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

With 85,000 miles of rivers, thousands of lakes, and over 100 state parks, the “Keystone State” is home to some of the nation’s most diverse freshwater fishing. To enjoy any of it, you need a Pennsylvania fishing license.

pennsylvania state flag against the sun

The problem is that the rules can get very confusing sometimes. Today, we’re breaking down all you need to know about PA licenses so you can spend less time reading and more time reeling!

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

Who needs a Pennsylvania fishing license?

Every angler over the age of 16 needs a license to fish in the state. This applies to residents and non-residents alike, even when fishing with a guide or charter. On top of a regular license, you’ll need an additional permit to fish on Lake Erie, or to take home Salmon or Trout.

This doesn’t apply to PA Residents on leave from active military duty outside the state. Instead, they should carry proof of residency and status in the armed forces (PA driver’s license, military ID, and valid military orders showing the place of assignment and leave status).

“Fish For Free Days” are the only other exception. On the final Sunday in May and on July 4 every year, anglers from all over can fish without any license or permit.

PA Fishing License Cost

There are a variety of licenses available, ranging from a day to a decade and even your entire life. They’re not all available to everybody, though. Here’s a breakdown of the many license types, how much they cost, and who can get them.

License Type Resident Senior Resident Non-Resident
1-Day $11.97 N/A $26.97
3-Day N/A N/A $26.97
7-Day N/A N/A $34.97
Annual $22.97 $11.97 $52.97
3-Year $64.97 $31.97 $154.97
5-Year $106.97 $51.97 $256.97
10-Year $211.97 N/A $511.97
Lifetime N/A $51.97 N/A

Out-of-staters have access to several short-term licenses perfect for vacations or business trips. Residents don’t get all of these, but they do have the option of a 10-year license. Senior residents (aged 65 and older) can also buy a lifetime permit.

One important thing to note is that 1-Day Licenses aren’t valid between March 15 and April 30. They do, however, cover you to fish on Lake Erie, and to keep Salmon and Trout.

Lake Erie and Trout/Salmon Permits

A Southern Appalachian Brook Trout in shallow water next to a fly fishing rod

Unless you have a 1-Day License, you’ll need an extra permit to fish in Lake Erie or to keep Salmon and Trout. You can get these individually for $9.90, or as a combo package covering both Lake Erie and Trout/Salmon for $15.90.

Resident seniors with a Lifetime License get a few more options for these Permits. They last anywhere from 1–10 years and cost as follows:

Permit Duration Individual Cost Combo Cost
Annual $9.97 $15.97
3-Year $25.97 $43.97
5-Year $41.97 $71.97
10-Year $81.97 $141.97

Free and Reduced-Fee Licenses

As well as the regular list, some people can get discounted or even cost-free fishing licenses. The following people are entitled to discounted licenses at a cost of $2.90:

  • Resident Reservists and National Guards who were deployed overseas for 60 days or more or released early due to injury within the last 24 months.
  • Resident veterans who have lost a limb, lost the use of a limb, or are over 60% disabled.
  • PA residents who are former prisoners of war (POWs).

As well as this, resident veterans who are blind or certified as 100% disabled are eligible for free a Disabled Veterans License.

You can get these at the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission or county treasurer office. Make sure to bring proof of your status along with a valid ID confirming your residence.

Where can I buy a Pennsylvania fishing license?

A sign on a wooden wall advertising a bait shop, a common place to buy a PA fishing license

You know you need a license, but where should you get it? Simple – just pick up your license in any of the following ways and you’re set:

  • In person. Head to any of over 1,300 vendors across the state. Hardware stores, tackle stores, and chains like Walmart usually sell them.
  • Online. This is the simplest way to buy a license. It’s valid as soon as you pay, so just print it out and you’re good to go.
  • By Phone. You can also buy a license over the phone at 877-707-4085.

When applying for a Pennsylvania fishing license or permit, you must give your social security number. Be sure to have it on hand so that everything runs smoothly.

When do PA fishing licenses expire?

All short-term fishing licenses for tourists end exactly the amount of days after you purchased them. For example, a 3-Day Fishing License bought on a Monday will expire at midnight on the Wednesday into Thursday.

Similarly, the same logic follows with yearly and multi-year licenses. You’ll have up until the end of the final year of validity to fish using that license. So, a 10-Year License bought in 2017 will carry you through until the very last second of December 31, 2026.

Reciprocal Agreements with Other States

Fishing in waters that border other states can be confusing at times. Luckily, Pennsylvania has reached an agreement with many of its neighbors, allowing you to fish in these waters with your PA license:

  • Maryland: Along the Conowingo and Youghiogheny Rivers, if fishing from a boat.
  • New Jersey: On the Delaware River, from New Jersey’s shores or in its waters on a boat.
  • New York: On the Delaware River, from New Jersey’s shores or in its waters on a boat (same as New Jersey).
  • Ohio: Along the Pymatuning River, when fishing from a boat.

Pennsylvania currently has no other agreements concerning fishing licenses with other states. If you are fishing some of the other border areas, make sure to have a valid fishing license for both states, or make sure you don’t stray into out-of-state waters.

Common Questions about PA Fishing Licenses

Assorted fishing tackle on a wooden table, with a hook and sinker making a question mark in the middle
  1. At what age is a person considered a senior?

    In order to qualify for a senior fishing license in Pennsylvania, a person must be 65 or older.

  2. Do I need to buy a Trout stamp each year for my Senior Resident Lifetime License?

    Until 2015, senior lifetime license holders could buy just one Trout Stamp for the rest of their life. However, if you purchased your Senior Resident Lifetime License after January 1, 2015, you’ll need to get a new stamp whenever it runs out.

  3. Does my license need to be visible while fishing?

    Yes. All licenses must be visible on your outside garment and you must carry a state-recognized ID at all times. If you want to keep your fishing license safe, you can apply for a $10 fishing badge, which acts as a license, but without the worry of carrying it with you. Just pin it to your jacket and make sure to bring your license certificate with you, too.

  4. Is there a disabled veteran discount for out-of-state anglers?

    No. To qualify for a discounted veteran or senior license in PA, one must be a resident in the state.

  5. Do I need both a regular fishing license AND a Trout/Salmon license if I am fishing for Trout/Salmon?

    Yes. In order to fish for Trout/Salmon, you’ll need a regular fishing license and the additional Trout/Salmon permit.

  6. I lost my fishing license/stamp. What do I do?

    Can't find your license? No worries! You can get another one for just $6.90. Do this online or in person at any fishing license vendor state-wide.

  7. Can I fish in Trout stocked waters or wilderness Trout streams without a permit if I'm catching and releasing?

    No. In order to fish Trout-stocked waters or any designated Trout stream in PA, you will need a Trout stamp, regardless of whether you’re harvesting or releasing the fish.

We tried to cover everything you need to know. If you still have questions, we recommend getting in touch with your local PFCB office. Otherwise, you’re all set to find a guide near you and start fishing Pennsylvania’s exciting waters!


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