How to Get Your Ohio Fishing License: An Easy Guide
Jul 30, 2019 | 5 minute read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

With Lake Erie to the north and the Ohio River bordering Kentucky to the south, Ohio is sandwiched between some of the best game fishing in the country. Whether it’s monster Walleye or Steelheads you’re looking for, or a delicious Crappie or Pike to take home, the “Buckeye State” won’t disappoint. Here’s a handy guide to get you all geared up for your trip!

Quick View: Ohio Fishing License Requirements

It may be a pain, but Ohio’s fishing bureaucracy is a small price to pay to enjoy its incredible fishing. Surrounded by a freshwater lake and river, there’s no need to worry about the difference between saltwater and freshwater.

You’ll be glad to know that your Ohio fishing license covers any of the state’s more than 50,000 lakes. In the colder months, non-residents need a separate license to fish Lake Erie. You can get hold of this just as easily as your regular one!

A graphic showing Ohio fishing license requirements. A fishing license is required for all anglers aged 16 and over, and a special license is required for fishing Lake Erie.

Who needs an Ohio fishing license?

Everyone over the age of 16 must purchase a fishing license. While this applies to both residents and non-residents, the cost is different depending on your status. A resident is someone who has been living continuously in OH for the past six months. You can prove this through your social security number or state-issued driver’s license.

Your license will be valid across the state for all freshwater fishing. Every angler must purchase and carry their license for the duration of their fishing trip, regardless of whether you’re fishing on your own or with a local charter operator.

Do I need a separate license for Lake Erie?

Here’s where it gets a bit confusing. If you’re a non-resident, a regular OH fishing license only covers you from May until the end of the year. From January 1 until April 30, you’ll need to get a specific Lake Erie fishing license to fish the lake. This includes any waters immediately upstream in its tributaries, creeks, or rivers.

OH residents do not need to purchase separate licenses for Lake Erie fishing. Three-day and yearly permits will cover residents in any state waters throughout the year. However, residents do have the option to purchase a one-day Lake Erie license. If you’re looking to fish the Great Lake for one day only, you can purchase either a Lake Erie or Ohio fishing license.

How much does an Ohio Fishing License cost?

There’s a range of packages to choose from when deciding to buy your license. From one day to a lifetime of fishing, you can choose whatever suits your needs. Residents receive discounts on yearly licenses, while also having the option of multi-year permits, along with the lifetime option. There’s also a significant discount on Ohio fishing licenses for seniors.

Graph of fishing license prices in Ohio, ranging from a 1-day license for $11 to lifetime licenses for $486.

A non-resident Lake Erie fishing license costs the same as a 1-Day License. Non-residents can also purchase an annual Lake Erie License for the same price of $11. This is the more cost-effective plan if you wish to come back.

You can also purchase a Lifetime Fishing License for a minor. For just $430.56, children under the age of 16 can get a fishing license for the rest of their lives! Lifetime licenses are always valid, even if you are no longer a state resident. Just make sure to update the relevant information to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife (ODNR).

Who’s eligible for a free fishing license?

Some citizens are eligible for a free fishing license. Anglers in the following categories can apply for a one-off, lifelong fishing license at no cost at all:

For a list of exceptions to all of the above, read on.

Who does not need a license to fish in Ohio?

  • Anglers look forward to “Free Fishing Days” on the first weekend of May each year, when no license is required. The statewide “Free Fishing Days” give any person, regardless of their residency, the chance to go fishing completely free.
  • Children under the age of 16 don’t need to purchase any kind of license.
  • Military personnel on active duty while on leave or furlough don’t need to buy a fishing license. Just make sure to bring some documentation of your status along.
  • Finally, you won’t need to grab a license if you are assisting an angler who has a mobility-impaired license, providing that you are only using one line.

Where can I buy an Ohio fishing license?

Collecting your Ohio fishing license has never been easier. Just make sure to have your social security number at hand in all cases. You can choose from any one of the following ways to submit your application:

  1. Online. Residents and non-residents alike can apply for their permit online, provided they submit all the relevant documents.
  2. Through an official vendor. There are literally hundreds of agents all over the state who will do all the work for you. From local tackle stores to over 100 Wal-Marts, it couldn’t be easier.
  3. By mail-order form. Call 1-800-WILDLIFE or (614) 264-6300 and ask to receive a Mail Order Application Form.
  4. By telephone. For 1 or 3-day licenses, you can call: 1-866-703-1928 to talk to a live operator (there’s a $5.50 fee) or 1-855-764-3474 to use an interactive voice response service, which will cost $3.25.

If you buy your OH fishing license online, you can keep a copy of it on a mobile device. You can print a paper copy from the internet, or you can request a Conservation Card for $4. If you ordered by telephone, just keep your license number along with a form of personal ID and that will be enough to prove that you’re licensed.

Unfortunately, you can’t buy a Lake Erie-specific license online. Contact the ODNR or head to a vendor and get your printed copy to take on your trip.

When does my Ohio fishing license expire?

A single day license is valid from the time of purchase until midnight the same day. If you purchase a 1-Day License in advance, it will be valid on the date of your choice until midnight on that day.

A 3-Day License is valid from the time of purchase until midnight on the third day after purchase. If you’re buying a 3-Day License ahead of time, it will be valid beginning on the date of your choice and will expire at midnight three days later.  

With an annual license, you can fish for 365 days from the date you purchase it. A multi-year license is valid until the expiration date printed on your license. You must then renew your license if you want to continue fishing Ohio’s stunning waters.

Fishing Interstate Waters

The Ohio River

If you’re fishing along the border with West Virginia and Kentucky, there’s a few things you should know. In principle, each state will respect each other’s fishing licenses. In West Virginia, you can fish from the banks, along the embayments, and in the tributaries to the Ohio River with your Ohio fishing license.

There are some common regulations between the two states, but you should also be aware of West Virginian laws when fishing there.

Is my Ohio fishing license valid in Kentucky?

Your Ohio fishing license is valid in Kentucky state waters on the Ohio River. This includes along the banks of the river, but not in estuaries or tributaries to the river. You should adhere to Kentucky state regulations with regards to equipment and legal catch limits.

What if I lose my Ohio Fishing License?

If your license is lost or stolen, there’s no need to worry. Thanks to the online service, you can print out a new one for free! If you’d like a plastic card version, you can purchase a replacement for just $4.

Now that you know what you need to do, why not get out and make the most of Ohio’s productive waters? Think we missed something? Reach out in the comments below!  

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