Your Guide to Getting a Pennsylvania Fishing License: All You Need to Know
May 3, 2019 | 6 minute read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Discover the Great Lakes out of Erie, hit the Ohio River in Pittsburgh, or explore the Delaware in Philadelphia. Home to over 85,000 miles of rivers, and thousands of lakes in over 100 state Parks, PA is home to some of the nation’s most diverse freshwater fishing opportunities! This guide will ensure that you can make the most of it. Read on and get the right Pennsylvania fishing license.

Fishing Requirements in Pennsylvania

Most people wanting to fish the “Keystone State’s” productive waters will need some kind of fishing license. But it’s not a “one-size fits all!” While one license covers all rivers and most lakes, you’ll need a separate permit to cast on Lake Erie. If you want to take home a delicious Salmon or Trout, you’ll also need a separate permit. It doesn’t matter where you’re fishing, the separate permit is required.

This may seem a little confusing but after reading this, you’ll be an expert on getting the right license!

A graphic showing the different fishing licenses required in Pennsylvania, including a general state license for all anglers over the age of 16, a special permit for Lake Erie, and a separate permit for harvesting Trout and Salmon.

Who needs a Pennsylvania fishing license?

Every angler over the age of 16 must hold a Pennsylvania fishing license when fishing in the state. Both residents and non-residents of the state have to carry a license at all times when fishing, but there’s a difference in price. Make sure you know which one you’re applying for!

A Pennsylvania resident is someone who has been living in the state for the last six months continuously. You can prove this through a state-issued driver’s license, any photo ID with your address, proof of income tax returns to Pennsylvania state or to a local body within Pennsylvania, and/or a Pennsylvania voter registration card.

It’s not all straightforward, though. You’ll need an extra permit to fish in Lake Erie or if you want to catch Salmon and Trout. Regardless of your residence, you can choose between a Lake Erie and Salmon/Trout permit, or a combination package for the two. There’s a range of options from one to 10-year permits, so all your fishing needs are catered to.

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

How much is a Pennsylvania fishing license?

So, you know which license you need. Now it’s time to take a look at how much you’re going to pay. The chart below will help you decide which length of license you want. Tourists can take advantage of short-term fishing licenses, as well as long-term licenses. Meanwhile, residents of Pennsylvania will benefit from significant discounts on one-day and all longer-term licenses.

Table showing the pricing structure of Pennsylvania fishing licences from 1 day through to a lifetime for residents, non-residents, and seniors.

As you can see, senior citizen residents of PA will be able to take advantage of even greater discounts. The Lifetime Fishing License costs the same as a 5-Year License for a senior. Why not make the most of it and extend it forever?

How to Carry Your License

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. A badge acts the same 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.

What about the Lake Erie and Trout/Salmon permits?

Other than a one-day tourist fishing license, fishing in Lake Erie and for Trout or Salmon is not covered by any of the fishing licenses. If you want to get out on the Great Lake or hunt these delicious species, you’ll need to purchase an additional permit. The process for purchasing one of these permits is the same as buying a license, only residents and non-residents pay the same price. Of course, you can practice catch and release on these creatures without a special permit.

How much are Trout and Salmon permits?

Table showing the cost of combined and individual Trout and Salmon permits in Pennsylvania, ranging from 1-year to 10-year permits.

Exceptions to PA Fishing License Requirements

There are some exceptions when it comes to carrying a Pennsylvania fishing license, as well as some opportunities to get a discount on the cost. Find out who and how below:

  • Members of the National Guard, armed forces, and former prisoners of war (POWs) are eligible for a discount fishing license.
  • Resident veterans who are blind or certified as 100% disabled are eligible for a Disabled Veterans License.
  • Any resident veteran who has lost a limb and is over 60% disabled can apply for a reduced fee resident fishing license.
  • Residents of Pennsylvania on active duty who are stationed outside the state but returning on authorized leave are exempt from license requirements.
    • Any qualifying service personnel should, instead, show their military ID in lieu of a fishing license.

You can get all of the above licenses at the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission or county treasurer office. If you qualify for this, make sure to bring proof of your status along with a valid ID confirming your residence.

The only other exception is the statewide “Fish for Free Days.” On the final Sunday of May and on July 4 every year, anglers from all over can fish without any license or permit on Pennsylvania’s rich waters.

Where can I buy a Pennsylvania fishing license?

Forgot to pick up your fishing license before a trip? Fear not! There are over 1,300 vendors across the state who will take care of your needs. From hardware stores to Walmart, tackle stores to Kmart, there’s always the chance of picking up your fishing license.

The most convenient way to grab your Pennsylvania fishing license is online. Save the time of heading out to a shop and print your license as soon as you’ve payed. Your license will be valid right away so start fishing immediately. Just make sure to sign the paper with an ink pen to make it valid.

When does my Pennsylvania fishing license expire?

All short-term fishing licenses for tourists end exactly the amount of days after you purchased it. 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.

Does my Pennsylvania fishing license cover me in other states?

When fishing waters that border other states, you should always be aware of the different licensing laws and regulations. To prevent you from running into difficulties, Pennsylvania has reached an agreement with many of its neighboring states:

Maryland: Along the Conowingo and Youghiogheny Rivers, anglers will be able to fish in both PA and MD waters from a boat only if they have the other state’s fishing license.

New Jersey: On the Delaware River, anglers possessing a Pennsylvania license will be able to fish from New Jersey’s shores or in its water’s on a boat, and vice versa. However, holders of an NJ license should be wary not to venture into any Pennsylvanian estuary without a valid license.

New York: As with New Jersey, Pennsylvania has reached a reciprocal agreement with its other neighbor on the Delaware. Anglers with licenses from either state are able to cross to the other’s shores to get their fish on.

Ohio: If you’re looking to fish the Pymatuning River that straddles the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania, you also won’t have to worry about crossing state waters. With your PA license, you can fish from a board in OH along the river – just make sure not to cast from the Ohio shore.

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.

What happens if I lose my PA fishing license?

If you’ve lost your license, don’t run the risk of being caught without it. For just $6.90, you can replace it through the official online portal or at any fishing license vendor state-wide.

What happens if I don’t buy a Pennsylvania fishing license?

You must carry your fishing license at all times, visibly displaying it on your clothes. Failure to do so will result in a minimum $75 fine, with the potential of an additional $20 fine levied per fish caught.

Follow the instructions on this guide and you won’t have to worry about a thing!

You’re all set to get out on Pennsylvania’s exciting freshwater rivers and lakes. If you think we’ve missed something or have any questions, feel free to get in touch via the comments section below!

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