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Pennsylvania Fishing Licenses and Regulations

The Keystone State has many freshwater Fishing opportunities available to its’ anglers. From Muskie to trophy trout, catfish, and bass; fishermen can catch it. Before you head to the water, you need to make sure you have the proper licenses and know the regulations for the body of water you intend to fish.

Pennsylvania fishing licenses can be purchased online at The Outdoor Shop, in person at a licensing agent, or by mailing in a form. The state offers a lot of different licenses from annual to multi-year. Plus Lake Erie specific licenses and special licenses for trout and salmon fishing.

Unlike many states, Pennsylvania’s annual licenses are not valid from the date of purchase to that same date the next year. This year they are valid from December 1, 2016, until December 31, 2017.

You are also required to sign and display your license on the outside of your clothing in Pennsylvania. Not displaying your license could result in a ticket.

The most commonly bought licenses are:

License Age Resident Non-Resident
Annual 16-64 $22.90 $52.90
Senior Resident 65 and older $11.90
3-day 16 and older $26.90

In addition to a license, you are required to purchase permits for certain types of fishing. If you are fishing for either trout or salmon you need to purchase a permit. The permit will cost you an extra $9.90.

This is needed even if you are not planning to harvest the fish. If you are not planning to fish for trout, make sure you don’t end up on a section of river that is labeled as special regulation trout habitat. If you do and don’t have a stamp, a ticket will most likely be in your future.

You also need permits to fish Lake Erie; this includes Presque Isle Bay and tributaries. It will cost you another $9.90. If you are planning to fish Lake Erie or its tributaries for trout or salmon, you will need both of these permits. When you are purchasing them, make sure you buy the combination permit and save yourself $5.00.

If you plan to run a charter boat or guide any waterways in the state, you will need to purchase an annual guiding permit. It is $100 for residents and $400 for non-residents.

There are numerous other permits required for different activities, such as cast netting. For detailed information, check out the online regulations to make sure you are legal.

Boundary waters 

Pennsylvania has struck a deal with some other states. It allows anglers to fish boundary waters without a Pennsylvania fishing license. This also works the other way if you have a Pennsylvania license, but not one for the neighboring state. Some of the boundary waters this applies to are:

  • Conowingo Reservoir
  • Youghiogheny River Lake
  • Delaware River (including the West Branch)
  • Pymatuning Reservoir

Some of these agreements allow anglers to fish from both boat and shore, while others only allow angling from a boat. Make sure you check the fine print before you head to any of these boundary waters. 

Trout regulations

Trout regulations are divided into six different state territories, and each one has varying rules. This can create some confusion for visiting anglers. If you are heading out early in the year it is best to visit the southeastern portion of the state, because there the trout season opens earliest on April 1.

Many other sections of the state, including some stocked waters, open on April 15. Size and bag limits also change not just from one territory to another but from one body of water to another. Due to the lengthy and sometimes confusing regulations, it is best to check the specific body of water and your location before fishing. 

Boating laws 

Even if you are from out of state, Pennsylvania’s boating laws may require you to take a boater safety course. If you do not have a boater safety certificate and plan to operate a personal watercraft, you will need to take the course beforehand.

If you were born after January 1, 1982, and plan to operate a boat with a motor greater than 25 horsepower, you will also need to take the safety course. You are required to carry your certificate with you while driving the boat. So, if you already have one, don’t forget it at home.

If you need to take the course, there are plenty of places available for it, and now there are two approved online options.

Like most states, you are also required to have appropriate coast guard approved life jackets for any passenger in the boat. From November 1 through April 30, a cold weather life jacket rule is also in effect. In any boat under 16 feet long and all kayaks and canoes, you are required to wear a lifejacket at all times. This includes when you are anchored.

Pennsylvania is a great state to explore angling opportunities. But it does have many rules and regulations to protect both you and the fisheries that you enjoy. Remember to check those regulations thoroughly before casting a line in the Keystone State!

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