All About Fishing Regulations In The US

All About Fishing Regulations In The US

Since ancient times, people have been fishing for food. However, the tradition has evolved. Today, people catch fish not just for food consumption but also for recreational purposes. 

Thanks to technology, catching fish is now easy. Recreational or sports fishing is a popular fun activity, which you can perform in freshwater or sports water.

Fishing On Lake

Companies engage in commercial fishing, or industrial fishing, on a large scale for earning profits. Industrial fishers catch a wide range of fish species and mostly work independently:

Some common species of fish poached commercially include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Squid
  • Lobsters
  • Shrimps

Trawlers are utilized for commercial fishing, while factory ships serve for industrial purpose. Fishers keep traps and nets in the trawlers whereas factory ships have more sophisticated onboard facilities to freeze large amounts of fish.

However, sports fishing continues to be fishing practiced for competition. This activity relies on the primary method to catch fish which is entirely different from commercial fishing. Recreational fishing makes use of the same equipment as commercial fishing, but fishers practice this around a lake.

The equipment used for catching fish includes rods, hooks, reels, and baits. Fishers are likely to use lighter boats.

Commercial Fishing In The US

Commercial fishing is responsible for providing a large quantity of food to several countries around the world. However, professionals who practice it usually have to pursue fish far into the ocean under unfavorable conditions.

The profession has increased in popularity with the development of shows such as Wicked Tuna and Deadliest Catch. Significant corporations own some of the most prominent fishing businesses.

Commercial fishers harvest a large variety of species including carp, cod, tuna, shrimp, salmon, clams, squid, crab and lobster. There are essential fisheries all around the world for several species of crustaceans, echinoderms, fish, and mollusks.

But, an insufficient number of species support the significant part of the world's fisheries. These include mullet, flounder, cod, herring, shrimp, lobster, oyster, salmon, crab, and scallops.

According to an economic report published by NOAA's Fisheries Service, the commercial fishing industry generated over 185 billion dollars in 2006 and provided over two million jobs in the US. However, the pay may vary from season to season and boat to boat.

Recreational Fishing In The US

Popular belief denotes that individual catches of recreational fishers would never cause any significant harm to our oceans. Anglers picture recreational fishing as a father-son or family activity that gives a break from the bustling city life to have peaceful quality family time.

Dad And Son Fishing

However, today’s fishermen have access to the most advanced devices for a successful fishing experience. Global positioning systems to locate fish, sonar devices and fast far-ranging boats for traveling offshore, make it an entirely new experience for today's generation.

Recreational fishing usually involves targeting sizeable predatory fish in the ocean. But the removal of some species can have a dramatic effect on the food webs in our oceans which can cascade effects that are capable of wreaking havoc on the overall health and productivity of the marine ecosystems.

Moreover, some fish populations have also reached dangerously low numbers and are now an endangered species. One such species includes bocaccio (a rockfish) on the Pacific coast, popularly caught in recreational fisheries as well as Goliath grouper which is =protected from harvest in the southeastern U.S.

Certain limits control commercial fishers, including where, when, who and how much fish you can catch, the absence of any control on the combined effect of recreational fishers can cause unimaginable harm. Most coastal states do not require anglers to possess salt-water recreational fishing licenses.

The activity of catching fish varies with the type and location of fishing. A person who is fishing alone from a small boat needs different equipment to a group of people who do this every day.

As long as you meet the requirements, anyone can quickly obtain a permit or license to fish anywhere in the U.S. The activity has become popular since people can conveniently plan a trip to several fishing spots throughout the country.

Different states set rules and requirements for obtaining a license to protect the marine ecosystem. States surrounded by land only allow inland fishing in streams, river, basins, rivers, and lakes, whereas coastal states provide various fishing locations and more saltwater opportunities.

Moreover, obtaining a license in your state may also depend on the angler’s age and residency, the fish species and the purpose of the license. All departments issuing the licenses function differently in all state. However, they are called the Department of Fish and Game or Department of Fish and Wildlife, etc.

Make sure you are familiar with the eligibility requirements and conditions of the department to do the necessary paperwork. There are also a few select categories such as military veterans, senior citizens of disabled individuals who can receive this permit at a discounted price.

Here are the types of fishing licenses that you can get in the US:

Commercial Vs. Recreational

Various states have categorized their fishing licenses into recreational and business categories, depending on your fishing purpose and goals. Recreational licenses are meant for anglers, pursuing the activity as a hobby and people who do not necessarily want to sell their catch.

Bass Fishing

On the contrary, commercial fishing licenses are available to specialized fishers who are looking to catch a substantial amount of fish. These fishermen later sell their catch to other individuals or companies. Make sure you check with your state's regulations on commercial fishing for deciding if you want to turn this activity into a profitable business.

Non-Resident Vs. Resident

Every state offers fishing licenses to all residents. However, state visitors can also get non-resident licenses for enjoying a fishing vacation. Fishers can get a non-resident license for a lower fee once you present proof of residency for the state in which you purchase a license.

But visitors generally pay a higher price as they don’t have too many alternatives when choosing their fishing credentials. Several resident fishing licenses are not available for non-residents, including lifetime licenses.

Moreover, visitors and residents should know about the validity period of the document for getting a fishing license accordingly. Residents can buy lifetime or annual fishing licenses while non-residents can purchase a weekly or daily license.

Freshwater Vs. Saltwater

Another categorization of fishing licenses is freshwater and saltwater. A few states featuring inland and coastal waters provide both types of permits whereas others grant licenses according to fishing opportunities.

Anglers should be careful as to purchase the right type of fishing license to follow the rules and regulations of their state. You must comply with the state’s bag limits and know about the kinds of species which fishers can and cannot catch.

Naturally, if you have a license to catch fish in freshwater but practice fishing in salt water and vice versa, you are punishable by law.

How To Obtain A Fishing License?

These options include:

Online License

This is a fast way to purchase a license. Interested individuals can buy it online through the official state department website. The sophisticated licensing system makes purchasing of all types of licenses easy. You can also renew or replace your documents and pay by debit or credit cards. The authority prints the fishing licenses immediately, and you can receive them at your mailing address, as per your request.

In Person

You can also get a fishing permit in person. For this, you need to visit an authorized agent or a fishing equipment store. You can also purchase a license from your local department offices which are located all around the U.S. You have to give proof of residency and your identity.

By Phone

You can also order a fishing license from home.  You can get in touch with a representative who will ask for your info and credit card details to pay for the license fees.

Using Cellphone To Get Fishing Licence

By Mail

In case an angler is unable to apply online or in person, he can also apply for a fishing license by mail. You will also have to send the fee payment, and your fishing document will arrive in the mail.

Final Thoughts

Many American, Mexican and Latin American fishing groups are making efforts to make this favorite hobby an Olympic sport in the future, owing to the increasing popularity of recreational fishing.

A non-profit Costa Rican sport-fishing organization, FECOP, has revealed that the leading fishing groups assembled in Mexico for the opening meeting of the Pan-American Sportfishing Delegation. The function of the body is to endorse sports fishing as a competitive sport. 

People who are interested in pursuing fishing as a hobby should note that over-fishing can harm our environment. But, there is nothing wrong with catching a few fishes with friends and family.


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