A Guide to Purchasing Your California Fishing License
Quick View: California Sportfishing License Requirements
Who Needs a Sportfishing License in California?
Any angler age 16 or older must buy a CA sportfishing license. This applies to state residents (anyone who has been living in CA continuously for six months or more) and non-residents. Licenses for residents and non-residents are sold separately.
A standard California sportfishing license is valid statewide, in both saltwater and freshwater. Every angler in your group must buy a license, even when fishing with a guide or on board a for-hire charter boat.
How Much Does a California Fishing License Cost?
California state residents and non-residents can buy 1 or 2-day licenses for the same price, but the cost of an annual license varies. Non-residents have the option to purchase a 10-day license, as well.
CA state residents who would like to indulge in a lifetime of local sportfishing can opt in for a Lifetime Fishing License. Upon purchase, you will receive an annual fishing license each year. Lifetime Fishing Licenses must be purchased at a CDFW sales office, and the cost varies depending on the age of the angler:
Hardcore anglers who want it all can also purchase a Fishing Privilege Package for $360.75 (price subject to change). This includes an Ocean Enhancement Stamp, a Lifetime Second-Rod Stamp, a North Coast Salmon Report Card, and a Steelhead Report Card.
Discount licenses are available to people who meet specific requirements, including (but not limited to) veterans and anglers who are blind, developmentally disabled, or mobility impaired. Discount licenses are usually sold for under $8. Those who qualify may need to provide proof upon application.
Exceptions to California Fishing License Requirements:
- You do not need a fishing license when casting from a public pier.
- You do not need a fishing license on designated Free Fishing Days.
- Anglers under 16 years of age do not need a CA fishing license, but may be required to carry a permit for specific species (see below).
Where can I buy a California fishing license?
You can buy a CA sportfishing license directly from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, either online or at one of their license sales offices. Please note that CDFW offices do not accept payments in cash. Walmart, Big 5 Sporting Goods, local tackle shops, and other licensed retailers also sell sportfishing licenses.
Looking for information about how to become a licensed fishing guide in California? Read our post on how to become a CA fishing guide!
How long is my California fishing license valid?
A single day license is valid on the date of purchase or on the pre-selected date of your choice if you buy your license ahead of time. Likewise, 2-day and 10-day licenses are only valid on specified dates.
An annual California fishing license is only valid during the calendar year of purchase. This means that your annual license will expire after December 31st of the current year, no matter when you buy it.
What else do I need to bring?
Anglers fishing for Steelhead, Spiny Lobster, and Sturgeon in California are required to purchase the appropriate report cards. A North Coast Salmon report card is also mandatory when fishing for Salmon in the Klamath, Trinity, and Smith Rivers.
Species requiring a report card in California:
*(This list also includes Abalone in years when it is legal to harvest).
All recreational anglers must carry report cards when fishing for these species, including those who are not required to buy a sport fishing license (such as anglers fishing from a public pier, people under 16 years old, etc.)
Note: Remember to return your report card to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife by January 31 of the following year (Spiny Lobster Report Cards must be reported after Lobster season closes, by April 30). You can report your card online or mail it to the address specified on the card.
Ocean Enhancement Validation
Anglers planning to fish in ocean waters south of Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County need to buy an Ocean Enhancement Validation ($5.40). If you already have a 1 or 2-day sport fishing license, this validation is not necessary.
Second Rod Validation
A Second Rod Validation ($15.12) allows an angler to use two rods or lines while fishing in inland waters. This validation does not apply to waters where anglers are required to use only barbless hooks and artificial lures.
Fishing in Interstate Waters
California has a number of fishing spots shared by neighboring states, including Lake Tahoe, Topaz Lake, and the Colorado River. A CA sport fishing license is valid when fishing in all of these waters. You can also fish in Lake Tahoe or Topaz Lake while carrying a Nevada license, with a Trout stamp. Anglers fishing in the Colorado River along the California-Arizona border can carry either a California or Arizona fishing license.
What if I misplace my California fishing license?
Lost your fishing license? You can buy a Duplicate Sport Fishing License for $10.80 (price subject to change). Duplicate licenses are sold online and in CDFW license sales offices.
You can also replace your Ocean Enhancement and Second Rod Validations for $3.24.
Replacement Sturgeon Report Cards cost $15.45 (sold only in CDFW license sales offices).
Now that you’re ready to buy your CA fishing license, it’s time to get back to the good stuff: fishing!
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