Fishing in Pennsylvania

How Much Is a Fishing License in Pennsylvania? (Regulations and More)

Whether you are looking for largemouth bass or trout, Pennsylvania’s several streams, rivers, reservoirs, and lakes have everything to offer. Anglers have known them to reward a trophy catch every year. The above statements seemed untrue until 2015, when I was in Portersville, PA. Generally, Portersville doesn’t have much to offer, but I did get an opportunity to fish in the surrounding parks.

Rainbow Trout Scales
Rainbow Trout Scales – click πŸ‘‰ Learn to Catch Rainbow Trout

Fishing at Lake Arthur and Slippery Rock Creek are some of my most memorable fishing moments. Besides hiking the path along Slippery Rock Creek, the creek is a special place and has kept me coming back for years. But before visiting the Keystone state, you need to find out the cost of the different fishing licenses. For more details on fishing in Pennsylvania, please read on.

  • Residents’ fishing license (16 to 64 years): $22.97
  • Senior resident annual (over 65 years): $11.97
  • Senior resident lifetime license: $51.97
  • Non-residents adult (over 16 years old): $52.97
  • Non-resident student fishing license: $22.97
  • 1-day resident fishing license: $11.97
  • 1-day non-resident fishing license: $26.97
  • 3-day non-resident fishing license: $26.97
  • 7-day non-resident fishing license: $34.97

For more details on the cost of fishing licenses, here is a link to PA’s official website.

Does Pennsylvania Have Free Fishing Days?

Yes, like most US states, Pennsylvania does have free fishing days. In 2022, the free fishing days were Monday, July 4, and May 29. On these days, everyone in Pennsylvania can fish the state’s waterways between 00:01 hrs and 23:59 hrs without permits or licenses. (source) You won’t need salmon/trout or Lake Erie permits to fish.

But you must adhere to the other fishing rules and regulations, including the daily limit and staying away from the prohibited species. If you have to release some fish after catching them, you should do that to avoid penalties. And it would be best if you avoided all the waterways closed to fishing for that season.

Download the Pennsylvania Fish Regulations with this shortcut link πŸ‘‰ Pennsylvania Fish Regulations PDF

Can Non-residents Fish for Free on Free Fishing Days?

Yes, all the state-operated waterways are open to everyone, including non-residents. Therefore, these free fishing days allow folks to fish in Pennsylvania before investing in a fishing license.

Types of Fishing License and Costs in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is an exceptional angler’s destination that accommodates many fishing methods. First and foremost, they created a license for every age group, both residents and non-residents. Even senior residents can even apply for a lifetime license. Therefore, before discussing the license cost, we first need to focus on the different types of fishing licenses in PA.

Looking for some great spots to Fly Fish in Pennsylvania? I’ve got you covered with this article πŸ‘‰ Where to Fly Fish in Pennsylvania

Resident and Non-resident Annual Fishing License

Generally, these licenses are for adults over 16 years old who plan to fish in PA. But the age limit for resident fishing licenses applies to folks between 16 and 64 years old. After all, they do have a package for the senior residents. On the other hand, the non-resident annual fishing license is ideal for everyone over 16 years old. Therefore, senior non-residents can only apply for the adult annual non-resident license.

To apply for a resident fishing license, you need the following documents:

  • A valid Pennsylvania voters card
  • Previous year’s tax return indicating proof that you filed your taxes
  • Pennsylvania driver’s license
  • Valid PA photo ID

Prisoner of War and National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve License

Unlike the other American states, Pennsylvania has these two fishing licenses for the Armed Forces and National Guard. This license allows them to fish in Pennsylvania when they return from overseas and enjoy several benefits.

Before applying for these licenses, you must prove that you were deployed overseas for the last two years. You must also have been part of the Armed forces’ reserve component for 60 consecutive days. And you were released early due to an injury or ailment you got while fighting for your country. (source)

Senior Lifetime and Senior Resident Licenses

These licenses are available for residents over 65, and they can apply for them when they reach 65 years old. Fortunately, you won’t require a trout permit if you obtained your senior resident lifetime license before January 1, 1991. But if you purchased your trout permit before January 1, 2015, you’re exempted from purchasing it yearly. (source)

Disabled Veterans Licenses

Another exceptional package for veterans in Pennsylvania is the disabled veteran’s license. Generally, all disabled veterans who got injured while in the line of duty can apply for this license. If you lost both or one of your limbs or eyesight or are 100% disabled, you qualify for this license. If you fall under this category, you can apply for your license at the commissioner’s or county treasurer’s office.

1-Day Resident and 1-Day Non-resident Licenses

Other than an annual license, Pennsylvania does have a 1-day option for folks planning on trying short-term fishing. These licenses are available for residents and non-residents; unfortunately, they’re not available or valid between March 15 and April 30 every year. (source)

As its name suggests, the 1-day fishing license is valid for 24 hours. Therefore, it will expire at 23:59 hrs on your purchase.

Trout Permit

On top of the fishing license, every angler planning on fishing trout must get a trout permit. You will need the trout permit if:

  • You take or kill a trout while fishing.
  • You plan on fishing in waters under trout regulations.
  • You plan to fish in the waterways designated as stocked between February 21 and May 31.
  • You plan on fishing trout in class A wild trout waters.

Other Fishing Permits

If you plan on exploring the unique waters of Erie Lake and Presque-Isle Bay with its branches, you need the Lake Erie Permit. With these permits, you can legally access and cast your line in these water bodies.

In most cases, anglers will need a trout permit and a fishing license to fish in the Erie region. Therefore, you can get a combination of trout Lake Erie permits instead of purchasing the two. Fishing guides and charter boat owners also need permits to do their jobs in Pennsylvania. (source)

Table of fishing license costs in Pennsylvania

Annual fishing license (16-64)$22.97N/A
Annual fishing license (16 and up)N/A$52.97
Senior resident annual (over 65)$11.97N/A
Senior resident (lifetime)$51.97N/A
1-day fishing license$11.97$26.97
3-day touristN/A$26.97
7-day touristN/A$34.97
Trout permit$9.97$9.97
Lake Erie Permit$9.97$9.97

Where Can I Purchase a Fishing License in Pennsylvania?

There are two ways to purchase your fishing license, the most common being online. You can buy your license online if you can’t go to the many local agents.

You must visit the following link (3), select the license you want, and pay for it using your credit card. Finally, you can print it and have it with you every time you go fishing in Pennsylvania.

But if you like buying things in person, you can visit their issuing agents all over the state and get your license. Fortunately, there are over 700 agents in Pennsylvania and its neighboring states. Therefore, you can locate the local agent in your hometown and get your license before traveling to your fishing destination. (source)

How Much Is a Pennsylvania License in Walmart?

fly fishing in Pennsylvania
Link to the πŸ‘‰ Best Fly Fishing in Pennsylvania

Walmart’s sporting and outdoors department serves as an American state licensing agent. Therefore you can visit the local Walmart store in PA and purchase your license. Still, you should know that it can be much more costly than buying at government offices.

The price of the resident annual license is $22.97, while the one for non-residents goes for $52.97. The cost of a 7-day non-resident license is $34.97, while the one for a single day is $26.97. Fortunately, kids under 16 don’t need a fishing license in Pennsylvania.  

Where Can I Get the Fishing Regulations in Pennsylvania?

Owning a Pennsylvania fishing license and a trout permit doesn’t give you the right to fish anywhere and carry as many fishes as you want. It also doesn’t give you the right to access privately-owned ponds. After all, there are several rules and regulations that you have to follow to fish legally in Pennsylvania.

These regulations are created by the hunting and fishing department, stipulating when and where you can fish. They also dictate the fishing season of certain fish species and the number of fish anyone can carry after fishing. These regulations are there to guarantee the continuity of the fish species in the state.

And breaking these rules can result in some hefty fines. Therefore if you don’t want to lose your license or pay some penalties, you should read these regulations before leaving your home. You can find these rules and regulations on Pennsylvania’s official website or by clicking the following link.

What Is the Fishing License Age Requirement for Pennsylvania?

Fishing is open to everyone in the United States, including Pennsylvania; therefore, you can take your kids on a fishing trip. Fortunately, all the kids under 16 years old (resident and non-resident) don’t require a fishing license to fish in Pennsylvania. Unlike most states, all seniors over 65 years old must get a seniors fishing license.

On the other hand, senior non-residents must apply for an adult annual fishing license, which is ideal for over 16-year-old anglers. For residents, the annual fishing license works for anglers between 16 and 64 years old.

When Do Pennsylvania Fishing Licenses Expire?

As aforementioned, Pennsylvania has different fishing licenses with varying dates of expiry. For instance, the annual fishing licenses of Pennsylvania are valid between December 1 and the end of the following year. The annual fishing license became available on December 1, and will expire on December 31.

The short-term fishing licenses, like the 1-day licenses, are valid from when you purchased them to 23:59 hrs of the same day. For instance, if you bought at 08:30 hrs on Monday, it will expire on the same day but at 23:59 hrs. Other licenses, like the Senior over 65 Lifetime license, don’t have an expiry date; therefore, seniors can use it for as long as they can fish.

Can You Fish Without a License in Pennsylvania?

Well, the answer to this question is yes and no. All kids under 16 can fish without a fishing license in Pennsylvania. On the other hand, adults need a license to fish in the state’s waters all year round except during the free fishing days. Unlike most American states, seniors over 65 require a license to fish in state-operated waterways.  

Can You Fish on Private Property Without a License in Pennsylvania?

The law stipulates that anyone over 16 needs a license to fish in all the state waters in Pennsylvania. However, there is an exemption in this law. The special exemption lets landowners and their family members fish without a license on their property. They can fish for free if the pond resides within their compound.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to folks living temporarily on private property or renting it. Anyone not related to the land owner cannot fish without a license, which applies to their visitors, employees, and tenants. (source)

Suppose the lake or pond resides on private land owned by a private club or homeowner association. In that case, the club members cannot fish without a license.

kids having fun fly fishing
kids having fun fly fishing

What Is the Fine for Fishing Without a License in Pennsylvania?

Generally, the fine for fishing without a license in Pennsylvania will vary between $25 and $250. But the penalty will be determined by the severity of the offense. On top of the fine, you may have to pay twice the price of applying for a license.

You may have to pay between $20 and $50 per fish if caught with extra fish. (source)

What Is the Fishing Season in Pennsylvania?

Other than purchasing the correct fishing license, the next crucial thing you must consider is determining the right fishing season. After all, some of the best fishing spots are open to anglers only some year-round. Plus, fishing for certain species is considered illegal at a specific time, and you may even need to get a permit to fish some species.

Therefore without proper planning and research, you may reach your destination only to find out that it’s closed to anglers. And trespassing on these lakes and fishing can result in some fines and even a jail term in the worst cases scenario.

Trout Fishing Season

The general fishing season in Pennsylvania starts at the beginning of the year and ends on December 31. But some species, like trout, are not open for fishing for an entire year; folks are only allowed to fish trout between April 2 and September 5 in ponds, lakes, and streams. Unfortunately, you can’t harvest trout between January 1 to April 8 and October 1 to December 11.

Bass Fishing Season

Bass fishing is usually closed between April 12 and June 10. From January 1 to April 8 and October 1 to December 31, anglers can fish spotted smallmouth and largemouth bass, with the minimum size allowed for 15 inches. Between June 11 and September 30, you can only fish over 12 inches long.

Unfortunately, you can only harvest them on April 9 and June 10 when the law demands that you release them immediately. 

Fly Fishing for Bass Reels
Fly Fishing for Bass Reels

Open Season Year-Round

Even though most species are not available for fishing all year round, there are a few that you can catch at any given time of the year. Some of these species include the Northern pike, pickerel, and Muskellunge. Others, like American shad, are open all season, but you must release them as soon as you catch them.

Other species enjoy the open season, like baitfish and mudbugs, and anglers have no minimum set size. Therefore, you can get a great fishing spot at any given time of day.

Closed Year Round

On the other hand, fishing the River Herring and American Shad at Susquehanna River and its branches is closed all year round. Therefore, you should avoid these lakes and rivers.

The hickory shad mussels, spotted gar, paddlefish, and other endangered species are also closed to anglers all year round. (source)

SeasonOpening dateClosing date
General fishingJanuary 1December 31
TroutApril 2September 5
Largemouth and smallmouth bassJanuary 1 October 1April 8 December 31
Northern pikeJanuary 1December 31

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Fish in Pennsylvania?

Whether you’re looking for your trophy trout, catfish, or bass, Pennsylvania has everything for everyone. It has some of the best fishing spots on the planet, where you can fish from the shores or boats. Some places like Lake Arthur allow anglers to fish about 42 miles from the beaches. For instance, Lake Arthur is the best place for fishing Channel Catfish, Pike, bass, and perch.

If you love hiking, you should try fishing at Slippery Rock Creek, known for its tranquil scenery. Other places, including Allegheny river, offer the best trout fishing experience in North America. Therefore, make sure you know exactly where you’re going before planning your trip or leaving your home, and ensure that it’s open for fishing. Therefore, click the following link for more details on the best place to fish in the Keystone state.

Can I Fish at Night in Pennsylvania?

Yes, Pennsylvania allows night fishing. Pennsylvania has some beautiful parks that provide some of the best night fishing experiences in the United States. But ensure you have a suitable light source to improve your visibility at night.

How Many Fishing Poles Can I Have in Pennsylvania?

In the Keystone state, anglers can only use 2 rods when fishing.

Do You Need a Fishing License in Pennsylvania if You’re Over 65?

Yes, both senior residents and non-residents need a fishing license to cast their line in Pennsylvania. The non-residents need to apply for an annual non-resident fishing license. On the other hand, residents can apply for senior over 65 fishing licenses and lifetime fishing licenses.

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  1. 2022 Pennsylvania Fishing Summary/Boating Handbook, accessed November 5, 2022
  2. Take me fishing staff, Free fishing, accessed November 5, 2022
  3. Pennsylvania fish and boat commission staff, buy a fishing license, accessed November 5, 2022
  4. Pennsylvania fish and boat commission staff, Fishing license & regulations FAQs, accessed November 5, 2022

FindLaw staff, Pennsylvania Statutes Title 30 PA CSA FISH 923. Classification of offenses and penalties, accessed November 5, 2022

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