How Much Does a California Fishing License Cost?

The fish in the California waters are protected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). You will need to obtain a license from them to be able to fish. Various factors determine the price of your fishing license. Time and type of fish are the main determinants of license costs. Your residential status in the state also determines the fishing license fees. 

Who is a California Resident?

This is someone who has either:

  • Lived in California for at least six consecutive months before they applied for the license.
  • A member of the jobs Corps
  • Active military duty in California with the United States Armed forces and auxiliary branches. 

Payment Terms of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife 

You can purchase your California fishing license from:

  • Any licensed agent
  • Online
  • CDFW License Sales Office

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife used to accept cash payments for licenses, but that is no longer the case. You are advised to use money orders, checks, or credit/debit cards from with MasterCard or Visa logo at regional license offices or. The License and Revenue Branch at CDFW.

You should note that most of the license fees are inclusive of a 3% application fee, which is non-refundable and 5% license agent handling fees. 

Cost of California Fishing Licenses

The CDFW requires everyone who is 16 years and older to purchase a fishing license before you embark on any fishing expedition. The cost categories of fishing licenses are based on time, type of fish, and duplicate fees. 

Short Term Licenses

Short term licenses last up to two days. They are suitable for those who are trying out fishing, or too busy to fish regularly, and for non-residents. 

Fishing License TitleCostDescription
One-Day Sport Fishing$16.46Residents and non-residents get to fish for a single specified day. An Ocean Enhancement Validation is not necessary under a One-Day Sport Fishing License.
Two-Day Sport Fishing$25.66Residents and non-residents have two consecutive days to fish. The Ocean Enhancement Validation is not a requirement under this license. 
10-day Non-Resident Sport Fishing$51.02A non-resident gets to fish for 10 consecutive days in the state of California. 

Annual Licenses

Annual and lifetime licenses fall under long term licenses. They are valid from 1st January to 31st December. Your license will be valid for the remainder of the year if you purchase it a date later than January 1st. The State of California is yet to launch 12-month fishing licenses used by a few other licenses. 

License TitleCost Description
Resident Sport Fishing$51.02Accessible to persons aged 16 years and older.
Non-Resident Sport Fishing$137.73Non -residents aged 16 and over can access this Sport Fishing License. 
Disabled Veteran’s Reduced-Fee Sport Fishing LicenseCDFW Offices Charge $7.73

Licensing Agents Charge $8.13
Residents and non-residents discharged honorably and with a greater service or 50 percent-connected disability are eligible for this license. First, you need to prequalify for the Reduced-Fee Sport Fishing License for Disabled veterans, and you can purchase yours from any licensing outlet. 
Reduced Fee Sport Fishing License For Recovering Service Members CDFW Offices Charge $7.73

Licensing Agents Charge $8.13
The US Military’s recovering service members are eligible for this license. You will need to prequalify for the Reduced Fee Sport Fishing License For Recovering Service Members to purchase this license. After that, you can purchase them from authorized licensing outlets. 
Reduced Fee Sport Fishing License for Low-Income Seniors$7.73California residents aged 65 years and over that have a low income are eligible for this license. You can purchase the Reduced Fee Sport Fishing License for Low-Income Seniors at CDFW’s Offices for License Sales. 
Low Income Native Americans Free Sport Fishing LicenseNoneThe households of low-income Native Americans or their lineal descendants can obtain this license at CDFW’s Offices for License Sales. Your household income should be lower than the federal poverty guidelines.
Free Sport Fishing License for the developmentally disabled, blind, or Mobility impaired.NoneThe license is accessible to persons who are developmentally disabled, blind, or Mobility impaired. You must get the first free license from the CDFW Revenue and License Branch. As for the subsequent licenses, you can apply with license agents. 

3. Lifelong Licenses

As the name suggests, these licenses are valid for a lifetime. 

0-9 years

10 to 39 years

40 to 61 years

62+ years 



Only California Residents can purchase the lifetime fishing license in California. Every year, CDFW will issue an annual license to anyone who holds a lifetime license. The first purchase of a lifetime fishing license package is done at CDFW offices for License Sales. 
Fishing Privilege Package$386.25This package covers a lifetime Ocean Enhancement Stamp, Second-Rod Stamp, Steelhead Report Card, and North Coast Salmon Report Card. 

Cost Based on Type of Fish and Area

Validation and Report Cards

You will need a Report Card if You intend to Fish for Salmon (from Smith, Klamath, and Trinity Rivers), abalone, sturgeon, steelhead, or spiny lobster. Everyone must have a report card if they fish for the above species. This includes children below 16 years, fishing for free, whether without a license or on a free fishing day or using a public pier. 

Validation/Report TitleCostDescription
Ocean Enhancement Validation$5.66It authorizes people to access the fish in the ocean south of Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County. This validation is not necessary under one-day or two-day fishing licenses. 
Second Rod Validation$15.94This lets you fish with two lines or rods in inland waters. It does not apply to locations where only barbless hooks and artificial lures are authorized.
Steelhead Report Cards$7.82It would be best if you had it when fishing for Steelhead in California’s inland waters.
Sturgeon Report Card$8.90Each person can only get one Sturgeon Report Card every year. 
Abalone Report Card$24.33It authorizes people to harvest abalone in the ocean part that lies north of San Francisco bay’s mouth. 
Spiny Lobster Report Card. Valid During Lobster Season$10.29You need this report card to fish for Spiny lobster. If you fail to return it, you will be charged $21.60 as non-return fees in the next lobster season. The deadline for returning the report is April 30 of the following season.
North Coast Salmon Report Card$7.05You will need it to fish for salmon in the rivers Smith, Klamath, and Trinity. 

Duplicate Fees

Duplicate fees are charged for the replacement of lost licenses, validations, and report cards. 

Sport Fishing License$11.37It replaces the original sport fishing license, which could have been stolen or lost.
Sport Fishing Validation$3.24You will replace an initial validation (ocean or Second-rod) which was stolen or lost.
Abalone Report Card$18.54You will replace the original Abalone Report Card that is either lost or stolen. Replacements are only available at CDFW’s License Sales Offices 
Sturgeon Report Card$16.22It will replace your original Sturgeon Report Card that has either been stolen or lost. Replacements are only available at CDFW’s License Sales Offices 

The State of California issues out licenses, validation, and report cards to enable them to manage the animals and fishing locations and resources effectively. Avoid legal trouble by getting the proper authorization.

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