Did you know when fishing in the state of California you can’t fish within 250 feet of a dam? I know what you’re thinking, there’s a lot of fish that hang out near dams, well unfortunately for all you dam fishermen California doesn’t really care if you’re in the mood for a (dam) bass. Yes, that’s right CA fishing regulations don’t factor in what you prefer. Read on as we discuss the regulations you need to be aware of before your next trip to fish California’s waters.


California Fishing Regulations

This is not an exhaustive list of regulations by any means, but it does address the more relevant regulations of interest to our readers. The State of California states:

  • All fish may be taken day or night
  • When fishing in rivers and streams you may not use:
    • Any single hook with a gap greater than 1 inch or any multiple hook with a gap greater than 3/4 inch
    • Any hook which is directly or indirectly attached closer than 18 inches to any weight exceeding 1/2 ounce
    • Multiple hooks or more than one single hook on non-buoyant artificial lures exceeding one ounce
    • Any weight directly attached below a hook
  • When you are within 250 of any of the following you may not fish:
    • Any fishway or any egg-taking station
    • Any dam or any weir or rack which has a fishway or an egg-taking station
    • The upstream side of any fish screen
  • You may not transport live fin fish from the water where they were taken
  • Anyone fishing for the following fish must meet report card requirements:
    • Salmon, in the Klamath, Trinity, and Smith River basins
    • Steelhead trout
    • White sturgeon
    • Red abalone
    • California spiny lobster
  • You may not take or possess salmon on any salmon spawning area when it is closed to salmon fishing
  • You may not cause or permit any deterioration or waste of any fish caught in the waters of California
  • All fish may only be taken by angling with one closely watched rod and line or one hand line with not more than three hooks nor more than three artificial lures (each lure may have three hooks attached)
  • Snagging is illegal
  • It is prohibited to kill, or retain in possession any fish which has not voluntarily taken the bait or artificial lure inside its mouth
  • You may not use any configuration of fishing tackle in anadromous waters unless the distance between the terminal hook or terminal lure and any weight attached to the line or leader is less than six feet
  • You may not possess or use a gaff in inland waters, except that a gaff three feet or less in length may be used to land legal-sized fish only by anglers
  • You may not use or possess any landing gear, any nets, except standard landing-type dip nets not exceeding 36 inches in diameter across the net opening and 60 inches in net length/depth, excluding handle, gaffs or spears within 100 yards of any canal, river, stream, lake or reservoir
  • You may only take approved bait fish by hand, with a dip net not exceeding 36 inches in greatest dimension, or with traps not over three feet in greatest dimension
  • Bait fish may not be purchased, bartered, sold, transferred or traded, or moved alive from the location where taken
  • Regulations and limitations for Trout, Steelhead and Salmon vary by body of water
  • Snagging is prohibited statewide, and fish may be taken only by angling
  • Chumming is permitted only in specific areas
  • There are two sets of fishing regulations for the state of California, one for freshwater and another for saltwater
  • A complete list of California’s fishing regulations can be found here

    Fishing License Period

    California fishing licenses are available in several lengths. The annual license is a great value, and tends to be the preferred option for most fishermen. Here are the options:

    • Daily fishing licenses
    • 2-Day fishing licenses
    • 10-Day fishing licenses
    • Annual fishing licenses
    • Lifetime fishing licenses

    Extra Licensing Fees

    California offers preferred pricing for state residents, and this proves to be a significant savings over the non-resident rate. Remember to bring your state issued identification with you to purchase your license.

    California requires you to purchase a license if you plan on doing any of the following:

    • Second Rod Validation-allows you to fish with two rods or lines
    • When you purchase your California fishing license you will have the option to add additional validations or cards which will allow you to add a second rod, fish for certain species such as abalone, sturgeon, or steelhead.


    Free Or Reduced Fee California Fishing Licenses

    The State of California offers free fishing licenses or reduced fishing licenses for:

    • Any California resident who is a low-income senior (65 years of age or older)
    • Any California resident fishing from a public pier
    • Any California resident or non-resident who is a disabled veteran
    • Any California resident or non-resident who is a recovering service member
    • Any California resident or non-resident who is blind
    • Any California resident who is severely physically disabled
    • Any California resident or non-resident who is a developmentally disabled person
    • Any California resident who is a Native American or lineal descendant and is struggling financially

      Fishing Licenses Are NOT Required For

      Any California resident or non-resident under the age of 16 does not requrie a fishing license.