Ultimate Guide to Getting Your California Fishing License

Last Updated on June 2, 2023

If you want to fish in California, get ready to jump through some hoops; this is coming from someone who gets their California fishing license every year.

That being said, even though the requirements and fishing regulations may be more extensive than in most states, California really is one of the best and most beautiful places to fish.

From the Klamath River way up north in bigfoot country to fishing off a pier in Santa Cruz (which you can do for free, by the way), abiding by all of California’s rules really is worth it.

Going fishing in Wisconsin? Then give a read to our Best Bass Fishing Lakes in California review.

Who Needs a Fishing License in California

CA Fishing License Age RequirementsResidentsNon-Residents

In California, a sport fishing license is required for anyone attempting to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians, or reptiles in inland or ocean waters, including catch and release. 

Depending on the species and area that you are fishing in, additional validations and report cards may be needed.

What Age do you Need a Fishing License in California

The age requirement for fishing in California for residents and non-residents are the same, it should be noted what the state considers to be a resident.


Residents over the age of 16 will need a fishing license to fish in the state of California. 

A person is considered a resident in the state of California if they have lived there for the last six months. Active members of the military and Job Corps enrollees are also considered residents.


Any non-resident over the age of 16 needs a fishing license in the state of California. 

A non-resident is anyone coming to fish from out of state or has lived in the state for less than six months. 

California 365-Day Sport Fishing Licenses 

fishing on a river

The California 365-Day Sport Fishing Licenses are licenses that allow fishing in California for one year. 

If you buy your license between November 15th and December 31st, it will be valid until the end of December of the following year. 

Licenses purchased after January 1st will last 365 days from the date of purchase.

How to Buy a CA Fishing License 

Fishing licenses in California can be purchased either online or in person at a local retailer, such as a local tackle shop, or at a local California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) office.

Some licenses and duplicates of report cards are only available to purchase (or pay duplication fee) in person at a CDFW License Sales Office:

How to Buy a CA Fishing License Online

To purchase a CA fishing license online, you can go to the CDFW website to apply and purchase your license.

Once purchased, you will be able to download and print a temporary license until your official tag comes in the mail, usually within 15 days. 

If you don’t receive your license in the mail within 15 days of purchasing, the CDFW recommends contacting them.

If you don’t contact them within 90 days of your purchase, you will be required to purchase a duplicate sport fishing license.

How to Buy a CA Fishing License at a Local Retailer

You can purchase a California fishing license in person at any license agent or from a CDFW license sales office during regular business hours. 

How Much is a Fishing License in California?

pier on a California beach

The California fishing license cost varies for residents and non-residents and depends on the type of fishing license being purchased. 

All purchases include a 5% charge for licensed agents and a 3% fee that is not refundable.

Standard Fishing License California
Fishing License TitlePriceLicense Privileges
Resident Sport Fishing$58.58Annual resident fishing licenses are available for any resident 16 years of age or older.
Nonresident Sport Fishing$158.25Available for non-residents 16 years of age or older.
Reduced-Fee Sport Fishing License – Disabled Veteran$9.01 at CDFW Offices$9.46 from License AgentsAnnual fishing license for honorably discharged disabled veterans with a 50% or greater service-connected disability, regardless of residency.
Reduced-Fee Sport Fishing License – Recovering Service Member$9.01 at CDFW Offices$9.46 from License AgentsAnnual fishing license to recovering US military service members, regardless of residency.
Reduced Fee Sport Fishing License –Low Income Senior$9.01Reduced-fee annual sport fishing licenses are available for California residents 65 years of age and older who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Cash Assistance Program for Aged, Blind, and Disabled Legal Immigrants (CAPI).
Free Sport Fishing License – Low Income Native AmericanFreeAnnual fishing license to Native American residents who are unable to pay the fee required for a resident sport fishing license.
Free Sport Fishing License – Mobility Impaired, Blind or Developmentally DisabledFreeCalifornia residents who are blind, developmentally disabled, or mobility impaired are eligible for a reduced-fee annual sport fishing license.

California Lifetime Fishing Licenses 

Lifetime California fishing licenses are available only to residents of the state, with prices varying by age. 

These licenses do not include any validation or report cards which must be purchased separately.

While lifetime licenses in California do not have an annual fee, they do need to be renewed every year.

Lifetime Fishing Licenses
Fishing License TitlePriceLicense Privileges
Ages 0-9$644.50The Lifetime Fishing License entitles the angler to a sport fishing license each year for the remainder of their life.
Ages 10-39$1054.25
Ages 40-61$949.75
Ages 62+$644.50
Fishing Privilege Package$435.50Includes a Lifetime Second-Rod Validation, Ocean Enhancement Validation, North Coast Salmon Report Card and Steelhead Report Card. 
The Second-Rod Validation and Ocean Enhancement Validation are valid for 365 days from the date of issuance.

California Validation and Report Cards 

Anyone fishing for steelhead, sturgeon, abalone, spiny lobster, or salmon in the Klamath, Trinity, and Smith Rivers must have a report card.

This includes those not usually required to have a sport fishing license, such as children under the age of 16, people fishing from a public pier, and anyone fishing on a free fishing day.

California Validation and Report Cards
Report Card TitlePriceReport Card Requirement
Ocean Enhancement Validation$6.74Those fishing in ocean waters south of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County) must have an Ocean Enhancement Validation to legally fish. This validation card is not required if the angler is fishing with a One or Two-Day Sport Fishing License.
Second Rod Validation$18.36For those wishing to fish with two rods or lines in inland waters, a Second Rod Validation is required, except for waters where only artificial lures or barbless hooks may be used.
Recreational Crab Trap Validation$2.73Required for any person taking crabs with crab traps, but it is unnecessary when taking crabs with hoop nets or crab loop traps.
Abalone Report Card$28.08Required for any person taking abalone from ocean waters north of the center of the mouth of San Francisco Bay. Only one Abalone Report Card may be issued per person each license year. * The fishery is currently closed
Sturgeon Fishing Report Card$10.29Required for any person fishing for sturgeon. Only one Sturgeon Fishing Report Card may be issued per person each year
North Coast Salmon Report Card$8.13Required for any person fishing for salmon in the Smith River System or Klamath-Trinity River System.
Steelhead Report Card$9.21Required for any person fishing for steelhead in inland waters.
Spiny Lobster Report Card $10.80Required for anyone fishing for spiny lobster. Report card holders who fail to return their Spiny Lobster Report Card or report their harvest online by April 30th will get a $21.60 non-return fee the following season. This card is valid for the entire lobster fishing season.

Short-term California Fishing Licenses

California offers short-term licenses that allow residents and non-residents alternative options to the annual sport fishing license. 


Short-Term Sport Fishing License California
Fishing License TitlePriceLicense Privileges
One-day Sport Fishing License$19.18Available to residents as well as non-residents. One-day fishing licenses are exempt from the Ocean Enhancement Validation requirement.
Two-day Sport Fishing License$29.42Allows both residents and non-residents to fish for two consecutive days. This license is exempt from the Ocean Enhancement Validation requirement.
Ten-day Nonresident Sport Fishing License$58.58Allows fishing for ten consecutive days. Non-residents only.

California License Duplicate Fees

If any licenses, validation, or report cards are lost and you need to get a duplicate, there are separate fees for that. 

Duplicate Fees
Fishing License TitlePriceDescription
Duplicate Sport Fishing License$12.96Replacement for a lost or stolen sport fishing license.
Sport Fishing Validation$3.50Replaces a lost or stolen sport fishing validation such as second-Rod, Ocean Enhancement or Recreational Crab Trap.
Sturgeon Report Card$17.51Replaces lost or stolen Sturgeon Report Card. Available only at CDFW license sales offices.
Abalone Report Card$20.60Replacement for lost or stolen Abalone Report Card. *This fishery is currently closed

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to get a free fishing license in California?

In order to get a free fishing license in California, the angler needs to be developmentally disabled.

A developmental disability is defined as a severe and chronic disability that starts before reaching 18 years old. 

Examples include intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and conditions similar to intellectual disability or requiring similar treatment.

Certification by a licensed physician or the Director of a State Regional Center is required.

What do you need to get a California fishing license?

What you need to get a California fishing license is one of the following items to prove your identity, age, and residency:

– Go ID
– Passport
– Driver’s License/State ID
– Green Card
– Military ID
– Foreign Government ID

Where can you fish in California without a license?

You can fish in California without a license anywhere on free fishing days. These days vary every year but can be found on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website. 

Anglers are also able to fish from a public pier without a license. 

However, unlike most states, a CA fishing license is still required, even if you are fishing on private property.

Final Thoughts

Buying a fishing license not only allows you to fish legally in the state, but it also funds valuable environmental education programs and wildlife conservation efforts.

It’s important we anglers take responsibility for making sure that fishing with an expired license doesn’t happen—not just to avoid fines but also because of the vital role licenses play in protecting our natural resources.

After you’ve purchased your California fishing license, download our free bass lure cheat sheet. 

We designed this free guide so anglers like yourself always know what lure to throw, no matter where you’re fishing.