Connecticut Private Property Fishing Laws

Private Property Fishing Laws in Connecticut

Have you recently acquired private waters, or are you planning to purchase private waters in Connecticut? If so, it’s critical to be aware of the various Connecticut private property fishing laws to ensure you and your guests have an amazing fishing experience while staying compliant with all the relevant laws. This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth look at fishing laws for both inland and marine private waters.

Do You Need a Fishing License in Connecticut on Private Property?

In Connecticut, you may not need a license to fish in private waters if the waterway is registered with the state and the property owner allows it.

However, many waterways are considered public even if the surrounding land is private. Residents and non-residents must have a fishing license to fish if they are 16 years of age or older. This applies whether they are fishing on a boat or from the shore.

Some people may get their permits for free. Individuals who have lost a limb or can no longer use a limb and people who are mentally disabled or legally blind may receive free permits with proof of their disability. Residents who are 65 years and older may request a free lifetime fishing license that they can renew every year without cost.

Residents 65 and Over

There are three days during the year when everyone can fish without a standard Connecticut fishing license. For two of these free fishing days, people will need to get a free one-day fishing license.

To obtain a fishing license, you can purchase one online, at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) field offices, at town halls or at retail shops that sell fishing equipment. Be sure to get the license that relates to your fishing activities, since there are many available. You may choose:

  • An all-purpose fishing license
  • A marine-only fishing license
  • An inland-only fishing license
  • A commercial fishing license

You must also get an additional trout and salmon stamp if you plan to fish in a Trout Management Area or any Atlantic Salmon Broodstock Area.

Connecticut Private Property Fishing Laws

Connecticut has various laws and regulations governing fishing, even on private property. Many of the laws that apply elsewhere may also apply to your waters if the commissioner establishes that you must follow state regulations or if the state has power over your waters. Here are some of the most important fishing laws to keep in mind.

Private Waters Registration

To register your private waters in Connecticut, you need to apply to the commissioner for a certificate of registration. This typically comes with a fee for examination and permanent registration. If anything invalidates your registration of private waters or the property undergoes a change in ownership, you must notify your commissioner in writing within 48 hours.

Rules for Taking Fish Without a License

When you own registered private waters, you may be able to allow guests without a license to take any fish species from the waters during any season. However, guests may still need a license if the commissioner has made regulations describing which type of fish may be removed, when they may be removed and what methods may be used to remove them or if your private waters were specifically stocked by the state.

Vessel Permits and Registrations

You need a commercial fishing vessel permit for any vessel you use for commercial fishing activities, even on private land. A commercial vessel includes commercial fishing gear even when you use it for personal reasons.

A commercial vessel permit isn’t necessary for vessels used with:

  • A restricted commercial fishing license
  • A marine commercial bait fishing license
  • An inland commercial bait fishing license
  • A restricted lobster pot fishing license
  • A commercial blue crab fishing license
  • A commercial whelk fishing license
  • A commercial shad fishing license

If you plan to operate a vessel transporting and providing a fishing platform for sport anglers in the marine district or to fish marine species in the inland district, you may need to go through a party or charter vessel registration.

Youth Fishing Passports

Children under the age of 16 who want to fish may want a youth fishing passport. You can get these free printable certificates by visiting the DEEP Online Sportsmen Licensing System. Registering in the licensing system issues a lifetime Conservation ID and provides access to activities designed for young anglers.

Importing Live Fish

If you use your private property as a commercial fish hatchery or bait dealer for importing live fish eggs or live fish into Connecticut, you need a dealer license and must submit a bait dealers reporting form each year.

You don’t need a permit to import common aquarium species, but regulations prohibit releasing aquarium fish into private and public waters.

People are prohibited from importing or possessing some fish species, including:

  • Piranhas
  • Gizzard shads
  • Walking catfish
  • Silver, black and bighead carp
  • Channidae (snakehead) family species

Liberation or Stocking Permits

If you wish to stock live fish or fish eggs in Connecticut waters as an individual, you must have a liberation permit to gain permission to do so. This applies to Connecticut ponds, streams and lakes. You’ll need a specialized liberation permit for triploid grass carp. For these situations, ponds must be inspected and approved to examine aquatic vegetation.

Fishing and Property Rights

Public Trust Doctrine

The public trust doctrine allows the public to access water and use their public trust land rights for fishing. This is because Connecticut’s intertidal shore belongs to the public. Still, they must respect your rights as a landowner of private property. The public must get your permission to use private waters and leave the shoreline area clean.

Bait Rights

You may use almost any fish, vegetable, animal or their parts, whether alive or dead, as bait if they were legally acquired. However, you cannot use:

  • Trout
  • Carp
  • Salmon
  • Goldfish
  • Chain pickerel
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Largemouth bass

When bait fishing, you may only use a bait seine within 15 feet in length and 4 feet in depth. If you use a bait trap, it must be a wooden, glass or wire device that stays within 15 inches in diameter and 20 inches in length.

Residential Docking Guidelines

Connecticut lawmakers encourage coastal property owners and private water owners to ensure safe access to the waters. Individuals may do so by installing a dock from their upland area into the waters. The Land and Water Resources Division (LWRD) of DEEP regulates this residential right to ensure safe navigation and protect coastal resources.

Connecticut residential docking guidelines state that private docks must provide “reasonable” access, meaning the fixed pier should be 4 feet wide with a ramp or gangway and a 100-square-foot float. These regulations help reduce the environmental impacts of the structure on shorelines.

Overview of Connecticut Fishing Regulations

DEEP outlined various Connecticut fishing regulations in a 2023 report regarding new rules and limitations. These rules and regulations remain relevant today. Here are some fishing regulations that are more specific to particular freshwater and saltwater species.

Special Trout Regulations

Some areas may have special trout regulations. For instance, in waters like Lake Wononskopomuc and East Twin Lake, the daily creel limit for trout is five from the second Saturday in April until the last day of February. Only one of these may be a brown trout, and its minimum length should be 22 inches. From the first day of March to the second Saturday in April, the daily creel limit for trout is one.

Additionally, the statewide daily creel limit for trout and kokanee was raised from five of either to five trout and five kokanee daily.

Anglers are prohibited from fishing in thermal refuges to avoid disturbing trout seeking refuge in cold-water areas.

Freshwater Species Regulations

DEEP has specific regulations for various fish species to avoid harming their environments and populations. For instance, people cannot take alewife and blueback herring from almost all Connecticut waters. However, people may take landlocked alewife from waters like Quonnipaug Lake, Amos Lake, Beach Pond and Ball Pond.

The daily creel limit for bait species is also unlimited all year round for personal use, as long as you use the legal methods for catching them.

DEEP prohibits people from using some species for bait. Review DEEP’s freshwater species regulations to check whether any of the relevant fish are in your private waters to avoid prohibited practices.

Saltwater or Marine Species Regulations

Given the wide variety of sea life in marine areas, many rules and regulations apply. For instance, you need a shellfishing license to catch shellfish but not to catch squid for personal use.

Additionally, the daily creel limit for particular fish species like striped bass and summer flounder may be lower, ranging from between one and four. In contrast, the daily creel limit for other species like scup and pollock may be a lot higher, ranging between 30 to no limit at all.

Special Considerations for Connecticut Fishing in a Pond or Lake

Connecticut implements a few special fishing regulations for certain lakes and ponds. These may limit the type of gear you’re allowed to use while fishing or implement daily creel limits or maximum size limits.

Waters with special regulations for bass management include West Side Pond, Billings Lake, Amos Lake and Lake Saltonstall. Waters with special regulations for trout management lakes include East Twin Lake, Rogers Lake, Highland Lake and Mohawk Pond.

Review DEEP’s freshwater fishing regulations document to see if fishing in a private pond or lake falls into one of these special categories.

Special Considerations for Connecticut Fishing in Rivers and Streams

Connecticut also has special fishing regulations for fishing in particular rivers and streams. Remember that if DEEP stocked your private waters, you need to adhere to their fishing regulations. The fishing regulations document highlights particular rivers and streams DEEP stocks, if you’re unsure whether your private waters were.

Some waters with trout management regulations include Hockanum River, Salmon River, Farmington River and Coppermine Brook. For Coppermine Brook, the trout regulation only allows catch-and-release, while at Farmington River, there is a daily creel limit of two trout from the second Saturday of April until August 31. Review DEEP’s fishing regulations to ensure you follow any rules specific to fishing at your waterway.

Ethical Fishing Practices for Fishing in Private Waters in Connecticut

Ethical Fishing Practices

Connecticut’s fishing laws and regulations aim to preserve fish populations and create a positive fishing community. Following these regulations is essential for maintaining the environment. Aside from simply adhering to these laws, here are a few ethical fishing practices you can implement to maintain proper fishing etiquette.

Be Mindful of Different Fishing Environments

Try your best to treat fish with respect. Be knowledgeable of more sensitive habits and try not to disrupt the environment. You should also be mindful of the season. If you catch spawning fish — female fish laying eggs in the water — handle them with care and return them to the water. Keep noise to a minimum and maintain tranquility as much as possible to avoid frightening these fish. Then choose a different fishing spot.

Preserve Fish Correctly

Keep only the allowed amount of fish for eating. When doing so, care for them immediately and dispatch them humanely. You can preserve their eating quality by putting them on ice or cleaning them.

Avoid Using Foreign Bait

Foreign bait can disrupt the ecosystem, so you’ll want to avoid using foreign bait and exotic species like goldfish. Instead, only use bait recommended by regulations or fish species from the water you’re fishing.

Follow Connecticut Fishing Rules and Regulations

Before heading out for the day, review the fishing rules and regulations relevant to you. You should also ensure you always bring your fishing license along.

Enhance Your Private Property Fishing Experience With EZ Dock

Connecticut EZ Dock

Are you ready to make the most of your private property fishing while complying with Connecticut fishing regulations? If you want to install a dock, consider EZ Dock. We construct docks and other water systems that adhere to Connecticut guidelines and meet your personal needs.

We designed our docks and solutions with convenience and compliance in mind. To avoid your dock causing harm to coastal resources and the general environment, our product includes non-toxic materials that reduce harm to the environment. Our experts have also ensured their durability through all kinds of weather conditions — even tropical storms! For a unique dock customized to your specific needs, contact our experts today to discuss your requirements.