Kentucky Fishing License: The Complete Guide

Mar 20, 2024 | 5 minute read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The fish stories are almost as big as the hats at the Derby in the Bluegrass State! And the fishing spots are as plentiful as the bourbon barrels in some of the state’s most prestigious distilleries. From the Bass-rich expanse of Lake Cumberland to the Trout-filled currents of the Cumberland River, there’s an adventure waiting. But before you wet a line in these inviting waters, there’s one little thing you need to tackle first—getting a KY fishing license.

The state flag of Kentucky flying from a flagpole against a blue sky on a clear day

Whether you’re in it for the thrill of a catch under the warm summer sun or the peace and quiet of an early morning by the water, Kentucky delivers. A valid fishing license is crucial, though. It’s your key to not just the here and now but to conserving these waters for future generations of anglers. So, why wait? Let’s get started!

Who needs a KY fishing license?

If you’re 16 or over and yearning to fish in Kentucky, you’ll need a license. This applies across the board—whether you’re a Kentucky local or an out-of-state visitor.

You’re considered one of Kentucky’s own if you’ve laid down your roots here for 30 days or more. This includes students and military personnel stationed in the state. For non-residents, if your home base is beyond Kentucky’s borders but you can’t resist its fishing charm, you’ll need a non-resident license. 

But that’s not all. If you’re eyeing some action in pay lakes, check if you need a license first, as rules can vary.

Who doesn’t need a KY fishing license?

Kentucky extends a warm no-license-needed welcome to a few lucky anglers. Landowners fishing their own slice of paradise, their families, and tenant farmers don’t need a license. The same goes for young anglers under 16, as we mentioned, and military personnel on leave

And don’t forget about the Free Fishing Weekend in June—a tradition that opens up Kentucky’s waters to all, no license required.

Information for Residents

There’s a whole lineup of Kentucky fishing licenses tailored for every angler:

  • 1-Day License. This type is ideal for those spur-of-the-moment fishing trips or introducing a friend to the joys of angling.
  • Annual Fishing License. This is your go-to for year-round fishing access across the state.
  • 3-Year License. This option is available online only through the KDFWR website as a commitment to your fishing future, saving you the hassle of renewing every year.
  • Joint/Spouse License. A shared permit, allowing couples who share a passion for fishing to enjoy the waters together or solo.
  • Trout Permit. Granting access to the state’s premium spots for Trout seekers, it’s a must for avid fly anglers.
  • Combination Hunting and Fishing License. A perfect combo for enthusiasts who love the best of both worlds.
  • Sportsman’s License. Covering all bases with fishing and hunting privileges, it also boasts additional permits for a full spectrum of outdoor activities.
  • Senior/Disabled Sportsman’s License. This includes all the benefits as above but is more wallet-friendly for senior and disabled anglers.

Cost for Residents

TypeCost
1-Day Fishing$7.00
3-Year Fishing (Online Only)$55.00
Annual Fishing$23.00
Joint/Spouse Annual Fishing$42.00
Annual Combination Hunting/Fishing$42.00
Sportsman’s License $95.00
Senior/Disabled Sportsman’s License$12.00
Trout Permit$10.00

Information for Non-Residents

Kentucky warmly welcomes non-residents to its waters, too, ensuring they have plenty of opportunities to join in the fishing fun. Recognizing the diverse needs of visitors, the state provides a range of fishing license options designed to accommodate everything from a spontaneous day of fishing to extended angling adventures. 

For those whose schedules only allow for brief visits, the 1-Day Fishing License is the perfect pick, offering much-needed flexibility. Vacationers looking to immerse themselves in a week of angling, meanwhile, can opt for the 7-Day Fishing License

If you’re planning several fishing trips to Kentucky or a prolonged visit, the Annual Fishing License has you covered for the whole year. This will let you return to the state as often as you like with your rod in hand!

Cost for Non-Residents

TypeCost
1-Day Fishing$15.00
7-Day Fishing$35.00
Annual Fishing$55.00
Trout Permit$10.00

Where to Buy Your KY Fishing License

An infographic featuring the flag of Kentucky above text that says "Kentucky fishing licence, where to buy", along with an illustration of a boat underneath against a blue background

There are three main avenues to purchase a fishing license in Kentucky, depending on how you like doing things. Here’s how you can get yours:

  • In-person through one of the over 900 local vendors across the state. These range from county stores and local bait shops to bigger chain outlets. It’s a great way to connect locally and even get some insider fishing tips.
  • Online. For those who prefer the click-and-cast method, the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources website is your go-to. Just fill in your details, select your license, and pay with Mastercard, Visa, Discover, or a Fish and Wildlife gift certificate. Instead of a traditional license, you’ll get a printable image and an authorization number. Don’t forget to have it on you when you’re out on the water.
  • By Phone. If talking is more your style, dial 1-800-858-1549 any time—day or night. Know what you need, make the call, and you’ll be all set to fish. Just like online, you’ll get an authorization number to keep handy while fishing.

Whichever route you choose, Kentucky makes it easy to get licensed and get fishing. Remember, keeping your permit on you whenever you’re casting your line is a must.

KY Fishing License FAQs

KY Fishing License: Ready, Set, Cast!

A view along a river in Kentucky from a red kayak with a fishing rod hanging over the front of the boat on a clear day

With the essential know-how about Kentucky fishing licenses in your tackle box, you’re all set for an incredible angling journey in the Bluegrass State. Now, with your license in hand and the FAQs as your guide, the waters are calling. Answer that call and immerse yourself in the beauty and the challenge of fishing. Here’s to tight lines, big catches, and the stories that you’ll tell!

We hope we covered all you need to know about getting a Kentucky fishing license. If there are still some questions left unanswered, get in touch with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. Once you’ve got your license and permits, book a fishing charter near you and hit the waters!

And if you want to read more about how to go fishing in the Bluegrass State, check out our detailed article.

Author profile picture

Lisa traded the lecture hall for the vast expanse of the world's waters, transforming her love of teaching into an insatiable passion for angling and storytelling. She would sail through oceans, lakes, and rivers, reeling in the world’s fish stories one catch at a time.


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