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How to Become a Fishing Guide in Texas

The Lone Star State harbors fantastic fishing opportunities, but you’ll need to make sure you’re properly licensed to run a fishing charter. So, today you’ll find out how to become a fishing guide in Texas.

From Striper fishing on Lake Texoma to offshore Tuna fishing in the Gulf, Texas is full of hot fishing fun. Knowing how to legally operate your charter fishing business is essential to enjoy it to the fullest.

Like in most states, freshwater and saltwater guiding have different regulations and licenses. You generally need more licenses for saltwater than for freshwater.


To legally run a saltwater fishing operation in Texas, you need the following three documents:

  • Captain’s License (USCG)

  • All-Water Fishing Guide License

  • Boat Registration

Captain’s License

Like elsewhere, all saltwater guides in Texas need to be Coast Guard licensed captains and be in possession of a Captain’s license (Merchant Mariner Credential).

All-Water Fishing Guide License

In Texas, you need something called an All-Water Fishing Guide License to legally operate saltwater fishing charters. For residents, this license costs $210 and $1,050 for non-residents. Here you can find an overview of different fishing licenses and fees.

Note that your boat has to be registered through the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department before you can apply for a fishing license. You’ll see how to do that below.

Gulf of Mexico Fishing License for Federal Waters

For fishing in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico (over 9 miles out), you require a Coastal Pelagics permit and/or a Reef Fish permit. This depends on which species you’re targeting. Unfortunately, you can only buy it from someone who already has it. The Gulf Council, which is responsible for managing the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, hasn’t issued new permits since 2003.

Boat Registration

Unlike other states, in Texas, the DMV (Department for Motor Vehicles) is not in charge of boat registration. Instead, the TPWD (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department) is responsible for that.

Only the owner can register a vessel. You can register either by mailing this form with supplementary documents to the TPWD or in person at a local tax collector’s office. You have to submit the boat’s bill of sale as well as the manufacturer’s statement of origin alongside your boat registration.

Depending on the length of your boat, you will pay between $32 to $150 to register your boat in Texas.

Boat Insurance

For most Texas fishing charter businesses, boat insurance is not required. The exception is Party Boat operations, which need to have limited liability insurance covering at least $300,000. A party boat is quite broadly defined as any boat over 30 feet in length that takes more than six passengers.

Of course, we recommend that every charter operator purchases boat insurance. Insurance can be the difference between losing your boat or business and being protected, in many cases.


As a freshwater guide, you need a special license, which costs $132 whether you’re a Texas resident or not. Apart from that, to fish in “navigable waters” you also need a USCG captain’s license. Navigable waters are defined as waterways with (commercial) traffic, like the Sabine River and its lakes.

Finally, your customers have to buy their personal fishing licenses. They can easily do this via the TPWD shop.

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