Fine for Fishing Without a License [How Much Is It?]

Fishing is a thrilling adventure that everyone should experience. However, in the U.S., you cannot just fish anywhere without a license; you could get a big fine. So, how much is the fine for fishing without a license?

On average, the fine for fishing without a license ranges from $15 to $12,000. These fees may include a $5 to $1,000 penalty for each fish caught.

If you’re required to report to the state’s county clerk, you will have to pay too for the cost of the lawsuit. In cases when you can’t pay the fine, you could end up in jail.

Read on to learn more about the fines for fishing without a license in different states and the requirements to acquire a license.

Fine for Fishing Without a License

fine for fishing without a license

On average, the fine for fishing without a license ranges from $15 to $12,000. The fine for fishing without a license in the United States varies from state to state.

These fines may be inclusive of each fish caught ($5 – $1,000 each). The court may also require you to pay for the lawsuit. Failure to pay these fees could mean ending up in jail.

Instead of worrying about a fine coming your way when you go fishing, you should get a fishing license instead to avoid paying excessive fines. Here are penalties for fishing without a license in some states.

Typically, anglers fishing from for-hire boats are exempted from licensing and registration. Nonetheless, you have to verify for each state before embarking on a fishing expedition, as state fishing laws can differ from state to state.

Fine for Fishing Without a License in the Different States

1. California

In California, this fine ranges from $485 to $1,000, and $1,000 for each illegally caught fish, plus court fees. You could end up in jail, too, if you don’t pay the required fines.

To avoid a fine for fishing without a license in California, you should get your immediately get it as soon as you reached 16 years of age. An annual license for saltwater fishing in California for residents costs around $43; for non-residents, it’s about $130.

2. Iowa

What happens if you get caught fishing without a license in Iowa? A fine in Iowa is around $15 per fish and $1,000 per endangered species, not including the fine itself, depending on the presiding officer. You could also pay court fees if you cannot settle it at the onset.

A purchase of an annual fishing license for $14 will allow non-resident and resident anglers to fish with two lines. A 3-year fishing license will cost only $62.

3. Pennsylvania

A no fishing license fine would cost you a base fine in Pennsylvania, which is $75, with a possible $20 per fish illegally caught. For state residents aged 16 to 64, the fishing license costs $22.90.

If you want to save on cost, you may wish to purchase the multi-year license (3 to 5 years.) The discount is possible because you will pay the processing fee of $3.80 only in the first year and not the succeeding years. You could also save another $3.80 by adding a trout permit.

With a multi-year license, you’re eligible for a free online subscription to Pennsylvania’s flagship angler and boater magazine and some discount coupons on various purchases.

4. Massachusetts

State law in Massachusetts requires fines from $50 to $100, up to a 30-day jail time, or both. You could also pay a penalty of $5 per fish and $2,000 for an endangered fish species.

A marine fishing license will cost $10 for residents and non-residents over the age of 16. For year-long freshwater licenses, it would cost $37.50 for non-residents and $27.50 for residents. They should possess a valid C.T., MA, NH, or R.I. marine fishing license for anglers.

5. Florida

In Florida, the fine ranges from a value equal to the license cost plus $50. If you’re a repeat offender for the past 36 months, you will have to pay $100 plus the license cost.

The fines should not be more than $500 and not less than $50, and you can pay the fine within 30 days or attend your hearing before the county clerk.

When you’re caught fishing without a license, the law officer will issue a citation for you to appear before the county clerk. You will have to accept and sign the citation.

The county court will decide your penalties and fine you accordingly. However, if you can produce a valid fishing license when the officer issued your citation, you will pay only a $10-court fee.

Also, note that if you fail to appear before a county court, refuse the citation, or fail to pay your fine, you will have to pay an additional fine of $500+ and spend up to 60 days in jail. This is because this violation is considered a second-degree misdemeanor.

You will need a Florida fishing license if you’re a resident aged 16 to 65. For non-residents, you will need a license for people above 16 years old.

Florida Fishing License Exemptions:

Here are some of Florida’s exemptions. You will have to verify again before embarking on your fishing expedition because there could be changes.

The exemptions are similar to other states:

  • Florida residents who are permanently disabled
  • Children under 16 years old
  • Adults 65 years old and above
  • Residents fishing on their own homestead
  • Minor children fishing on a parent’s homestead
  • Qualified military personnel

6. Texas

fishing without a license fine

Texas is quite strict with violations of fish and wildlife laws. If you’re caught fishing without a license, the penalty could range from $25 to $500. If a park ranger catches you, you could be fined $175.

Ensure that you have a valid license before fishing. If you’re a resident, you could get a year-round freshwater fishing package for $30, and you can add $5 for the saltwater fishing package.

If you’re a non-resident, you can obtain the year-round freshwater fishing package for $58 and the saltwater package for $63.

Note that you have to comply with the fish’s length and the number of fish you’re allowed to catch. You can inquire from the Texas Parks and Wildlife staff.

Just like other states, discounts are granted to seniors and other qualified residents.

7. New York

New York’s penalty for fishing and hunting without a license varies from $0 to $250 and up to 15-day incarceration. The judge decides whether your reasons are valid or not.

If you’re 16 or older, you must register for an anglers’ no-fee recreational marine fishing. The cost of a year-long freshwater license for non-residents is $50, and for residents, it is $25. [1]

Free License

The recipients of free licenses are similar in most states, so that you can refer to this list for other states. You have to double-check, though, before you go fishing as some exemptions may no longer exist:

  • New York State residents, who are on leave for not more than 30 days, from being a full-time active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces outside of New York;
  • Legally blind New York residents with a doctor’s certification issued for the License Issuing Agent;
  • Active service members of the NYS Organized Militia or U.S. Reserve Forces, such as the National Guard, who are New York residents;
  • Native Americans, such as the Poospatuck and Shinnecock tribes or the Six Nations residing on New York State reservations; and
  • Resident patients at state-funded facilities, such as the U.S. Department Veteran’s Affairs hospital. You can obtain your free fishing license through the facility itself.

8. New Jersey

Anyone found fishing without a valid license will be liable to a $10-penalty plus costs. You could also be charged $100 per fish for each violation and could add up to around $12,000.

Residents can get a 1-year freshwater license for $22.50 and non-residents for $34. If you want to add a trout stamp, it is worth $10.50 and $20, respectively.

All anglers 16 years and older who want to fish in New Jersey’s marine water must register with the no-fee recreational marine fishing registry.

This registration is incorporated with the nationwide database of the National Marine Fishing Service.

Again, what is the fine for fishing without a license? The fine for fishing without a license in the different states in the U.S. is similar in some aspects. The fine for fishing without a license in the U.S. is between $15 and $12,000, including a $20 to $1,000 or less fine for each fish caught.

If you go to court, you will have to pay too for the lawsuit as well. In cases of non-payment, the court could incarcerate you.

Most states grant exemptions or discounts to people with disabilities, kids under the age of 16 (or 14 in some states), senior citizens, veterans, and active military personnel.

9. Maine

The penalty for fishing without a license in Maine could range from $50 and above.

Whether you’re a resident or a non-resident, you need to get a fishing license if you plan to go fishing in Maine.

Previously, the state required residents aged 16 to 65 years to obtain a fishing license.

In an update, the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has offered lifetime fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses to 15 years or younger residents and 65 or older. However, you have to register your fishing vessel first.

For individuals with a marine freshwater license, the residents’ registration cost is $25, and for non-residents, $64. [2]

10. Delaware

Any violations in Delaware’s state parks’ rules and regulations may result in a $50 to $250 fine. If you’re a second offender, the state park can charge you up to $500.

Delaware’s fishing license costs $20 for non-residents and $8.50 for residents. Some exceptions are senior residents age over 65 and children under the age of 16.

If you have a valid Delaware fishing vehicle permit, you’re exempted, too, as long as your vehicle is located in the state’s designated park surf fishing area. 

11. Connecticut

no fishing license fine

Fishing in Connecticut without a license can cost you around $50 to $500, depending on your violation and the surrounding circumstances.

The fishing license fee is $10 for residents age 16 to 64 years. The fee for non-residents age 16 and older is $15.

If you want a one-year freshwater fishing license, it costs $55 for non-residents and $28 for residents. For all waters, the fee is $63 for non-residents and $32 for residents.

12. Maryland

When you’re caught violating Maryland’s DNR citations laws, you may pay up to $1,000 at the court’s discretion. This law applies only to first offenders. You would pay more than that for a second offense.

A year-long freshwater/non-tidal license costs $30.50 for non-residents and $20.50 for resident anglers. If you want a trout stamp, you will have to add $10 for non-residents and $5 for residents.

Residents who are 16 years and older should register with the no-fee recreational marine fishing registry.

This registry is included in the nationwide database of the National Marine Fishing Service for recreational anglers. If you have a Virginia license, Maryland will honor it. [3]

How Can You Get a Fishing License in the US?

The U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service Office issues fishing licenses. Nevertheless, you can buy your fishing license directly through the following:

  • Phone
  • Online
  • At retail establishments (such as Walmart)

Using your photo I.D. and proof of residency, you can quickly get a reference number first to start fishing. You can get your actual license later.

US Fishing License Requirements

  • Photo ID
  • Proof of residence (Utility bill or Driver’s License)
  • Application

Conclusion – Fishing Without a License Fine

In the U.S., the fine for fishing without a license ranges from $15 to $12,000, including the penalty for each fish caught, ranging from $5 to $1,000 each. You may have to pay court fees as well. If you don’t settle the penalties, you may end up in jail.

Fishing is fun, and everyone should try it at least once. However, you cannot fish just anywhere in the U.S. You need a fishing license in each state. Some states share the same license because they have the same body of water.

If you plan to fish in many states, you may want to obtain a national fishing license applicable to these states. Thus, get a valid license first before embarking on your fishing journey.

Related reading:

Walmart Fishing License Cost and How to Get One?

Where to Get a Fishing License? And How to Get It?

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat in NY?