Kentucky Fishing License

Kentucky

The State of Kentucky uses the money procured from the sale of a fishing license to uplift and maintain the State's recreational sport fishing for the younger generation and generations of anglers yet to come. Two of the best spots for family fishing expeditions are Three Springs Lake and Camp Ernst Lake. Kentucky River has a vibrant and healthy population of flathead and channel catfish, crappie, largemouth, and smallmouth bass, sauger, walleye and varieties of panfish. But first, a valid KY fishing license is needed as well as knowledge of applicable fishing laws in the State.

Online purchase of a fishing license from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources is quick and hassle-free. But for those who prefer to buy in person, there are outdoor sporting goods stores and tackle shops that are authorized vendors of a fishing license.

There are fishing laws and regulations that serve as guidelines in the collective effort to conserve and preserve fish populations. In addition to general fishing laws, there are specific regulations for a particular state, locality, waterway, and fish species. It is therefore recommended to inquire about local fishing regulations to avoid non-conformance.

A responsible and concerned angler takes the time to do proper catch and release to help in the conservation effort of not only Kentucky but across the nation. Whether a fish is to be released based on regulations or by personal choice, the act must be quick and stress-free for the fish. It is best to hold a fish horizontally, and with wet hands, if it's to be released. The eye and gill areas should not be touched if the fish is to live.


With its beautiful water and seascapes, Kentucky is one of the most admirable and exciting fishing destinations in the world. For one, the State is home to the best family fishing sites like Camp Ernst Lake or Three Springs Lake.

But, before you fish in the rich waters of Kentucky, you need to secure a fishing license first. They are technically a contribution that you make to make sure that the waters will remain fishable in the years to come so that the next generation will still be able to enjoy the same beauty that you enjoy now. 

But how exactly do you get a fishing license in the State of Kentucky? Long story short: you need to purchase one. If you still don't know how to do that, then this article will explain everything you need to know about fishing licenses in Kentucky. 

Who is required to acquire a fishing license in the State of Kentucky? 

To be allowed to fish in the waters of Kentucky, all people - both residents and non-residents - must fill out and carry the proper license and permit to fish any Kentucky waters. The minimum age required to have a fishing license is 16 years old, and older anglers must purchase one if they are planning to fish in the State. 

The fishing licenses that are required per individual varies depending on whether they are a resident or not. In the State of Kentucky, a resident is someone who has established permanent and legal residence in Kentucky and resided in Kentucky for 30 days before applying for a license. Full-time students enrolled in an educational institution for at least six months, or military service personnel on permanent assignment in Kentucky are also considered as residents. Anyone who does not meet the criteria mentioned above is deemed to be non-resident and should acquire a non-resident license before fishing in the waters of the State. Those who own properties and land in Kentucky but have not domiciled within the State within 30 days before the application of the license must purchase non-resident licenses and permits.

It is important to note that non-resident youth hunters are subject to the same requirements as resident youth hunters. 

How to purchase a Kentucky fishing license?

There are three different ways of purchasing a Kentucky fishing license. Each of these methods has its own sets of pros and cons, and it depends on you on whichever is the most convenient for you. 

Purchasing a license in person

The most straightforward way of buying a fishing license in Kentucky is to buy them in person. Licenses and permits can be procured throughout the State in more than 900 locations. These include country stores, some county clerks offices, local hunting, and fishing businesses, and some chain stores that sell outdoor sporting goods. You can check this link if you want to know where you can buy a fishing license in your area.

Purchasing a license online

If physically going to a store to buy a fishing license in Kentucky is a hassle for you, you can also opt to buy one online. All Kentucky hunting and fishing licenses and permits can be purchased through the secured Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Online License Sales site.

The online platform accepts payments via Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover card, or a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife gift certificate, which you can also buy online. 

It is worthy to note that if you purchase your license online, you will not be able to receive a physical license. Instead, you will receive an authorization number or a computer printout. This is what you need to bring together with a picture ID to be allowed to fish. 

Purchase a license by phone

Aside from the methods as mentioned earlier of purchasing a license in Kentucky, you can also procure one by calling 877-598-2401, which is open twenty-four hours a day. Note that all licenses and permits, except a disability license, elk drawing application, and youth licenses and permits, can be purchased by calling the hotline. A convenience fee may be charged when you are buying a license over the phone. You can pay for your final bill through Visa, Mastercard, or Discover card, or an e-check. Similar to when purchasing a license online, if you are buying one over the phone, you will be given an authorization number.

You can also request a paper license or permit (except short-term licenses), and it will be mailed to you. Once received, you have to fill it out and sign it for it to be valid. 

Different Types of Fishing Licenses in Kentucky

As earlier mentioned, different types of licenses are required from different people depending on several factors like residency, age, and other special considerations. Here's a summary of all the general permits you can purchase from the State of Kentucky: 

License/Permit

Resident

Non-Resident

Annual Fishing

$23.00

$55.00

Joint/Spouses Annual Fishing

$42.00

Not Available

1-Day Fishing

$7.00

$15.00

3-Year Fishing (Online Only)

$55.00

Not Available

Nonresident 7-Day Fishing

Not Available

$35.00

Trout Permit

$10.00

$10.00

Annual Combination Hunting/Fishing

$42.00

Not Available

Senior/Disabled Sportsman's* (Includes same license and permits as Resident Sportsman's License, plus additional deer permits.)

$12.00

Not Available

Sportsman's License* (Includes combination hunting/fishing, statewide deer permit, spring and fall turkey permits, state migratory game bird-waterfowl permit and trout permit.)

$95.00

Not Available

Youth (ages 12-15) Sportsman's License* (Includes youth hunting license, youth deer permit and 2 youth turkey permits.)

$30.00

Not Available

Anglers who want to fish in the waters of Kentucky have the option to avail of an annual fishing license, which is valid from March 1 through February 28/29 of the next year for only $23.00 (residents) and $55.00 for non-residents. A joint license for resident spouses can also be purchased for only $42.00. 

If you are planning to go fishing for a few days, you also have the option to avail of a one-day fishing permit for only $7.00 (residents) and $15.00 (non-residents). Furthermore, residents also have a choice to procure a 3-day license for only $55.00, while non-residents can avail of a 7-day license for $35.00. Please note that the three-day exclusive permit can only be availed through online purchases. 

A combination license, which can be used to participate in both hunting and fishing activities legally, is also available to be purchased by residents. The cost of combination licenses is $42.00, and the Sportsman's license is $95.00, with special discounts given to senior and disabled sportspeople. Children between 12 and 15 can also purchase a combination sportsman's license for only $30.00. 

Daily fishing limits in Kentucky

In the spirit of sustainability, the State of Kentucky also imposes a statewide species and size limits when fishing in its waters. It is important to note that some water bodies have different size and creel limits, please check the "Special Regulations" section of the fishing and boating guide for more details or by following this link.

Here's a summary of the statewide species and size limits in the State of Kentucky: 

SPORT FISH SPECIES

Daily Limit

Possession Limit

Minimum Size Limit

Black Bass

Largemouth Bass

6*

12*

12"

Smallmouth Bass

6*

12*

12"

Kentucky (Spotted) Bass

6*

12*

none

Coosa Bass

6*

12*

none

Rock Bass

15

30

none

Redear Sunfish

20

40

none

Walleye, Sauger and their Hybrids

6*

12*

14" 

Muskellunge

1

2

30"

Chain Pickerel

5

10

none

Northern Pike

none

none

none

White & Hybrid Striped Bass

15​**

30**

none**

Striped Bass

5

10

15"

Yellow Bass

none

none

none

Crappie (Black & White)

20*

40*

none

Rainbow Trout

8

16

none

Brown Trout

1

2

16"

Paddlefish

2

4

none

Brook Trout

Catch and release only***

Lake Sturgeon

Catch and release only

* Singly or combined; a total of these species

** No more than 5 fish in the daily creel limit may be more than 15 inches long.

*** Except for the Cumberland River downstream of Wolf Creek Dam and the upper section of Hatchery Creek, see Special Regulations section for details.​

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many fishing poles am I allowed to have while fishing?

There is no limit on the number of fishing poles and rods allowed when fishing in the waters of Kentucky. 

Q: May I clean my fish while on the water?

Anglers shall not remove any part of the head or tail or any fish for which there is a size or creel limit until finished fishing and off the water. 

Q: Do I need a trout permit?

If you are planning to catch trout in Kentucky, you have to procure a trout permit for $10.00. Those who are license exempt are also exempted from this requirement. Also, all licensed anglers fishing the portion of the Cumberland River from Wolf Creek Dam to the Tennessee state line, its tributaries up to the first riffle and all of Hatchery Creek are required to possess a trout permit.