Traveling with Fishing Gear: The Biggest Dos and Don’ts

how to fly with fishing rods

Fishing is an addictive sport.

Every year, new people get addicted to this ancient sport. In 2020 alone, 7.8 million people participated in fly fishing.

It’s the sport of using fishing rods & artificial flies as baits to catch fish.

This figure keeps rising every year as new fishers and anglers enter the scene.

A new fisher will start his/her journey fishing in local waters.  Tasting this sport for just a few weeks is enough to make you start dreaming of fishing trips.

Imagine this – traveling with fishing gear to distant, exotic destinations and catching certain rare species of fish.

All fishers harbor fishy fantasies like this. After all, there are many amazing fishing destinations in the world.

These waters offer fishers the ultimate form of excitement – something that local ponds, streams, or lakes can never provide.

But, flying with fishing equipment is not easy. You may plan your trip, book tickets, and pack your fishing gear – only to find luggage-related issues at the airport.

How to Fly With Your Fishing Gear

Don’t worry – traveling with fishing gear is a relatively common practice.

Every year, domestic & international fly fishing tournaments attract millions of participants from all across the world.

These participants carry their fishing gear as checked or carry-on luggage.

Here’s a detailed list of Dos & Don’ts that these fly fishing professionals follow. Let’s learn how to fly with fishing rods before you plan your next fishing trip.

DO: Learn Whether Flying with Fishing Gear is Allowed

Can you carry your fly fishing gear on a plane?

Yes, absolutely.

You’ll be surprised how many things the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows travelers to carry.

According to them:

  • Travelers are allowed to carry fishing rods as carry-on luggage on both domestic & international flights. Most travelers use rod tubes or fishing rod cases to carry their fishing rods.
  • The TSA also allows travelers to carry small hooks for fly fishing. You can even bring your freshwater hooks (which are usually slightly larger) as carry-on luggage. However, extremely large hooks (also known as deep-sea fishing hooks) are not allowed.
  • Fishing equipment, like forceps or line snips, are also allowed to be placed inside your carry-on luggage. These items must be less than 7 inches in length.
  • Waders, fishing boots, scissors, knives, gloves, and other basic fishing gear are also allowed in your checked baggage.

Fishing rods that conform to carry-on luggage size restrictions (shorter than 115 linear inches) are allowed on board.

Such rods easily fit inside the overhead compartment & can qualify as carry-on luggage. Different airlines have different onboard carry-on requirements.

Verify these requirements by contacting them.

Most airlines advise people traveling with fishing gear to carry their expensive equipment on board. Rods, reels, flies, etc., are valuable items.

Carrying them on board reduces the risk of damage, loss, or theft.

DON’T: Under-Plan Your Luggage Arrangements

Just because you can legally travel with fishing gear, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a 100% hassle-free process.

You never know what problems a TSA agent discovers in your luggage.

That’s why people traveling with fishing gear must always print out copies of the TSA’s regulations on flying with fishing.

Carry this printout & show it to any agent who questions you.

Here are some of the official regulations you should know:

  • Heavy fishing equipment must be placed inside checked baggage.
  • Sharp fishing tackle may be deemed dangerous so be careful about those items.
  • Light, expensive fishing rods must be packed in your carry-on baggage.
  • Other fragile fishing gear such as tackle or flies must be packed in your carry-on baggage as well.

Know these rules before you plan your fly fishing trip.

Also, decide whether you’ll bring your fishing equipment as hand luggage or check them – long before you plan your trip.

DO: Know Your Airline’s Rules Regarding Fishing Gear

Will your fishing rod be allowed as checked luggage? Depends on the specific rules your airlines follow.

Here are the latest guidelines regarding checked luggage & fishing gear from the most popular airlines in the US:

1) Delta Airlines:

Fishing rods are allowed as checked-in baggage as long as they’re not taller than 115 linear inches.

If your fishing rods and rod cases exceed those dimensions, they’ll be rejected. Here are some weight-related restrictions Delta Airlines wants traveling fishers to know as well.

2) United Airlines

Only one piece of fishing equipment is allowed per traveler as a checked bag.

This item can be – a fishing rod case containing up to two rods, one reel, and one landing net.

The case or container shouldn’t exceed 50 pounds in weight, 115 linear inches in size, and 80 inches in length. Here’s more detailed information from UA.

3) American Airlines

All bags/containers containing your fishing gear will be counted as one checked-in item.

So, if you bring a fishing rod case, a tackle box, and a separate equipment bag, they’ll all be classified as one checked-in item.

This item shouldn’t weigh over 50 pounds.

Its size shouldn’t exceed 126 linear inches (length +width +height). Here are some more guidelines on flying with fishing equipment from the AA.

Other popular airlines like Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Hawaii Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have similar rules on carrying fishing gear as checked luggage.

Check these official websites for the most recent guidelines before you plan your fishing trip.

Now, let’s learn the basic rules on bringing fishing rods on airplanes as carry-on items. Here are the latest size-related guidelines regarding carry-on bags containing fishing rods from the most popular airlines in the US:

  • Delta Airlines: Acceptable dimensions for your carry-on luggage are – 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
  • United Airlines: Carry-on baggage dimensions are limited to 9 x 14 x 22 inches.
  • American Airlines: Carry-on baggage dimensions are limited to 10 x 16 x 24 inches.
  • JetBlue: Acceptable dimensions for your carry-on luggage are 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
  • Alaska Airlines: Carry-on baggage dimensions are limited to 22 x 14 x 9 inches

If your carry-ons fit these dimensions, they’ll be checked in at the security gate.

How much will it cost to check in your fishing rods?

It depends on the airline’s rules and your luggage size. In most cases, travelers don’t have trouble checking in long fishing rod cases.

However additional fees (anywhere between $30 to $100) may apply for heavier rod cases.

So, carry-on or checked-in – what’s the fate of your fishing equipment at the airport security gates?

If you’re traveling with a long & heavy one-piece fishing pole, it goes without saying – you’ll have to check it.

Buy a fishing rod case that meets your airline’s size limitations. The case should also be long enough to hold your fishing rods.

Use the same trick when you’re bringing your fishing rods with you on the flight – use a case.

Hard and durable fishing rod cases are must-have items for all traveling fishers.

Label these rod cases with tags featuring your name, contact info, etc., to avoid the risk of losing them.

Lastly, always lock the containers or bags containing your valuable equipment with TSA-approved locks.

DON’T: Over-Pack

Space is always at a premium on fishing trips. You’ll probably spend most of your time on a raft. So, carrying excessive fishing gear makes no sense.

Why run the risk of incurring additional costs at the security gate?

Don’t overstuff your bags. Ask yourself – “Do I need three fishing rods and reels and four fly boxes?”

If you’re honest, the answer will always be no.

Organize your fishing equipment into the following 3 categories.

1) Main Gear

This is the “main course.” It should consist of your fly fishing gear, fishing boots, waders, landing net, expensive reels, and other “essentials.” Pro Tip – pack these essential things together in one waterproof bag.

2) Clothing

Carry special clothing for fishing. Waterproof clothes (e.g., rain jackets) are always handy in such scenarios. Also, pack a waterproof sleeping bag and toiletries.

3) Extra Gear

This category is for non-essential items like extra hooks, a spare pair of waders, books, etc.

Instead of a collection of fishing rods, try to bring only one or two of your most versatile rods. If you own the best ultra-light fishing rod, you probably won’t even need a spare.

But, bringing along at least one spare rod adds a sense of security to your fishing trip.

Do: Invest in The Right Packing Gear

Traveling with sports equipment or fishing items is always easier when you have the right types of packing gear.

So, your rod cases & fishing tackle boxes have key roles to play.

Here are some gear-related guidelines professional fly fishing experts follow –

1) One Large Tube

Instead of buying multiple low-quality rod tubes invest in just one large one.

Traveling with so many rod tubes means risking losing one or two of them in your travels.

A large rod-and-reel tube will offer enough space for you to pack all your expensive reels and rods.

2) Hard Cases

Do you own a hard fishing rod case made from hard aluminum or plastic? Then, be prepared to pay fees for extra luggage weight.

These cases offer the best protection especially if you’re carrying sensitive trolling rods. But, they’re also heavier and take up too much space.

3) Soft Cases:

Soft fishing rod cases are more space-efficient.

But, they don’t offer the same level of protection as their hard-shelled counterparts.

But, if you go fly fishing frequently, you’ll find these softer cases to be lighter and easier to travel with.

4) Portability

Make sure your tubes or cases have shoulder paddings. Or else, carrying them at the airport or the fishing site will be a nuisance.

Cases with extra pockets or compartments for storage are also hugely helpful for air travelers.

You can use these pockets to safely pack smaller items like bait, lines, etc.

If you’re going fly fishing you can buy baggage that’s specifically made for fly fishers.

These roll bags (typically 35 inches long) can fit your long rod tubes.

They even have separate compartments to store & secure the rod tubes, reels, etc.

DON’T: Bring Lures in Carry-Ons

Avoid bringing any lures in your carry-ons.

Yes – small fishing tackle or flies that don’t pose major security threats are generally allowed on the plane.

But, to be on the safer side of things bring your fishing lures in checked luggage.

They may get confiscated at the gate so don’t run that risk. The same goes for large hooks and fishing tackle.

Many fishers have faced troubles going through security with these items. So, try not to kickstart your multi-day float trip with this problem.

Also, avoid bringing the following prohibited fishing items on your plane –

  • Knife or multi-tools – buy them on your excursion instead,
  • Pliers – these sharp tools can cause damage so the TSA may take them away.
  • Flies – people who go saltwater fishing often carry extremely large flies. These flies are usually expensive and specifically designed for the waters you aim to fish in. Avoid losing them to suspicious TSA agents. Don’t carry them in your hand luggage. Secure them in bubble wrap and place them in your checked bags instead.


TSA agents appreciate it when fishers do their best to pack their fishing gear in the safest possible ways.

Use these guidelines to pack and carry your fishing equipment on your upcoming trip. Traveling to fish will always be a rewarding experience.

Follow these flying-related guidelines to make your trip less complicated and more enjoyable.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you bring a rod and reel on a plane?

Yes, fishing rods and reels are permitted both in checked bags and carry-on luggage. Traveling fishers must confirm the size limitations for checked bags & carry-on items before finalizing their travel plans.

Can you bring fishing equipment on a plane?

Yes. Fly rods, reels, fly lines, and flies are all allowed on airplanes - as long as they don’t violate the airline’s size limitations. Carry smaller items like small flies, expensive reels, small rods, & fragile tackle in your carry-on bags. Cary larger items in your checked luggage. They include – large fishing poles, large fish hooks, & braided fishing lines.

What fishing gear is not allowed on airplanes?

Sharp, potentially dangerous items like knives, multi-tools, or super-sharp pliers are not allowed on airplanes.

Checking or carry-on fishing gear – which is better?

When you carry on your fishing gear, you can rest assured, knowing exactly where your valuable equipment is. So, most fishers and anglers don’t prefer checking in their bags. However, if you can’t meet the limitations of what you can/can’t carry on an airplane- checking in is the only option.