Ohio Fishing License Rules Explained
Jun 11, 2021 | 5 minute read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

With Lake Erie to the north and the Ohio River to the south, Ohio is sandwiched between some of the best game fishing in the country. Whether you’re after Pike and Steelhead, or delicious Crappie and Walleye, the “Buckeye State” won’t disappoint. Here’s a handy guide to getting your Ohio fishing license so that you’re all geared up for your trip!

Looking for info on neighboring states, or around the US in general? Check out our full list of licensing guides here.

Who needs an Ohio fishing license?

Everyone over the age of 16 needs a license to fish in Ohio, even if you’re fishing with a guide or charter. This applies to both residents and out-of-staters, although it’s cheaper if you’re a state resident.

OH Fishing License Exceptions

As with every rule, there are a few exceptions. Specifically, the following groups can fish completely license-free in Ohio:

  • Children under the age of 16, whether they’re Ohio residents or not.
  • Resident military personnel on leave from active duty, if they carry papers proving their status.
  • Anybody assisting an angler with a mobility-impaired license, as long as they’re only using one rod.
  • Everybody on “Free Fishing Days” (the first weekend of May each year).

Ohio License Types and Cost

You have a whole host of licenses to choose from, ranging from one day to a lifetime of fishing. Prices are different for residents and non-residents. On top of this, the list of licenses isn’t the same for Ohioans and out-of-staters.

Resident License Cost

License Type Resident Cost Senior Resident Cost
1-Day License $14.00 N/A
1-Year Upgrade
(from a 1-Day License)
$12.00 N/A
1-Year License $25.00 $10.00
3-Year License $54.08 $28.60
5-Year License $90.22 $47.58
10-Year License $180.44 N/A
Lifetime License $468.00 $84.24

Residents get a wide range of long-term licenses, with senior discounts on many of them. As well as the rates above, resident children under 16 get a discount on lifetime licenses. You can set the little ones up for a life of awesome angling for $430.56.

Lifetime licenses are always valid, even if you’re no longer a state resident. Just make sure to update the relevant information to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife (ODNR).

Non-Resident License Cost

License Type Non-Resident Cost
1-Day License $14.00
3-Day License $25.00
1-Year Upgrade
(from a 1-Day License)
$37.44
1-Year License $50.96
Non-Resident Lake Erie Fishing Permit (January 1 – April 30) $11.00

Visitors to Ohio have a shorter list of licenses to choose from. These are mainly focused on fishing vacations, with a special three-day license that isn’t available for residents. Don’t worry, you can also get an annual license if you want to fish for longer or more often.

Lake Erie Fishing Permits

A view of Lake Erie from the shore in Ohio

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 also need to get a Lake Erie Fishing Permit. This costs $11 and also covers you in any waters immediately upstream in its tributaries, creeks, or rivers. OH residents don’t need a Lake Erie Fishing Permit.

Free Fishing Licenses

Some Ohio residents can get a license without paying a penny. These are lifelong fishing licenses that you only have to apply for once, and are available for the following groups:

  • Resident seniors born before December 31, 1937.
  • Residents who are mobility-impaired or legally blind.
  • Residents of state or county institutions.
  • Resident disabled veterans and former Prisoners of War.

Where to Buy an Ohio Fishing License

A sign on a wooden wall advertising bait and tackle for sale, with a picture of a Sunfish in the middle

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

  1. Online. Residents and non-residents alike can apply for their permits online, provided they submit all the relevant documents.
  2. In person. There are hundreds of registered vendors all over the state, from local hardware and tackle stores to big chains like Walmart.
  3. By mail. Call 1-800-WILDLIFE or (614) 264-6300 and ask to receive a Mail Order Application Form.
  4. By phone. For one or three-day licenses, you can call 1-866-703-1928 to talk to a live operator (with a $5.50 fee) or the automated line at 1-855-764-3474, which costs $3.25.

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

When does my license expire?

Single and three-day licenses are valid from the time of purchase until midnight on the day of expiration. If you buy your license in advance, it will be valid on the date of your choice.

With an annual license, you can fish for 365 days from the date you buy 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. 

What if I lose my 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.

Fishing Interstate Waters

A bend on the Ohio River, with green forest on either side

Ohio has made deals with West Virginia and Kentucky to make fishing the boundary waters of the Ohio River simpler. You can fish here with your OH fishing license, as long as you abide by local regulations.

In West Virginia, you can fish from the banks, along embayments, and in tributaries to the Ohio River. In Kentucky, you can also fish the Ohio and its banks, but not in estuaries or tributaries to the river.

Ohio doesn’t have any agreements in place with Michigan or Indiana. If you’re fishing along the state’s western or northern border, make sure you stick to OH waters at all times, or pick up an Indiana or Michigan license to be safe.

Common Questions about OH Fishing Licenses

Assorted fishing tackle on a wooden table, with a hook and sinker making a question mark in the middle
  1. What counts as a state resident?

    A resident is someone who has been living continuously in OH for the past six months. You can prove this with a state ID, driver’s license, or your social security number.

  2. Can you upgrade a non resident three-day license to a full year?

    No. The annual upgrade is only available for a one-day fishing license.

  3. Do I need a license to take kids/grandkids fishing?

    It depends. If you’re just watching while they fish, you don’t need a license. However, if you take part in any way, you could be considered to be fishing yourself. It’s always best to get a license, just in case you need to help them haul in a monster.

  4. Can I buy licenses for more than one person?

    Yes. You can buy multiple licenses at the same time, just make sure you have an ID and SSN for each person.

We tried to cover everything you need to know about licensing in the Buckeye State. If you still have questions, we recommend getting in touch with your local DNR office. If not, you’re good to book a local charter or just head out and make the most of Ohio’s incredible angling!


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