Is a Photo of My Fishing License Good Enough?

warden and angler
A CDFW wildlife officer talks with an angler.

Question: I have a picture of my current fishing license and hunting license on my phone (as well as my driver’s license). That shows all of the legal stamps, stars and stripes that might be required for what I am doing legally. As far as a game warden is concerned, would that work as proof that I have a license? It worked with the California Highway Patrol and I wasn’t cited for driving without a license. Before you say “no,” realize that California only requires sportsmen to buy a state duck stamp, not to have it on them. Why wouldn’t the same be true for a photo of the license? If the department won’t accept a photo on my phone, what channels do we go through to make it legal? (Bob)

Answer: The California Fish and Game Code (FGC), section 7145 (a) requires that every person aged 16 and older who takes any fish, reptile, or amphibian must have a valid sport fishing license on his or her person or in his or her immediate possession. FGC, section 3700.1 provides that it is unlawful for any person, except a person licensed pursuant to section 3031, paragraph (2) of subdivision (a), to take any migratory game bird, except jacksnipe, coots, gallinules, western mourning doves, white-winged doves, and band-tailed pigeons, without first procuring a state duck hunting validation as provided in subdivision (b), and having that validation in his or her possession while taking those birds. FGC, section 3031 generally addresses the requirements and fees for obtaining a hunting license, and provides, at paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) special requirements for obtaining a junior hunting license.

Under the existing requirements, you must have your hunting or fishing license in your immediate possession, and not just a photograph of the license.

Any request to change the regulations or law should be addressed through your state legislator, and, ultimately, the California Fish and Game Commission. Complete details and procedures can be found at

Can’t an officer “radio in” my license info?

Question: I often fish off the dock where my boat is in a slip. My fishing license is in a folder on my boat with all the other required legal documents. I also have a photo of my license in my cell phone that clearly shows the license number on a valid license. If I am contacted by a CDFW officer, will I receive a citation for not having the piece of paper in my possession? He could certainly check the number via his radio and see that it’s valid, or walk over to my boat and view the license. (Dave M.)

Answer: As explained above, FGC, section 7145 (a) specifies that you must have your license with you while fishing. There are a few exceptions – you don’t need a license if you’re fishing from a public pier (FGC, section 7153), and if you’re diving, it’s fine to keep your license in the boat or within 500 yards of the shore, as applicable (FGC, section 7145(a)).

Except for the diving exemption, when required, you must have your valid fishing license in your immediate possession when fishing, not just a photograph of the license. Wildlife officers do not have the capability of verifying a person’s fishing license by radio. Wildlife offers may have the ability to “call it in” via cell phone, depending on connectivity, reception and location. However, this is at the officer’s discretion, and doesn’t relieve a person of his or her responsibility to follow the law.

Concealment of a weapon while legally hunting

Question: If I am otherwise legally hunting (hunting license, lead-free ammo, legal magazine capacity, unincorporated public land, proper distance from roads, bodies of water, etc.) in California with a handgun or pistol, do I need to ensure that I don’t conceal it while loaded if I do not have a CCW permit? Is the answer different depending on the land management agency? I don’t want to commit a felony or otherwise run afoul of the state gun laws. (Travis)

Answer: Your question relates to California Penal Code (PC), sections 25400 and 25850. Although section 25400 generally prohibits carrying a concealed firearm, there is an exemption that applies to hunters. Section 25640 provides that section 25400 “does not apply to, or affect, licensed hunters or fishermen carrying pistols, revolvers or other firearms capable of being concealed upon the person while engaged in hunting or fishing, or transporting those firearms unloaded when going to or returning from the hunting or fishing expedition.”

Similarly, section 25850 generally prohibits carrying a loaded firearm “on the person or in a vehicle while in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or in any public place or on any public street in a prohibited area of unincorporated territory.” However, section 26040 includes a hunting exemption. This section provides, “Nothing in section 25850 shall prevent any person from carrying a loaded firearm in an area within an incorporated city while engaged in hunting, provided that the hunting at that place and time is not prohibited by the city council.”

These exemptions do not apply to individuals who are otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms. Be sure to comply with any restrictions relating to your location, including any rules or ordinances of a land management agency or local government pertaining to firearms. Additionally, it is not lawful to carry a firearm when hunting under an archery-only tag or during some archery-only seasons.