Updated on April 14, 2022
Whether you’re headed out on your own or fishing with a guide, it’s important to stay in compliance with the rules and regulations of the area you plan to fish. While the responsibility of getting your license falls on you, a guide service will generally tell you what you need to have. If they don’t, or you’re heading out on your own, here is everything you need to know about fishing licenses for offshore fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.
If you’re planning an offshore trip on a private boat without a licensed and certified guide, standard state fishing licenses are required in almost all cases. Some states do have free fishing days, but otherwise, a saltwater fishing license for the state you plan to fish is necessary.
Fishing is regulated by states, which is great for managing a complex fishery, but makes keeping up with regulations very difficult. In some states, fishing licenses are always required regardless of water or whether the boat is private or a fishing charter. Other states have simplified license requirements by allowing anglers to be covered by the fishing license for the boat. Here’s how the five states along the Gulf Coast—Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas—handle licensing for fishing charters.
In Texas and Mississippi, anglers are required to have a license on both private and charter fishing boats. A resident or non-resident fishing license can be purchased online and at approved locations. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have your license before the day of your trip, because finding an open location can be tricky with early start times.
Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana have different requirements and certifications for charter boats, but all of them allow paying guests to fish without purchasing a license. In Louisiana, the Recreational Offshore Landing Permit (ROLP) allows guides to catch prized pelagic species, but it also serves as the fishing license for paying passengers. Alabama has the Party Boat License, which covers passengers in the same way.
In the Gulf states, there are some common exceptions when it comes to who needs to purchase a fishing license. Generally, people under the age of 16 are not required to buy a fishing license for any type of fishing. In some states veterans and residents over the age of 65 are also not required to buy a fishing license. If you or someone in your group falls into one of these categories, check that state's fish and wildlife website to see if they’re exempt. You can see a complete list of where to get a fishing license for each state here If you’re looking to take an offshore trip, check out our deep sea fishing charters and get in on the action.