New Mexico's rivers, streams, tributaries, dams and even high mountain meadow creeks offer some of the best year-round fly fishing across the country. There is a variety of freshwater fish, more so of trout varieties. The Rio Grande Cutthroat and Gila are local trout varieties much coveted by anglers. Cochiti Lake has a rich population of largemouth bass as well as rainbow trout and brown trout. But before you can cast your line, you have to buy a New Mexico fishing license.

There's no need to troop to a tackle shop or outdoor sports equipment shop to purchase a fishing license from a legitimate vendor. You can just visit the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish website for online transaction. The fees collected serve as additional funding for the habitat development efforts and conservation programs of the state.

Fishing laws and regulations are formulated and strictly implemented for the preservation and protection of the fish populations and waterways. Without these guidelines, depletion or extinction of certain fish species is most likely. Changes in existing laws and regulations are possible to meet current needs and situations of a particular waterway or fish species. These regulations also indicate bag limits, size limits, gear regulations, fish seasons and more.

Everyone can contribute in the preservation and conservation efforts of the fish populations and their habitats. If each angler takes care of his fishing spot by not littering and populating the water, that is one step towards conservation. If you practice the proper catch and release technique, then the chances of survival for a released fish is assured.

New Mexico is one of a kind place. It has a magnificent landscape and a city life like no other. However, one thing that made New Mexico a worthy weekend destination is its fishing areas that are home to different remarkable species of fish. The state is proud of the Eagle Nest Lake, which is great for boaters, campers, hikers, and wildlife enthusiasts. This alpine lake is regularly stocked with trout and salmon, so fishing here will not disappoint. 

And then there's Ute Lake. A lake famous for water sports, this one is definitely part of many anglers' bucket list. But before you can enjoy the beauty and excitement of fishing in one of these sites, you need to purchase a New Mexico fishing license first. 

Purchasing a fishing license can be an arduous and confusing task for some, though. That is why we have put together this quick and simple guide to help you better understand the fishing license requirements in the state of New Mexico. 

We will be talking about different topics related to fishing licenses like where to get one, what the requirements are, and what have you. So let's begin!

Why do anglers need to purchase a fishing license? 

The state of New Mexico, through the Department of Game & Fish, is selling fishing licenses to eligible anglers for a few reasons. The licenses are one of the ways that the state can account for how many people are fishing in its waters. Furthermore, the funds collected from the fishing licenses sold by the state go towards many of their conservation programs like breeding projects, research, technology acquisition, and conservation education. This is the reason why purchasing a fishing license in the state also means that you are contributing to these programs that will ultimately make sure that a healthy fish population is maintained. 

Who needs a valid fishing license in the state of New Mexico?

The state of New Mexico requires all anglers, 12 years and older, to possess a valid fishing license before they are allowed to fish or take fish in any state waters within its jurisdiction. Some licenses are provided for free to several people based on the following regulations: 

  • Free Licenses for New Mexico residents 70 years and older are available at all NMDGF offices and license vendors.
  • Free licenses for 100%-disabled veterans are available by application at the NMDGF Headquarters in Santa Fe, NM. 
  • Free Senior Fishing Licenses are not available to non-residents.
  • Handicapped Fishing Licenses are available to New Mexico residents with severe physical or developmental disabilities.

If you are holding one of the licenses described above (except for the license given to handicapped residents), you are also exempted from other requirements such as the Habitat Stamp, Habitat Management & Access Validation, or a Second Rod Validation. Some other exemptions are also given to some individuals, as described by the law. If you are one of the following, you are NOT required to purchase a fishing license before you are allowed to fish in the waters of New Mexico:

  • New Mexico resident and non-resident anglers under 12 years of age.

Meanwhile, special licenses with discounted rates are given to the following persons: 

  • Junior Fishing Licenses are available to New Mexico resident and non-resident anglers 12–17 years of age.
  • Senior Fishing Licenses are available to New Mexico residents anglers 65–69 years of age.

Where to buy a fishing license in the state of New Mexico?

There are different ways that you can buy in the state of New Mexico. Here are the convenient ways you can purchase a fishing license for yourself or as a gift. 

  • Online. You can purchase your fishing license online by visiting the New Mexico Licensing Website. The online platform accepts all major credit and debit cards like Visa, Discover, and Mastercard as payment options. 
  • In-Person through the NMDFG office. You call also visit any New Mexico Department Game and Fish office to purchase your fishing license in person. 
  • In-Person through license agents. There are literally hundreds of fishing license agents around the state, including fishing stores, tackle shops, and even grocery stores like Walmart. 

What are the different fishing licenses that can be purchased in New Mexico?

New Mexico offers different types of fishing licenses to eligible individuals who are either resident or non-resident. The cost of these licenses varies depending on the applicant's age, purpose, residency status, and the duration of the license's validity. Here is a summary of all the types of fishing licenses you can purchase in the state of New Mexico:

Angling License Fees



Annual Fishing License – 12 Years and Older



One Day Fishing



Five Day Fishing



Junior Annual Fishing (12-17)



Senior Annual Fishing (65-69)


Not Available

70 Years and Older Annual Fishing


Not Available

Handicapped Annual Fishing


Not Available

Second Rod Validation



Habitat Improvement Stamp



Habitat Management and Access Validation



For resident who is older than 12 years, an annual fishing license can be purchased for only $25.00, while a non-resident of the same age can buy it for $56.00. Note that the annual fishing license is valid for one fishing year which starts from April 1 of each year and ends on March 31 of the next year. If you are also not fishing for the entire year and an annual license seems impractical or unnecessary for you, there are also short-term licenses that are sold in New Mexico. Residents and non-residents can purchase a one-day fishing license for only $12.00 or a five-day fishing license for only $24.00. 

As earlier mentioned, special rates are given to several individuals. Anglers aged 12 to 17 can purchase an annual license for only $5.00 (residents) and $15.00 (non-residents). Meanwhile, senior residents, age 65 to 69, and disabled residents can also purchase an annual fishing license for only $8.00. 

Special Permits

Second Rod Validation

A Second Rod Validation is required for all anglers aged 12-69 when they wish to fish with two rods. Residents and non-residents can purchase this permit for only $4.00 per year. Please note that this is not required for New Mexico residents 70 years and older or 100%-disabled veterans.

Gila Trout Fishing Permit for Select Locations

A Gila Trout Fishing Permit is required to fish in the Special Trout Water reaches of Black Canyon and Mogollon Creek. This permit is free and available online and at local NMDGF offices.

Daily and Possession Limits in New Mexico

Aside from requiring anglers to purchase a fishing license, the state of New Mexico also observes fishing limits in order to protect their natural resources. In this regard, it is essential that you follow the following restrictions when fishing in the state of New Mexico:


Daily Limits

Trout and Kokanee Salmon

5 per day, 10 in possession

Lake Trout

2 per day, 4 in possession

Cutthroat Trout

2 per day, 2 in possession

Gila Trout

Willow and Gilita Creeks: 2 per day, 2 in possession

Black Bass

5 per day


15 per day


20 per day

Striped Bass

1 per day

Northern Pike

10 per day

Tiger Muskie

1 per day


5 per day, 14 inch minimum

White Bass

25 per day

Yellow Perch

30 per day

All Other Warmwater Gamefish

20 per day

Furthermore, please note the following regulations: 

  • Bag limit of 5 fish is considered for any combination of trout and/or salmon with the exception that no more than 2 lake trout and/or 2 cutthroat trout may be included in the limit.
  • Trout bag limit is 4 fish at the Tingley Beach Central Pond and the Children’s Pond.
  • Possession of kokanee salmon not permitted at Heron Lake and Willow Creek during the closed season, October 1-November 12.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When will my annual fishing license expire? 

An annual fishing license is valid within one (1) fishing year from April 1 to March 31 of the following year. That means that your license will expire every March 31, regardless of the date of purchase. 

Q: Who is required to purchase the Habitat Stamp, Habitat Management & Access Validation, or Second Rod Validation? 

All anglers fishing in the state of New Mexico are required to purchase the aforementioned permits when fishing in the state, except the following: 

  • New Mexico residents 70 years and older
  • 100%-disabled veterans

Q: Is there any extra cost when purchasing a fishing license in New Mexico? 

Yes, a mandatory $4.00 Habitat Management access stamp and a $1.00 vendor fee are collected when purchasing a fishing license in the state of New Mexico.