How to Get a Fishing License in Tennessee?

Tennessee, a state renowned for its natural beauty and abundant waterways, offers anglers of all ages and skill levels a chance to create lasting memories on the water. From the serene lakes and reservoirs to the meandering rivers and streams, the Volunteer State boasts a diverse array of fishing opportunities that cater to every angler’s preferences. However, before you can embark on your next fishing adventure, it’s essential to understand the licensing requirements and regulations that govern this beloved pastime.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of obtaining a fishing license in Tennessee, covering everything from eligibility criteria and license types to purchasing options and special permits. Whether you’re a lifelong resident or a visiting angler, this article will equip you with the knowledge and resources necessary to ensure a hassle-free and enjoyable fishing experience while contributing to the conservation efforts that sustain these natural resources for generations to come.

Who Needs a Tennessee Fishing License?

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), all individuals aged 13 and above are required to possess a valid fishing license when engaging in fishing activities within the state’s boundaries. This requirement applies to both residents and non-residents, regardless of whether they are fishing on public or private waters.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

  • Children under 13: Residents and non-residents under the age of 13 are exempt from the licensing requirement.
  • Landowners and Tenants: Landowners, their spouses, and children are permitted to fish on their own farmland without a license, provided they are residents of Tennessee. Similarly, tenants, their spouses, and dependent children can fish on the farmland they reside on without a license, with the landowner’s permission.
  • Military Personnel on Leave: Active-duty military personnel on leave are not required to have a fishing license, as long as they carry a copy of their leave orders.
  • Resident Seniors: Tennessee residents born before March 1, 1926, are exempt from the licensing requirement but must be prepared to show proof of age and residency if requested by a wildlife officer.
  • Free Fishing Days: Tennessee offers an annual “Free Fishing Day” and a “Free Fishing Week” for children aged 15 and under, during which no license is required for residents or non-residents to fish in public waters, agency-owned lakes, and state parks.

It’s important to note that providing false information to obtain a license is considered a misdemeanor offense, punishable by fines and the potential loss of the license. Additionally, licenses are non-transferable and must be carried with you while fishing.

Types of Tennessee Fishing Licenses

Tennessee offers a variety of fishing licenses to cater to the needs of both residents and non-residents, as well as those seeking short-term or long-term fishing opportunities. Here’s a breakdown of the different license types available:

Resident Licenses

  • Annual Combo Hunting & Fishing License: This license covers both fishing (all species, including trout) and small game hunting for residents aged 16-64. It’s the minimum requirement for these activities across Tennessee.
  • Junior Hunt/Fish/Trap (Ages 13-15): A discounted license for resident youth, allowing them to hunt, fish, and trap without the need for additional licenses or permits.
  • County of Residence Fishing License: This license allows residents to fish with natural bait (excluding minnows) in their county of residence. Artificial lures cannot be used with this license, and a supplemental license is required for trout fishing.
  • One-Day All-Species Fishing License: A convenient option for residents who want to fish for a single day, covering all species, including trout.
  • Annual Sportsman License: An all-inclusive license that covers hunting, trapping, and sport fishing without the need for additional licenses or permits. It also allows holders to apply for quota hunt permits at no extra cost.
  • Lifetime Sportsman Licenses: Available for various age groups, these licenses provide lifetime coverage for hunting, trapping, and sport fishing, without the need for additional licenses or permits.
  • Discounted Permanent Licenses: Residents who are seniors, disabled, or meet specific criteria can obtain discounted permanent licenses for hunting and fishing.

Non-Resident Licenses

  • One-Day All-Species: A single-day license that covers all species, including trout, for non-residents.
  • Three-Day All-Species: A three-day license that covers all species, including trout, for non-residents.
  • Ten-Day All-Species: A ten-day license that covers all species, including trout, for non-residents.
  • Annual All-Species: An annual license that covers all species, including trout, for non-residents.

It’s important to note that some licenses may have additional requirements or restrictions, such as the need for a trout stamp or special permits for certain bodies of water. Always review the specific regulations and requirements before purchasing your license.

Purchasing Your Tennessee Fishing License

Tennessee offers several convenient options for purchasing your fishing license, ensuring that anglers can easily comply with the state’s regulations:

  1. Online: The quickest and most convenient option is to purchase your license online through the Go Outdoors Tennessee website ( This platform allows you to create an account, select the appropriate license, and complete the transaction securely.
  2. By Phone: You can also purchase your license by calling the toll-free license sales line at 888-814-8972.
  3. In Person: Many bait and tackle shops, Walmart stores, hardware stores, and other authorized retailers throughout Tennessee are licensed to sell fishing licenses. Additionally, you can visit county clerk offices or TWRA regional offices to obtain your license in person.

When purchasing your license, be prepared to provide your Social Security Number and a valid photo ID to confirm your residency status. It’s important to note that licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase, unless otherwise specified.

Special Fishing Permits and Regulations

While a fishing license is the primary requirement for most fishing activities in Tennessee, there are certain areas and bodies of water that necessitate additional permits or have specific regulations in place. Here are some examples:

  • Gatlinburg: To fish within the city limits of Gatlinburg, both residents and non-residents aged 13 and above require a daily or seasonal trout permit in addition to their regular fishing license.
  • Tellico & Citico: Anglers of all ages must obtain a daily or annual permit to fish on the Tellico River, Citico Creek, and Green Cove Pond year-round.
  • Agency Lake: A daily or annual permit is required for anglers aged 16 and over, as well as residents under 65, to fish on Agency Lake. These permits can be purchased at the Agency Lake offices.
  • Bedford Lake: A daily permit is mandatory for all anglers fishing on Bedford Lake.

It’s important to note that holders of the Annual Sportsman’s License, Lifetime Sportsman’s License, or Annual Senior Citizen Sportsman License are exempt from the need to purchase additional permits for the areas mentioned above.

Familiarizing yourself with these special regulations and obtaining the necessary permits is crucial to ensure a legal and enjoyable fishing experience in Tennessee’s diverse waterways.

When planning your fishing trip, be sure to check the specific regulations for the areas you intend to visit, as they may have unique requirements or restrictions in place to protect and conserve the local fish populations. By adhering to these guidelines, you not only avoid potential penalties but also contribute to the long-term sustainability of Tennessee’s rich fishing heritage.

Free Fishing Days and Exemptions

Tennessee offers several opportunities for residents and non-residents to fish without a license throughout the year. The most notable events are:

Annual Free Fishing Day

Typically held on the first Saturday of June, Tennessee’s Annual Free Fishing Day allows anyone, regardless of age or residency status, to fish in public waters, agency-owned lakes, and state parks without a license for that day. In 2024, Free Fishing Day falls on Saturday, June 8th.

Free Fishing Week for Children

Immediately following Free Fishing Day, Tennessee offers a Free Fishing Week for children aged 15 and under. During this week, which runs from the Free Fishing Day (June 8th in 2024) through the following Friday (June 14th in 2024), kids can fish without a license in all public waters, agency lakes, and state parks.

Exemptions In addition to the annual Free Fishing Day and Week, certain groups are exempt from the requirement to obtain a fishing license in Tennessee:

  • Children under 13 years of age (residents and non-residents)
  • Landowners, their spouses, and children fishing on their own farmland (must be Tennessee residents)
  • Tenants, their spouses, and dependent children fishing on farmland they reside on (must be Tennessee residents with landowner’s permission)
  • Military personnel on leave (must carry a copy of leave orders)
  • Tennessee residents born before March 1, 1926 (must carry proof of age and residency)

Tips and Reminders

  • Always carry your fishing license and any required permits when fishing in Tennessee.
  • Familiarize yourself with the specific regulations for the areas you plan to fish, as some may require additional permits or have unique restrictions.
  • If visiting from out of state, be sure to purchase the appropriate non-resident fishing licenses and permits.
  • Have your valid photo ID and Social Security Number ready when purchasing licenses.
  • Most annual fishing licenses in Tennessee expire 365 days after the date of purchase.


With its diverse fishing opportunities and abundant waterways, Tennessee offers anglers of all ages and skill levels a chance to create lasting memories on the water. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can ensure that you have the proper licensing and permits in place, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the joy of fishing while contributing to the conservation efforts that sustain these natural resources for generations to come.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top