Settlement Guide

How to get boating and fishing licences in Australia

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Some essential rules and regulations for boating and fishing have to be observed to keep everybody safe.

How to get boating and fishing licences in Australia
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Living in a country with picturesque rivers, lakes and coastlines, it’s no surprise that boating and fishing are among the favourite pastimes of Australians.

Completing a training course for a boat driving licence provides the necessary knowledge and confidence to legally operate a vessel and helps prevent accidents.

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Getting a boat license

Boat licence requirements vary in each state and territory of Australia. Some states have a theory and a practical requirement, while other states require theory-only training.

Getting a boat licence in New South Wales requires practical training on the water.

“You learn all about safety equipment, you need to learn about safe operation of the vessel, you have to demonstrate how to operate the boat safely. Everybody does a bit of driving the boat out there on the day. We teach everybody a bit about basic seamanship, anchoring the boat, beaching it, berthing it, mooring it, so coming alongside the wharf, all the stuff that always worries people,” explains Australian Boating College’s Adam Smith.

He says that limited knowledge of English is not a barrier to obtaining a boating licence: “If their English isn’t that strong or their literacy skills aren't that strong, we can do an oral assessment with people. There are pathways available for people that if they need an interpreter - we just did a course where we had an interpreter come along and the certified interpreter did all the translations for all our students in that group. Most of the time we get people through one way or another.”

There are small engine-powered boats, which can be operated without a boat licence, as long as they do not exceed the speed of 18.5 km. But a good knowledge of on-water safety rules is still required.

Fishing boat
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Getting a fishing license

Many of the small tinnies on Australia’s waterways are operated by fishing enthusiasts. While they don’t need a boat licence, every adult needs a permit to fish.

“Everybody over 18 needs a fishing licence they can be purchased through the Department of Primary Industries website. Weekly licences are seven dollars fifty, I believe, about twelve dollars for a month and thirty-five for a year and seventy-five or eighty dollars for three years,” says Todd Young, one of Australia’s leading providers of fishing tuition.

There are limits on the daily size of a catch and some locations are protected from fishing. “Certain species of fish have bag and size limits. You have any undersized fish, they fine you, if you have too many fish, they fine you, and so it’s best to keep only what you need. Some fish obviously cannot be eaten, some fish are protected, some fish are endangered. So it does pay to sort of look somebody up and have a fishing lesson with them to find out how to do it and where to do it,” explains Young.

Man fishing
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Fishing litter such as hooks, weights and lines cause injury and death to thousands of native wildlife every year. Todd Young says it is important to keep recreational fishing in Australia sustainable for future generations:

“I always teach my clients to leave the area they are fishing the way that they found it, so nice and tidy. There are a lot of times when I get to some of the locations where I teach, we actually clean up other people’s mess before I even start my lesson and put it in a bag. I always carry a spare garbage bag in my tackle. Don’t leave any rubbish around so people can next time enjoy the area.”