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Tennessee Fishing Licenses and Regulations

Its huge stripers, largemouth, and walleye make Tennessee an angler’s dream. People drive for miles to Fish its lakes, ponds, and rivers. But before you can enjoy its bounty, you must have the proper Fishing license. You also need to know the current Tennessee fishing regulations. Here’s some information about both. Let’s start with licenses.

Types of Tennessee fishing licenses

Resident fishing licenses: 

To buy a resident fishing license in Tennessee, you must meet the criteria. Here is a list of who can apply for a resident fishing license. If you’re 12 years old or younger, no license is required to fish. However, permits may be needed.

There are a variety of fishing license options for residents. Which one you choose depends on two things: how much you’ll be fishing, and what kinds of fish you’re targeting. For example, if you rarely fish, then buying a one-day license would be smart. And if you’re not targeting trout, then you’ll want a no-trout license to save a few dollars.

If you plan on fishing year-round, then an annual license would be best. This way you’ll get the most fishing for your money.

Here’s a full list of the different types of Tennessee resident fishing licenses, and their prices.

Non-resident fishing licenses:

If you’re visiting Tennessee and want to legally fish in public water, you must buy a fishing license. There are various license options for non-resident anglers. Which license you buy will depend on how long you’re staying, and what fish you’re targeting.

For example, if you’re staying for two weeks, then you can opt to buy a ten-day fishing license. If you’re staying for less than a week, a 3-day license makes more sense. If you frequent Tennessee, then you should consider getting an annual fishing license. They are a better bargain if you’re an avid fisherman.

Also, if you’re targeting trout, then you’ll need an all-species license. If you’re not fishing for trout, then a no-trout license will do.

Keep in mind, there are special permits you can buy, as well. Some allow you to fish in certain lakes and cities.

Youth who are 13- to 15 years of age must purchase a Jr. hunting/fishing license combo. If you’re 16 years of age or older, you can apply for a regular fishing license.

Here’s a complete list of the nonresident fishing licenses and their prices.

Commercial fishing licenses:

To legally harvest fish for commercial purposes, you must have a commercial fishing license. They’re offered to both residents and non-residents. Nonresident licenses are more expensive, but the price for a fishing helper permit is the same. For more information about commercial licenses, visit the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency online.

Tennessee fishing regulations 

When it comes to legally catching fish, there are certain rules in place. Let’s go over them.

Daily creel limit (catch limit): 

There is a limit to how many fish you can catch per day. This is known as the creel limit. This limit applies to gamefish and baitfish. The number of fish you can legally keep depends on the type of fish. Different species have different limits. Some species, like catfish and yellow bass, have no creel limit.

For example, when catching herring for bait you’re limited to 100 per day. When it comes to catching black bass, you’re limited to five per day. Non-game fish have no creel limit. However, paddlefish and sturgeon are exceptions.

There is also something called the daily possession limit. This is the total number of fish you’re allowed to have in your boat—live or dead. An easy formula to know the daily possession limit is to double the creel limit. For example, if the daily catch limit is 10 then the daily possession limit would be 20.

Here’s a link with more specific information on creel limits in Tennessee. Also, be sure to note the 2017 regulation changes.

Minimum length limit:

Many gamefish must be of a certain length to legally keep them. For example, if a striped or hybrid bass is less than 15 inches long, you must release it. Other species like catfish, bluegill, and warmouth have no set length limit. Any size goes. 

Maximum length limit: 

Certain fish must be released if they’re too big. For example, you can keep just one rainbow trout over 20 inches long. That’s part of the daily limit.

For most gamefish, you’ll need to make sure they’re of legal size before dropping them in your live-well. You can measure the fish with a fish ruler to be certain.

Hook regulations: 

In Tennessee, there are rules about how many hooks you can use. You’re allowed no more than three hooks per rod. Treble hooks count as one hook. When using a piscatore rig, it’s acceptable to use more hooks.

There are also specific regulations for Tennessee trout fishing. For example, in Polk County, you may use only one hook to trout fish. This applies to certain creeks and tributaries.

Other methods of fishing: 

It’s legal to use trotlines, limblines, and jugs; but you have to obey the rules. Here are a few of the major ones:

  • Droplines must be within two feet of each other
  • They must all be clearly marked with your name and address
  • Trotlines connected to the bank must be tagged within the first five feet
  • They’re prohibited from being used near an engineering dam.

Some fishing locations don’t allow jugs, trotlines, or limblines. To see the list of exceptions, click here.

Now that you know how to legally fish in the state, there’s no reason to procrastinate. Don’t be afraid to brave the Tennessee waters. There’s a heaping helping of good fishing waiting on you. It’s time to hit the Tennessee waters like the avid angler you are!

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Tennessee Fishing Licenses and Regulations


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