Do Senior Citizens Need a Fishing License?

Do senior citizens need a fishing license? Given that fishing is an enjoyable and relatively low-cost pastime, that’s one question many older Americans ask.

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Do senior citizens need a fishing license? Given that fishing is an enjoyable and relatively low-cost pastime, that’s one question many older Americans ask.

The answer to whether senior citizens need a fishing license depends upon the state in which they reside and sometimes their specific age at the time they wish to fish. Exact age and fee requirements for fishing licenses vary from state to state.

Many senior citizens enjoy occasionally partaking in water recreations such as boating and fishing. Others have been lifelong hunters and anglers who enthusiastically fish every chance they get. States across the country require those who hunt their lands and who fish their waterways to observe certain rules and regulations regarding licenses. This helps the states control fish and wildlife populations and fund education programs.

Each state’s Department of Wildlife or equivalent agency determines the specific rules that govern hunting and fishing in their jurisdiction. They also set the fees and expiration timelines for hunting and fishing licenses. I’ve compiled a useful chart below that indicates whether each state offers free, discounted, or lifetime fishing licenses to senior citizens--or whether they don’t require seniors to carry fishing licenses at all. Some states offer their senior rates to those aged 65 and over, while others require them to be 70 and above to enjoy special rates or relaxed regulations.

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What Is the Reasoning Behind Fishing License Requirements?

Some people may not understand the exact reasoning behind fishing license requirements or feel that they are punitive. The truth of the matter is that states began enacting fishing license requirements to help promote and fund conservation efforts aimed at preventing certain fish from being harvested into extinction.

Oregon was the first state to require a fishing license in the year 1899 due to concerns with sturgeon overfishing. Not only do fishing licenses help reduce the rate of overfishing in each state, but they also provide much-needed funds to help maintain waterways and educate the general public on conservation.

Some of the ways in which states use fishing license funds include:

  • Restocking lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers with fish
  • Funding habitat programs that clean debris, pollution, and trash from waterways
  • Conducting fish surveys and research to track the population and health of fisheries
  • Developing educational programs that arm budding anglers with important knowledge and skills
  • Improving boating and fishing access to make it easier for anglers to launch their boats

Most states exempt children below a certain age from purchasing fishing licenses, and some also don’t require senior citizens above a particular age to buy fishing licenses. Other states provide discounted fishing licenses for their senior citizens. Lifetime fishing licenses are an option in certain states, generally for a monetary fee, although many states that offer these have discounted rates for seniors.

Are There Different Types of Fishing Licenses?

Most fishing licenses are issued on an annual basis, although some states allow anglers to purchase licenses for a longer period or even for the rest of their lives. Purchasing a fishing license for a longer period or a lifetime fishing license is often cheaper overall than renewing it on an annual basis.

Many states break down fishing licenses into multiple categories that depend upon the variety of water being fished. Sometimes different requirements will apply to the type of fishing being done, e.g. using a rod and reel, a bow and arrow, a spear, etc. Senior citizens should check that the type of fishing they want to do is allowed in their state and be sure they purchase the appropriate type of fishing license before hitting the water.

The three most common types of fishing licenses include:

  • Freshwater fishing license. Those who wish to catch fish in freshwater must obtain this type of license. This does not allow them to fish in saltwater.
  • Saltwater fishing license. Those who plan to fish in saltwater need this kind of license. It doesn’t cover fishing in freshwater areas.
  • Combination fishing license. States will often offer combination fishing licenses that allow anglers to fish in both freshwater and saltwater.

License providers should be able to answer specific questions as to the types of fishing licenses available for purchase. Each state’s Department of Wildlife or equivalent agency can also provide information. Senior citizens should just be sure to specify which types of waterways they plan to fish on to obtain the relevant information on which licenses they need.

Is Fishing a Popular Pastime for Senior Citizens?

Individuals who were age 65 and older made up approximately 11% of the 2020 fishing participants in the United States. Those who were ages 55 to 64 accounted for another 12% of fishing enthusiasts reeling in fish across the country. Many fishing enthusiasts enjoy getting out in the fresh air and sunshine, not to mention the adrenaline rush that can come from successfully catching a fish.

Fishing can also be a healthy activity for senior citizens. Physicians often recommend that people who are age 65 and older should engage in at least 2.5 hours of “moderate” cardiovascular exercise each every week. Fishing generally offers a low-impact method for senior citizens to clock in some valuable exercise time.

After all, this pastime often requires walking to the location where fishing will be done or the steps required to launch a boat in the water. Many different muscles are also engaged in the physical act of fishing itself, from casting a fishing rod to reeling it in.

Then there’s the act of eating the fish they’ve caught. Fish provide one of the best sources of protein and also packs a powerful punch with omega-3 fatty acids, believed to lower cardiovascular disease risk thanks to lowering the body’s anti-inflammatory responses. These types of fatty acids are also associated with improving brain health and could help reduce the dangers of cognitive decline.

Finally, getting out and about to go fishing can help reduce the loneliness and depression that some senior citizens experience. One 2017 Statista study revealed that at least 20% of older Americans dealt with depression, a higher number than those reported by other developing nations. Seniors who want to fish can invite others to join them, participate in fishing groups, sign up for fishing tours, or just enjoy a day out on the water with the chance to make new friends of fellow fishing enthusiasts.

What Are Each State’s Fishing License Rules for Senior Citizens?

Many states recognize that senior citizen anglers have provided many years of conservation services over the years, which is why they choose to offer free or discounted fishing licenses to them. These states also see the value of maintaining participation among this particular population.

Even states that don’t provide free or discounted fishing licenses to their senior citizens often do offer the opportunity to purchase permanent or lifetime fishing licenses. A few states don’t require senior citizens to carry fishing licenses at all, but they do usually require seniors to carry photo IDs to prove their age and status as a resident of that state.

I’ve compiled a helpful table that lists each state’s fishing license rules for senior citizens and links to further helpful information on the internet.

Benefit* States
No Fishing Licenses Required for Senior Citizens Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota (seniors 90 and older only), and Missouri,
Free Fishing Licenses for Seniors Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts**, and Rhode Island,
Lifetime Fishing Licenses for Seniors for a Fee Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico**, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming
Discounted Fishing Licenses for Seniors California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts**, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York***, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin

*Check each state for specific senior age eligibility requirements

**Free for seniors age 70 and older

***For seniors age 70 and older

Please verify the specific requirements for your state both to ensure you fully understand the requirements and because states occasionally change their rules. This will help make sure you have the most up-to-date information before you head out on your next fishing trip.

If you’re traveling to another state on vacation or for some other purpose, it’s important to obey that state’s fishing license requirements. Fishing licenses issued by one state do not automatically allow you to fish in another state’s waterways. Many states offer fishing licenses for nonresidents, so check with that state’s Department of Wildlife or equivalent agency ahead of time to ensure you comply with their laws.

Where Can Senior Citizens Buy Fishing Licenses?

Okay, so once you’ve established that your state requires you to buy a fishing license, you may find yourself wondering where you accomplish that task. Many bait and tackle shops across the United States sell fishing licenses, which can be particularly convenient for someone who makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to go fishing. Sometimes even Walmart offers fishing licenses for sale. Senior citizens should make sure to bring their state-issued photo ID so they can prove their age and state residency status.

Many states now make it even easier to obtain fishing licenses by offering them for sale online. Anglers who plan to travel to multiple states may find this the most convenient option, since it saves them from having to appear at a physical location each time they travel to a different state. It’s also typically a fast and convenient method for obtaining a fishing license.

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