March begins new license year in Kentucky

Productive fishing opportunities across Kentucky

March begins new license year in Kentucky
This crappie came from Jonathan Creek on Kentucky Lake in late March a few years ago. The highly productive crappie fishing on Kentucky Lake is one of the many great places you can fish with your Kentucky fishing license.

From Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources

FRANKFORT, Ky. – As the latest winter storm took aim at Kentucky this past weekend, a brief break in the weather ahead of its arrival sent many anglers out in search of fishable water.

One trout angler at a Fishing in Neighborhoods (FINs) lake in Boone County kindly reminded his shoreline acquaintances about the significance of the date before they cast a line into the icy water.

March 1 ushered in the new license year in Kentucky.


A fishing license unlocks a myriad angling opportunities across the state and buying one now maximizes its value.


“When you think about what that gives you – all these bodies of water, all these different species that we provide for people - it’s a tremendous value,” said Ron Brooks, director of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ fisheries division.

“We have limits on what anglers can take sometimes. Even with those limits they can feed their family a lot throughout the year just by going out on some public water and catching fish, not to mention all the recreational aspects.”

Individuals and families on a budget will appreciate the value of what amounts to a season-long pass to the great outdoors.

An annual fishing license runs $20 for Kentucky residents.


“You can’t take your family out to eat for $20 and you can barely go out and eat yourself for that amount,” Brooks said.

New this year is a three-year fishing license for residents. It is $55 and available online only at fw.ky.gov. Other options include the resident $30 combination hunting and fishing license, a savings of $10 if purchased separately. The joint husband and wife fishing license costs just $36.

Children 15 and younger can fish without a license.


The sportsman’s license is available to residents only and at $95 represents an exceptional value. It bundles a combination hunting and fishing license, statewide deer permit, spring and fall turkey permits, a migratory bird and waterfowl permit along with a trout permit. Buying each separately would cost $150.

Unless license exempt, anglers intending to keep trout must have a trout permit. All licensed anglers fishing the Cumberland River from Wolf Creek Dam to the Tennessee state line, its tributaries up to the first riffle and all of Hatchery Creek must possess a trout permit.

For those who may only get out to fish once or twice a year, a one-day license at $7 is a good option. Residents and non-residents can fish any Kentucky waters without a license during Kentucky’s free fishing days June 7-8.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has documented a slight rise in angler participation over the past two years.“That’s probably due to a combination of the outstanding resources we have, our heightened efforts to promote the opportunities we have in Kentucky and an increase among adults and people in general in locally grown and organic foods,” said Brian Clark, assistant director of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s public affairs division.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife receives no tax dollars from Kentucky’s general fund. Instead it relies on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, boat registration fees and federal programs for funding.

“Fishing and hunting licenses are extremely important to us,” Brooks said. “It really is what makes this whole department run.”

Licenses are sold through a variety of outlets. Vendor locations are available on the department’s website at fw.ky.gov. Licenses and permits also can be purchased online or by calling (877) 598-2401. The Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide provides complete licensing information and is available online and wherever licenses are sold.

It can be debated that March belongs in the discussion of the best sports month of the year.

For many anglers, it is unparalleled.

Deciding where to go and which species to target can be difficult with so many options available. The 2014 Fishing Forecast, produced annually by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and posted on the department’s website, contains a wealth of information about Kentucky’s major fisheries.

Whether you’re after crappie at Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley or white bass at Nolin River Lake, largemouth bass at Cedar Creek Lake, muskellunge at Cave Run, Green River or Buckhorn lakes, hybrid striped bass at Fishtrap Lake or the 39 FINs lakes across the state brimming with recently-stocked rainbow trout, spring is an excellent time to put a new fishing license to use.

Kevin Kelly is a writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is an avid angler with a passion for muskellunge and stream fishing.

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