The phrase “giving back” is one I hear often, but it’s nowhere more appropriate than for anglers purchasing a fishing license. You might think that strange, since purchasing a license is simply a legal requirement to fish recreationally.
But paying for a license actually helps pay for your opportunity to catch fish. It's a common misconception among anglers, according to Southwick Associates, that license monies go into a state's general fund, when in fact those dollars are invested into the sport and the resource.
Thus your fishing-license expenditure goes to help with stuff like:
Maintaining public access (public marinas and boat ramps, fishing piers and more)
Acquiring habitat such as coastal and inland wetlands
Improving fish habitat
Conducting fisheries research.
Keeping fisheries healthy and productive is a justifiably self-serving reason to buy a license, but also, keeping them healthy and productive is valuable for recreational/leisure benefit they provide to huge numbers of folks, and for their often-hefty value to local economies. As an example, consider Florida with several million anglers who fish its waters.
Rather like the gift that keeps on giving, your fishing-license dollars actually generate additional money for fishing/fisheries, since the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program provides additional funds to conserve/manage fish and wildlife and habitat based on license expenditures.
While senior anglers (65 or over) are legally exempt from paying for a license, many choose to continue to keep purchasing one, because they’re aware that by doing so they’re helping to support their favorite recreation.
Bottom line: Buying a fishing license is a win-win. Make sure yours is current.