RIDEM Information about the
Rhode Island Recreational Saltwater Fishing License

Courtesy of the
Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association

Effective January 5, 2010, the Rhode Island General Assembly voted to override the Governor's veto of the legislation that would create recreational saltwater fishing license. The law became effective immediately.

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How to obtain your RHODE ISLAND license

The Rhode Island Recreational Saltwater License can be obtained ONLINE at

The license is also be available some area bait & tackle shops. To view the list

If you have questions, call RIDEM Marine Fisheries Division at 401-423-1923.

The FEDERAL ANGLER REGISTRY PERMIT (if you do not obtain a Rhode Island License) is available online at www.countmyfish.noaa.gov
The Federal permit is free in 2010, but will cost $15-$25 in 2011.

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Who must buy a Rhode Island saltwater license?

In order to fish recreationally in Rhode Island's marine waters, and in offshore federal waters, saltwater recreational anglers and spearfishers will need
  • A federal registration, or
  • A Rhode Island state license, or
  • A state license from a reciprocal state
Under federal law, every saltwater angler must be registered. It can be done via the Federal Angler Registry (register online at www.countmyfish.noaa.gov) or through a state license. The Rhode Island license gives everyone the option. Rhode Island anglers can register for $7 with Rhode Island or use the Federal Registry for $15. Either will be accepted.

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Who is exempt from the license requirement?

No license is required for:
  • Children under the age of 16 years
  • Permanently disabled or blind
  • Active duty military on leave
  • Anglers who hold a Highly Migratory Species Angling Permit
  • Anglers fishing on a licensed party or charter boat
  • 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.
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What about senior citizens?

Residents over age 65 must obtain an annual license, but there is no fee.

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Rhode Island License Fees
  • Resident.............................$7.00 (annual)
  • Nonresident..........................$10.00 (annual)
  • Resident (65+ yrs)...................No fee (annual)
  • Resident/Nonresident 7-day license...$5.00

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I am from MA/CT/NY. Do I need a Rhode Island license?

Rhode Island will honor the licenses of all recriprocal states:
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • A Federal Angler Registry permit
If you do not have a CT/MA/RI license and live in another state you can either:
  • obtain a Federal Angler Registry permit (currently $15)
  • obtain a Rhode Island non-resident license ($10)

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I will be hosting visitors from another country.

Will they need to purchase a Rhode Island fishing license?

Yes. Residents from outside the U.S. are required to obtain a non-resident license.

Applying online by a foreign visitor:
  • Enter name and street address as normal
  • Zip code field use zeros to fill blank spaces
  • Enter passport number for license number
  • State, enter 2-character country abbreviation.
  • Phone number, use hotel or other local number

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I have a RI commercial fishing license. Do I still need a recreational license?

An angler who is "fishing recreationally" is required to have a recreational license. If a commercial fisherman decides to go recreational fishing, he will be required to obtain a recreational license. Likewise, if he has a recreational catch aboard (of a species that is closed commercially), he must have a recreational license.

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If I fish board a charter boat or head boat, do I still need a license?

No. If you fish aboard a LICENSED charter or head boat, you do not need a state saltwater license or federal angler registry permit.

Licensed charter & party boats are required to keep their own trip logs, recording the number of anglers, catch, etc. on every trip.

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What defines recreational fishing

An individual will be considered to be fishing recreationally if they are engaged in the process of angling or spearfishing, or if they possess equipment used for angling or spearfishing and are also in possession of finfish

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I take some friends out fishing on my boat only once a year. Why isn't there a "boat" license?

The whole purpose of the federal angler registry or a state saltwater license is to obtain an accurate count of fishermen.
A boat license would only count the boat owner, but not provide the number of anglers who fished on that boat all year.

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What happens to the money?

All money collected from Rhode Island license fees, other than $2 commission paid to the vendors, will be deposited into a restricted receipt account, mandated by law, and can be used ONLY for the following purposes:
  1. Administering and enforcing the recreational fishing license program
  2. Managing Rhode Island's marine recreational fisheries, with particular reference to improving state-based fishery catch and effort statistics and stock assessments
  3. Enhancing recreational fishing opportunities
The fees collected by the FEDERAL ANGLER REGISTRY will go into the federal general fund, and NOT paid back to the recreational fishery, so purchasing a Rhode Island license will be an investment in the future of the sport.

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Accountability of the funds
  1. On an annual basis, RIDEM must prepare a report that details the number of recreational fishing licenses issued, the amount of license fee revenue received, the expenditures made during the prior year using that money, and how RIDEM plans to use the revenue during the next year. The report shall also include additional information relating to administration and enforcement of the program and the status of recreational fishing stock assessments.

  2. This annual report must be presented to the R.I. Marine Fisheries Council, and RIDEM must conduct one or more public meetings to solicit input from recreational anglers and the general public. The Fisheries Council shall annually prepare an addendum to this report, setting forth the Council's recommendations for modifying the program.

  3. This final report must be presented annually to the R.I. General Assembly.

Click to read the "2013 Recreational Saltwater License Program Annual Report"

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Background and authority to create a recreational fishing license

  1. The constitution of Rhode Island places plenary authority and responsibility in the general assembly to provide for the conservation of the natural resources of the state, including its marine fisheries. The state of Rhode Island has historically established programs to provide for and regulate the harvesting and taking of marine fish for recreational purposes.

  2. The federal government and regional entities have established and continue to establish regulatory programs, management measures, quotas, and other restrictions that affect persons engaged in marine recreational fisheries in Rhode Island, and Rhode Island functions in whole or in part in the context of federal and regional programs, depending on the fishery.

  3. The regulatory programs, management measures, quotas, and other restrictions governing marine recreational fisheries are based primarily on catch and effort statistics from recreational fisherman, and on fishery resource assessments, which gauge the biological status of fish stocks. Since 1979, recreational fishing assessments have been derived from the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS), administered by the federal government in partnership with the states. Fishermen have never been pleased with this program.

  4. In 2006, under the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (the U.S. law that governs all marine fisheries) Congress acknowledged major flaws in the accuracy of the assessments provided by (MRFSS), and called upon the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to undertake programmatic reforms, including the establishment of a universal registry of all saltwater anglers to provide a more accurate and efficient means for acquiring recreational catch and effort data.

  5. In 2008, (NMFS) initiated a new Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) to replace (MRFSS), and enacted rules requiring marine recreational fisherman to either register under a new national program, or be registered or licensed by a state program that meets federal requirements.

  6. All coastal states have enacted, or are in the process of enacting, marine recreational fishing license or registry programs. Our neighbors in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York have a saltwater license in place.

  7. The interests of recreational saltwater anglers in Rhode Island can best be met by establishing a state program that meets federal requirements, contributes to improved state-based recreational fishing assessments and stock assessments, and supports fair and effective regulatory programs and quota allocations for Rhode Islandís marine recreational fisheries
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Read the complete Rhode Island State Law