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An angler's take on buying a 2011 California fishing license online

December 21, 2010 | 11:19 am

Carson_tunaVeteran angler and frequent Outposts contributor Steve Carson recently purchased his 2011 California fishing license, and did so using the new online system. Here's his take on the process:

The 2011 California state fishing licenses are now available, but buying one is not quite the same as it has been in the past. Along with the traditional spots like local sporting goods stores, the Department of Fish and Game now sells licenses online.

California’s previous attempt at online license sales a decade ago ended in a technological nightmare. One benefit of waiting so long to start again is that much of the license-buying public is now very comfortable with online purchases.

Accordingly, this writer tackled the new online system this week, with apparent success. I was able print out a "temporary" license, with the permanent version hopefully to arrive by U.S. mail. It should be noted that I am only a moderately active online shopper, but was an actual license dealer for more than 30 years, and so was extremely familiar with the "old way" of issuing licenses.

The entire process took about 20 minutes; and the DFG’s online purchase form is slightly less intuitive than say, Southwest Airlines'. California has more different fishing license options than any other state. It helps to be familiar with the kind of license options you will need, or the process may take considerably longer.

Purchasing licenses as Christmas gifts is still possible, but the purchaser must know all of the recipient’s personal information, including driver’s license or other ID number. It is also important to purchase the correct type of license, as no refunds or exchanges are given by the DFG for online purchases.

A typical Southern California-based angler who fishes all of the possibilities within a two-hour drive (but doesn’t go lobster hooping) can get by with $48.35. Fishing only in the High Sierras (without a second-rod stamp) can be done with the basic $43.46 license. Versatile SoCal anglers who want to "do it all" within a five-hour drive will need to ante up $73.86. The traveling angler who fishes all areas of the state, and enjoys abalone diving will shell out a whopping $106.78.   

Online purchasers must have access to a printer. Those purchasing short-term licenses must immediately print out their license before use. Anglers who do so are cautioned that the vast majority of printer ink is not waterproof, so a sealed license-holder is a good idea.

Anglers purchasing annual licenses can print out a temporary copy for immediate use, but this expires in 15 days. The website states that a permanent copy will be sent via U.S. mail within 15 days. The various "Report Cards" do not print out, so anglers wishing to use them immediately must instead go in person to a license dealer to purchase them. 

Photo: Steve Carson with a nice tuna caught last fall out of San Diego. Credit: Steve Carson