What Happens If You Fish Without A License?

Before you embark on your fishing adventure, you need to know the necessary licenses and permits you need to have in certain states in your country. If you happen to fish without a license, what are some of the things you may be risking?

You may face serious charges which may have you paying huge amounts of money and spending some time behind bars. The penalties are even more strict for repeat offenders so you must always know what you need to access state-managed water access sites.

Different licenses depend on where you’re fishing and requirements for certain types of fish depending on your location. The best part is that all this information is available online, so you don’t have to worry about not knowing what’s allowed in your area – check out these helpful resources.

Why Is Fishing Without A License Illegal?

Several Acts are in place to regulate the impact of fishing on fish numbers. Acts, such as The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1997, state that you must purchase a license before fishing in public waters. Therefore, this means that fishing without a license is illegal and punishable.

Some states have exceptions, and there are cases where it is legal to partake in fishing activities even without a license. In some states, they have subsidized licenses for these special classes of people. Most of the time, people exempted from having licenses are the elderly and children.

The age bracket for consideration as children is those below 16 years and those above 65 years for the elderly (always have a form of identification on you so that the officers can verify your age). For people with disabilities using fishing as a form of therapy, military veterans and active military staff do not need fishing licenses in their home countries.

If you are fishing on private waters, you don’t have to buy a license. Fishing in your family farmhouse or homestead does not require that you have a permit. You can freely fish in these areas without fear of apprehension. Additionally, if you are accompanying or teaching your child how to fish, you may only need the license for the child.

For those exempted from having licenses, there are some conditions. The conditions include fishing with live baits and natural fishing baits. If you have a license, it comes with a record card to keep an eye on your harvest. You must always have your record card with you when you go fishing. Make sure to return them to the wildlife department by the required deadline. If you are in this “special people” category, you still have to abide by other fishing regulations.

It is also important to note that the licenses for freshwater and saltwater fishing are different. You need to make sure you have the proper license. Some states may exempt you from fishing without the proper license. In states like Florida, it is a first-level violation and therefore not a criminal offense.

When fishing in public mini-fishing piers, it is legal to fish without a license. You also have room to use two poles in saltwater. However, authorities require you to have a license in some public piers. You need to play it safe and have your license with you at all times.

What Happens If You Get Caught Fishing Without A Fishing License?

What Happens If You Get Caught Fishing Without A Fishing License

Authorities are constantly patrolling water bodies in all states, and if you don’t have a license, you are likely to get caught. Generally, laws put in place to regulate fishing are stringent. The consequences of fishing depend on who caught you, the state you are fishing, and if you have a previous record of fishing without a license.

The regulations and punishments may vary from one state to another. Most anglers caught fishing without licenses are novices and try to escape charges by using the ignorance card. Sadly, ignorance is no defense in the face of the law.

There are laws regarding daily bag limits, fish types, and sizes, and season bands are in place. Therefore before you embark on your fishing adventure, make sure you know and fully understand the fishing regulations of your state and double-check with the local authority whether you require a license or not.

Fishing without a license is a Class II misdemeanor. In some states, you may escape the wrath of the law if you are fishing without a proper license. If you are lucky, the officer may let you off with a warning, instruct you to leave the waters, and won’t allow you back unless you have a proper fishing license.

If an officer catches you without a license for the first time, you will get a  ticket, and you will have to pay a fine and undergo a hearing. They will also confiscate any fish you may have caught. Accepting and paying the ticket within 30 days is a sign that you acknowledge your mistakes and are subject to a court hearing.

If they catch you more than once, within 36 months of the first time offense, you will have to pay a massive sum of money while also facing jail time. You will receive a ticket, and the authorities will seize the fish you’ve caught. You will have to pay the fine within 30 days of accepting your ticket.

If the authorities constantly catch you fishing without a license, you may be in big trouble. The state may have to take possession of any of your property that they see fit. You will further have to pay a fine of about $25000. Upon conviction, you face a possible jail time of twelve months. The judge may also suspend your fishing rights for a period.

You should also note that if you agree to honor the ticket, you are renouncing your right to a hearing as it is a sign that you are admitting that you are guilty. On the other hand, if you believe you have a way of surviving the brutal court hearings, you do not have to pay for the ticket. If the court finds you guilty, though, you will have to pay a hefty fine.

The United States of America Fish and Wildlife Service Office is the body that controls the issuance of fishing licenses. You may get your license in person at the offices or in retail establishments like Walmart, on the phone, or online. To get your license, you will need to provide the office with photo identification, proof of residence like a driver’s license, and a formal application for a fishing license.

You can use your photo ID and proof of residence to get a reference number that allows you to start fishing even without the license. When buying the licenses online, it takes a few days for your license to be in your mail. If you provide an email with your contact details, you will receive an email with your temporary license.

There are days known as free fishing days in some states. On these days, you are at liberty to fish without a fishing license. You are also able to fish anywhere in your state of residence. There are certain piers where the state allows anglers to fish without licenses. Check with your local wildlife department to know when and where to fish without a license.

Can You Fish Without A License If You Don’t Keep The Fish?

Many states require that you have a conservation license while fishing in public waters, even if you don’t intend on keeping the fish. You have to pay for a license for catching fish regardless of your purpose for capture. Paying for the licenses means that you are paying to use the land, water, and the general upkeep of the fishing area. In some states, all you require is permission

Fishing licenses are not limited to those who are fishing commercially only. You have to have a permit even if you are fishing for recreational purposes. Prices for recreational purpose licenses are low since most people practice catch-and-release fishing. If a warden catches you without fish while fishing without a license, you will only pay a fine that includes a ticket and the price of a fishing license.

The Wildlife and fishing department regulates the amount and size of fish by tracking you using a record card. There are no temporary record cards. They ensure that you only catch what you need, leaving enough to breed, allowing future generations to practice fishing as a hobby. If you practice catch and release, make sure the fish is alive and unharmed before you put it back.

The department uses the money it gets from fishing licenses to pay for the maintenance, conservation, and restoration of fisheries. This ensures that the fishing waters are in good condition.

What Happens If You Don’t Have Your Fishing License On You?

What Happens If You Don’t Have Your Fishing License On You

If you forget to bring your license with you on your angling trip, you better tread cautiously. Your best option should be to get yourself a replacement license as soon as you can. You will face the same punishment as a person who has not purchased a license. The cost of getting a replacement license is less than the penalties you will face.

If you forget your ticket at home, do not assume that the game warden will look up your license. They are under no obligation to look it up for you. If you are lucky to get a game warden who is willing to look it up for you, it is out of the pure goodness of their heart.

They do not have computerized databases with them and will have to contact their head offices. They will have to take you back to their truck, call dispatch, and the head office will then look up your license from there to find out if you have a fishing license. This is a very long process, and exceptionally few game wardens will be willing to do this. You may have to pay a fine of about $10, though.

On many occasions, you will find wardens who do not have the patience to look up your license. They are at liberty to demand a fine and administer other punishments as stipulated by the law. You will appear in court, and if you present proof of having a license, the judge may reduce your fine.

Here are a few tips on what to do if you forget your license:

1. Make multiple copies

Making multiple copies of your fishing license will save you from a lot of stress. Make multiple copies and keep the extra copies in different places. Have a copy in your wallet, or car, and keep another with your fishing gear. This ensures that you do not have to carry the original document with you everywhere you go, and you will also have a backup in case you lose some.

2. Take the first step

If you notice that you don’t have your license on you, approach the wardens before they get to you. Approach a game warden or go to the office. Ask them nicely if they can look up and print your license for you. If you ask them for permission, they may be nice and permit you to continue your activities.

3. Go digital

There are smartphone applications that allow you to store digital versions of your licenses and cards. Download the applications and store your documents there. This ensures that as long as you have your phone on you, you have your license, and you don’t have to have a hard copy.

4. Get a replacement license

Once you realize that your license is missing, the best course of action would be to get a replacement (if you had a permanent license) or get a new one if it was a temporary license. Getting a new license or replacing one is cheaper than the losses you will incur in paying fines. You also have the option of getting a 24-hour permit.

5. Go to reserves that sell on-site permits

Yes, there are places where you can buy your license just before you start fishing. There is no way you will begin to fish in such areas without a license. Though this may be more costly than conventional permits, it will ensure you don’t end up on the wrong side of the law.

If you have already bought a license and don’t have it on you when the authorities catch you, the consequences may not be dire. You may have to pay a fine to settle court fees. Your presence during the court hearing is mandatory. If you fail to appear before the court, your case qualifies to be a second-degree misdemeanor.

How Much Is A Ticket For Fishing Without A License

Fishing without a license is running a significant risk. In the US, you cannot fish without a license and escape the authorities. When they catch you fishing without a license, the authorities will automatically ticket you and seize the fish you have caught. You will have to accept and pay for the ticket within the required time frame, usually 30 days.

Fines for fishing without a license vary depending on the state. On average, the fines range from $15 to $12000. The fees are inclusive of penalties for every fish caught. For every fish you catch, without a license, they will charge you $5 to $1000. You may also have to shoulder the cost of paying for the lawsuit if you have to appear before a judge.

If you fail to pay the fine within the required time frame or ditch the court hearing, you could end up in jail and serve a long jail time. For first-time offenders, the fine is around $50 plus an amount equivalent to the value of a 24-hour license.

The authorities may ticket you for some things that you easily overlook. These include:

  1. Not producing your license when required can attract a fine of $500.
  2. Fishing over the set limit for the number of captures will cost you $5-$ 1000 per fish over the limit.
  3. Injury of the fish during capture and release fishing.
  4. The capture of undersized fish will have you paying around $100 to get out of custody.
  5. Leaving your pole unattended will see you pay at least $50
  6. Using two poles when you only have a permit for one. You will have to pay a fine plus the equivalent cost of a permit for a rod in this case.

Determining whether you need a license or not is not an easy task. Always have the local state regulations and the national regulations in mind.

Check with the local fishing supplies shops and fisheries to ensure you know the places, times, and scenarios when you need your license. Regulations constantly change, and these shops and fisheries are sure to have up-to-date information on local fishing spots and laws and can advise you accordingly.

In light of the information provided above, you should make sure you know the constantly changing fishing rules and regulations to ensure you are not on the wrong side of the law.

If you are a serious angler, regular visits to the local wildlife and fishing department will do you a lot of good. If you are well informed and follow the regulations, you will enjoy a great fishing experience.