Tennessee Fishing License: The Complete Guide

Dec 12, 2023 | 6 minute read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Home to over 20,000 miles of streams, plenty of lakes and reservoirs, and incredible fish, Tennessee has more than just Nashville and country music. The “Volunteer State” offers incredible fishing year-round. Discover this freshwater haven and go after a range of thrilling and delicious Trout, along with Catfish, Muskies, and Crappies. But first, you’ll need to grab your Tennessee fishing license. This guide has all you need to know.

tennessee state flag against the sun

Quick View: Tennessee License Requirements

In order to fish Tennessee’s range of fishing grounds, you’ll need at least one of two things. A Tennessee fishing license will cover you across most of the state, but certain areas require a separate fishing permit.

As well as your regular TN fishing license, you’ll need a permit for fishing within Gatlinburg and Bedford’s city limits, the Tellico-Citico creeks, and any lake owned by a government agency. In addition to this, you may require a special Trout permit for certain areas. Read on to find out what’s required where.

Who needs a Tennessee fishing license?

Usually, everyone over the age of 13 must have a valid fishing license to go fishing in Tennessee. Every angler needs a license, regardless of whether you’re fishing on your own or with a guide or charter.

Residents and non-residents must apply for a fishing license, although different options are available for both groups. If you’ve been living in TN for at least 90 consecutive days, you are considered a resident. You can prove this by presenting your state-issued driver’s license, a valid student card, voter registration card, vehicle registration, or your I-94 record.

Your fishing license will be valid across the state, however, you may require an additional permit in certain bodies of water.

TN Fishing License Exceptions:

Everyone will have the chance to fish without a fishing license on Tennessee’s “Free Fishing Day.” This usually takes place on the second Saturday in June, but make sure to keep an eye on it from year-to-year.

Children get even more time to fish without a license during the “Free Fishing Week.” This usually takes coincides with the free fishing day, and allows anyone under 15 to fish all week license-free.

Lastly, certain groups don’t need to buy a license at all. These include:

  • Anyone under the age of 13
  • Anyone fishing on their own or their family’s private land
  • Military personnel on official leave – you must carry a copy of your leave papers at all times
  • Residents born before March 1, 1926

Bear in mind that even if you don’t need a license to fish, you still have to abide by other fishing regulations, including catch and size limits.

Resident Fishing License Cost

Residents can choose between one-day, annual, and lifetime licenses. Single-day licenses cost $6.50 for the basic version, or $11.50 if you also want to target Trout.

Sound straightforward? Annual and lifetime licenses are a lot more varied. Here’s a summary of the many different types you can choose between.

Annual Resident Licenses

Annual License Type License Cost
County of Residency $10.00
Junior Hunt & Fish (13-15) $9.00
Hunt & Fish $33.00
Sportsman $165.00

If you’re only fishing in your local waters, the cheapest option is a County of Residence License. This lets you fish in your home county for a year. However, you can’t use minnows or any artificial bait. Also, if you want to take on Trout, you’ll need an additional permit to do so.

All other annual licenses combine hunting and fishing. Again, there’s a basic and a deluxe version. A Hunt & Fish License allows you to fish for everything except Trout and to hunt for small game. Otherwise, Sportsman Licenses let you fish, hunt, and trap without any additional cost state-wide.

Lifetime Resident Licenses

Lifetime License Type License Cost
Sportsman (0-3) $320.00
Sportsman (3-6) $659.00
Sportsman (7-12) $988.00
Sportsman (13-50) $1976.00
Sportsman (51-64) $1153.00
Senior Hunt & Fish $49.00
Senior Sportsman (65+) $329.00

Lastly, lifetime licenses. These vary wildly in price depending on your age. When it comes to fishing, they’re the same. They cover you to fish for whatever you want, all across Tennessee. However, you’ll still need hunting permits in some situations.

Non-Resident Fishing License Cost

Non-Resident License Type License Cost
Junior Hunt & Fish (13-15) $10.00
3-Day (No Trout) $20.00
3-Day (All Species) $40.00
10-Day (No-Trout) $30.00
10-Day (All Species) $61.00
Annual (No-Trout) $49.00
Annual (All Species) $98.00

Non-residents don’t get as many options as Tennessee locals but the length of licenses caters much better to tourists. They range from three days to a full year, with Trout as an optional extra.

Fishing Permits

Thought we were done? Not quite. Permits are an add-on to your fishing license, allowing you to fish in a specific body of water. If you get a Sportsman License, you don’t need to worry about these. Otherwise, here are the various permits on offer, which are the same whether you’re a resident or not.

Fishing Permit Type Permit Cost
Gatlinburg Trout (Daily) $3.00
Gatlinburg Trout (3-Day) $9.00
Agency Lake (Daily) $6.00
Agency Lake (Annual) $48.00
Tellico-Citico Trout (Daily) $6.00
Bedford Lake (Daily) $6.00
South Holston Lake (Daily, Resident Only) $20.00

You need a permit to fish in Gatlinburg’s city waters, Bedford Lake, the Tellico-Citico creeks, or any lake managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. On top of that, residents can buy a South Holston Lake Permit, which covers them in both TN and VA sections of the lakes.

However, there is one exception: the 1-Day Gatlinburg Trout Permit, which is entirely different to the Daily Trout Permit. For $11.50, this will allow you to fish waters in the Gatlinburg city area for a day without having to buy a Tennessee fishing license.

Reduced-Fee Permanent Licenses

In addition to all of the above licenses, there are some exceptions to the rule. State residents with certain disabilities are eligible for a discounted, lifetime’s fishing license for the cost of $10. These are available to residents who are:

  • Legally blind.
  • Permanently confined to a wheelchair.
  • Intellectually disabled (as described in TCA 33-1-101).
  • Receiving SSI benefits due to intellectual disability
  • People with mental challenges
  • Disabled veterans (30% war service or 100% service-connected).

These licenses, while permanent and lifelong, are not the same as a “Sportsman” license. You may be required to purchase additional permits depending on the location.

Where to Buy a Tennessee Fishing License

A group of young anglers and a fishing guide each holding two Striped Bass while standing on StriperXtreme Guide Service fishing boat, Tennessee
This photo was taken by StriperXtreme Guide Service

You can buy a license in several ways, and at a variety of places throughout Tennessee. These are the four main ways to do so.

  • Online. You can pick up your Tennessee fishing license without even speaking to anyone via the Go Outdoors portal. Enroll and grab your license here.
  • At a vendor. Most hardware and tackle stores, and Walmarts across the state are licensed to sell fishing licenses.
  • From County Clerks. Any county clerk is able to provide you all you need to get a fishing license.
  • From a TWRA office. The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency will also be able to provide you with a fishing license.

As always, there are a couple of exceptions. You can only buy Sportsman Licenses directly at one of the four regional TWRA offices, or by calling the Nashville office at 615-781-6500. For reduced-fee Permanent Licenses, you’ll need to apply at the TWRA office in Nashville.

Whatever license you go for, you’ll need your social security number and some form of identification to confirm your status. Make sure that you’ve got these at hand to get your license quickly and easily.

Common Questions and TN Fishing Licenses

That covers everything you need to know about getting a Tennessee fishing license. Pick one up, find a guide near you, and go and make the most of it! If you have any other questions, get in touch in the comments below!

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Growing up next to a river, Rhys was always on the water. From Carp fishing in his native Wales to trying his hand at offshore fishing when traveling abroad, Rhys has vastly expanded his horizons when it comes to casting a line and continues to test new waters whenever he has the opportunity.

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