Fishing Licenses & Regulations FAQs
1. Do I need a license to fish in Pennsylvania?
Yes. A current Pennsylvania fishing license, signed in ink and displayed (attach to a hat or outer garment), is required of persons age 16 and over to fish or angle for any species of fish. A license is also needed to take fishbait or baitfish. Casting and/or retrieving whether by rod, reel and line, or by handline, for oneself or another person, requires a current license unless specifically exempted by law.
Licenses are not needed on Fish for Free days, see Question 9 for more about fish for free days, all other fishing regulations still apply on fish for free days.
If an angler has a valid Pennsylvania fishing license they are not required to register with NOAA to fish Pennsylvania’s tidal portion of the Delaware River. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) entered into an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) exempting anglers who hold a valid Pennsylvania fishing license from being required to register with the National Saltwater Angler Registry. The exemption will remain in effect while the PFBC establishes its own free registration system for applicable anglers.
Beginning January 1, 2012, the PFBC intends to give anglers, 16 years and older, the option to either register at no cost with the PFBC or to register, for a fee, via the federal system online registry, or by calling toll-free 1-888-MRIP-411 (888-674-7411).
Please note that anglers should contact the applicable state agency when fishing the tidal waters outside of Pennsylvania to be sure they are in compliance with the states own saltwater registration requirements.
2. How/where do I get a fishing license or required permits?
Licenses and permits can be purchased a couple of ways:
3. How much does a license cost? What types of licenses and permits are available?
Fishing License Pricing poster (PDF)
2017 FISHING LICENSES
Annual licenses are valid from December 1, 2016, through December 31, 2017. WHILE FISHING, your license must be signed in ink and must be displayed on an outer garment. In addition, anglers must be prepared to furnish positive proof of identification
2017 MULTI-YEAR FISHING LICENSES
WHILE FISHING, your license must be signed in ink and must be displayed on an outer garment. In addition, anglers must be prepared to furnish positive proof of identification.
Visit the fishing licenses section of our Summary Book for more about PA fishing license requirements.
4. When do licenses go on sale?
Fishing licenses, permits and vouchers are usually available December 1 of the year prior to the license year. For example, a 2017 license is available December 1, 2016. Licenses and permits are available at any of our Fishing License Issuing Agents.
This also means the license is valid for the month of December in the prior year. You can get 13 months of fishing for an annual license.
5. When is a Trout/Salmon Permit required?
A current Pennsylvania Trout/Salmon Permit is required to fish for trout or salmon in Pennsylvania waters. An angler “fishes for trout or salmon” when he or she:
Collector quality stamps were printed from 1991 through 2006. Starting in 2007, the Commission switched to an electronic Point-of-Sale licensing system (POS). POS licenses indicate if a permit was purchased, this eliminated the need for printed stamps. The Commission does not sell past year stamps, they may be available on secondary markets.
6. When is a Lake Erie or Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Permit required?
All anglers fishing Pennsylvania waters of Lake Erie, Presque Isle Bay and their tributaries, including waters that flow into those tributaries, are required to possess a valid Lake Erie Permit or Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Permit.
COMBINATION TROUT-SALMON/LAKE ERIE PERMIT — In many cases an angler may need both a Trout/Salmon Permit and a Lake Erie Permit to fish in waters in the Erie area. Rather than purchasing these individually, a Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Permit may be purchased.
As with the Trout/Salmon Permit and Lake Erie Permit, the combo permit must be signed and affixed to the fishing license at the place indicated.
A separate Lake Erie stamp program was conducted during the mid 1990’s to provide funding for the removal of gill net fishing operations from Lake Erie. That program no longer exists - the Lake Erie stamps issued from it are no longer valid and cannot be used as a substitute for the current Lake Erie Permit. The current program is designed to provide funding for new and improved fishing access to Lake Erie and its watersheds.
If you are the holder of a lifetime fishing license with a valid Trout/Salmon Permit, there is no need to buy a Combination Trout-Salmon Permit to fish Lake Erie and its tributaries. Instead, you need only to buy a Lake Erie Permit. See below question on this page to find out more about Senior Lifetime Licenses and the Lake Erie and Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Permits.
7. What are Pennsylvania's fishing regulations & laws?
Regulations and laws are outlined in our Summary of Fishing Regulations & Laws. The "Summary Book" is filled with useful information; including:
- seasons/sizes/creel limits
- listings of special regulation areas and stocked trout waters
- tips on fish and fishing
- fish consumption advisories
- reptile & amphibian seasons and limits
- Commission property regulations
- and much more!
8. Where can I get a summary book?
We highly recommend reviewing the summary book before fishing. Paper copies are free and available at any of our issuing agents.
An online version is available on this website.
9. When is opening day? Fish-for-Free days?
Opening days, seasons and Fish-for-Free days are listed on our calendar and within the Summary Book.
It is also possible to figure out dates for future years.
10. Do I need to display my license?
Yes. Most times a clearly displayed fishing license allows a Commission Waterways Conservation Officer to quickly and easily verify that anglers are legally licensed without inconveniencing a fisherman. An optional license button can be displayed in lieu of a paper license (the paper license still must be in your possession).
Anglers should be aware they are required to carry another positive means of identification, a valid driver's license, for example, to establish their identity if requested by a Conservation Officer.
11. Do I need to provide my social security number?
Yes. The U.S. Congress has enacted a number of laws to improve enforcement of child support obligations. As part of a broad "welfare reform" effort, the U.S. Government has required that states implement requirements to encourage payment of child support. States that fail to implement these requirements face possible loss of federal welfare funds.
The "welfare reform" legislation contains hundreds of provisions. Out of this massive law, a handful of the new federal requirements affect purchasers and holders of recreational licenses, including hunting and fishing licenses.
One provision requires states to deny hunting and fishing licenses to certain persons in arrears on child support when a court issues an order revoking or denying such licenses. Another requires government agencies to obtain Social Security numbers from applicants for recreational licenses, including fishing licenses.
12. I lost my license, now what?
A lost fishing license can be replaced online at The Outdoor Shop or at any issuing agent. The cost is $6.90 for the license, price includes the cost of any trout/salmon or Lake Erie privileges that were purchased with the original license.
13. Who can get a resident license?
Only bona fide residents of Pennsylvania are eligible for resident licenses. A bona fide resident of Pennsylvania is a permanent resident of this state who has a fixed intent to return to the Commonwealth when he leaves it and who maintains a permanent place of abode here. For fishing license purposes, a person may not be a bona fide resident of Pennsylvania while claiming residence in another state.
The "permanent home address" measure is a good litmus test for most residency questions. For example: a student from Pittsburgh who attends college eight months a year in Virginia is a considered a resident as long as Pennsylvania remains the student's permanent home address. Conversely, a student whose home is outside the state is not a resident even though they attend a Pennsylvania university.
Positive proof of legal residency, usually a valid PA drivers license, will be required by the issuing agent when purchasing a Resident, Senior Resident or Senior Resident Lifetime fishing license.
14. Do military personnel need a fishing license?
Military personnel are required to purchase a fishing license. Those who are stationed in Pennsylvania under permanent change of station orders (PCS) of duration of 6 months or more or who produce documentation proving same qualify for a resident fishing license. All others must obtain a non-resident or tourist license.
Certain active duty military personnel are exempt from Pennsylvania's fishing license requirement. To be eligible for the military waiver, an angler must:
- be a bona fide Pennsylvania resident,
- be on active duty,
- be stationed outside Pennsylvania, and,
- be here on authorized leave.
While in the act of fishing, the military personnel must carry proof of each of these requirements, such as a Pennsylvania driver's license, a military ID, and valid military orders showing the place of assignment and leave status.
Under the law, a qualifying soldier, sailor, airman or marine does not receive a free Pennsylvania fishing license. Instead, eligible active duty military personnel can legally fish without a license under the limited circumstances outlined in the law. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission recommends that anyone taking advantage of this provision display a military ID while in the act of fishing in much the same way as one would display a conventional fishing license.
Persons who are exempt from license requirements are similarly exempt from the requirements for a Trout/Salmon Permit (58 Pa. Code section 63.20(e)) and a Lake Erie Permit (30 Pa. C.S. section 2907.2(c)).
The law does not exempt military personnel on leave from any other requirements of fishing or boating laws and regulations.
National Guard & Armed Forces Reserve licenses are available to those persons who provide documentation that within the previous 24 months the person was deployed overseas as a member of the reserve component of the armed forces for a period of 60 consecutive days or more or was released early from service because of an injury or disease incurred in the line of duty. This license is only available at Commission and county treasurer offices. Locations are contained within our complete agent listing, county treasurers are generally located at county court offices.
15. Can I purchase a license as a gift for someone else?
A gift voucher for licenses and permits can be purchased for another individual through the same outlets that are used when purchasing a license for yourself. The purchaser only needs to provide the gift recipient's name when purchasing a voucher.
A voucher is not and cannot be used as a fishing license. Vouchers can be redeemed at any issuing agent. The voucher is non-refundable and expires as noted.
For individuals wishing to purchase vouchers as Christmas presents—vouchers to be redeemed as a license or permit for the following year can be purchased beginning December 1 of the current year (vouchers can be redeemed anytime after being purchased–gift recipients do NOT need to wait until the new year). The voucher, excluding multi-year licenses and permits, must be redeemed before it expires by December 31, of the following year for the intended fishing license and/or permit (privilege).
Multi-year vouchers are also available. For more details, see question 37.
Visit our licensing page for purchasing options.
16. I have a question about a license purchased via the internet (The Outdoor Shop)?
We have a frequenty asked questions (FAQ) page about technical requirements within The Outdoor Shop.
Other fishing license questions can be submitted via our web form or you can call our Fishing License help line during business hours, toll-free at 877-707-4085.
17. Who is eligible for a free license?
Disabled veterans who meet certain criteria. To qualify for a free fishing license, an applicant must:
Be a bona fide resident of Pennsylvania;
And qualify as one of the following:
(1) Have a disability incurred in any war or armed conflict consisting of
(a) loss of one or more limbs;
(b) loss of use of one or more limbs; or
(c) total blindness.
(2) Be 60 to 99% disabled as certified by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
We have a separate fact sheet (PDF) that discusses free licenses for disabled veterans.
18. Are permanently disabled persons eligible for a free license?
No, they are not, however, they do NOT need a PA fishing license at all, if:
- the person is totally blind, or has such severe physical or mental impairments that they are unable to cast or retrieve a line or bait hooks and remove fish if only one legal device is used and the person who is blind or has physical or mental impairments is within 10 feet of the device being used.
The attendant of the blind or impaired person also does not need a license while assisting in using the device.
19. Does an existing Disabled Veteran (DAV) license holder need to obtain a Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Permit?
No. DAV license holders (lifetime and annual) are issued a Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Permit when the license is purchased.
20. Do I need a fishing license to take my young child fishing?
An adult who assists a child by casting or retrieving a fishing line or fishing rod is not required to possess a valid fishing license provided that the child remains within arms’ reach of the assisting adult and is actively involved in the fishing activity.
An adult may assist a child by baiting hooks, removing fish from the line, netting fish, preparing the fishing rod for use and untangling the line without possessing a valid fishing license.
There are a number of Pennsylvania waters that are available to fishing exclusively for children 12 years of age and younger and persons who have certain physical or mental impairments.
21. Do I need a license to fish on my own land?
The law provides that no person 16 years of age or older shall fish in any of the waters of Pennsylvania or in any boundary waters without first procuring a license. However, there is an exemption in the law. The exemption allows landowners who reside on their land throughout the year and members of their families residing thereon to fish on their land in waters wholly within said land without a license. This exemption does not apply to any person temporarily residing upon the land or any tenant who is not a member of the family of the owner. The exemption also does not apply to any servant or employee of the owner.
A pond or lake that is wholly within land owned by a homeowners association or a private club does not exempt the individual homeowners or club members from having a fishing license.
22. How many fishing licenses and Trout/Salmon Permits does the Commission sell?
Sales reports are posted online.
Senior Resident Q&A
1. How do I get a Senior Resident Lifetime license?
Senior Resident Lifetime license are ONLY issued to PA residents 65 and over. Buyers may purchase a license anytime during the calendar year they reach 65.
Senior Resident Lifetime license can be purchased at License Issuing Agents, County Treasurer offices, or Fish & Boat Commission offices.
2. I have/want a Senior Resident Lifetime license...do I have to buy a new Trout/Salmon Permit and/or Lake Erie Permit each year?
Yes, for a Trout/Salmon Permit; no, for a Lake Erie Permit.
Beginning January 1, 2015, Senior Resident Lifetime License holders will be required to purchase a Trout/Salmon Permit each year that the license holder desires to fish for trout.
However, a Senior Resident Lifetime License holder who purchased a Trout/Salmon Permit or a Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Permit before January 1, 2015 is "grandfathered", they remain exempt from the requirement to purchase a Trout/Salmon Permit annually.
A person who purchases a Senior Resident Lifetime License and fishes in Lake Erie or its tributaries is only required to purchase one Lake Erie Permit which is valid for the licensee's lifetime. Also, if a Senior Resident Lifetime License holder purchases a combination permit on or after January 1, 2015, the Lake Erie portion of the combo permit will be valid for the licensee's lifetime; however, Senior Resident Lifetime License holders will be required to purchase a Trout/Salmon Permit each following year that the license holder desires to fish for trout.
If selecting a Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Permit, The Lake Erie permit will print on the base Senior Lifetime license with no expiration date and the 1-year Trout-Salmon Permit will print on a separate license document with an expiration date of 12/31.
1-Year Trout/Salmon Permit1-Year Trout/Salmon Permits are to be folded in half lengthwise and the permit’s print image is to be displayed on the left side of the license.
If you bought your Senior Lifetime License before January 1, 1991, you are exempt from having a Trout/Salmon Permit. This "grandfather" exemption is not applicable for a Lake Erie Permit.
See question 6 above to find out more about the Lake Erie and Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Permits.
3. I bought a Senior Resident Lifetime license when I lived in Pennsylvania. I have since moved to another state. Can I still use this license when I return to PA?
Yes. Pennsylvania Senior Resident Lifetime fishing licenses remain valid if a license holder moves to another state.
Pennsylvania does not have a non-resident lifetime fishing license.
Multi-Year License Q&A
A state law passed in summer 2012 (Act 66) enabled the Fish and Boat Commission to sell multi-year fishing licenses and to create products and services to better meet the needs of customers. Multi-year licenses were first made available for the 2013 license year.
2. How much money will I save by buying a 3, 5 or 10-year license?
When you buy a multi-year license, you pay the cost of the issuing agent fee and the Pennsylvania Automated Licensing Service (PALS) processing fee in the first year only. You save money by not paying these fees for the subsequent years. You will save the same amount if you add a trout or combo permit. For example, if you buy a 3-year license, you will save $3.80. If you add a trout permit, you will save another $3.80 for a combined savings of $7.60.
Also, when you buy a multi-year license, you become eligible to receive numerous rewards, including a free online subscription to our flagship publication, Pennsylvania Angler and Boater magazine, along with various offers from popular retailers, including fishing equipment and several discount coupons which can be used at sporting goods stores. Multi-year licenses are also convenient. When you buy a license for three or five years, you can focus more on fishing and not have to worry whether your license is current.
3. What expiration year will be printed on my multi-year license?
The year printed will be the year your fishing license will expire. For instance, if you purchase a 5-year multiyear fishing license on January 1, 2017, an “21” will be printed on your license, indicating that the license expires on Dec. 31, 2021.
4. Is there any difference in how the multi-year license is to be displayed?
Multi-year fishing licenses must be displayed just like an annual fishing license. There are no special display requirements.
5. If I buy only a multi-year license this year, can I add a trout, Lake Erie or combo permit next year?
Yes. You can now purchase a 1-year Trout/Salmon Permit, 1-Year Lake Erie Permit and 1-Year Combination Trout/Salmon Lake Erie Permit as an add-on to your basic Multi-Year fishing license.
6. Will I receive a new summary book of regulations every year?
No, you will receive a summary book only with your original purchase, if you purchase from an issuing agent. For subsequent years, summary books will be available for you to pick up at any fishing license issuing agent or can be viewed or printed online at www.fishinpa.com.
7. Where can I buy a multi-year license?
Licenses are sold by more than 900 issuing agents across the Commonwealth, at county treasurers’ offices, at Fish and Boat Commission offices, and online at www.pa.wildlifelicense.com. Agents include many sporting goods and outdoor stores.
8. What if I lose my multi-year license? How do I replace it?
A lost fishing license can be replaced online at The Outdoor Shop or at any issuing agent. The total cost for a replacement license and all previously purchased permits or privileges is $6.90.
9. How does the Fish and Boat Commission benefit if I buy a multi-year license?
Many people don’t realize that the PFBC receives no funding from the state’s General Fund. It is supported almost entirely by revenues from fishing license sales and boat registrations. The PFBC also receives federal funding derived from taxes on the sale of fishing tackle, boats, equipment, etc., and on motorboat fuel. Yet, even though the PFBC doesn’t receive state general fund money, the agency maintains services which are used by all Pennsylvanians, not just anglers and boaters. When you buy a multi-year license, you help the Fish and Boat Commission fulfill its mission by providing a level of financial stability.
10. Can I buy a single year permits for a multi-year license?
Yes. Beginning December 1, 2013, the PFBC launched several new types of single-year permits for multi-year fishing licenses:
- 1-year Trout/Salmon Permit
- 1-year Lake Erie Permit
- 1-Year Combination Trout/Salmon–Lake Erie Permit
Single-year permits are to be folded in half length-wise and the permit’s print image is to be displayed on the left side of the license.
11. Can I get a sturdier card instead of the standard paper multi-year license?
Yes, multi-year upgrade cards are available. Cards are made of durable plastic and are laminated.
Cost to upgrade to the card is $11.90. These are sold through the same outlets as licenses; by more than 900 issuing agents across the Commonwealth, at county treasurers’ offices, at Fish and Boat Commission offices, and online at The Outdoor Shop.
12. Are multi-year vouchers available?
Yes, multi-year vouchers are available. These are sold through the same outlets as licenses; by more than 900 issuing agents across the Commonwealth, at county treasurers’ offices, at Fish and Boat Commission offices, and online at The Outdoor Shop.
Multi-year vouchers expire on the expiration date printed on the voucher. All sales are final. No refunds are given for unused vouchers.