified by the VA as at least 25% disabled.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for Georgia’s free license, veterans must:

  • Be Georgia residents
  • Provide VA documentation verifying service-connected disability rating of 25%+

Application Process

Veterans can apply online using a GA driver’s license and VA disability rating documentation. Licenses will be mailed out within 2 weeks.

Hawaii

Hawaii offers resident disabled American veterans an exemption from paying the otherwise required fishing license fees. This covers shoreline, freshwater, and vessel fishing.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for Hawaii’s free fishing license, veterans must:

  • Have Hawaii residency
  • Provide VA documentation confirming a service-connected disability

Application Process

Veterans can submit applications by mail or in person to any Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources office. Licenses will be mailed out within 3 weeks after verification.

Idaho

Idaho offers resident disabled American veterans a combination hunting and fishing license free of charge. Lifetime license options are also available.

Eligibility Criteria

The free license is limited to Idaho resident veterans with:

  • VA documentation showing service-connected disability

Application Process

Applications are submitted online instantly with disability rating documentation. Licenses can be used immediately upon approval.

Illinois

Illinois provides a free lifetime fishing license for resident veterans with a service-connected disability certified by the VA. One-time-fee licenses are also available.

Eligibility Criteria

The following veterans are eligible:

  • Former POWs
  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities
  • Veterans who served minimum 18 months active duty

Application Process

Veterans complete applications online instantly using their driver’s license and discharge documentation. One-time or lifetime licenses are issued immediately upon payment/approval.

Indiana

Indiana offers a discounted Veteran’s Consolidated Hunting & Fishing License covering everything from deer to trout to salmon, with license fees waived entirely for disabled vets.

Eligibility Criteria

Fully free licenses are limited to Indiana residents with:

  • VA documentation showing service-connected disabilities

Reduced license fees of just $2 apply to non-disabled resident vets.

Application Process

Veterans can apply online instantly and upload proof of eligibility documentation. Licenses are available for use as soon as the application is approved.

Iowa

Iowa offers a lifetime fishing license to Iowa-resident veterans who are certified by the VA as at least 50% service-connected disabled.

Eligibility Criteria

The lifetime fishing license eligibility is limited to Iowa veterans meeting both criteria:

  • Iowa resident
  • 50%+ VA disability rating

Application Process

Applications are submitted online instantly with supporting VA disability documentation. Lifetime licenses are mailed out within 2 weeks of approval.

Kansas

Kansas issues qualifying veterans lifetime fishing licenses free of charge. This covers fishing statewide in over 70 state fishing lakes.

Eligibility Criteria

The free lifetime Kansas fishing license is available only to Kansas residents meeting one of these criteria:

  • Purple Heart recipients
  • Former POWs
  • Service-connected disabled veterans

Application Process

Veterans complete applications online instantly using their driver’s license and discharge documentation. Lifetime licenses are issued immediately upon approval.

Kentucky

Kentucky offers a free 3-year fishing license to resident veterans certified by the VA as at least 50% service-connected disabled.

Eligibility Criteria

The free 3-year Kentucky fishing license eligibility requires:

  • Kentucky resident
  • 50%+ VA disability rating

Application Process

Applications are submitted by mail or in person with VA disability rating documentation. Licenses will be issued immediately upon verification.

Louisiana

Louisiana provides free freshwater and saltwater fishing licenses to veterans with VA-certified service-connected disabilities.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify, veterans must:

  • Be Louisiana residents
  • Provide VA documentation showing a service-connected disability

Application Process

Printable applications are submitted by mail or in person with eligibility documentation to the Louisiana Department . of Wildlife & Fisheries.

Maine

Maine offers a free lifetime inland fishing license and permits to resident disabled veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligible veterans must:

  • Be Maine residents
  • Provide VA documentation of service-connected disability

Application Process

Applications are submitted online instantly with disability rating documentation. Lifetime licenses are issued immediately upon approval.

Maryland

Maryland provides a free lifetime consolidated sport fishing license to resident veterans with a 100% service-connected disability.

Eligibility Criteria

The free lifetime license is limited to Maryland veterans meeting both:

  • 100% disability rating
  • Maryland residency

Application Process

Veterans can apply online instantly using their driver’s license and VA documentation. Licenses are issued immediately upon approval.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts offers a free lifetime fishing license to qualifying resident veterans and reduced-priced licenses to non-resident veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Disabled resident veterans are eligible for the full lifetime fishing license.

All non-resident veterans are eligible for discounted licenses.

Application Process

Printable application forms must be submitted by mail along with eligibility documentation to the MassWildlife headquarters.

Licenses are issued within 4 weeks of verification.

Michigan

Michigan provides a range of free, discounted, and lifetime fishing licenses to both resident and non-resident disabled veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility varies based on factors like residency status, age, disability rating percentage, and income level. The DNR provides a full eligibility matrix.

Application Process

Michigan veterans can apply online instantly for available free and reduced-cost licenses using their eligibility documentation.

Minnesota

Minnesota offers a lifetime angling license to resident veterans with service-connected disabilities certified via VA documentation.

Eligibility Criteria

The free lifetime fishing license eligibility requirement requires:

  • Minnesota residency
  • VA documentation of service-connected disability

Application Process

Veterans complete applications online and upload proof of eligibility. Lifetime licenses are issued immediately upon approval.

Mississippi

Mississippi issues qualifying resident disabled veterans a completely free sportsman license covering freshwater and saltwater fishing, hunting privileges, and more.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify, veterans must:

  • Be Mississippi residents
  • Provide VA documentation showing a service-connected disability

Application Process

Printable application forms are submitted by mail along with eligibility documentation to the MDWFP Jackson Headquarters.

Missouri

Missouri provides qualifying veterans and active duty personnel—both resident and non-resident—with free lifetime fishing permits.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligible groups include:

  • Active-duty personnel
  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities

Application Process

Applications can be completed online instantly using a driver’s license and discharge documentation. Lifetime permits are issued immediately.

Montana

Montana offers a free annual fishing license along with discounted multi-year licenses for resident disabled veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • Montana residency
  • VA documentation confirming a service-connected disability

Application Process

Veterans can apply online instantly and upload proof of eligibility to obtain licenses.

Nebraska

Nebraska issues qualifying resident veterans free annual or multi-year fishing permits, depending on their disability rating.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility factors include:

  • Nebraska residency
  • VA disability rating percentage

Higher ratings qualify for more permit years.

Application Process

Veterans complete online applications instantly using their driver’s license and VA rating documentation. Permits are issued immediately upon approval.

Nevada

Nevada offers discounted resident and non-resident fishing licenses to active-duty military personnel and veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Discounts apply to:

  • Active-duty personnel
  • Veterans with an honorable discharge

Application Process

Printable application forms must be submitted by mail to the Nevada Department of Wildlife along with eligibility documentation.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire issues a free lifetime fishing license to resident veterans with a 50% or greater service-connected disability documented by the VA.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility factors include:

  • New Hampshire residency
  • 50%+ VA disability rating

Application Process

Applications are completed online instantly with disability rating documentation. Lifetime licenses are issued immediately upon approval.

New Jersey

New Jersey offers a free lifetime fishing license to resident disabled veterans. One-time and multi-year licenses are also available at discounted rates.

Eligibility Criteria

The full-lifetime fishing license requires:

  • New Jersey residency
  • VA documentation confirming a service-connected disability

Application Process

Printable applications are submitted by mail with eligibility documentation to New Jersey Fish and Wildlife.

New Mexico

New Mexico provides a free small game hunting and fishing license to all qualifying resident and non-resident disabled American veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligible veterans include those with:

  • VA documentation showing service-connected disabilities

Application Process

Veterans complete online applications and upload proof of eligibility to obtain the free license.

New York

New York offers free fishing licenses and greatly reduced hunting licenses to eligible veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Criteria to qualify for free or discounted NY licenses include:

  • New York residency
  • VA confirmation of service-connected disability

Out-of-state vets pay minimal license fees.

Application Process

Printable applications submitted by mail along with VA disability rating documentation.

North Carolina

North Carolina provides eligible veterans and military personnel with special annual fishing and hunting licenses at 50% off the normal cost.

Eligibility Criteria

Discounted licenses are limited to:

  • NC residents currently serving in the military
  • Veterans with an honorable discharge

Application Process

Applications can be completed online instantly along with supporting documentation.

North Dakota

North Dakota offers a free annual fishing license to resident disabled veterans and POWs documented via an official VA letter.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify, applicants must provide:

  • North Dakota residency
  • VA documentation confirming disabled veteran or POW status

Application Process

Printable applications are submitted by mail along with eligibility documentation to the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.

Ohio

Ohio provides resident veterans certified by the VA as having a service-connected disability with a free annual fishing license.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility for Ohio’s free license requires:

  • Ohio residency
  • VA documentation showing service-connected disability

Application Process

Veterans complete online applications instantly using their driver’s license and VA disability rating documentation.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma offers a free combination hunting & fishing license to resident disabled veterans. Lifetime license options are also available.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • Oklahoma residency
  • VA documentation confirming a service-connected disability

Application Process

Printable applications submitted by mail with VA disability rating documentation.

Oregon

Oregon provides a free combination hunting and fishing license to eligible resident disabled American veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify, applicants must:

  • Be Oregon residents
  • Provide VA documentation showing a service-connected disability

Application Process

Veterans complete online applications instantly using their driver’s license and VA disability rating documentation.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania offers a free lifetime fishing license to resident veterans with a 100% permanent and total service-connected disability.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires both:

  • 100% disability rating
  • Pennsylvania residency

Application Process

Printable application forms must be submitted by mail with VA documentation showing a 100% rating.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island provides a free lifetime fishing license to resident veterans who are certified by the VA as fully disabled from a service-connected cause.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • Rhode Island residency
  • 100% VA disability rating

Application Process

Applications can be completed online instantly using a driver’s license and VA rating documentation.

South Carolina

South Carolina offers a 3-year disability fishing license free of charge to resident veterans. This can be renewed for life as long as the eligibility documentation stays current.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • South Carolina residency
  • VA documentation confirming a service-connected disability

Application Process

Printable applications submitted by mail with VA disability rating documentation.

South Dakota

South Dakota offers resident disabled veterans a lifetime fishing license free of charge.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • South Dakota residency
  • VA documentation showing service-connected disability

Application Process

Veterans complete applications online instantly using their driver’s license and VA disability rating documentation. Lifetime fishing licenses are issued immediately upon approval.

Tennessee

Tennessee issues resident veterans with a 100% service-connected, permanent disability a completely free lifetime sportsman license covering fishing, hunting, trapping, and more.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify, it requires:

  • Tennessee residency
  • 100% disability rating from the VA

Application Process

Veterans can apply online instantly using their driver’s license and disability rating documentation.

Texas

Texas offers qualifying disabled veterans a free lifetime freshwater fishing license. Saltwater licenses are steeply discounted.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • Texas residency
  • VA documentation confirming service-connected disability

Application Process

Complete printable applications and mail them with eligibility documentation to Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Utah

Utah issues free annual fishing or combination licenses to resident disabled veterans. Multi-year licenses are steeply discounted.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • Utah residency
  • VA documentation showing service-connected disability

Application Process

Veterans complete online applications instantly and upload proof of eligibility to obtain licenses.

Vermont

Vermont provides a free lifetime fishing license or 50% discounted hunting license for resident veterans with a 50%+ VA disability rating.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • Vermont residency
  • 50% or greater VA disability rating

Application Process

Complete online applications instantly using a driver’s license and VA rating documentation.

Virginia

Virginia issues free annual freshwater and saltwater fishing licenses to totally and permanently disabled resident veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • Virginia residency
  • 100% permanent VA disability rating

Application Process

Printable applications submitted by mail with 100% rating documentation.

Washington

Washington offers qualifying veterans a free combination fishing license covering freshwater, saltwater, shellfish, and more.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires one of:

  • VA disability rating of at least 30%
  • Status as former POW

Application Process

Veterans complete online applications instantly using their driver’s license and eligibility documentation.

West Virginia

West Virginia provides lifetime fishing and hunting licenses free of charge to eligible residents and non-resident veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligible veterans include:

  • Former POWs
  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities

Application Process

Printable applications submitted by mail with discharge documentation to the West Virginia DNR.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin offers reduced fees, free fishing, and other sporting licenses to resident veterans based on percentage disability ratings.

Eligibility Criteria

Benefits increase for ratings at 50%, 70%, and 100% thresholds.

At 100%, veterans receive a free lifetime fishing license.

Application Process

Online applications completed instantly using a WI driver’s license and VA rating documentation.

Wyoming

Wyoming provides a free lifetime fishing license and a steeply discounted general hunting license to resident disabled veterans.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility requires:

  • Wyoming residency
  • VA documentation showing service-connected disability

Application Process

Veterans complete online applications instantly using their driver’s license and disability rating documentation.

Key Takeaways

And there you have it—a comprehensive guide on what veterans need to know about obtaining free or discounted fishing licenses across the United States, broken down by state eligibility criteria and application process specifics.

The key takeaways from looking across the country are:

  • Over 75% of states offer some form of discounted fishing license to qualified veterans and/or active duty personnel. Benefits increase for disabled veterans.
  • Residency requirements, disability rating thresholds and permit duration covered varies widely based on location.
  • Most states now allow online instant application with documentation upload for convenience.

I hope this state by state breakdown helps veterans take advantage of the fishing access benefits they deserve! Let me know if you have any other questions.

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