Fishing Regulations in California

If you intend to take a fishing trip to California, or if you simply want to learn more about a new hobby, you should familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations that apply to the waters of this state before you leave. You should respect aquatic wildlife in the same way that you would respect wildlife in any other region of the United States of America in order to preserve its beauty for future generations.

In a nutshell, California has two sets of regulations, including freshwater licenses and saltwater licenses, which are distinct from one another. You should purchase one that is appropriate for the type of fishing activity that you intend to participate in.


If you are over the age of 16 and want to catch any kind of fish, mollusk, invertebrate, amphibian, or crustacean, you must first obtain a sport fishing license from your local government. It is not necessary to comply with the rule when fishing from a public pier in ocean or bay waters. Furthermore, a fishing license is required for catching reptiles, with the exception of rattlesnakes, which are exempt from this requirement.

Anglers who do not require a sports fishing license, such as those under the age of 16 or those who fish on Free Fishing Days, are required to submit a report card if they catch salmon, steelhead, or sturgeon on the North Coast. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife requires that these report cards be submitted online or returned to the department by January 31 of the following year.

The purchased license that is issued through the Automatic License Data System is printed on a thermal paper that is both durable and long-lasting in nature. There are no stains or tears on the permit because it is completely waterproof and stain proof. For your convenience, each license has a permanent ID number printed on the front that can be used to retrieve your personal information if necessary.

It costs $47.01 to purchase a resident sport fishing license, which applies to both saltwater and freshwater licenses. In addition to the $126.62 fee for non-residents, the cost of a lifetime sport fishing license ranges from $518.25 to $846.75, depending on the age of the holder. There are free sport fishing licenses available for blind people, low-income Native Americans, and disabled people who meet certain requirements.

Obtaining a sport fishing license and report card can be done online at the following website:, or by calling the number listed above. The permit will be delivered to you by mail within 15 days of your purchase.

A brief overview of the prohibited acts that you must take into consideration before going fishing in the state of California’s waters is presented below.


  • There is an agreement between 26 American states known as the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which allows for the recognition of hunting, fishing, and trapping license suspensions on a reciprocal basis between the states. If you have had your privileges suspended in another state, it is possible that the suspension will be recognized in the state of California.
  • If you are 16 years of age or older, it is illegal to fish without a valid fishing license in your possession.
  • If you do not return the report card by the deadline specified on the card, you may be subject to a fine of a certain amount.
  • You are not permitted to transfer your license, tags, validation, or reservations to another person under any circumstances whatsoever.
  • Any license, tag, permit, application, or reservation that has been altered, mutilated, duplicated, or counterfeited is strictly prohibited.
  • On a free-fishing day, you will not be able to catch any fish unless you have the required report card.
  • In California, it is illegal to cause deterioration or waste of any fish in the state’s waters, according to the state’s legislation.


Other angling regulations that should be brought to your attention include:


  • If you are asked to show your license, tags, validations, permits, or applications to a peace officer or an authorized California Department of Fish and Wildlife employee, you must always comply with their request.
  • Littering into or within 150 feet of state waters is strictly prohibited by law, and you should be aware of this fact.
  • The use of explosives in bodies of water where there are fish is prohibited by law.

In the event of non-compliance with these rules and regulations, the authorities may impose penalties ranging from fines to the permanent suspension of a sports fishing license.