State fishing licenses are obtained directly through the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife or from a licensed agent. This includes, but is not limited to, retailers who sell sporting goods; bait and tackle shops; and municipal government offices. In some states, licenses can even be obtained online.

Requirements for obtaining a fishing license, as well as the cost to purchase the license, vary by state. In most states, a person is required to provide valid identification and proof of residence. Certain factors can affect the cost of a license, including specific restrictions or allowances, such as saltwater fishing versus freshwater fishing.

Further, states may also have restricted waters that can only be fished by individuals who apply for special permits from the organization responsible for maintaining those lands, such as Native American reservations and state or national parks. Public areas may also have additional permit requirements for a person to be able to use those facilities. State and federal parks may require that a person purchases an additional permit to fish on that land, such as Yellowstone National Park, which requires anyone 16 years or older to have a permit of his own that can range from $18 to $40.