No License, No Problem! Kids Can Fish for Free.

Fishing is a beloved American pastime, enjoyed by over 49 million anglers across the country. As any seasoned fisherman knows, getting started in the sport can seem daunting for beginners, namely when it comes to purchasing licenses. Thankfully, most states offer exceptions, making it easy for parents to take kids fishing without a license.

License Exceptions for Kids

In the majority of states, children under 16 years old can fish without obtaining a license. For example, California, Texas, New York, Florida, and others waive license requirements for young anglers. However, regulations vary widely on age cutoffs and other specifics, like whether an adult license is needed when assisting a child.

Always verify your local state laws before heading out! Many states offer free or reduced-priced kids’ licenses too. And there are usually special “Free Fishing Days” for all ages, normally around major holidays.

Best Places to Take Kids Fishing

The key for first-timers is accessing beginner friendly locations. Excellent starter spots include:

  • Stocked ponds – Often found at local parks, these small bodies of water are filled with trout, catfish, bass and other catchable fish.
  • Community fishing piers – Many urban areas offer public piers perfect for all ages. These structures extend out over the water, eliminating the need for boats or wading.
  • Rivers and streams – Moving waters hold fish like trout (seasonally stocked) and smallmouth bass. Focus on slower pools and eddies for the best action.

No need to venture far either! Places like neighborhood ponds, small creeks, and lakes offer convenience right close to home.

Helpful Tips and Gear for Taking Kids Fishing

Patience is key when fishing with children. Shorter 1-2 hour trips are best suited for young ones’ attention spans. Follow these tips to make outings fun:

  • Pack snacks and non-fishing activities like exploring nature.
  • Use basic equipment – bobbers, hooks, worms/bait are easiest to master.
  • Focus on catching fish rather than size or numbers. Any fish is exciting!
  • Take photos and let kids name catches. Release most fish to fight another day.
  • Be positive through tangles, lost lures, fish “getting away” etc. It happens to all anglers.

The priority for kids is enjoying time outside making memories. Proper licensing ensures fishing opportunities exist for future generations.

Regional Examples and Regulations

While most places welcome getting kids hooked on fishing, always verify specific state and local regulations before heading out.

For example, in California, children under 16 require no license, and two annual free fishing days are offered. But all other rules around seasons, limits, and gear still apply. Adults need licenses unless fishing on public piers like Shelter Island Pier in San Diego.

In Texas, no license is needed for kids under 17 when fishing with a licensed adult. And seniors 65 and older get free lifetime licenses. Statewide, there are also special events like Free Fishing Day each June.


With some preparation and understanding of regulations, taking kids fishing makes for an easy, affordable outdoor adventure. By picking beginner access points, having reasonable expectations and focusing on fun over catches, the sport opens up. Gone are worries over licenses or cost – just quality time with a rod making memories. And maybe starting a new family tradition passed down for generations.

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