tennessee fishing regulations

Tennessee Fishing Regulations

Tennessee fishing regulations get updated periodically and are generally well laid out and in layman’s terms in the Tennessee Fishing Guide 2020-21 that can be accessed online at www.tnwildlife.org and in hard copy form at sports stores, throughout the state.

What are the Fishing Regulations in Tennessee?

A valid fishing license should be obtained from the state of Tennessee by all persons who are aged 13 years and older. Anyone who intends to fish or even attempts to do fishing by any means or assists someone else in doing so, where Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has jurisdiction, must do so with a valid fishing license.

The fishing licenses are valid for roughly a year. They get sold on February 18 every year (which is when the prime fishing period begins) and remain valid until the last day of February of the following year.

TN Fishing License Information

Before you set out on your fishing expedition, always ensure you have read the latest fishing regulations from TWRA, and that you have kept your valid license (or details of it) just in case. This ensures that you always stay on the right side of the law and perform your fishing activities with the peace of mind that you need.

melton lake hill
Melton Lake Hill in Tennessee

We have answered below some key concerns and questions that you may have relating to your fishing license and associated regulations in general.

Who Needs a TN Fishing License?

As per the regulation:

If you take, or attempt to take fish (including crayfish and salamanders) by any method or if you assist someone else to do so, you must have a valid fishing license.

There are certain exceptions to the above:

  • Under 13
  • Landowners (and their spouse and children) fishing on their farmland
  • Tenants (and their spouse and children) owned by an individual or a family
  • Resident grandchildren and great-grandchildren (both under 16) fishing on farmland owned by the grand or great-grandparents.
  • First cousins (and their children) who own the farmland jointly or in common
  • Anyone on military leave
  • Residents born before March 1, 1926
  • On any Free Fishing Day
  • On Free Fishing Week

Anyone who provides a service to another (a guide) by assisting in any act of fishing (amongst others) is also required to apply for a license, through an application. For resident guides, the fee is lower ($151) as opposed to non-resident guides ($651).

Limits & Regulations

Some waters have special characteristics, and hence, require specified creel and length limits, to improve fishing for all the anglers. The detailed list of these limits with species of fish is laid out in the ‘Statewide Limits & Regulations’ section of the guide.

There are protected length ranges (PLR) and anglers are only permitted to harvest fish that measure less than 14 inches or those that are over 18 inches.

Anglers can only possess fish that is twice the daily creel limit. Anglers may use as many poles as they wish at any given time.

It is illegal to keep or transport the following animals in the living form:

  • Silver carp
  • Bighead carp
  • Black carp
  • Blueback herring
  • Marbled Crayfish
  • New Zealand mud snail
  • Round goby
  • Rudd
  • Ruffe
  • Snakeheads
  • Swamp eels
  • Zebra mussels

Hook Restriction

Anglers are currently restricted to use a maximum of 3 hooks per rod, pole, or hand-held line – as the case may be. Please note that single, double, or treble hooks each count as a single hook for the purposes of the regulations.

This ‘3 hooks’ restriction, however, does not apply if you are using a sabiki or piscatore rig to take shad or herring. This rig is composed of a combination of small lures that are stuck to a single line and they are usually used by anglers to catch baitfish.

Where to Buy a License?

tennessee flagMajority of the fishing licenses (except for the Lifetime Sportsman License and specialty licenses relating to Wheelchair, Disabled Veteran, SSI (Supplemental Security Income), and Blind Fishing), are readily available from most county clerks, stores (sporting goods and hardware), boat docks, online (www.gooutdoorstennessee.com), mobile app (visit gotwra.org) and from all TWRA sales offices and license agents.


How Much Does a Fishing License Cost in Tennessee?

An annual resident fishing license will cost you $34, which includes a permit to hunt small game. There is also an option to buy an annual county of residence fishing license for $11 that can permit you to fish only within your home county, or a day only fishing license for a cost of $6.50 that can allow you to fish throughout the state.

Veterans, minors (13-15 years), blind persons, mentally disabled, or those confined to a wheelchair can buy an annual fishing license for a reduced price of $10. Senior citizens (aged 65 and over) can buy an annual license for a small price of $5.

Any resident of Tennessee can also opt for a lifetime fishing license. The price of this license will vary with the age of the resident.

How Long is a Tennessee Fishing License Good For?

It lasts for a year – with issuances on February 18 every year, and expiring on the last day of February, of the following year.

What Happens if You Lose Your License?

All fishing licenses (including lifetime licenses) can be conveniently accessed, emailed, and/or printed from the comfort of your home using a PC, without any cost and any time throughout the year, by visiting: https://gooutdoorstennessee.com/. If you have misplaced your license, then you need to purchase a hard card duplicate online, either from the TWRA mobile application or from any of TWRA’s licensed agents, for $8.00 and upon verifying your address.


Tennessee is home to 19,000 miles of streams, 29 big reservoirs, and countless smaller lakes and ponds. All of this makes this state an angler’s paradise. This state presents some of the USA’s best fishing experiences – you can fish for bass, crappie, and catfish. All fishing expeditions require preparation, and that starts with ensuring that you have a valid Tennessee fishing license.