The Common Law

Do I need a fishing license if I never catch anything?

"I know that you need a fishing license to catch fish in public waters in Texas, but do you need a fishing license even if you don't actually catch anything?"

While this may seem like a clever loophole to get the unlucky anglers of Texas out of purchasing licenses, don't let it lure you in. No matter if you are catching fish like a professional or if you can't even get a nibble, you are still going to need a fishing license. According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's General Fishing Regulations, "Any person who takes or attempts to take fish, mussels, clams, crayfish or other aquatic life in the public waters of Texas must have a current Texas fishing license with the appropriate endorsement." Anyone who attempts to fish in Texas' public waters without the appropriate license, regardless of how unsuccessful their attempts may be, could find themselves in hot water.

"So if my inability to catch a fish won't save me from needing a fishing license, are there any other reasons that might?"

Yes, quite a few actually. Anyone under the age of 17, or any Texas resident born before January 1, 1931 does not need a fishing license. Even residents of Oklahoma aged 65 or over do not need a license to fish in Texas. There's also Free Fishing Day, the first Saturday of June each year, when everyone in Texas is allowed to fish without a license. Anglers can also enjoy fishing without a license at any Texas state park, although when fishing off a man-made structure, such as a dock or pier, fishing is allowed by pole-and-line only, and each person is limited to two poles. Fishing on private waters does not require a license, but remember that any natural waterways running through a private property still count as public waters, so you may still need a license to catch fish in them – or to try to, anyway.

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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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