Fishing License Answer For Multi-State Anglers

I am writing this in response to the many complaints on one of the online fishing sites regarding griping about the cost of fishing licenses.

The actual “cost” of today’s fishing licenses is reasonable compared to the cost to fish in Oregon several decades ago. However, due to decreased bag limits and more restrictions regarding fishing locations and seasons – it is pretty much comparing apples and oranges.

The main way to get sufficient value from a fishing license is to use it and use it a lot.

For those of us that like to fish in different states, I am going to repost an article from last summer regarding a reasonable answer for multi-state anglers.

Since it is too much to expect all 50 states to cooperate fully, and because each state seems to have an inflated view of how their fishing stacks up against other states, it will never work. But if the states would cooperate and fight their inclination to try to a little bit extra – it would be a solution to multi-state angling fees that many of us would very much appreciate – and the total revenue from fishing license sales would almost certainly go up.


A recent survey by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) indicated that the number of Americans that fished last year rose slightly to 46.2 million. The number is far from static as approximately eight million anglers did not fish this year, but that number was more than offset by the 8.8 million new anglers. Slightly more than 16 percent of americans fished this year.

One negative finding in the survey was that the average number of fishing trips decreased from an average of 20.4 in 2010 to only 18.2 trips per angler in 2011 – a decrease of 10.8 percent.

The survey had some encouraging findings including an increase in the number of female anglers and youngsters between six and 12 years of age increased. Typically, fishing activity drops off among young anglers during their teenage years.

One thing I have noticed over the last several years is how many parents want their very youthful children to start their “fishing career” with a sizable salmon. Often these young kids are terrified that they will do something wrong, have extreme difficulty handling the salmon gear, afraid that they will not be able to hang on to the rod while playing a salmon – or simply realize that they are not a very large part of the equation when the rod is placed in a fish holder, the hookup is handled by an adult and an adult handles the rod when the salmon is close to the boat. If partents want their kids to be anglers in the future, they should introduce them to fishing for a wide assortment of fish species. The chances of one of those fishing trips striking a chord with a youthful angler will be greatly increased. Parents wanting their children to continue fishing into adulthood should let them choose what type of fishing they most enjoy.

One thing I found out, years ago, when I took 38 days to drive back to Oregon from Alaska was how difficult it was to find a fishing license outlet when you wanted to do some early morning or late evening fishing. I fished in several Canadian provinces as well as Alaska, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho and I was really thankful that I could purchase a fishing license in most of the bars and taverns in Montana.

However, I also thought how easy it would be to have a national fishing license that would take into account that you would not fish in most states and therefore still be somewhat reasonably priced. A national fishing license would take a lot of cooperation between states and they would have to not go overboard on special fisheries that would be excluded from a national license. Here’s how it would work.

A fair price for the license would be $150. Of the $150, one-third or $50 would go to the resident state and let us use Oregon for an example. One third of the license cost would also be evenly split among every state that borders Oregon. In this case, those states would be California, Idaho, Nevada and Washington. Each of those four states would receive one-fourth of that $50 or $12.50 each. The final one-third of the license cost would be evenly split among every state that is left. In this case, each of the 45 remaining states would receive 1/45 of that $50 – or about $1.11 each. Now $1.11 does not seem like much, but remember that each state would receive that amount from every national license sale made in a state that does not border them. The total revenue could easily mean an increase in total fishing license revenue for each state – and most likely would do so.

Of course, each state would retain their own fishing license offerings and pricing structure. But a national license would allow some traveling anglers to spend more time fishing and less time trying to stay legal. Unfortunately, a national fishing license makes far too much sense to ever become a reality.

The illustration below might indicate how a national fishing license might look.


About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.

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