Types of California Fishing Licenses

Types of California Fishing Licenses
California has hundreds of miles of coastline, lakes, rivers and estuaries where you can fish for species ranging from bass, trout, or salmon to halibut. High mountain lakes in the Sierras provide trout, steelhead and bass, while the Pacific coast offers hake, halibut, salmon and even tuna fishing. With the variety of fish and conditions, California has several types of fishing licenses. Bring the appropriate license with you when fishing the Golden State's waters.

Resident Licenses

Any angler 16 years old or older fishing in California "must have a fishing license to take any kind of fish, mollusk, invertebrate, amphibian or crustacean in California, except for persons angling from a public pier in ocean or bay waters" according to the California Fish and Game Commission. California has a program for those 65 and older to receive discounted general fishing licenses. Military veterans are eligible for these discounted licenses as well, provided they are residents of California.

California also sells lifetime general fishing licenses. The fees for lifetime licenses apply on a sliding scale, based on the age of the angler.

Two-day licenses are available to residents at the in-state cost for the fishing license.


Visitors to California wishing to fish have several options available for general fishing licenses. Visitors can purchase two-day and full-season fishing licenses at the non-resident costs. All visitors are subject to the same age requirements as in-state residents. Two-day licenses are good for two consecutive days only. Lifetime licenses are not available to non-residents.

Special Stamps and Permits

California has three different stamps for specialized fishing, and these are available to residents and non-residents. If you choose to fish with two rods, you need the special Second-Rod Stamp, which, according to the California Fish and Game Commission "allows an angler to fish with two rods in inland waters, except those waters in which only artificial lures or barbless hooks may be used."

The California Ocean Enhancement Stamp is "required for ocean fishing south of Point Arguello except when fishing under authority of a one-day or two-day sport fishing license" as stated at the California Fish and Game Commission website.

Those fishing the Colorado River along the California/Arizona state line from a boat need a Colorado River Special Use Stamp.

Fish Report Cards

Anglers in California fishing for sturgeon, steelhead, salmon, abalone or spiny lobster are required to bring with them, and fill out when finished fishing, report cards for these species. These report cards are available online at the California Fish and Game Commission website (see References section) and at fishing gear and sporting goods stores.

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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