Fishing Basics:

Fishing Regulations and Frequently Asked Questions

Fishing regulations help assure that certain types of fish, certain sizes or specific areas will not be over-fished. This leaves enough fish to reproduce for future generations. Fishing regulations also protect the rights of all anglers as well as the rights of landowners.

The Outdoor Annual lists regulations you must follow. This is an introduction and a some of the most frequently asked questions.

You will need to be mindful of the following when you fish:

  1. The type of fish you caught.
  2. The length of the fish.
    • This tells you whether your fish is of legal size to take.

      How to Measure a Fish

      1. Lay the fish on its side
      2. Close it's mouth and then sqeeze the tail fins together
      3. Measure from the tip of its snout to the farthest tip of its tail
      measuring a fish
  3. How many fish you may catch and keep.
    • This is called the "bag limit." The bag limit will vary depending on the species of fish, and may be different depending on the body of water you are fishing.
  4. How to practice "catch and release."
    • Learn more about handling fish so you may return unwanted fish back in the water safely.

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about fishing regulations.

  1. Where do I find all fish and wildlife regulations for the state of Texas?
    Fishing regulations are found in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, which is free to everyone and available when you purchase your fishing or hunting license.
  2. At what age do I need to purchase a fishing license?
    When you turn 17, you must have a fishing license in order to fish legally in public waters. There's a Free Sport-fishing Day the first Saturday in June. No one needs a license or stamps while sport-fishing on that day. If you are fishing within a Texas State Park, you may fish without a license. For details about licenses and stamps, refer to the fishing regulations in the Outdoor Annual. For details on fishing at state parks, read more about the Free Fishing in State Parks.
  3. How often do I need to renew my fishing license?
    Fishing licenses are good from September 1st to August 31st. You must renew after September 1st each year.
  4. Do I need a fishing license to fish from my private property?
    Yes, you will need a license if you are fishing into public waters (such as lakes and rivers) even if you are on private land. But you don’t need a license to fish on private property in a private pond unless the landowner requires it.
  5. What does a "daily bag limit" for fish mean?
    It is the amount of fish that one person can keep in a 24-hour period (midnight to midnight).
  6. What does "possession limit" for fish mean?
    It is the maximum amount of fish (2-day limit) that one person can have in their possession while not in the act of fishing.
  7. Do I need a fishing license or related stamps to fish with a cane pole or to catch shrimp or crabs or to gather oysters?
    Yes, regardless of the method you are using to fish, you must have a fishing license to fish in public waters. You must also possess a saltwater conservation stamp to take any coastal species within the saltwater zone.
  8. Can I give another person my fish if I don't want to bring them home?
    Yes, but you need to give them a Wildlife Resource Document along with the fish you're giving them.
  9. What is a Wildlife Resource Document (WRD) and when is it necessary to have one?
    A WRD is a written statement from the person who legally caught or killed the wildlife resource to the person who receives or possesses the resource. This applies to any resources that require a tag or permit to be attached or which are protected by a bag or possession limit.
  10. What is involved in giving or obtaining a WRD?
    The WRD may be hand written or a person may use the document provided in the Outdoor Annual. The document must have the following information:
    • Name, signature, address, and fishing or hunting license number, as required, of the person who caught or killed the fish
    • Name of the person receiving the fish
    • Description of the fish (number and type of species or parts)
    • Date fish was caught or killed
    • Location where the fish was caught or killed (name of county, lake, area, bay, stream or ranch)
  11. What does "slot limit" mean?
    There are two different types of slot limits:
    1. Freshwater – Slot limits mean you must release any fish between the slot limit numbers. For instance, a largemouth bass at a particular lake has a 14" - 21" slot limit. That means you must release largemouth bass between 14 and 21 inches. Depending on the fish species, some lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams have exceptions to statewide freshwater harvest regulations. See the Outdoor Annual for those exceptions.
    2. Saltwater – Slot limit means you may retain any fish between the slot limits. For example, a black drum with a 14" - 30" slot limit means you may retain any black drum between 14 and 30 inches. All others must be released.
    Remember to check your state bag and size limits before going fishing.
  12. What if I have a question about fishing regulations?
    Call your local game warden or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement office. You can find those numbers in the Outdoor Annual, in the state government section of the phone book or at our web site:

If you see someone who is not following fishing or hunting regulations call Operation Game Thief – Texas’s wildlife crime-stoppers programs. It’s that easy, and it’s the right thing to do. You can make a difference by reporting illegal hunting and fishing activity. Up to $1,000 may be paid for information leading to the arrest and conviction of poachers.

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