Fishing laws or regulations protect natural resources and help anglers enjoy more success.  If we did not have these regulations, anglers would be able to fish for all species, at all times and of any quantity, which could deplete a fish population and cause a species to become extinct.

Fishing rules and regulations are set and managed by each individual state.  In addition to requiring a valid fishing license, all states have different rules and regulations, and many of them change by season or month.   Some states have fishing laws that apply throughout the state. Other states may have different laws for different bodies of water.  Always check your state's fishing rules before a fishing trip.

Common Fishing Regulations

  • Set restrictions around the type of fishing license needed
  • Set a start and end date for a fishing season
  • Set limits on how many fish of a certain species you can take in one day
  • Set limits on the number of fishing lines and hooks you are allowed to use
  • Set regulations on the type of tackle and fishing method used for a specific species or a specific body of water
  • Set limits on size of fish

Find your state's specific fishing regulations here.


State agency workers in boat catching fish with net as they do research for fishing lawsThere are good reasons for such fishing laws.  All are intended to conserve and improve fish populations.  Daily fish limits are meant to keep people from taking too many fish at one time.  This makes it possible for more people to share in a fishery. Plus, limits enable conservation officers to arrest "poachers" for stealing more than their fair share of the resource.  You can help conservation officers protect your fish, forests and wildlife by obeying the laws and reporting any violations that you see.

Often, fisheries biologists study bodies of water to check on fish numbers and the health of fish populations.  Sometimes, they suggest a new law if it will help keep the fish population healthy.  For example, if there are seasonal fishing laws in your state, they may have been introduced to protect fish during spawning or as a way of limiting the number of fish caught on heavily fished waters. Some fish, like bass, lake trout, muskellunge, northern pike, sturgeon, walleye and most large game fish, take longer to become adults and may not spawn (lay their eggs) until they are three-to seven-years-old and then they spawn only once a year.  Other fish species mature earlier and spawn more than once a year.  For example, bluegill and many other pan fish spawn when they are two-to three-years-old. Size limit fishing regulations are also meant to protect fish of spawning size before they are caught.

Don't be discouraged by fishing regulations, they do not mean you cannot go fishing.  If a regulation is in place, and you have a valid state fishing license, practice catch and release.  Proper catch and release will return the regulated fish back to the water to help the population thrive.