When Does Trout Fishing Start and How Much is a Trout Fishing License?

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Kyle Whitley

when does trout fishing start

Trout fishing is an excellent way to spend some time outdoors with your family and friends or just take in the solitude of fishing yourself.  If you are interested in trout fishing, you might wonder when does trout fishing start?  When does trout fishing start and how much is a trout fishing license?

When to Trout Fish

Trout fishing can be a year-round activity, but most anglers see trout fishing as a fall/winter/spring activity.  That is mostly because trout seem to enjoy and thrive in cold, clean water.

In the Southern United States, trout fishing is delegated to the fall, winter, and spring.  It tends to get to hot for trout to be caught and released in the warmer months safely. Most states tend to limit wild species bag limits in the warmer months though stocked trout could be fair game if you can find them.

Trout Fishing

The trout fishing season varies depending on where you live. In some places it lasts from mid-November to early April; in others, it runs from late May to early June.

In most cases, trout are caught and released. However, there are times when anglers want to or must keep their catches. For example, if a fish is too small to release, it must be kept. Also, it cannot be released if a fish is injured or dying.

Some states allow catch and releasing all year long. Others require anglers to use special equipment to ensure that no fish are killed during the process.

Special Regulation Trout Streams

In some parts of the United States, it is illegal to catch trout without special permission. There are many state laws governing how much trout you can take out of a particular river.

For example, in New Hampshire, you cannot fish for trout during the summer months. In Massachusetts, you must obtain a permit to fish for trout. And in Maine, you must apply for a license to fish for trout.

Some states require that you buy licenses for each person fishing for trout. Others require that you purchase a license for every species of fish you want to catch. Still, others allow you to buy one general fishing license for multiple species.

fly fishing for trout in river casting fly line for trout

Impact of Trout Fishing

The economic impact of fishing varies depending on what type of fish you catch. In some cases, it could be worth millions of dollars.

In Washington, the annual value of recreational angling in 2017 was $1.9 billion. This includes money spent on equipment, travel, lodging, food, gas, and licenses.

When you consider the number of people who participate in recreational fishing each year, it adds up quickly. More than 12 million Americans participated in recreational fishing in 2016.

While there are many different types of fish that can be caught recreationally, one species stands out: rainbow trout.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rainbow trout make up about 75 percent of the total landings of freshwater fish in Washington. They are found throughout the state.

Rainbow trout are native to North America, but they now live in most rivers and streams across the continent.

They are important because they provide food for wildlife like birds and mammals.

Trout Fishing During the Winter

The wintertime is usually a good season for trout fishing because it is cold outside, there are fewer people around, and most streams aren’t crowded. Southern winters aren’t terribly cold so you should be able to fish in winter time in most of the south.

However, some streams do run throughout the winter, especially those located near large bodies of water like lakes or reservoirs. These streams tend to hold larger populations of trout because they receive more runoff from rainstorms and snowmelt.

If you want to catch some trout during the winter, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Streams generally become less cloudy during the colder months. This allows sunlight to reach deeper into the water column where trout live.
  • Fish move closer to the surface of the water as temperatures drop. They seek out warmer waters to avoid freezing.
  • Colder water holds oxygen better than warm water does. If the temperature drops too low, oxygen levels decrease and the trout begin to suffocate.
  • Trout eat insects, worms, crustaceans, and small fish. When temperatures are cold, they prefer to feed on smaller prey items.
  • Trout are very sensitive to changes in water quality. Polluted water causes them to stop feeding.

Catch and Release Methods

When you catch a fish, you want to make sure that it doesn’t die. This is especially true for trout because they are very sensitive to being caught. To avoid killing the fish, you must let it go immediately.

If you don’t, it could die due to stress. Also, if you do kill the fish, you’ll lose the chance to catch another one.

The most important thing to remember when releasing a fish is to be careful when extracting the hook out of its mouth. You could cause damage to the gills and could even lead to death.

Instead, hold the fish firmly while keeping the body horizontal. Then, slowly lower it into the water.

Once it hits the surface, gently push it away from your or your boat. You might see some splashing, but that’s normal, as the fish swims away. Don’t worry about it.

trout in fly fishing landing net with fly rod
catching a Cutthroat trout by a fly fisherman

How Much is a Trout Fishing License?

The cost of trout fishing licenses varies from state to state, but the prices are generally affordable for most anglers. The most important thing to remember is to make sure you have your fishing license.

Fishing License Information

Every person is required to acquire a fishing license, whether he or she fishes recreationally or commercially, must carry the license with them while engaging in such activities.

An electronic copy of the fishing license is available online. In some states is may be required to have a physical copy of the fishing license to be carried by the fisherman.

Where to Get a License

You can purchase trout fishing licenses online in most states where you live. New customers must create an account prior to making purchases. Existing customers will login to their existing accounts to make purchases.

I have been purchasing my fishing licenses in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida online for many years, and I find it the easiest way to get fishing.

You can buy multiple licenses at one time.

Additional Fishing License Information

Every person who is required to possess a fishing license, and must carry a current license with him or her while fishing.

This includes people who use boats, motorboats, iceboats, kayaks, rafts, tubes, surfboards, skis, snowmobiles, snowshoes, or any type of watercraft.

A license should be carried in a visible location, such as on a belt loop, inside a pocket, wallet, purse, fanny pack, backpack, duffel bag, or other container. If you do not carry a license, you cannot fish. You may also have an electronic copy or your license on your mobile phone, and some states like Georgia even have apps where your licenses can be stored.

You may be fined up by your local department of natural resources officer if you don’t have a license with you.

Licenses are good for one year from the date of purchase. After one year expires, licenses expire and must be renewed. To renew your license, go to www.dnr.alaska.gov/fishinglicenses.htm and follow the instructions.

Trout License

There are two different kinds of Trout Licenses:

(1) Nonresident – A nonresident license allows you to fish in any state that requires a resident license.

(2) Resident – A resident license allows you to fish anywhere in the state in which you reside.

Trout License Resources

Here are a few links to the state DNR offices for: Alabama, Arkansas,  Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia








North Carolina

South Carolina




West Virginia

One other greast resource that is used my many states across the use is ERegulations. This site wll allow you to purchase fishing licenses online.

When Does Trout Fishing Start and How Much is a Trout Fishing License: Summed Up

To sum things up, trout fishing is a year-round fishing opportunity, but the best fishing is from fall to winter to spring. So you should more than likely start fishing for trout in the fall. Trout fishing license costs depend on the state you are getting the license in, and I suggest you check out the links above to look at purchasing a fishing license in your state and maybe some of your surrounding states.