Get Your California Fishing License: Easy Steps to Follow

2024 California Fishing License Guide: Easy Steps to Get Licensed

Are you ready to explore the diverse and exciting fishing opportunities in California? Before you cast your line, it’s essential to obtain a valid California fishing license. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the simple steps to get your license, discuss the various types available, and provide all the information you need to fish legally in the Golden State.

Who Needs a California Fishing License?

Almost everyone who wants to fish in California needs a valid fishing license. This requirement applies to both residents and non-residents aged 16 and older, whether you’re fishing in freshwater or saltwater. There are a few exceptions:

  • Fishing on Public Piers: If you’re fishing from a public pier, you don’t need a license. However, you must adhere to all other fishing regulations.
  • Free Fishing Days: California offers two Free Fishing Days each year, typically in July and September. On these days, anyone can fish without a license, but all other regulations still apply.
  • Anglers Under 16: Children under the age of 16 don’t need a fishing license, but they must have the appropriate report card for certain species (more on that later).

Types of California Fishing Licenses

California offers several types of fishing licenses to cater to different needs and preferences. Here are the main options:

Annual Licenses

  • Resident Sport Fishing License: If you’re a California resident, this is the most common license type. It’s valid for 365 days from the date of purchase and allows you to fish in both freshwater and saltwater. As of 2024, the fee for this license is $61.82.
  • Nonresident Sport Fishing License: For visitors to California, the nonresident annual license is the way to go. It’s also valid for 365 days and covers both freshwater and saltwater fishing. The 2024 fee for this license is $166.89.

Short-Term Licenses

If you only plan to fish for a short period, California offers several convenient short-term licenses:

  • One-Day Sport Fishing License: This license is perfect for a single day of fishing. It costs $20.26 for both residents and non-residents.
  • Two-Day Sport Fishing License: Planning a weekend fishing trip? The two-day license has you covered. It costs $31.06 for both residents and non-residents.
  • Ten-Day Nonresident Sport Fishing License: Visitors to California can also opt for a ten-day license, which costs $61.82.

Lifetime Licenses

For dedicated anglers, California offers lifetime fishing licenses. These are only available to residents and vary in price based on the angler’s age:

  • Ages 0-9: $644.50
  • Ages 10-39: $1,054.25
  • Ages 40-61: $949.75
  • Ages 62+: $644.50

Lifetime licenses can only be purchased at a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) sales office.

Additional Requirements and Validations

In addition to your fishing license, you may need to obtain additional validations or report cards, depending on where and what you plan to fish for.

Ocean Enhancement Validation

If you intend to fish in ocean waters south of Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County, you’ll need to purchase an Ocean Enhancement Validation. This costs an additional $7.05 and is included with one-day and two-day licenses.

Second Rod Validation

Want to use two rods or lines while fishing in inland waters? You’ll need a Second Rod Validation, which costs $19.44. Keep in mind that this validation doesn’t apply to waters where only artificial lures or barbless hooks are allowed.

Report Cards

Certain species require a report card, which helps the CDFW monitor and manage these fisheries. As of 2024, you’ll need a report card for:

  • Steelhead: $9.72
  • Sturgeon: $10.80
  • North Coast Salmon: $8.64
  • Spiny Lobster: $11.62 (valid for the entire lobster season)

Remember to return your report card to the CDFW by the specified deadline, even if you didn’t catch anything. Failure to do so may result in a non-return fee when purchasing your next report card.

How to Get Your California Fishing License

Now that you know what type of license you need, let’s go through the steps to obtain it.

Online Purchase

The easiest way to get your California fishing license is to purchase it online through the CDFW website. Here’s how:

  1. Visit the CDFW online license sales site.
  2. Click on “Purchase a License” and select “Fishing” from the drop-down menu.
  3. Choose the license type you want and click “Add to Cart.”
  4. If prompted, add any necessary validations or report cards to your cart.
  5. Click “Checkout” and follow the prompts to create an account or log in.
  6. Provide the required personal information and payment details.
  7. Once your payment is processed, you’ll receive a confirmation email with your license information.

You can print out a temporary license to use immediately, and your official license will arrive by mail within 15 days.

In-Person Purchase

You can also buy your fishing license in person at various locations throughout California, including:

  • CDFW license sales offices
  • Many sporting goods stores
  • Bait and tackle shops
  • Some convenience stores

To find a license agent near you, use the CDFW license agent locator.


Obtaining your California fishing license is a simple process that opens up a world of angling adventures. By following the steps outlined in this guide and ensuring you have the proper validations and report cards, you’ll be ready to legally fish in the state’s diverse waters.

Remember, your fishing license fees directly support the conservation and management of California’s fisheries, ensuring healthy fish populations for generations to come. So get licensed, grab your gear, and enjoy the incredible fishing opportunities that the Golden State has to offer!

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