365 Day Fishing License and Digital Option for California

Big news in the California fishing community was just announced! Assembly Bill No. 817 now authorizes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to issue (the option for) a 365 day fishing license as well as an option for a digital fishing license (displayed via your mobile device).

It’s been a long time coming as the push for a 365 day fishing license (or 12-consecutive-month fishing license) had been ongoing for years prior to the signing of this bill. Seemingly just as popular had been the complaining of having to carry a hard-copy fishing license on you as opposed to keeping a digital copy of your fishing license on your phone. In this article, we’ll talk about what the new bill means for fishing in California, when the new fishing license regulations will take effect and more.

365 day fishing license

This is purely my interpretation of the bill. I am not a professional in law and this article was formed via my own understanding and opinions.

Assembly Bill No. 817 alters more than just the calendar vs. 12 consecutive month aspect of the California fishing license. In fact, this new bill changes three main regulations for California fishing licenses. The last of which has yet to be touched upon in many articles I’ve seen. Let’s get into it.

What Does The New 365 Day California Fishing License Change?

The Bill comes with 3 main changes to the California fishing license. Here’s what it does:

  1. Provides an option for a digital fishing license (includes validations, report cards, or other sport fishing entitlements)(AB-817).
  2. Allows for a 12 consecutive month sport fishing license (this is in addition to the calendar year license) (AB-817).
  3. Changes the reduced-fee for residents over the age of 65, from income-based, to based on whether or not the resident receives benefits from certain state programs (AB-817).

When Will the Mobile California Fishing License Take Effect

We have yet to receive an exact date as to when California anglers will be able to purchase licenses for the 12 consecutive month style and display their electronic fishing licenses via their mobile devices. But, the bill suggests it will be prior to 2023.

“On or before January 1, 2023, the department may provide an option to display a sport fishing license, validation, report card, or other sport fishing entitlement issued pursuant to this code or regulations adopted pursuant to this code electronically on a mobile device.” (Fish and Game Code, Section 1050.4).

The bill goes on to clarify that a person who displays their proper mobile fishing license shall be deemed to be compliant and within regulations. It then clarifies that the mobile aspect does not apply to tags that are required to be “affixed” to certain species of fish.

From my understanding, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has to instate mobile licenses (and the option for them) by January 1, 2023. If they fail to do so, or choose not to, they would forfeit the opportunity and California residents would miss out.

When Will the 365 Day California Fishing License Take Effect?

The bill “authorizes” the Department of Fish and Wildlife to make these changes, but does not state the changes must be made. More specifically, the burden lies on the director:

“The director may authorize the issuance of a license under subparagraph (A) that is valid for the period of 12 consecutive months beginning on the date specified on the license instead of only for the calendar year.” (Fish and Game Code, SEC. 2. Section 7149.05).

One caveat worth mentioning is that it technically won’t be a 365 day fishing license. It will be a 12 consecutive month fishing license. The keyword here is “may”. My opinion is that it will happen soon, but politics and laws just take a lot of time.

While there appears to be no cut-off as for when this must take place, the bill makes clear that it is only valid until January 1, 2030. After which, the section defining the option for a 12 consecutive month license, is repealed. After its repeal, it will be no longer be operative, and code excluding the 12 consecutive month license will become operative once more.

Why would they set a date to remove the new changes?

This one had me baffled at first. I’m still not crystal clear on it, but it appears that July of 2028, the director is supposed to file a report “evaluating all sport fishing licenses”. My guess is that by then they’ll have enough data to decide whether or not to continue with the changes offered here. In the end, it may come down to which method is more popular, which is easier to administer, or which makes the government more money.

What About the Reduced-Fee for Residents Over the Age of 65?

This change seems to be your typical politician move – create a bill that focuses on a change that is likely to be well-received by the target audience, and then throw in something that gives the government more power in hopes that it will be over-looked by the people.

So far, it has been over-looked. I haven’t read one previously-published article that mentioned the change. Here’s the code:

“A person over 65 years of age who is a resident of this state and who receives benefits pursuant to one of the following:

(A) Section 12200 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

(B) The Cash Assistance Program for Aged, Blind, and Disabled Legal Immigrants (Chapter 10.3 (commencing with Section 18937) of Part 6 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code).”

My initial reaction to such a change is that the government is encouraging more reliance on them and less independence for the people. It appears they might be looking for reasons and statistics to support the notion that their programs are needed and used by [We] the people, to draw more funding… resulting in more taxes.

But, this is a fishing website and not a politics page so we’ll move on.

Why the Changes?

I wanted to make sure I got straight to the point, but for those who are curious as to what sparked the change and the ensuing existence of AB-817, this next section is for you.

365 Day Fishing License

California residents have been pressing for an option for fishing licenses that last 365 days from purchase date for a long time now. To some residents, it’s viewed as “not worthwhile” to purchase a license that expires at the end of the calendar year, regardless of when it’s purchased. Some anglers only begin fishing in June, half-way through the calendar year.

The argument could be made that it really doesn’t matter, because if a resident chooses to only fish a certain part of the year, they’ll still only fish that part of the year. More logistical for residents as such, would be a 6-month fishing license, or a 3-month fishing license. Maybe, one day California will take the initiative to instate something as such.

Digital Fishing License

Currently, you need to have your California fishing license on you or immediately accessible in physical form and it must be signed.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked the question, “can you keep your fishing license on your phone?” or, “can I just keep a digital copy of my fishing license?”. So, to those people, soon, the answer will likely be yes.

A couple things to keep in mind: make sure you have it downloaded if you won’t have good reception where you’re fishing. And, don’t drop your phone in the water if you don’t have a back-up hard copy on you.

I hope this helped clear up any confusion you might have had on the new bill that was passed. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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