Go Back

Do I Need a Fishing License in North Carolina?

North Carolina offers more than a few opportunities to cast your line. According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, there are more than 500 publicly accessible places to fish in the state — and each one of them requires you to obtain a North Carolina (NC) fishing license to take part in a little angling. But before you go out and get one, you need to understand that varied fishing regulations may call for different types of fishing licenses.

North Carolina Fishing Regulations: Do I Need a Fishing License?

Who Needs an NC Fishing License?

Anyone 16 or older needs a fishing license to fish in North Carolina. Even if you’re only out on the water helping a buddy bait a hook, regulations still require you to secure a license. The only exception would be for military personnel. If on leave or furlough, North Carolina residents can fish without a fishing license for up to 30 days. You will need proof, so bring your papers and military ID before hopping on a boat.

What Type of Fishing License Do I Need?

In North Carolina, two types of fishing licenses are available: Inland and Coastal — otherwise known as freshwater and saltwater. If you’re on a river or lake, you’ll want to buy an inland fishing license. If you’re fishing off the coast, then the other will be necessary. If you plan on fishing in areas where the two “waters” meet, either fishing license will usually do. You may want to double-check commission rules before casting your line.

With either fishing license, you can purchase a 10-day, annual, or lifetime license. Prices vary and depend on your residential status. Non-residents pay more to secure an NC fishing license than those who live in the state. Current pricing can be found on the North Carolina Environmental Quality website.

For anyone who plans on fishing both inland and coastal, it may be best to purchase a unified recreational fishing license. If you enjoy hunting, a unified sportsman/recreational fishing license is available. Both options are only available to North Carolina residents.

The only other regulation involves whether you’re going after swordfish, bluefin tuna, albacore tuna, yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, bigeye tuna, roundscale spearfish, blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish. If that’s the case, you will need an NMFS Highly Migratory Species Permit. Should you catch and keep one of these species, other reporting processes are also necessary.

Where Do I Purchase NC Fishing Licenses?

While a quick internet search on “fishing license near me” can direct you to the closest outlet, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has a feature on its website that not only offers the location but hours of operation. Select your county, and you’ll receive a list of the license agents in your area.

You can also get your fishing license directly online, but it’ll cost about $2 more to order your license via the internet — and you’ll have to wait a few additional days for delivery.

What Happens If I Don’t Get a Fishing License?

Some people might be tempted to bypass the red tape and hit the waters without an NC fishing license. After all, with so many inland and coastal areas to check out, they might think no one will notice or care if they don’t bother obtaining a fishing license.

Our advice? Don’t press your luck. For one thing, the sale of licenses for hunting, fishing, and other outdoorsy activities helps fund the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and its services to the public. For another reason, if a law enforcement officer were to catch you angling without a fishing license, the penalties could range from being charged with a misdemeanor, racking up fines of $35-$500, or even receiving a 30-day prison sentence. In short, it’s easier and just common sense to obtain a fishing license beforehand. The one time you can safely leave your fishing license at home is on Independence Day, which the state has declared a free fishing day.

So once you’ve got your NC fishing license, there’s nothing to stop you from casting your line. Just sit back and enjoy North Carolina’s beautiful waters. Happy fishing!

Don’t forget to check out Ed Watkins Marine for all your boating needs. Get in touch today.