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General Fishing Regulations

Fishing License Requirements

Any person who takes or attempts to take fish, mussels, clams, crayfish or other aquatic life in the public waters of Texas must have a current Texas fishing license with the appropriate stamp endorsement. A saltwater endorsement is required to fish in coastal waters; a freshwater endorsement is required for inland waters. See license fees and packages.

Recreational anglers must have a Texas fishing license and saltwater endorsement to bring any fish taken in federal waters ashore in Texas (see Fishing in Federal Waters).

Exceptions

Fishing licenses are not required for:

  • Children under 17 years of age
  • Texas residents born before January 1, 1931
  • Anyone fishing within a Texas State Park
  • Mentally disabled persons who are engaged in recreational fishing under supervision as part of medically approved therapy (for more details, see Fishing Licenses).
  • Mentally disabled persons fishing under the direct supervision of a licensed angler who is a family member or has permission from the family to take the mentally disabled person fishing.

No one needs a license or stamp endorsement on Free Fishing Day, held each year on the first Saturday in June.

Fishing in State Parks

  • State park visitors can fish without a license as long as they are on park property, but other regulations including size and daily bag limits remain in effect.
  • On man-made structures (docks, piers, jetties, etc.) within state parks, fishing is by pole and line only with each person limited to two poles.
  • Bow fishing is not allowed on state park property.

Private Water, Private Land

  • A fishing license is not required to fish in privately owned lakes or ponds.
  • For persons fishing in public water from private property, a fishing license is required.
  • It is unlawful to fish on privately owned water, or enter private land to fish in public water, without the express permission of the owner or the owner's agent. 

Prohibited Acts

Also see Possession and Transport of Exotic Species

Tournament Fraud

It is illegal to enter fish in a saltwater or freshwater fishing tournament that have had the length or weight altered, were taken unlawfully, or are fraudulently misrepresented.

It is a violation to:

  • Take, kill, or disturb sea turtles or sea turtle eggs;
  • Take, kill, or disturb any endangered or threatened species (paddlefish, shovel-nosed sturgeon, smalltooth sawfish and others);
  • Take or kill diamondback terrapin, sawfish of any species, porpoises, dolphins (mammals), or whales;
  • Place any game fish into public waters, other than the body of water where the fish was caught, without a valid permit issued by TPWD. This includes fish caught by pole and line. For permit information, please call 1-800-792-1112 (menu 4) or 1-512-389-4444.
  • Use any vessel to harry, herd or drive fish including, but not limited to, operating any vessel in a repeated circular course, for the purpose of or resulting in the concentration of fish for the purpose of taking or attempting to take fish. 

Tagging Fish

It is unlawful to release into the public waters of this state a fish with a device or substance implanted or attached that is designed, constructed or adapted to produce an audible, visual or electronic signal used to monitor, track, follow, or in any manner aid in the location of the released fish. It is legal to place an identification tag on the exterior of a fish and release this fish back into public waters. Caution is advised as use of these tags can damage fish.

Waste of fish

It is unlawful to leave edible fish or bait fish taken from the public waters of the state to die without the intent to retain the fish for consumption or bait.

Possession of Fish Taken from Public Water

Any fish caught must be taken by legal means and methods.

Fish caught and immediately released are not considered to be in your possession. Any fish not immediately released that are retained by using any type of holding device such as stringer, cooler, livewell, or bucket are considered in your possession and must adhere to established protected length and bag limits.

While fishing, it is illegal to be in possession of more fish than the daily bag limit or fish that are within a protected length limit.

In order to verify length and species, a fish caught may not have the head or tail removed and may not be filleted until an angler finally lands the catch on the mainland, a peninsula, or barrier island not including jetties or piers and does not transport the catch by boat. Broadbill swordfish, shark and king mackerel may have the head or tail removed, but the carcass must remain intact and may not be filleted.

Any fish taken from public water and landed by boat or person in Texas must adhere to the protected length limits and daily bag and possession limits established for those fish in Texas, regardless of the state or country in which they were caught.

The bag limit for a guided fishing party is equal to the total number of persons in the boat licensed to fish or otherwise exempt from holding a license minus each fishing guide and fishing guide deckhand multiplied by the bag limit for each species harvested.


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