Can You Buy A Fishing License Online? (Explained)
UPDATED 17 MAY 2023
by Robert Ceran
If you’re planning to go fishing, it’s essential to get a valid fishing license before you head out onto the water. If you haven’t done this before, you’re probably wondering where and how you can get a license.
Fishing licenses are provided by the local Fish & Wildlife authority of each state, which means the cost of the license varies from state to state, and also depending on other factors (such as whether you’re a resident or not).
To make it easier for you to figure out the exact price for your state, you can refer to our guide on how much is a fishing license, which covers all 50 states.
One of the most common questions we get from people looking to buy a license is: can you buy a fishing license online?
Below we’ll provide a quick answer, and then we’ll walk you through the details of how to do this correctly.
Can you get a fishing license online?
Yes, most states allow you to buy a fishing license online, via their Fish & Game department website. You need to fill in an application form with your personal information and submit payment.
After you complete the purchase, the license is usually provided to you as a PDF file to be printed out.
When you purchase a license online, you need to fill in an application form on the website of the Fish & Wildlife authority of your state.
Usually you’ll be asked to provide the number of a state issued ID (such as a driver’s license), and sometimes also your social security number or passport number.
Now let’s cover the details of how to do this.
How to get a fishing license online
Here are the specifics of how to buy a fishing license online, broken down into simple steps, to make it easier for you:
- The first step is to visit the website of the local Fish & Game department of your state, which you can usually find easily by doing an online search for “fishing license” plus your state name. If you’re not sure you’ve got the right site, just refer to our list of the Fish & Wildlife departments for all 50 states.
- Go to the part of the website where you can get information about the different types of licenses, and look for a link that allows you to buy online.
- On the online application form they’ll ask you to declare if you’re a resident or non-resident of the state in question, and will explain to you what they mean by that. For example, in Pennsylvania a resident counts as anyone who has lived in the state for 30 days or more.
- Next, fill in the required information on the application form. Usually this includes the number of a state issued ID (such as a driver’s license), and sometimes also your social security number and/or passport number. This enables them to check unequivocally what state you’re a resident of.
- Next, they will ask you to choose the license that you want to purchase. In most cases this would be an annual license if you’re a resident. In some states you also need to include a trout or salmon stamp if you want to fish for those species.
- Once you’ve chosen the license(s) that you want to buy, you’ll be asked to input payment information to complete the purchase.
- After the payment has been processed, you’ll be redirected to a page where you can download the license in PDF format. At this point it’s a great idea to save a copy, so you can find it again easily in future, and then print it out as a hard copy that you’ll take along when you go fishing.
Can you renew your fishing license online?
Yes, most states that offer the possibility to buy a license online also give you the option to renew it online. In order to do this, just log in to your user account and choose the option to renew your license.
Many states ask you to create a user account with them when you first purchase your license, and you can use this account to renew the license. In some cases they’ll even send out a reminder email just before your licence is about to expire, so that you can order a new one in time.
What are the advantages of getting a fishing license online?
The biggest advantage of buying a license online is the convenience of being able to order it from the comfort of your own home, and then getting instant access to it as a PDF file.
Another advantage of purchasing a license on the internet is that you’ll be receiving it in digital format, which means you can easily print out a replacement copy if you ever lose it. This is a lot easier than getting a replacement license from the Fish & Wildlife department directly, and it also doesn’t cost you anything, while getting a replacement hard copy costs around $5.
Of course, getting a license online comes with the disadvantage that you need to have a printer at home in order to print it out. But in case you don’t have a printer, you can get it printed at a local copy shop easily and quickly.
Best practices when buying a fishing license online
If you’re looking to get a fishing license online, make sure to avoid fraudulent sites claiming to sell licenses. Only purchase a license on the internet if you’re sure that you’re buying through the official state government website.
This is an issue to be aware of because some people have been scammed by websites claiming to sell real licenses, but instead providing fake ones that don’t protect against penalties if you’re caught fishing illegally.
It’s important to know that these unauthorized websites are not endorsed by a state authority or government. They are usually set up by scammers trying to trick you into submitting a payment to them, and/or giving them your personal information (which can potentially lead to identity theft).
The good news is that if you make sure to only buy from the official website of your state, you won’t have anything to worry about. If you’re not sure how to find the right website, check this official list from the US Fish & Wildlife Service. You can also call your local state agency to verify that you’re using the right website.
Buying fishing licenses is easier than ever now because most states are allowing residents to buy them online. In the past this wasn’t possible, and you had to do this in person by going to a government office or to an authorized vendor, such as a tax collector’s office, tackle shop or Walmart.
But now you just need a computer with an internet connection, and you can get a valid license online within a few minutes.