Do You Need a Fishing License on Private Property?

Last Updated on October 20, 2023

Hey there, fellow anglers! If you’ve ever wondered whether you need a fishing license when casting your line on private property, you’re not alone.

Fishing is a beloved pastime that brings us closer to nature and helps us unwind. However, the rules and regulations surrounding fishing can sometimes be confusing, especially when it comes to fishing on private lands. Today, we’ll dive into the topic of fishing licenses and how they relate to private property fishing.

So, let’s unravel the mystery surrounding fishing licenses on private property and make sure you’re well-informed before you cast that line!

Factors Affecting License Requirements on Private Property

The license requirements for fishing on private property are influenced by various factors, with property ownership being a crucial consideration.

If the property is privately owned and operated as a fishing business or charter, anglers may need to obtain a fishing license even if they are fishing on private waters.

State laws also play a significant role, as fishing regulations can differ from one state to another. Some states may have specific rules that exempt anglers from obtaining a fishing license on private property, while others may require it.

The type of fish species present in the private waters can affect license requirements, as some states may have separate regulations for fishing specific species.

Fish stocking, catch, and release policies

Fish stocking, catch, and release policies

If the private property owner stocks the waters with fish, they may have specific rules or permits in place for anglers wishing to fish for those stocked fish.

Catch and release policies, where anglers are encouraged to release caught fish back into the water, may also affect license requirements, as some states provide exemptions for catch-and-release fishing.

Fishing events organized on private waters, such as charity tournaments or fishing derbies, may have specific license requirements or permits that participants need to adhere to.

Obtaining Permission for Private Property Fishing

Here are some tips and best practices to help anglers secure permission for an enjoyable fishing experience:

  1. Be Polite and Respectful: Approach the landowner with courtesy and respect. Introduce yourself, explain your intention to fish, and express gratitude for the opportunity to access their property.
  2. Ask in Advance: Seek permission well in advance of your fishing trip. Avoid approaching the landowner while they are busy or during hunting seasons when they may have other concerns.
  3. Know the Rules: Familiarize yourself with any specific rules or restrictions the landowner may have for fishing on their property. Some landowners may have preferred fishing locations or certain areas they wish to keep off-limits.
  4. Offer Information: Provide the landowner with information about yourself, such as your fishing experience and any affiliations with local fishing organizations or clubs. This helps build trust and confidence in your responsible fishing practices.
  5. Leave Contact Information: Leave your contact information with the landowner in case they have any questions or concerns. This also allows them to notify you of any changes or updates related to fishing on their property.

Building positive relationships with property owners is key to fostering long-term fishing opportunities and contributing to a positive fishing community. Here’s why it matters:

  1. Future Access: A positive relationship with the landowner increases the likelihood of being granted access to fish on their property in the future. Being responsible and respectful can lead to recurring fishing privileges.
  2. Supporting Conservation: By showing respect for the land and the property owner’s wishes, anglers contribute to the conservation of natural resources. This demonstrates a commitment to preserving the environment and wildlife.
  3. Community Relations: Anglers who build positive relationships with landowners help strengthen the relationship between the fishing community and private property owners. This fosters a sense of cooperation and understanding between both parties.
Alternatives to Fishing on Private Property

Alternatives to Fishing on Private Property

While fishing on private property can offer unique experiences, there are plenty of alternative options available for anglers to enjoy their favorite pastime. Here are some alternatives to consider:

  1. Public Fishing Areas: Many regions offer public fishing areas, such as state parks, wildlife management areas, and fishing piers. These areas are open to the public and often provide well-maintained fishing access points.
  2. Lakes and Rivers: Exploring lakes and rivers with public access can lead to exciting fishing adventures. Check local fishing regulations and find popular fishing spots known for the species you wish to target.
  3. Community Fishing Events: Keep an eye out for community fishing events hosted by local fishing organizations or clubs. These events often take place in public waters and provide opportunities to connect with fellow anglers.
  4. Fishing Charters: Consider booking a fishing charter for a guided fishing experience. Fishing charters operate in various locations and offer expert guidance for beginners and experienced anglers alike.

Fishing in public areas comes with several advantages that contribute to a well-rounded and rewarding angling experience:

  1. Accessible Regulations: Public fishing areas typically have clear and accessible fishing regulations. These rules are designed to ensure sustainable fishing practices, protect fish populations, and maintain the ecological balance of the waterways.
  2. Conservation Efforts: Public fishing areas often fall under conservation programs that work to preserve the natural environment and wildlife habitats. By fishing responsibly in these areas, anglers contribute to conservation efforts and help maintain healthy fish populations for future generations.
  3. Diverse Fishing Opportunities: Public waters offer a wide range of fishing opportunities, from freshwater to saltwater fishing and various fish species. Anglers can enjoy diverse experiences, honing their skills across different fishing scenarios.

Can you fish on your own property without a license in California?

A license is not necessary for an owner of privately owned real property who collects fish for non-profit reasons from a lake or pond completely surrounded by that owner’s real property.

What if I plan to catch and release on private property? Do I still need a fishing license?

Catch and release practices are generally not subject to licensing requirements. However, as regulations can vary, it’s best to check with your local wildlife agency to confirm whether you need a fishing license, even for catch and release.

Can I fish on a friend’s private property without a fishing license?

Fishing on private property owned by a friend or family member typically doesn’t require a license, but it’s a good idea to discuss and confirm the specifics with the landowner to avoid any misunderstandings.


In your angling journey, remember that respecting fishing regulations and private property rights contributes to the preservation of natural resources and supports the sustainability of fish populations. By fishing responsibly and adhering to local laws, anglers play an essential role in protecting the environment and ensuring enjoyable fishing experiences for everyone.

So, whether you’re fishing on private property or exploring public fishing spots, always practice ethical fishing techniques, embrace responsible angling practices, and appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors. Tight lines and happy fishing!

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