Kids Fishing License: What You Should Know

Fishing is tradition for mini Michiganders but there are rules you should know before hitting the lakes, like when to pop for a kids fishing license.

Do you remember fishing as a kid? I sure do.

My aunt and uncle lived off of Jefferson Avenue in Detroit and had a canal that ran behind their house. I remember spending hours sitting out back on the docks with my uncle who taught me the proper techniques to baiting a line, how to cast off and how to reel in the fish after finally getting a bite.

We’d unhook the fish and put them in a bucket of water to check them out. At the end of the day we’d always let them go but I’ll always remember those summer afternoons, especially now that my uncle has passed.

And I know I’m not the only one with memories like it. Michigan is home to more than 11,000 lakes that are home to nearly 150 species of fish, which makes our mitten prime fishing grounds. And since fishing allows people hours to sit and talk, sans technology, it’s the perfect activity for a little family bonding time.

But before you strap on your galoshes or shove out to sea for a fishing weekend with your kids, the Department of Natural Resources has some guidelines you need to follow, including how and when to get your child a kids fishing license. Here, Jim Francis, the Lake Erie Basin Coordinator with the Michigan DNR explains and offers his tips to planning a trip with kids.

Getting your kids fishing license

Kids 16 and under don’t need to have a fishing license to fish, but as soon as they hit their 17th birthday it becomes required, Francis explains.

They are available through the DNR and at most sporting goods stores and range in price from $10 for a day pass to a $26 annual pass for residents or a $76 annual pass for non-residents. You can also get a combo hunting and fishing license for $76-$266.

After you purchase your license, you should have it on you when you’re out fishing in some capacity.

“Previously, you had to have a hard copy,” Francis says. ” (But) with technology you can show them on your cell phone.”

Rules and regulations

Families that want to fish should also be aware of the fishing seasons and size limits, which they can learn about through the fishing regulation guidebook, which they can view online or get when they purchase their license.

“(Regulations) vary by what lake you’re on and what species you’re targeting,” Francis explains.

For example, according to the 2016-17 handbook, which is available on the DNR’s website, certain fish like channel catfish and flathead catfish open season spanned the whole year in all waters, whereas northern pike and walleye open season varied from lake to lake.

With this in mind, it is unlawful to take a fish outside of that fish’s open season or have more than three lines per person in the water. Also, things like chumming, transplanting wildlife and commercially selling catches are prohibited.

Dip nets, fish shanties and bait are also regulated. Francis recommends checking the handbook before you go out for the day to make sure you understand and are within the law during your trip.

Planning your day

Once you have all these technical details in order, you can hit the lakes for some fun but Francis, who has spent the better part of 50 years fishing the lakes, recommends you gear your trip to the age of your child and their level of interest.

“Younger kids have a short attention span,” he laughs. “We joke around that the first half hour kids are excited about it. They’re catching fish and having fun but that wears off. Then they’ll start playing with the fish and bait and that buys you a half hour, and then you bust out the snacks and that will buy you half an hour.”

So, if the child is younger it may be best to plan a shorter trip. But when the child gets a bit older you can add more time, especially if he likes to fish.


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