The waters of Cherokee Lake in Panther Creek State Park and Tim's Ford Lake teem with large and smallmouth bass, making it a popular destination for both seasoned anglers and weekend enthusiasts.

You can easily purchase your own Tennessee fishing license online via the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website or from registered agents such as tackle shop or one of your local athletic store. The links below will answer all your questions regarding license information and online registrations.

Fishing laws and regulations are strictly implemented in the area. Which is why researching and reading about the local protocols should be on the top of your list before leaving for your trip. Do not forget to check for updates since some regulations change, depending on the season and the current fish population. The link below will give you an updated list of the Tennessee fishing regulations. It will also give you detailed information regarding size and possession limits and fishing protocols.

During your visit, caring for your surroundings should be a priority. The local fishing rules and regulations exist for the benefit of marine life and their respective habitats. This is to preserve their population and beauty for generations to come.

Are you planning to go to Tennessee on a fishing weekend? Great choice! The state is home to more than 20,000 miles of streams, plenty of lakes and reservoirs, as well as rare species of fish, making it a one of a kind fishing destination. But before you get your hands on the largemouth bass that are biting on Cherokee Lake in Panther Creek State Park or landing plenty of smallmouth bass on Tims Ford Lake, you need to secure a fishing license first. 

Much like other states, Tennessee also sells fishing licenses to fund fishery management, habitat development, endangered species programs, and conservation education. It is done to make sure that the state maintains a healthy fishing population in its state waters so that other anglers in the future can still enjoy fishing across the state.

Getting a Tennessee fishing license is very simple, and this article will show you how it is purchased and which type of license do you need to fish in the abundant waters of TN.

Here's everything you need to know:

Who is required to purchase a Tennessee fishing license?

In general, if you take fish or attempt to take fish (including crayfish) by any method or if you assist someone else to do so in the state of Tennessee, you must have a valid fishing license. However, there are some exemptions. If you are any of the following, then you are NOT required to purchase a fishing license before fishing in the state waters of Tennessee: 

  • You are under 13 years of age (resident or non-resident).
  • Landowners, their spouses, and children, who fish on their farmland which is owned by an individual or a family. Landowners, their spouses, and children must be residents of Tennessee but need not reside on the land.
  • Tenants, their spouses, and dependent children who fish on farmland owned by an individual or a family. Tenants, their spouses, and dependent children must be residents of Tennessee and must reside on the land and have the permission of the landowner to fish. A tenant is a person who, for money or free rent, or other consideration, cares for farmland. The tenancy must be agricultural.
  • Resident grandchildren (under 16) and resident great-grandchildren (under 16) who fish on farmland which is owned by their resident grandparents or great-grandparents.
  • First cousins who own farmland jointly or in common may fish on the farmland. Their children may fish as well.
  • You are on military leave, carrying a copy of your leave orders. A pass does not meet this requirement.
  • You are a resident who was born before March 1, 1926. (To qualify for this exemption, you must carry proof of your age and residency to show to a wildlife officer, if requested.)

Furthermore, if you are going down to Tennessee during the annual Free Fishing Day and Free Fishing Week, then you don't need to worry about purchasing a fishing license. Please note that children under 15 years old can fish free during these dates too!

Residency Requirements

Of course, residents are afforded some privileges such as discounted rates and special licenses by the state of Tennessee. Several criteria needed to be met for an angler to be considered a "resident" and be afforded the benefits that come with it. If you qualify in the following, then you can purchase your fishing license as a Tennessee resident: 

  • Persons who possess a valid Tennessee driver's license. Tennessee state law requires drivers to obtain a Tennessee driver's license within 30 days of residency. Out-of-state drivers license only accepted for Military Personnel and Students meeting the criteria below:
    1. Military personnel on active duty in this state and dependents under age 16, who reside with them, regardless of resident status.
    2. Students who are enrolled in a Tennessee school, college, or university for at least six months (must present a student ID card or other proof of enrollment
  • Persons who do not drive or do not possess a valid driver's license from another state, but who have lived in Tennessee for 90 consecutive days with the genuine intent of making Tennessee their permanent home, may prove residency by presenting to a TWRA license agent any two of the following documents:
  1. Current Tennessee voter registration card
  2. Current Tennessee vehicle registration or title
  3. Form I-94 issued by the US Citizenship & Immigration Service
  4. Current rental/mortgage contract or receipt including deed of sale for property or receipt for payment of Tennessee real estate taxes within last year

Please note that you will be required to provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number whenever you purchase a fishing license in Tennessee. 

Where to buy a fishing license in Tennessee? 

You can conveniently purchase your Tennessee fishing licenses through the following channels: 

  • Online from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
  • Approved Tennessee Wildlife Resources fishing license agents such as a tackle shop or outdoor sporting goods store.
  • Any county clerk can provide you all you need to get a fishing license.
  • The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency will also be able to provide you with a fishing license.

Different Fishing Licenses in Tennessee

Both residents and non-residents can purchase a fishing license from the state of Tennessee. Different licenses can be purchased, but there are two basic types: 

  1. TN State Fishing License - required for all anglers, age 13 and over.
  2. Separate Permits - Required for fishing Gatlinburg and Bedford's city limits, the Tellico-Citico creeks, and any lake owned by a government agency. 

TN State Fishing License

The matrix below shows the different state fishing licenses issued by the state of Tennessee: 

Resident Fishing Licenses



Annual Hunting & Fishing Combination


Jr. Hunt, Fish & Trap (Ages 13-15)


County of Residence Fishing


One-Day Fishing


Annual Trout


One-Day Fishing - All Species


South Holston Lake Permit




Lifetime Sportsman (under 3 years old)


Lifetime Sportsman (3-6 years old)


Lifetime Sportsman (7-12 years old)


Lifetime Sportsman (13-50 years old)


Lifetime Sportsman (51-64 years old)


Lifetime Sportsman (65+ years old)


Annual Senior Citizen Hunt/Fish/Trap


Permanent Senior Citizen Hunt/Fish/Trap


Annual Senior Citizen Sportsman


Depending on age, residents can purchase different licenses. They can buy a combination license that would permit them to both fish and hunt in the state of Tennessee, or they can buy annual fishing licenses alone. On top of that, they can also purchase a county of residence license, which allows an angler to fish in his/her county of residence with natural bait (worms, crickets, corn, etc.), but not minnows. A resident fisherman can also buy a one-day fishing license in place of an annual fishing license. 

Resident Permanent Fishing Licenses

Residents can also apply for permanent fishing licenses. These licenses are only available to those who qualify in specific criteria. All critical information is summarized in a matrix below: 



Permanent Sport Fishing License for the Blind


Permanent Wheelchair Hunting and Fishing

Application must be accompanied by a doctor's statement stating that the applicant is permanently confined to a wheelchair. Covers all license requirements to hunt and fish but the holder must purchase any applicable permits.


Permanent DAV Hunting and Fishing

Available to resident veterans certified by the VA as 30 percent disabled by reason of war service or 100% service connected.


Permanent Mentally Challenged

Must be receiving SSI benefits due to mental retardation.


Non-Resident Fishing Licenses

Non-residents can also buy different types of licenses with varying durations. Here’s a summary: 



Jr. Hunt/Fish

Required for nonresidents age 13-15, fishing and small game only


Annual Fishing - No Trout


Three-Day Fishing - No Trout


Three-Day Fishing - All Species


Ten-Day Fishing - No Trout


Ten-Day Fishing - All Species


Annual Fishing - All Species


Non-residents have the choice to purchase an annual fishing license. This license also comes in either all species (which includes Trout) or no-trout variants. Short-term licenses such as three-day or ten-day licenses are available, and the cost is depending on whether they include a Trout permit or not. 

Special Permits (Residents and Non-Residents)

Here are other permits that both resident and non-residents can purchase in Tennessee:



Resident or Nonresident Gatlinburg 1-Day Trout Permit

Only requirement, ages 13 and up, to fish in Gatlinburg for one day.


Gatlinburg Trout - Daily 

Required for both residents and nonresident ages 13-64 in addition to the appropriate fishing licenses except for nonresidents who purchase the Type 097 license.


Gatlinburg 3-Day Trout Permit

Required for both residents and nonresidents ages 13-64 in addition to the appropriate fishing licenses except for nonresidents who purchase the (Type 097) permit.


Tellico-Citico Trout-Daily 

Required for all ages. Tellico-Citico Permit is required seasonally to fish Tellico River, Citico Creek and year-round on Green Cove Pond.


Agency Lake - Daily Permit

Required to fish Agency Fishing Lakes, except those under 16 years of age and residents 65 years or older.


Agency Lake - Annual Permit

Valid on all Agency lakes, this permit is sold at Agency Lake offices.


Bedford Lake Daily Permit


Fishing Regulations and other Laws

The state of Tennessee strictly implements different laws and regulations to protect its natural resources from abusive anglers. Please download the Tennessee Fishing Guide to familiarize yourself with the different regulations and laws that you need to follow when fishing across the state.

Daily Limit

Please observe the following limits when fishing in Tennessee: 




Black Bass

(includes Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted, Alabama and Coosa)


No more than 5 black bass per day in any combination may be taken


Crappie (all species combined)


10 inches

Region I Crappie
Exception: unless otherwise noted for specific waters



Rock Bass or Redeye and Shadow Bass (all species combined)



Striped Bass or Hybrid Striped Bass (any combination)


15 inches

White Bass





36 inches

Sauger or Sauger/Walleye hybrids


15 inches



16 inches

Trout (all trout species combined)



Lake Trout

Only 2 trout may be lake trout


Redear Sunfish or Shellcracker



Yellow Bass, Bluegill, Warmouth, Bream, Bullheads, Pickerel, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, nongame species

no limit


Skipjack Herring



Alligator Gar: No harvest allowed. Must be returned to water immediately

Catfish: Only one catfish over 34 inches may be harvested per day. No harvest limit on catfish 34 inches and less.

Paddlefish: Paddlefish may be harvested from April 24 through May 31. Daily creel limit is 2 fish per day with no size limit. Culling is prohibited. For exceptions on Center Hill, Cherokee, and Watts Bar reservoir.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What happens if I lose my Tennessee fishing license?

You can print a new one from your online account for free. Every TN license holder will have an account regardless of whether you paid online or in person. If you would like a paper copy of your license, head to a TWRA office, and you can receive a new one for the cost of $8.

Q: When should you renew your license? 

The TN fishing season runs from March 1 to February 31 of the following year.

Q: How old should my child be before s/he can purchase a license?

A sport fishing license is required for any person 14 years of age and older.