Does Everyone On A Boat Need A Fishing License? | LakeWizard

Key Takeaways

  • All passengers on a private boat who want to fish need fishing licenses.
  • Even simple fishing assistance like bating hooks requires a license.
  • Fishing licenses last a day or up to around a year.
  • Night fishing is legal in almost all places that regular day fishing is allowed.

Fishing license rules differ across states, so it's crucial to remain informed to ensure legal compliance for you and your passengers.

A fishing license is needed for every individual aboard the boat intending to remove fish from the water. Certain exceptions apply depending on the state/location, such as state parks and charter boats catering to large groups for leisure purposes.

As seasoned anglers with decades of combined experience, we have navigated the ins and outs of fishing regulations across various states. Our expertise and dedication to responsible fishing practices ensure that the advice we provide is reliable and up-to-date, helping you enjoy your fishing adventures with peace of mind.

Table of contents


Fishing Licenses With Multiple Passengers

As the boat owner, you should always double-check with the relevant government bodies or offices for the region you hope to visit to make sure you're following the license requirements.

Fishing licenses can be purchased online.

We are huge supporters of proper fishing licensure because these rules are in place to preserve natural resources, keeping lakes and other bodies of water healthy and full of life for future generations.

In coastal states, there can be a separate saltwater fishing license to fish saltwater fish that have different conservation needs than freshwater fishing does.

Stay informed of the latest policy developments and regulations to avoid any unexpected surprises.

They often change year-to-year!

Do My Passengers Need a Fishing License on the Boat If They're Not Fishing?

No. Definitely not. Across all U.S. states, a fishing license is only necessary for those who intend to fish.

However, if someone on the vessel actively contributes to the catch, they might also need a license.

This nuance often confuses novice fishermen; contributing can have a broad definition in the eyes of the law.

For instance, if they're preparing bait or taking the catch off the hook, a valid fishing license is required. Assisting with the process is considered fishing in terms of licensing.

Even if a passenger anticipates they might want to fish, it's advisable to secure the license before boarding. It's way better to have it and not need it than risk breaking the rules, right?

It can be irksome to have an additional person on board who cannot fish due to a lack of license—so ensure all are ready before setting sail!

Fishing licenses are generally affordable, ranging from $10 to $30.

Do I Need a Fishing License to Help My Child Fish in California?

Yes, you absolutely need a license to help your child fish in California.

If you're actively assisting your child with fishing activities, such as baiting hooks or handling the fishing rod, you are considered to be engaging in fishing, as we explained above, and will need a valid fishing license.

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for both you and your child, secure the necessary license beforehand and enjoy your time together while respecting the state's fishing regulations.

Check out the official website of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for the most current prices and information.

Is Anyone Exempt From Fishing Licenses In California?

There are a few situations where someone might not need a California fishing license.

Individuals under the age of 16 do not require a fishing license.

Additionally, on designated "Free Fishing Days" throughout the year, both residents and non-residents can fish without a license.

It is always a good idea to check the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website for specific dates and any other exemptions that may apply before planning your fishing trip.

If you're looking at fishing charters and their crew, make sure the company has obtained a Vessel Master Boat License and Saltwater License or Freshwater License from California's Department of Fish & Wildlife.

That way, you and your party won't need individual licenses; the charter’s boat registration covers it for everyone.

Is Night Fishing Illegal?

There are no rules against night fishing!

Most states do not impose limits on when you can go out and angle for fish.

It's the perfect way to get away from it all, enjoy some peace and quiet, and take home a delicious dinner.

Don't miss your chance – cast your line after dark!

Some species, such as salmon, may have designated hours for fishing in specific locations; however, these regulations aim to control the catch quantity rather than restrict night fishing.

Do I Need a Fishing License If I Catch and Release?

Yes, even if you plan to catch and release, a fishing license is still required in most jurisdictions.

Fishing licenses not only regulate the number of fish caught but also help monitor and manage fishing activities to protect aquatic resources; they're not a simple payment for the fish.

A license gives you permission to cast your line and engage in the sport of fishing; what you do with any catches is irrelevant.

How Long Does My Fishing License Last?

The validity period of fishing licenses varies across states and sometimes even between counties.

Plainly, fishing licenses remain valid from the purchase date until their specified expiration date. Not all permits last for the same amount of time.

License durations can span from a single day to an entire year. There are a few rare resident licenses that can act like a lifetime license.

Lifetime licenses can save you money over time.

Most licenses won't last more than a year, but some states have extended grace periods before needing to be renewed.

This information can typically be obtained at your local office or by visiting the DNR website.

We are obsessed with this interactive map of the United States. It is the easiest resource for any state in the country.

What Is the Punishment for Fishing Without a License in California?

If it's your first offense, you can expect to receive a fine of up to $500.


That's definitely not chump change.

You'll have to pay an additional fee to purchase a fishing license if you want to keep fishing legally.

If you're a repeat offender, the penalties can be even more severe.

You could face fines up to $1,000 or even jail time.

Yeah, you heard us right. Jail time.

And it's not just the legal consequences you need to worry about.

Fishing without a license is also bad for the environment, as we've suggested several times.

When people fish without paying for a license, it puts conservation and enforcement efforts in jeopardy and can harm fish populations.

It might seem like a hassle, but it's the law.

Fish Habitat Conservations Tips for Sport Fishermen

While you're at it, there are a few simple things to work into your trip to be the most positive angler out there:

  1. Practice catch and release: If you're not planning on eating the fish you catch, release them back into the water as quickly and carefully as possible.
  2. Use barbless hooks: Barbless hooks are easier to remove from a fish's mouth, which reduces the likelihood of injuring the fish.
  3. Don't fish in spawning areas: When fish are spawning, they are more vulnerable and need to be left alone to ensure their survival. Avoid fishing in known spawning areas and help protect fish populations.
  4. Use proper gear: Using appropriate fishing gear, such as a net or de-hooking tool, can help minimize harm to fish when removing them from the water.
  5. Dispose of fishing line properly: Discarded fishing line can be harmful to wildlife, so be sure to dispose of it properly. Many tackle shops have recycling programs for fishing line, or you can cut it into small pieces before throwing it away.