California Fishing Report Cards: The Ultimate 2024 Guide

If you plan to fish for certain species in California in 2024, you’ll need more than just a fishing license. The state requires anglers to obtain fishing report cards to fish for steelhead, sturgeon, salmon, spiny lobster, and previously abalone (abalone cards are not currently available due to season closure). These report cards play a crucial role in helping the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) monitor and manage these important fisheries.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about California fishing report cards for the 2024 season, including:

  • Which species require report cards
  • How much report cards cost
  • Where to purchase report cards
  • How to properly fill out and submit report cards
  • Consequences for failing to return report cards

By the end, you’ll be fully prepared to obtain and use the appropriate report cards for your 2024 California fishing adventures. Let’s dive in!

What Are California Fishing Report Cards?

Fishing report cards are special permits required, in addition to a regular California sport fishing license, to fish for certain species including:

  • Steelhead
  • Sturgeon
  • North Coast salmon (Klamath, Trinity, and Smith Rivers)
  • Spiny lobster
  • Abalone (when season is open)

The report cards require anglers to record their fishing activity, catch, and harvest of these species. This data helps the CDFW monitor populations, set seasons and limits, and make management decisions to sustain the long-term health of the fisheries.

Anglers must fill out the report card immediately upon keeping a fish or when done fishing for the day. At the end of the season, report cards must either be returned to the CDFW by mail or the data reported online by the deadlines specified for each card type.

How Much Do Report Cards Cost in 2024?

The fees for the various report cards in 2024 are as follows:

Report CardFee
North Coast Salmon$8.00
Spiny Lobster$11.25
Abalone$27.50 (if season opens)

These fees are in addition to the cost of an annual California sport fishing license, which is $57.25 for residents and $154.50 for nonresidents in 2024.

Where to Purchase Fishing Report Cards

You can buy fishing report cards wherever California sport fishing licenses are sold, including:

  • Online at the CDFW website
  • CDFW license sales offices
  • Authorized local license agents like sporting goods and tackle stores

If you purchase a report card online, you can print it out immediately. Otherwise, you will receive the card by mail. Note that abalone report cards are not currently available as the fishery is closed.

Properly Filling Out & Submitting Report Cards

Carefully read and follow the instructions specific to each report card. In general:

  • Fill out the card with the date, location, and species immediately upon keeping a fish or when done fishing for the day
  • Return cards by mail to the address printed on them or report data online by the specified deadlines:
    • Steelhead, Sturgeon, Salmon – January 31
    • Spiny Lobster – April 30
  • Write “Did Not Fish” on the card if you purchased one but did not end up fishing for that species

Accurate and complete data is essential for the CDFW to effectively monitor and manage these fisheries, so take the time to fill out the cards properly. Online reporting is encouraged for convenience and to save postage.

Consequences for Not Returning Report Cards

Failing to return report cards or report data online by the specified deadlines can result in fines and being ineligible to purchase a card the following year. For example:

  • Spiny lobster report cards not reported by April 30 incur a $21.60 non-return fee when purchasing a new card
  • Anglers who do not return salmon, steelhead, or sturgeon report cards by January 31 may be restricted from buying the same card the following year

To avoid penalties and ensure continued access to these limited entry fisheries, set a reminder and report your cards on time.


California fishing report cards play a vital role in managing robust and sustainable fisheries for steelhead, sturgeon, salmon, spiny lobster, and abalone. By obtaining the proper report cards, recording your catch, and returning the cards on time, you contribute important data and help preserve fishing opportunities for the future.

For the 2024 season, expect to pay between $8 to $27.50 for the various report cards in addition to your fishing license. Purchase cards online, from CDFW offices, or license agents and be sure to review the specific instructions for each card type.

As responsible anglers, it’s our duty to comply with fishing regulations and participate in the data collection process. Plus, timely reporting helps ensure uninterrupted access to these special fisheries year after year.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your 2024 California fishing license and appropriate report cards and get out there to enjoy some of the best steelhead, sturgeon, salmon, and spiny lobster fishing in the country!

For the most up-to-date information on fishing seasons, regulations, and report card requirements, always check the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website before you head out on the water.

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