Catch And Release Fish Without A License

Fishing laws and regulations can vary from state to state. It is understandable if you are a bit lost or confused. If you do not want to get into trouble, you must familiarize yourself with these regulations first.

Is it illegal to catch and release fish without a license? Generally speaking, you will need an official license to participate in fishing activities. Some states might have exceptions, and it could be legal to catch fish and release them without a license.

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After reading this article, you will know who needs a fishing license and who is exempt. This article will also discuss what happens if caught fishing with no license.

What Is A Fishing License For?

Those who need to apply for a fishing license are not only commercial fishermen. Even if you only do this for recreation a few times a year, you need an official permit.

Catching fish with the intent to release them is not an excuse either. If you are fishing in a publicly accessible area, you cannot do so without a license.

Various types of permits or licenses have different prices, depending on several factors. These factors include the type of fishing, the state you reside in, and the duration.

Exemptions For Fishing Licenses

Some people are exempt from this rule, but it is a select few. Most of the time, the elderly and children do not need a license to go fishing. Children may refer to minors or those who are under 16 years old. Senior citizens are 65 years of age and above.

Disabled persons, military veterans, and active military personnel may also not need a fishing license. However, this does not apply to all states and will still depend on local laws.

What Happens If You Are Caught Without A License?

Since the regulations differ for each state, the consequences and punishment will also vary. Some places might be more lenient than others if you are lucky, but the laws are stringent.

If you are a first-time violator, you usually only have to pay a fine and perhaps undergo a hearing. You are in the clear as long as you get a license or do not get caught again.

However, the odds are not in your favor if you get caught without a license multiple times. On top of paying a hefty penalty fee, you could also face jail time for this.

Constant violation of the regulations also gives the state reason to seize your property or belongings as they see fit.

Getting a fishing license is not that expensive, nor is it that difficult. Dealing with law enforcement if you are caught in much more trouble than it is worth.


There are some exemptions to catching and releasing fish without a license. However, those exemptions only apply to a small group of people. It is best if you only get your fishing license to release any anxiety and worry.