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Home > Programs > Bureau of Natural Resources > Division of Fish & Wildlife > Recreational Saltwater Fishing Licenses


 
Division of Fish & Wildlife
Recreational Saltwater Fishing License Information


Welcome to the home page for the Rhode Island Recreational Saltwater Fishing License. To obtain your license, click the link on the left. If you have any questions regarding the license, please read the information provided below. After reading the information, if you still have questions, you may contact DEM's Marine Fisheries Program at (401) 423-1923 (M-F, 8:30 am - 4:00 pm).

Who needs a license?

In order to fish recreationally for finfish in Rhode Island's marine waters, saltwater anglers and spearfishers must have:
  • A RI Recreational Saltwater Fishing License, or
  • A National Saltwater Angler Registration, or
  • A recreational saltwater fishing license from a reciprocal state. Rhode Island honors recreational saltwater fishing licenses from New York, Connecticut, Massachusets, and Maine.
Where can I get a RI license?

Licenses are available online, via this website. Licenses are also be available from participating vendors throughout the State, including several bait and tackle shops.

Where can I get a federal registration?

Go to www.countmyfish.noaa.gov, or call 888-674-7411.

What is the cost of the RI license? What is the cost of the federal registration?

The cost of a yearly RI license is $7 for Rhode Island residents, and $10 for non-residents. A temporary seven-day RI license is available, for both residents and non-residents, for $5. Those fees are set by state law, and are not subject to change.

The federal registration is $15 annually.

What about seniors and active military personnel?

RI residents who are over the age of 65, or active military personnel stationed in RI, must obtain licenses (or be registered federally), but the RI license is free for these groups.

Who does not need a license?

No license or federal registration is required for:
  • Anglers who are under 16 years of age
  • Anglers fishing on licensed party or charter boats
  • Anglers who hold Highly Migratory Species Angling Permits
  • Anglers who are on leave from active military duty
  • Anglers who are blind or permanently disabled
Additionally:
  • Licensed commercial fishermen do not need a recreational license (or federal registration) if they are fishing commercially. However, they do need one if they are fishing recreationally.


  • Licensed party or charter boat operators do not need a recreational license (or federal registration) if they already have a Party and Charter Boat license and are fishing in party/charter mode. However, they do need a recreational license (or federal registration) if they are fishing recreationally, without paying customers aboard.


  • Anyone who is a non-fishing passenger on a boat on which others are fishing does not need a recreational license (or a federal registration), as long as the passenger does not engage in any angling or spearfishing activity.


  • Anyone who is recreationally fishing in a way that does not involve angling (defined as any use of a hook and line), or spearfishing (defined as any use of a spear or powerhead), does not need a recreational license (or a federal registration). Thus, a recreational license (or federal registration) is not needed to fish recreationally using recreational cast nets, minnow traps, dip nets, umbrella nets, seine, or eel pot. (But the state regulations covering recreational beach seines/bait nets must be adhered to when collecting bait species.)


  • Anyone who is recreationally fishing for shellfish, lobsters, crabs, or squid, does not need a recreational fishing license (or a federal registration). However, a separate RI recreational lobster license is needed to take lobsters, and for non-residents, a separate recreational shellfish license is needed to take shellfish. Additionally, non-residents may not harvest blue crabs.
Where does the license apply?

RI waters: RI's recreational fishing license applies in all of RI's marine waters, which begin at the inland edge of all tidal water areas and extend seaward out to three miles. The defined boundaries separating RI's freshwaters and saltwaters can be found in section 2.6 of DEM's Freshwater and Anadromous Fishing Regulations.

Federal waters: The RI license also applies in all offshore federal waters, which extend seaward from the seaward edge of all state waters.

Other state waters: The RI license also applies in the state waters of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, as well as in the waters of all other states that honor RI's license (a list of all other states will be provided here as soon as information on those states is collected).

When does the license expire?

All yearly RI licenses expire each year on December 31. All yearly RI licenses must be renewed annually. All seven-day RI licenses expire seven days after their activation date.

Do I still need to follow all applicable rules and regulations governing marine recreational fishing?

Absolutely. The license simply enables you to fish legally, in accordance with all applicable rules and regulations. Go to DEM's marine fisheries home page for all relevant information. For a condensed version of the minimum sizes, possession limits, and seasons for recreational fisheries, go to the Legal Minimum Sizes and Possession Limits page.

What is the difference between the federal registration and the RI license? What if I already enrolled in the Federal Registry?

The key difference is cost. The federal registration cost is $15 annually. The annual fee for the RI Recreational Saltwater Fishing License is $7 for residents and $10 for non residents, and those fees are fixed by state law. What's more, under the federal program, fisherman over the age of 65 and military personnel are subject to the $15 registration requirement. Under the RI program, there is no fee for the licenses issued to RI residents over the age of 65 and active military personnel stationed in RI.

Another key difference is reciprocity. The RI license affords reciprocity, whereas the federal registration does not. RI license holders can fish in neighboring state waters without having to get a neighboring state license, and neighboring state license holders can fish in RI waters without having to get a RI license. RI license holders can also fish in federal waters without having to obtain a federal registration. If you only have a federal registration, you can fish legally in RI waters (you do not need to also obtain a RI license), and in offshore federal waters, but you cannot fish legally in MA, CT, ME or NY waters, since their programs do not honor federal registrations.

The third key difference is that all of the license fee revenues from the RI license go directly into a restricted receipt account. In accordance with state law, the license fee revenues may only be used for the management and enforcement of recreational fishing programs and for improvements to recreational fishing access and infrastructure throughout the State. Fees generated by the federal registry are deposited into the U.S. Treasury and provide no direct benefits for RI.

What if I am not a RI resident, but have a license from my home state or some other state, and plan to fish in RI waters?

RI will honor any license from any state that also honors RI licenses. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and New York licenses are reciprocal, and so they apply in RI waters. A list of all other reciprocal states will be provided here as soon as information on those states is collected.

What if I am not a RI resident, and don't have a license from my home state or some other state, and plan to fish in RI waters?

You can readily obtain a RI non-resident license. However, be advised that you may or may not be able to use that license in your home state (e.g., if you are a Connecticut or Massachusetts resident, you will need to obtain a Connecticut or Massachusetts license to fish in Connecticut or Massachusetts waters).

Is a freshwater/hunting/saltwater combination license available?

No, not at this time, but DEM does intend to explore this as a future option.

How will the license fee revenues be used?

All license fees will be deposited in a restricted receipt account, managed by DEM. In accordance with the state law governing the license program, the license fee revenues can only be used to administer and enforce the license program, improve the management of RI's marine recreational fisheries, particularly with regard to developing more accurate assessments of recreational catch and effort, and enhance recreational fishing access opportunities in the State. The license fee revenues cannot be used for any purpose that is unrelated to marine recreational fishing in RI.

What is the purpose of the RI license and the federal registry?

The state-license and federal-registry programs are designed to improve the quality of marine recreational fishing data. In turn, the improved data will help to ensure that recreational fishing regulations are fair, effective, and based on sound science. Additionally, the new programs will provide the first full accounting of the scope of recreational saltwater fishing in RI, and throughout the U.S., and will thereby help to more fully demonstrate anglers' economic, conservation, and marine stewardship contributions.

By way of background:
  • The current assessment program, known as MRFSS, has been in place since 1979. It involves complementary telephone and dockside-intercept surveys to collect effort and catch data, respectively. The phone calls are made randomly, using phone books. The program has serious shortcomings, largely because there is no universal database of recreational fishermen to draw upon for survey purposes.


  • In 2006, the U.S. Congress addressed the recreational data collection problem by amending federal law (the Magnuson Act) to require the National Marine Fisheries Service to establish a universal registry of all saltwater anglers and to revamp the MRFSS program.


  • NMFS responded by establishing the new National Saltwater Angler Registry and replacing MRFSS with a new Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). The new registry program, along with the complementary state license programs, will generate a comprehensive list of all registered/licensed anglers for use in conducting the phone surveys.


  • Rhode Islandís new Recreational Saltwater Fishing License Program has been approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries). The approval means that Rhode Island has achieved full legal status as an exempted state under the National Saltwater Angler Registry Program.


  • Rhode Islandís exempted-state designation became effective on November 8, 2010, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the RI Department of Environmental Management and NOAA Fisheries. The MOU acknowledges that the RI license program meets all of the requirements of federal law, and that RIís license database will be incorporated into the new national database of recreational anglers and spearfishers.


  • The Registry program gives states the option of developing their own state license programs as a substitute for the federal registry. The federal registry is $15 annually. Also, the registry does not afford reciprocity with other states.


  • In January 2010, the RI General Assembly enacted a new state law establishing a new RI saltwater license. The law took effect in January 2010. The new state license program gives RI anglers the option of obtaining a relatively inexpensive RI state license, in lieu of a federal registration. The RI license can also be used in all waters throughout southern New England, whereas the federal registration does not cover fishing activities in neighboring state waters. The reciprocity provisions associated with the RI license also extend to all other states in the U.S. that honor RI licenses.


  • All RI license information, as well as that collected by NMFS and other states, will be incorporated into a national "phone book" of recreational anglers, enabling the new MRIP program to readily survey current fishermen and more accurately assess recreational catch and effort data. That information will lead to improved state-based assessments and more fair, accurate, and effective management programs for Rhode Island's marine recreational fisheries.

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rev. 8/28/13