Most likely, you will need a fishing license of some type no matter what state you are in. The type of the fishing license can vary, however.
A saltwater license does not give someone permission to fish in freshwater lakes and streams, and vice versa. In Maine, by way of example, all anglers must apply for a freshwater license. If they want to fish offshore, they would then add a saltwater permit on top of that. Some states combine all kinds of fishing into one license. Additionally, some states require trout cards to pull trout, or there might be other more specific ones. Louisiana has some specific regulations about the kinds of equipment that you can use on fish, crawdads or any other species. Meanwhile, in Michigan, a fishing license even allows you to take amphibians, crustaceans and reptiles.
Some states have different licenses for different people. For example, licenses for minors are at a discounted rate or sometimes free. Veterans, seniors, the disabled and other groups might be able to get discounted or free licenses.
Additionally, if you are accompanying a child, teaching them to fish, but you are not fishing, then some states require you only to buy a license for the child.
Residents of a state often have a discount. So, make sure you are buying the right license. A lifetime fishing license is more expensive at the outset but pays for itself after several years.
Do You Need a Fishing License for Catch and Release?
Many states do require a license just to catch the fish and put them back in the water. It does not matter that you are not intending to keep the fish. You pay for the use of the land and waters, and the upkeep of the area.
Do You Need a Fishing License on Private Property?
Most of the time, if there is a fishing area on someone's personal property, the state does not intervene. You would not need a license. Of course, this does not mean you can do whatever you want. You still have to be a good guest for the owner, abide by their rules and, generally, pay a fee.
Do You Need a Fishing License for Every State?
Every state has its own rules and regulations. A license in one state will not necessarily be honored in another. However, there are some states that share the same body of water and, therefore, share licenses. For example, if you have a saltwater fishing license in Virginia, it will be honored in Maryland.
How to Get a Fishing License
Almost every state has an online system for buying licenses. They can also be purchased at select government buildings or shops. Usually, they will ask for some photo ID and proof of residency.
One of the benefits of the online fishing license is that it is easy to print out a new one if you lose yours.
Ultimately, the question of whether you need a fishing license is going to be decided by the state.