All 50 states and Washington DC offer free fishing days throughout the year. On these days, no licenses are required to fish in public waters—making for an excellent opportunity to try the sport of fishing with little or no expense. Free fishing days also offer a chance for experienced anglers to travel to another state to try a new fishing spot without having to purchase a non-resident license.
Every state offers free fishing days on a different day—with some states having multiple days or weekends. However, most dates correspond with the summer months, particularly the first two weeks of June. However, free fishing dates start in January and continue through December.
The majority of states schedule their free fishing days during National Fishing and Boating Week (NFBW), which is held every year during the first week of June. For 2021, this week is scheduled for June 5 to 13. As such, many states are holding their free fishing dates for 2021 on June 5th and 6th and June 12th and 13th. In addition to offering free fishing, many states hold special activities focused on fishing and boating during NFBW.
A handful of states offer free fishing around the July 4th holiday, including California (July 3), Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. In Alaska, fishing is free year-round for children under age 16 and anglers aged 60 and older. Hawaii has free marine fishing year-round. (A license for non-residents is under consideration but hasn’t yet been implemented.)
Minnesota offers three fishing weekends focusing on different audiences. On May 8-9, moms who are Minnesota residents can enjoy fishing during “Take Mom Fishing Weekend.” From June 11 to the 13, Minnesota residents age 16 and older can fish for free with children under 15 during “Take A Kid Fishing Weekend.” Finally, January 15 to 17 is “Take A Kid Ice Fishing Weekend”—an opportunity for Minnesota residents over 16 to fish for free with children under 15.
Some states offer free fishing days for different types of fishing. For example, Florida offers free freshwater fishing on April 3-4 and June 12-13 and free saltwater fishing on June 5-6, September 4, and November 27. Massachusetts has free freshwater fishing on June 5-6 and free saltwater fishing during Father’s Day Weekend (June 12-13).
Free fishing day activities vary by state. For example, Texas releases hundreds of catfish to help beginners catch a fish. Many states schedule activities during free fishing days, including fishing lessons and clinics, fishing derbies, and boat parades.
Free fishing days are an excellent opportunity to teach kids to fish. For new anglers interested in trying the sport, the Rusty Angler offers equipment recommendations and advice for beginner bass fishing.
The following list provides the free fishing days for each state. However, anglers should check their state’s fish and wildlife department website for specific details regarding free fishing locations and requirements. These websites will also provide guidance on places to fish and accompanying events.
- Alabama: June 12
- Alaska: Free all year for people under age 16 or over 60 years of age
- Arizona: June 5
- Arkansas: June 11 to June 13
- California: July 3 and September 4
- Colorado: June 5 and 6
- Connecticut: May 8, June 20, and August 14
- Washington DC: May 31 through June 6
- Delaware: June 5 and 6
- Florida: Free saltwater fishing on June 5-6, September 4, and November 27. Free freshwater fishing on April 3-4 and June 12-13.
- Georgia: June 5, June 12, and September 25
- Hawaii: 365 days of free ocean fishing (however some locations prohibit shoreline fishing)
- Idaho: June 12
- Illinois: June 18 to 21
- Indiana: May 2,June 5-6, and September 25
- Iowa: June 4 and 6
- Kansas: June 5 and 6
- Kentucky: June 5 and 6
- Louisiana: June 12 and 13
- Maine: February 13 and 14 and June 5 and 6
- Maryland: June 5, June 12, July 4
- Massachusetts: Free freshwater fishing on June 5-6 and free saltwater fishing on June 19-20
- Michigan: February 13-14andJune 12-13
- Minnesota: May 8-9 is Take A Mom Fishing Weekend (Minnesota resident moms fish free), June 11-13 is Take A Kid Fishing Weekend (Minnesota residents age 16 or older fish free with children under age 16), and January 15-17, 2022 is Take A Kid Ice Fishing Weekend (Minnesota residents age 16 or older fish free with children under age 16)
- Mississippi: June 5 and 6 and July 4
- Missouri: June 12 and 13
- Montana: June 19 and 20
- Nebraska: May 22
- Nevada: June 12
- New Hampshire: January 16 and June 5
- New Jersey: June 5 and October 23
- New Mexico: June 5 and September 25
- New York: February 13 and 14, June 26 and 27, September 25, and November 11
- North Carolina: July 4
- North Dakota: June 5 and 6 and December 25 and 26
- Ohio: June 19 and 20
- Oklahoma: June 5 and 6
- Oregon: February 13 and 14, June 5 and 6, and November 26 and 27
- Pennsylvania: May 30 and July 4
- Rhode Island: May 1 and 2 (freshwater fishing only)
- South Carolina: May 31 and July 4
- South Dakota: May 9, May 21 through 23, and June 20
- Tennessee: June 12
- Texas: June 5
- Utah: June 12
- Vermont: January 30 and June 12
- Virginia: June 4 through 6
- Washington: June 5 and 6 and June 13
- West Virginia: June 12 and 13
- Wisconsin: January 16 and 17 and June 5 and 6
- Wyoming: June 5