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California Fishing License Guide

a group of people standing next to a person holding a fish
Fishing is a popular pastime in California, with its beautiful coastline and abundance of lakes and rivers. However, before you can cast your line, you need to make sure you have a valid fishing license. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about getting a fishing license in California.

Why Do I Need a Fishing License?

A fishing license is required for anyone over the age of 16 who wants to fish in California’s waters. This includes both residents and non-residents. The license fees go towards conservation efforts and maintaining the state’s fish populations.

How Much Does a Fishing License Cost in California?

The cost of a fishing license in California varies depending on several factors, including your age, residency status, and the type of license you need. Here is a breakdown of the different license options and their costs:

  • Resident Annual Sport Fishing License: $52.66
  • Non-Resident Annual Sport Fishing License: $142.05
  • One-Day Sport Fishing License: $17.02
  • Two-Day Sport Fishing License: $26.49
  • Ten-Day Non-Resident Sport Fishing License: $52.66
  • Lifetime Fishing License: $1,005.25
  • Reduced-Fee Sport Fishing License: $7.73 (for low-income individuals)

Where Can I Purchase a Fishing License?

You can purchase a fishing license in California in several ways:

  • Online: You can purchase a fishing license online through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website. This is the most convenient option, as you can print your license immediately after purchase.
  • In Person: You can also purchase a fishing license in person at any of the hundreds of license agents throughout the state. These include sporting goods stores, bait and tackle shops, and even some grocery stores.
  • By Mail: You can also purchase a fishing license by mail by filling out a form and sending it to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

What Information Do I Need to Purchase a Fishing License?

When purchasing a fishing license, you will need to provide some personal information, including your name, address, and date of birth. You will also need to provide your social security number, if you have one, and your driver’s license number. If you are purchasing a reduced-fee license, you will need to provide proof of your low-income status.

Do I Need a Separate License for Ocean Fishing?

If you plan on fishing in the ocean, you will need a separate license called an Ocean Enhancement Validation. This validation costs an additional $5.12 and is required for anyone fishing in ocean waters south of Point Arguello.

What Are the Fishing Regulations in California?

Before you head out on your fishing trip, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations in California. These regulations are in place to protect the state’s fish populations and ensure sustainable fishing practices.

Some of the most important regulations to be aware of include:

  • Bag and Possession Limits: These limits specify the number of fish you can catch and keep in a single day and the maximum number you can have in your possession at any time.
  • Size Limits: Some species of fish have size limits, meaning they must be a certain size to be kept.
  • Closed Seasons: Certain species of fish have closed seasons, meaning they cannot be caught during specific times of the year to allow for breeding and population growth.
  • Gear Restrictions: There are restrictions on the types of gear you can use for fishing in California, including the use of barbed hooks and certain types of nets.

It’s essential to check the current regulations before each fishing trip, as they can change from year to year.

Where Can I Go Fishing in California?

California offers a wide variety of fishing opportunities, from freshwater lakes and rivers to the Pacific Ocean. Some popular fishing spots in California include:

  • Dana Wharf Sportfishing: Located in Dana Point, this fishing charter offers trips for both beginners and experienced anglers. They provide all the necessary equipment and have knowledgeable guides to help you catch fish.
  • Lake Tahoe: This beautiful lake on the California-Nevada border is known for its crystal-clear waters and abundance of trout and salmon.
  • San Francisco Bay: The San Francisco Bay is a popular spot for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. You can catch a variety of species, including striped bass, halibut, and sturgeon.
  • Mammoth Lakes: This area in the Sierra Nevada mountains is home to several lakes and streams, making it a popular spot for trout fishing.

a person holding a fish on a boat

What Equipment Do I Need for Fishing in California?

The type of equipment you need for fishing in California will depend on the type of fishing you plan on doing. Some essential items to have include:

  • Fishing Rod and Reel: The type of rod and reel you need will depend on the type of fish you are targeting and the location you are fishing in.
  • Tackle: This includes hooks, sinkers, and lures, which are used to attract fish to your line.
  • Bait: You can use live bait, such as worms or minnows, or artificial bait, such as plastic worms or spinners.
  • Fishing License: As mentioned earlier, a valid fishing license is required for anyone over the age of 16 in California.
  • Appropriate Clothing: Depending on the location and time of year, you may need to dress in layers or bring rain gear.
  • Cooler: If you plan on keeping your catch, you will need a cooler to transport it home.


Fishing in California is a popular and enjoyable activity, but it’s essential to have a valid fishing license before you hit the water. By following the guidelines outlined in this guide, you can ensure you have all the necessary information and equipment for a successful fishing trip in California. So grab your gear and get ready to reel in some fish!