How much does a California Fishing License Cost?

A few weekends ago I decided to take my son fishing. Thinking about what I needed to take, I knew I had the fishing gear (besides bait) but I didn’t have a fishing license.

So I started “googling” the cost of a fishing license and how to obtain one.

From here I started to look into the cost of a license, requirements, regulations, and how to obtain one.

So, how much does a California fishing license cost? Like many other states, California has varying prices for each of the different kinds of licenses depending on types of fishing. Pricing is relatively cheap, ranging between $16.46 for a one day license to $51 for an annual license. There are also discounts for veterans and low-income Native Americans.

There are many different types of licenses and regulations for each state.

It’s important to keep an eye out on the regulations. They do seem to change from time to time.

If you want to know more about the cost of each license, where and how you can purchase one in California, keep reading below.

Cost of Fishing Licenses in California

If you under 16 years old you do not require a fishing license.

16 years and above you will need to hold a fishing license.

Annual Sport Fishing Licenses 

Tile Fee
Resident Sport Fishing $51.02
Nonresident Sport Fishing $137.73
Reduced-Fee Sport Fishing License
– Disabled Veteran
$7.73 at CDFW Offices
$8.13 from License Agents
Reduced-Fee Sport Fishing License
– Recovering Service Member
$7.73 at CDFW Offices
$8.13 from License Agents
Reduced Fee Sport Fishing License
– Low Income Senior
Free Sport Fishing License
– Low Income Native American
Free Sport Fishing License
– Mobility Impaired, Blind or Developmentally Disabled
Source; CDFW website 

California Short Term Sport Fishing Licenses 

Title Fee
One-day Sport Fishing License $16.46
Two-day Sport Fishing License $25.66
Ten-day Nonresident Sport Fishing License $51.02
Source; CDFW website 

California Lifetime Fishing Licenses

Title Fee
Ages 0-9
Ages 10-39
Ages 40-61
Ages 62+
Fishing Privilege Package Includes a Lifetime Second-Rod Stamp, Ocean Enhancement Stamp, North Coast Salmon Report Card, and Steelhead Report Card.
Source; CDFW website 

Like other states, California does provide discounts to our disabled and recovering military veterans.

Veterans will need to qualify for the discount by applying through the CDFW, not through licensing agents.

Discounts also apply to low-income seniors, must be over 65 years old, and meet federal government poverty guidelines.

To apply seniors must apply through the CDFW, not through licensing agents.

For the disabled/impaired and native low income that meets federal government poverty guidelines.

Applications must be made through the CDFW, not through licensing agents.

California Free Fishing Days

If you are wanting to try out fishing, California is encouraging budding anglers with two free fishing days each year.

The dates do vary each year, however, they generally fall in July and September.

However, the free fishing days exclude

    • steelhead
    • sturgeon
    • or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity River Systems.

Where can you purchase California Fishing Licenses 

Fishing licenses can be purchased online from California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)

You can also purchase a license through independent agents. One of these is Walmart.

Check out this article detailing how to buy a license from Walmart

To purchase a license for yourself, you must provide your name, residence address, residency status, (DMV ID, passport, green card, military ID, etc.), date of birth, height, weight, hair color, and eye color.

Processing is immediate, you will receive your fishing license online, which can be printed.

The official laminated version will be posted in the mail and should receive within 30 days.

Before you do press the buy button, perform a final check of the license type, CDFW does not provide refunds or reimbursements.

California Fishing Regulations 

Regardless of fishing in fresh or saltwater, you are required to hold a valid fishing license if you are over 16 years old and above.

All fish be taken by angling with one attended fishing line (rod or hand) with no more than three hooks, or no more than 3 artificial lures (each having 3 hooks).

If you have any questions or concerns about the rules and regulations for fishing check out California Ocean Sport Regulations

General Fishing Regulations 

Being a great angler involves treating fish and the environment respectfully.

Below are some general fishing regulations and tips that apply to any waterway regardless of where you are fishing.

Taking care of fish 

Handle fish as little as possible and only with wet hands. This reduces the removal of fish slime, which protects the fish from infection and aids in swimming.

When holding a fish that has teeth, use a gripping tool to support the front of the fish, and use the other hand under the belly to evenly support the fish’s weight.

Carefully remove the hook if possible. If the fish is gut-hooked or especially large or agitated, cut the line as close to the hook as you can while the fish is still in the water.

Reduce handling by using a dehooking tool. Dehooking tools allow anglers to quickly release their catch while minimizing injuries and handling time.

You should never hold a fish by its jaw, gills or eyes.

Releasing Fish

Always release your fish headfirst into the water. This allows water to be forced through the mouth and over the gills, essentially giving it a “breath of fresh air.”

Using proper gear 

Use tackle that is appropriate for the size and type of fish. For example, light gear can result in a fish dying of exhaustion or stress soon after its release.

A knotless, rubber-coated landing net is ideal when handling a fish since it supports the fish’s body weight.

Stay with your lines, so as you catch a fish you can retrieve it as soon as possible, minimizing stress and injury to the fish.

Disposing of you fish

It’s important to get into the practice to immediately kill the fish you intend on keeping. Many anglers keep the fish in a bucket of water. This causes a slow death to the fish as the water slowly runs out of oxygen.

  1. Dispatch them with a quick blow to the head.
  2. Place the dead fish in an esky or iced areas, out of sunlight.

Practice sustainable fishing practices 

We all have a responsibility to look after our fisheries resources, both for the environment and future fishing generations.

Keep up to date on the fishing regulations. They do change from time to time.

Carefully release undersized or unwanted fish back into the water.

Respect native sites, culture, and values

If you catch noxious species, remember not to return them to the water. Humanely dispose of them,

Always seek permission when entering private property.

Pass on your knowledge and promote sustainable fishing practices.

Important that we leave to protect and restore the environment. Dispose of fishing lines, excess bait, hooks by placing it in bins.

Fish to Catch in California

California has a large diverse range of fish species.

The availability of these fish many depend on seasonality and regulations allow you to catch the fish.

    • Abalone
    • Billfishes
    • California Halibut
    • California Spiny Lobster
    • Crabs
    • Groundfish (includes rockfish species)
    • Grunion
    • Jack Mackerel
    • Kelp Bass
    • Market Squid
    • Northern Anchovy
    • Ocean Salmon
    • Pacific Halibut
    • Pacific Mackerel
    • Pacific Sardine
    • Record Fish and Invertebrates
    • Sharks
    • Striped Bass
    • Surfperch
    • Tunas
    • White Seabass Head Drop-off Locations
    • White Seabass

Final Thoughts

Going fishing is an inexpensive and fun way to spend time, either by yourself or with friends or family.

Going fishing is an inexpensive and fun way to spend time, either by yourself or with friends or family.

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