Would you like to hunt and/or fish in the state of Texas?

If so, then chances are that you will need a Texas fishing license. Before you run out and apply for one, however, you’ll want to know the rules and guidelines related to these licenses, as well as the overall process for acquiring one.

By knowing this information ahead of time, you can ensure that you do everything correctly so that you can legally hunt, fish, or do whatever else it is you would like.

Your Guide to Getting a Texas Fishing License



Time it Right

a girl and a boy sitting on a riverbank to catch a fish using a fishing rod

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First things first, you might not think that ​timing​ matters when it comes to acquiring a fishing license. However, in the state of Texas, that’s not necessarily true.

Fishing licenses go on sale for the new year on August 15th, which is the best time to go out and get a brand new one since you’ll be able to get the longest use out of it that way.

Typically, you can also buy a hunting and fishing license package on that same date if you are hoping to do both. These guidelines only apply to general recreational type licenses, so make sure that you know exactly what the license entitles you to and what it does not entitle you to before you buy it and definitely before you begin using it. This will keep you from accidentally breaking the law or losing the license privileges that you do have.

In general, recreational licenses will be valid from the day that you buy them until August 31st of the next year.

Commercial licenses are somewhat different. Not everyone can get them, so you’ll need to read up on eligibility requirements if you think you may need this type of license.

If you are eligible for one, you can purchase it on August 15th, but bear in mind that commercial licenses in the state of Texas do not become effective until the following September 1st.

Age Does Play a Role

two anglers sitting next to their fishing gear and texas fishing license on a river jetty

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You may be wondering at what age people need a fishing license. While this does vary from state to state, Texas is pretty straightforward on the matter.

Fishing licenses need to be acquired by those age 17 and older. Thus, teens can fish for most of their youth before having to acquire a real license.

Adults, however, will need to get licensed right away. Technically, if they have already been fishing in the state without a license, they have broken the law. To avoid breaking the law further and any possible consequences, it’s a good idea to go ahead and get a license pronto, preferably before fishing again.

The Rules Don’t Apply Strictly to Fish

a man standing on his boat to cast his fishing rod in the middle of the boat

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In some states, people only need a fishing license if they intend to actually fish in the traditional sense. In other words, they only need this license for standard rod and reel fishing.

However, Texas is a bit more strict in this regards. Basically, in the state of Texas, taking any kind of marine or aquatic life out of the water requires you to have a fishing license.

Of course, this rule applies to fish, but it also applies to:

  • Mussels
  • Crayfish
  • Clams
  • Shrimp

So, even if you aren’t a “fisherman” in the way that most people think, if you plan on clamming or otherwise getting these organisms from the water, you will need a Texas fishing license.

Special Options for Military Members

two men and a child, on the wooden jetty, casting their fishing rod

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Most people are aware that Texas is a very patriotic state, one that is committed to thanking its military members for their service.

One small way in which the state “thanks” members of the military is by offering free fishing and/or hunting license options to military members.

This deal applies to Texas residents who are full-time active duty members of the:

  • Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Navy
  • Marines
  • Air Force
  • Reserves
  • National Guard
  • State Guard

In order to obtain the free license, the person will need to offer up proof of residency and military service records. As long as these things can be provided, the person may choose one of the following licenses or license packages for free:

  • Item 510: Texas Resident Active Duty Military “Super Combo” Hunting and All-Water Fishing Package
  • Item 511: Texas Resident Active Military All-Water Fishing Practice
  • Item 512: Texas Resident Active Military Hunting Package

Private Waters Don’t Count

a man setting up his fishing rod on a riverbank

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So far, we have tried to make it clear that fishing licenses are necessary and required in pretty much all fishing situations in the state of Texas.

However, there is one small exception we should mention.

Basically, the laws regarding fishing and fishing licenses only apply to public state waters in Texas.

Thus, if you have a privately owned lake or stream, you can fish there without a license and without any type of regulations.

The same also goes if you are visiting the home or property of someone who has a privately owned body of water. Obviously, you cannot trespass and fish on private waters, but, with the owner’s permission, fishing in these areas is fair game.

Just make sure you know the difference between privately and publicly owned bodies of water and that, when fishing on someone else’s property, you have proof that the body of water is privately owned and you also have written permission from the person who owns that body of water.

While that may seem a little on the extreme side, taking these steps will keep you from getting into trouble for fishing without a license and/or for fishing in a non-approved area.

Don’t Take Turtles and Frogs Without a Hunting License

four turtles, protected by the state of Texas

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One mistake that people sometimes make is taking turtles and/or frogs from bodies of water, thinking that their fishing license allows and/or entitles them to do so.

While this may be true in some case, it is definitely not true in the state of Texas. In fact, in Texas, you actually have to have a hunting license, not just a fishing license, in order to remove any turtles and/or frogs.

So, getting a frog to bring to your child as a fun “pet” or learning experience could actually be illegal if you don’t have a hunting license.

Either don’t remove these creatures from the water or get a hunting license so that you don’t get in trouble for doing so. The law is pretty straightforward on this point.

A Free Pass for Disabled Veterans

a man holding a fishing rod

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Just as active duty military personnel can enjoy a free hunting and/or fishing license, the same applies to disabled veterans. Texas feels that these people also deserve to be thanked for their service in the form of a free license.

These people are entitled to a Disabled Veteran “Super Combo” Hunting and All-Water Fishing Package.

In order to qualify for the license, the veteran must have and have proof of a service-connected disability under the definition applied by the Veterans Administration. This disability must include the loss of a leg, foot, or a disability rating of 50% or more.

People who meet this requirement do not have to worry about paying for their Texas fishing license as long as they can show the appropriate proof.

Other Types of Fishing

a person standing on a boat and waiting for a fish to take his bait

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We have already mentioned how a license is most definitely required when it comes to rod and reel fishing, i.e. the type of fishing most people think of when they think of fishing.

However, bear in mind that a fishing license is also necessary for other, less common types of fishing.

For example, both bow fishing and catfish noodling are activities that require a license. So, don’t make assumptions that your type of fishing doesn’t “count.”

Assume that it does and get a license, or at least check up on the laws before you do something that could get you and your fishing buddies into trouble.

Don’t Forget About Free Fishing Day

a person sitting on a rock and waiting for his fishing rod to catch a fish

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As you can probably tell, the laws surrounding the Texas fishing license rules and procedures are pretty strict.

However, there is one special day in Texas where “all bets are off.”

That day is “Free Fishing Day,” which takes place on the first Saturday in June of each year.

For this one special day, people can fish recreationally without having any type of license or permit.

This is a great way for people who are curious about fishing to try it. If it turns out that they like it, they can go out and get a license. And, for those who have let their licenses lapse or who don’t have one for whatever reason, it’s a great chance to fish without fear or worry of getting in trouble.


Have Fun Fishing, but Follow the Rules



The bottom line in the state of Texas is that you need to follow the rules and get the appropriate licenses in order to be able to fish and/or hunt.

Some of the rules may seem a bit silly, but they are in place to protect people and wildlife.

Thus, even if you don’t fully understand why a rule exists, go ahead and abide by it. Doing so will keep you out of trouble and will enable you to keep on fishing without consequence.

Featured Image Source: Pexels

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