How To Fish (For Free)

Cast a line this summer with Free Fishing Days, plus other events through National Fishing and Boating Week starting in June.

Following a year with record participation in fishing, there’s a movement underway to get even more people casting bait and lures underwater. National Fishing and Boating Week takes place the first full week of June—beginning on June 4 and ending on June 12—bringing together anglers of all walks; and Free Fishing Days begin on a state-by-state basis nationwide, encouraging newcomers to try their hand at one of the country’s largest and fastest growing recreational pastimes. Both are designed to raise awareness about sustainable fishing and preserving the nation’s recreational waters. 

Founded by former President George W. Bush in 2002 and organized by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF), National Fishing and Boating Week is designed to help professional anglers connect with beginners to grow the sport through various recreational activities. In doing so, it also raises funds used to protect national waterways and support local fisheries. Additionally, the week helps promote a series of Free Fishing Days throughout the country, during which participants can fish without licenses. Both bring communities and people of all ages and backgrounds together to promote fishing as a healthy lifestyle activity and raise funds for marine conservation. 

Public Lands Concierge Bob Johnson can’t speak highly enough of the outstanding opportunity presented by the Free Fishing Days. “They’re invaluable as a recreational and educational tool, as well as a means for anglers of all ages to find peace and beauty on the water—and they can lead to a life of carefree angling days,” says Johnson, who teaches an Introduction to Fly Fishing clinic out of Public Lands’ Polaris, Ohio store. “They also have programs, assisted by local fishermen and clubs, where newbies to the sport can receive some pretty darned good lessons for free.”

Ways To Celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week 

  • Participate in local fishing events: During this week, local fish hatcheries organize special events for families such as fishing derbies. Participate in groups or go solo for the betterment of local waterways and fisheries.
  • Go boating: Whether you want to catch fish or simply rack up some float time, head out on a boat of any sort to take a break and enjoy your local waterway. (Don’t forget to wear your life jacket.)
  • Catch and cook: Where regulations allow, go ahead and fry up your catch. There's no better feeling than cooking a freshly caught fish (hint: discard the innards and scrape off the scales if applicable), baking it in an oven, frying it up in a pan, or throwing it on the grill. 
  • Keep on casting: Busy June 4-12? Mark June 18 on the calendar. It’s observed as National Go Fishing Day. The fish-day festival is a great time to find a stream, lake or pond and cast your line.

Bring a Friend 

If you need more motivation, there’s another engagement campaign running this summer to galvanize industry leaders and the broader community of recreational anglers to share their love of fishing. Called ‘Fishing: Share the Fun,’ this new, industry-wide collaboration between the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) provides easy-to-use educational tools and tips to increase the fun factor your first few times out, with the goal of enticing experienced anglers to team up with newcomers.

“When you take a friend fishing and ask your customers to do the same, you’re supporting the development of future lifetime anglers, which is good for conservation,” says RBFF’s Stephanie Vatalaro, adding that campaign partners receive a free, online toolkit highlighting best practices for taking novices fishing, and encouraging participants to spread the word via hashtags #ShowUsYourFish and #FishingShareTheFun. 

Outfit Your Free Day

Mark the following days on your calendar and head to the nearest Public Lands location for additional equipment or advice. Each store sells state fishing licenses for the days that aren’t free, plus they provide all the info and tackle that you’ll need for a day on the water, in addition to gear rental options.


While all other fishing regulations still apply, the PA Fish and Boat Commission is offering its Fish for Free Days on Sunday, May 29, and Monday, July 4, 2022, permitting anyone to legally fish on Pennsylvania waterways with no fishing license required (even for trout/salmon and Lake Erie). Additionally, its Fishing Tackle Loaner Program (a partnership with the American Sportfishing Association and various sponsors) allows the public to equip itself at designated locations. It works much like a library: Fill out a form, borrow necessary tackle, and then return it to the site when you’re through. The equipment may also be loaned to groups conducting education programs. More Info: 


Whether it’s for stripers on the coast, trout in the mountains, or anything in between, Free Fishing Days in Virginia are slated for June 3-5, 2022. Better yet: Invite a friend or family member along with you. For pointers, visit the state’s Where to Fish tool. The Virginia DWR is also hosting several weekend events, with agency staff and volunteers on-site with free rods and reels, tackle and bait to help instruct newcomers. The events on Saturday, June 4 (also the scheduled Free Fishing Day in neighboring North Carolina) take place at Burke Lake, Dorey Park, and Trashmore Lake. On Sunday, June 5, look for events at Festival del Rio Rappahannock (Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg). More Info: 


Free Fishing Days in Ohio, one of the best states to dip a line in the Midwest, are scheduled for Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19, 2022. During that weekend, all Buckeye State residents are invited to experience Ohio’s public fishing opportunities without purchasing a license. Please note that all size and bag limits apply during these two days. More Info: 

Why Buy a License?

If you missed the chance to fish for free, don’t dwell on it. One hundred percent of license fees go directly toward conservation and restoration. Fishing (and hunting) license sales make up the largest portion of sportsmen’s contributions to state fish and wildlife agencies—eclipsing more than $1 billion a year nationally—which directly fund projects that protect the wildlife and hatcheries, and that promote conservation and overall growth of the sport. Think of it as a donation toward the health and preservation of your state’s fisheries.

“We’re thrilled to see so many new and returning anglers enjoying our nation’s waters,” adds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Martha Williams. “Anglers have always been a force for conservation, and we appreciate their continued support to sustain aquatic resources for future generations.”

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.