How to Get a Saltwater Fishing License in BC

Recreational saltwater fishing in British Columbia requires a valid Tidal Waters Sport Fishing License. This license allows you to fish for finfish and shellfish like salmon, halibut, crab, prawns, etc. in tidal waters along the BC coast. Licenses need to be purchased by anyone 16 years of age and older before fishing.

Types of Licenses

There are annual licenses that are valid from April 1 to March 31, as well as 1-day, 3-day, and 5-day licenses for shorter trips. Special stamps may be required in addition for salmon fishing. Fees depend on duration, residency status, and age.

How to Get a License

Licenses can be purchased:

Fees (Non-Resident, 16+ years)

  • Annual License: $108.64
  • 5-day License: $32.35
  • 3-day License: $20.44
  • 1-day License: $7.53
  • Annual Salmon Stamp: $6.46 (if keeping salmon)

Recording Catches

All kept Chinook salmon and halibut must be recorded on the license. Lingcod kept in certain areas also needs recording.

Purchasing Your License

If you are a non-resident planning to fish in BC, purchasing your license online through the NRLS system is likely the easiest option. You can access the system from anywhere with internet access and a printer. After entering your information and paying, you can print out the license and required stamps immediately.

If you want to purchase in person once in BC, you can find authorized vendors on the DFO website that sell licenses. You will need a government-issued photo ID to verify your identity when purchasing. Keep in mind that for fishing halibut, non-residents must buy licenses from in-person vendors located in BC.

Additional Rules and Regulations

There are specific regulations around legal fishing areas, seasons, catch limits, and recording catches that should be reviewed. Make sure you understand all the rules for the area where you will be fishing. Failing to follow regulations could result in significant fines.

The DFO website and annual Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Guide provide key information on regulations.

What to Have on Hand While Fishing

While on the water, you must carry your printed license showing valid stamps and any recorded catches with you at all times. You also need to immediately produce it for inspection when requested by authorities. Digital copies on electronic devices are accepted, but they must display all pages.


Before saltwater fishing in BC, non-residents 16+ need to purchase an appropriate Tidal Waters Sport Fishing License and salmon stamp if keeping salmon. Recording catches is mandatory. Licenses can be obtained online, by phone, or from providers when in the province.

Additional Guidance on Purchasing Your License

Online Through the National Recreational Licensing System (NRLS)

The NRLS allows you to purchase a license from anywhere with internet access and a printer. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the NRLS website.
  2. Select “Buy a Licence”.
  3. Choose “British Columbia” then input your personal details.
  4. Select license type (duration), stamps, etc. based on your needs and qualifications. Review fees.
  5. Pay through secure checkout.
  6. Print license and stamps.

Once printed, your license is active and valid during the specified duration.

In-Person Through Independent Access Providers

Many sporting goods stores, tackle shops, and vendors located throughout BC can sell you a license in-person. Some key things to know:

  • You must show government-issued photo ID for verification.
  • Providers can charge service fees for printing and internet expenses, so confirm costs beforehand.
  • Non-residents must use in-person vendors located in BC for halibut licenses in certain areas.
  • Find authorized vendors near you on the DFO website. Call ahead to confirm inventory.

By Phone Through the DFO

You can contact the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) at 1-877-535-7307 to ask licensing questions. However, phone sales are not available. Plan to use either the online system or in-person vendors.

What to Know About License Regulations

Recreational saltwater fishing has regulations around legal fishing areas, seasons, catch limits, and recording catches. You must follow all rules posted for the area you are fishing. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

Recording Catches

  • You must record all kept chinook salmon and halibut on your license.
  • Lingcod caught in certain areas also require recording, so check regulations.
  • Recording must be done immediately and permanently in ink if no internet available.

Producing Your License

  • You must carry either a printed or digital license copy while fishing and transporting catch.
  • The license must be shown immediately upon request by authorities or you risk being fined.

Salmon Stamps

  • A salmon stamp must be purchased if you plan to keep any salmon caught, in addition to the base license.
  • The stamp must be affixed to the printed license copy or displayed on a digital copy.
  • All kept fish must adhere to legal size regulations for that species in the given area. These are posted by DFO.
  • Your charter guide will know the limits and can assist, but you are still responsible for verifying.

Possession Limits

  • Most species have limits on numbers that can be kept per person per day. These are set by DFO.
  • Again, your guide can advise but confirming daily limits is ultimately up to you.

What to Have on Hand While Fishing

While on the water, saltwater fishing, make sure you have the following:

  • Printed or digital license copy displaying valid stamps
  • Recording device (pen, paper)
  • Measurement tool to confirm legal fish sizes

Also confirm you have:

  • Layered clothing and rain gear
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Seasickness remedies if needed
  • Food, water, sunscreen
  • Camera

Saltwater Fishing Ethics and Safety

When fishing in BC, adhere to ethical practices and prioritize your safety by:

  • Respecting all size/catch regulations
  • Never littering and picking up any garbage you see
  • Watching your footing and wearing a lifejacket
  • Listening carefully to the captain or guide
  • Keeping decks clear of equipment
  • Stowing gear safely before departing

Following these guidelines preserves fish populations and the coastal environment while ensuring everyone stays safe on the water.


Saltwater fishing along the beautiful BC coast offers world-class fishing opportunities. Make sure to purchase the appropriate Tidal Waters Sport Fishing License with a salmon stamp if keeping salmon before enjoying your trip. Carry this license at all times and adhere to specific area regulations. Respect conservation limits and employ ethical practices to preserve fish populations for future generations. If you have any other questions on licensing, regulations, or your upcoming trip, don’t hesitate to ask your charter company. They want you to have an incredible experience out on the Pacific Ocean!

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