Tennessee Fishing Law

When it comes to fishing in Tennessee, it’s vital to have a firm grasp of the state’s fishing laws and regulations. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice, abiding by these laws not only ensures a legal and responsible fishing experience but also helps in conserving Tennessee’s diverse aquatic ecosystems.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key essentials of Tennessee fishing law, from licensing requirements to specific regulations governing seasons, catch limits, and permits. By understanding these laws and restrictions, you can enjoy a rewarding fishing adventure while contributing to the preservation of Tennessee’s natural resources.

Tennessee Fishing a man throwing fishing net in water

Key Takeaways:

  • Obtaining a fishing license is essential before fishing in Tennessee waters.
  • Tennessee fishing law and regulations are enforced by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
  • Fishing licenses can be obtained online, through authorized retailers, or at TWRA offices.
  • It is important to be aware of the fishing season and specific limits for different fish species.
  • Catch and release fishing is encouraged for certain species to maintain sustainable populations.
  • Fishing in Tennessee state parks may have additional regulations and permits.
  • Compliance with fishing laws and regulations helps in protecting Tennessee’s aquatic ecosystems.

Tennessee Fishing License and Regulations

Before casting your line in Tennessee’s abundant waters, it is crucial to understand the fishing license requirements and regulations in accordance with Tennessee fishing law. Obtaining a valid Tennessee fishing license is a legal obligation for any angler, ensuring that fishing activities are conducted responsibly and in adherence to the state’s wildlife code. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission oversees the enforcement of these regulations, working in collaboration with law enforcement agencies to maintain the integrity of Tennessee’s fisheries.

Tennessee offers a variety of fishing license options to suit different needs. Whether you are a resident or non-resident, there is a license option that fits your angling preferences. Here are some key points to keep in mind regarding fishing licenses in Tennessee:

  • License Information: Anglers must carry a valid fishing license while engaging in any fishing activity in Tennessee, including both freshwater and saltwater fishing. The license provides the necessary permission to fish and helps support the conservation efforts of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission.
  • License Sales and Availability: Fishing licenses can be purchased online through the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission’s official website or through authorized agents, including sporting goods stores, bait shops, and some county clerks’ offices. This ensures convenient access to licenses for both residents and non-residents.
  • License Fees: The cost of fishing licenses varies based on factors such as residency status, duration of the license, and age of the angler. Fees generated from fishing license sales contribute to conservation initiatives, habitat management, and fish stocking programs in Tennessee.

In compliance with Tennessee fishing law, alongside licensing requirements, Tennessee also enforces specific regulations to protect fish populations and sustain the ecological balance of its waters. These regulations encompass various aspects of fishing, including:

  • Fishing Seasons: Tennessee has defined fishing seasons for different species, with specific dates and areas where fishing is permitted or prohibited. It is crucial for anglers to be aware of these seasons to ensure they are fishing within the legal boundaries.
  • Creel and Size Limits: Tennessee establishes creel limits, which define the maximum number of fish a person can keep in a single day. Additionally, various species have size restrictions to protect juvenile fish and ensure healthy populations.
  • Special Fishing Areas: Tennessee designates certain areas as “special regulation zones” that may have additional fishing rules and limitations. These areas are managed to provide enhanced fishing experiences and contribute to the overall conservation efforts.

Law enforcement agencies actively patrol Tennessee’s waters to ensure compliance with fishing regulations. Violations of these regulations can result in penalties, fines, or even the suspension of fishing privileges. It is the responsibility of every angler to familiarize themselves with the fishing laws and regulations and abide by them to preserve the natural resources and sustain the fishing opportunities that Tennessee has to offer.

Tennessee Fishing Law - fish are arranged after catching

Fishing Seasons and Limits in Tennessee

In accordance with Tennessee fishing law, Tennessee offers a diverse range of fishing opportunities throughout the year. Anglers can enjoy the thrill of catching various species in the state’s abundant waters. From bass to carp, trout to catfish, Tennessee’s lakes, rivers, and streams provide a haven for fishing enthusiasts. To ensure the sustainability of the fish populations and maintain a balanced ecosystem, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has implemented specific fishing seasons and limits for different species.

Species and Creel Limits

Each species of fish in Tennessee has its own set of regulations regarding the creel limit, which refers to the maximum number of fish that can be caught and kept in a single outing. It is essential for anglers to familiarize themselves with these limits to ensure compliance with the fishing laws. Here are some of the common fish species in Tennessee and their associated creel limits:

SpeciesCreel Limit
Black Bass5
Smallmouth Bass5
Flathead Catfish5

Fishing Seasons and Size Restrictions

In addition to creel limits, fish species in Tennessee also have specific fishing seasons and size restrictions. It is important to know when certain fish can be legally targeted and the minimum size required for a catch to be considered legal. This ensures that fish have the opportunity to breed and maintain healthy populations. Anglers should consult the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s official guidelines for the most up-to-date information on fishing seasons and size restrictions.

Wildlife Management Areas and State Fishing Records

In accordance with Tennessee fishing law, Tennessee boasts numerous wildlife management areas, which are designated conservation areas managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. These areas offer ample fishing opportunities and may have additional regulations specific to their conservation goals. Anglers should be aware of any special considerations or restrictions when fishing in these areas.

Tennessee is also home to some impressive state fishing records. Anglers who dream of catching a record-breaking fish can find inspiration in these achievements and strive for their own personal best. Whether it’s a massive bass, a prized carp, or a trophy-worthy trout, Tennessee’s waters hold the potential for unforgettable fishing experiences.

In addition, be aware that Tennessee fishing law requires anglers to comply with specific regulations when fishing in these popular spots, such as Kentucky Lake, Reelfoot Lake, and the Tennessee River. These regulations may include fishing seasons, catch limits, and other guidelines to ensure the sustainable management of fish populations. Familiarizing yourself with these rules will contribute to a responsible and enjoyable fishing experience in these picturesque landscapes.


By understanding and adhering to Tennessee fishing law, anglers can ensure responsible and enjoyable fishing experiences while protecting the state’s aquatic ecosystems. The comprehensive guide provided in this article has equipped both seasoned anglers and novices with the essential knowledge and resources to stay compliant with Tennessee fishing regulations.

Additionally, it’s essential to be aware of and adhere to Tennessee fishing law when setting out on your fishing adventures in the Volunteer State. Grab your fishing gear, obtain the necessary fishing license, and familiarize yourself with specific regulations governing fishing seasons, catch limits, and any special considerations for wildlife management areas. This ensures that you not only enjoy your fishing experience but also contribute to the conservation and sustainability of Tennessee’s diverse fish species.

With Tennessee’s abundant waters and popular fishing spots like Kentucky Lake, Reelfoot Lake, and the Tennessee River, anglers have countless opportunities to enjoy the sport. However, it is crucial to remember that sustainable fishing practices and adherence to fishing laws are vital in preserving these ecosystems for future generations. So, go ahead and cast your line, explore the beautiful waters of Tennessee, and have an unforgettable fishing experience while staying compliant with the state’s fishing regulations.


What are the fishing license requirements in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, anglers are required to have a valid fishing license to fish in any public waters. This license can be obtained online, at select retailers, or through the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) website.

What types of fishing licenses are available in Tennessee?

Tennessee offers various fishing license options, including resident and non-resident licenses, annual and daily licenses, as well as special licenses for seniors and disabled individuals. The TWRA website provides detailed information on each type of license and their associated fees.

What are the fishing regulations for catch and release in Tennessee?

Catch and release fishing is widely practiced in Tennessee. Anglers are encouraged to release fish unharmed to promote sustainable fishing practices. However, it’s important to note that certain regions or specific bodies of water may have different regulations regarding catch and release. Anglers should stay updated on the specific rules and restrictions for the area they intend to fish.

Are there specific fishing regulations in Tennessee state parks?

Yes, Tennessee state parks have their own fishing regulations that may differ from general fishing regulations. Anglers should consult the Tennessee State Parks website or contact the specific park they plan to visit for information on fishing regulations within the park boundaries.

What are the fishing limits for different species in Tennessee?

Fishing limits vary depending on the species being targeted and the specific body of water. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provides detailed information on fishing limits for different species such as bass, trout, carp, and catfish. Anglers should review the current regulations to ensure compliance and conservation of fish populations.

Can I fish in wildlife management areas in Tennessee?

Yes, fishing is allowed in designated wildlife management areas in Tennessee. However, specific rules and regulations may apply to these areas, including restrictions on certain fishing methods, creel limits, and types of fish that can be harvested. Anglers should consult the TWRA website or contact the management area directly for detailed information on fishing regulations.

What are some popular fishing spots in Tennessee?

Tennessee is home to numerous popular fishing spots, including Kentucky Lake, Reelfoot Lake, and the Tennessee River. These locations offer excellent opportunities for anglers to catch a variety of fish species. However, it’s important to note that some of these spots may have their own specific regulations, so anglers should familiarize themselves with the rules for each area.

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