Where To Buy Your 2024 North Carolina Fishing License

Fishing is a popular pastime in North Carolina that allows anglers to experience the state’s abundant freshwater rivers, lakes, and coastal waters teeming with fish. However, to legally fish these public waters, North Carolina state law requires all anglers aged 16 and older to have a valid fishing license. This guide will provide everything you need to know about getting properly licensed for a legal and enjoyable fishing trip in NC in 2024.

Who Needs a NC Fishing License

In North Carolina, a fishing license is mandatory for all anglers aged 16 or older when fishing in public waters using any type of bait, gear or tackle to catch fish. This includes both residents and non-residents. The only exceptions are when fishing in private ponds located entirely on private lands or when helping a licensed angler.

Youths under 16 can fish without a license as long as they are accompanied by a properly licensed adult aged 18 or older. The licensed adult must adhere to all fishing regulations and be able to monitor the youth’s activities.

Types of NC Fishing Licenses

There are two main types of fishing licenses in North Carolina:

  • Inland fishing license: Covers freshwater rivers, lakes, streams and public mountain trout waters statewide. Allows holder to fish inland, joint and public mountain trout waters.
  • Coastal recreational fishing license: Covers fishing in coastal saltwaters like estuaries, rivers, sounds and ocean waters (out to 3 miles offshore). Allows fishing in joint and coastal waters only.

Where fresh and saltwaters meet are designated as “joint waters”. Either an inland or coastal license is valid for fishing joint waters, but you should always verify regulations for the area you’ll be fishing in.

Within each license type, there are options for temporary short-term or annual licenses valid for a year from date of purchase. Lifetime licenses are also available to resident seniors and youth/adults.

Fishing License Costs

License prices vary based on resident/non-resident status and duration:


  • Inland: $9 resident, $23 non-resident
  • Coastal: $6 resident, $11 non-resident


  • Inland: $25 resident, $45 non-resident
  • Coastal: $16 resident, $32 non-resident
  • Unified Inland/Coastal: $41 resident only

Lifetime (NC residents only):

  • Infant: $106
  • Youth: $159
  • Adult Inland: $265
  • Adult Coastal: $265
  • Senior (65+ years): $16

Disabled veterans, blind residents and those in adult care facilities may receive free or reduced cost licenses.

Where To Buy a NC Fishing License

You can conveniently purchase a license 24/7 online or by phone in minutes from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission website and obtain an electronic copy:


Phone: 888-248-6834

In-person purchases can also be made by cash or check during business hours at approved license vendors such as tackle shops, sporting goods stores and some convenience stores. Bring a valid ID.

Carrying and Displaying Your License

While fishing, you must carry your physical license printout or electronic copy on your phone. You may be asked to present it anytime by a wildlife officer. Failure to provide proof of a valid license could result in citations or fines.

Lifetime license holders should carry an official lifetime license card. Those exempt from license requirements should carry applicable certification documents at all times when fishing as proof.

Fishing License Exemptions

The following groups do not need a fishing license to recreationally fish in North Carolina public waters:

  • Youth under 16 when accompanied by an adult license holder
  • Military personnel on active duty outside NC and resident members on leave for 30 days or less
  • Disabled veterans with documentation proving disabilities
  • Residents over 65 years (born before Aug 1, 1953)
  • Residents who are legally blind with certification from Department of Health and Human Services

Certain other exemptions may also apply. Refer to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission website for a full, updated list.

Key Takeaways

  • All anglers aged 16+ need a license to fish public waters in NC
  • Inland and coastal licenses authorize freshwater and saltwater fishing respectively
  • Multiple durations and types accommodate different fishing needs
  • Purchase online, by phone or in-person with cash/check
  • Carry digital or physical license copies when fishing
  • Specific groups are exempt from fishing license requirements

Staying properly licensed ensures you can fully enjoy exceptional fishing opportunities across North Carolina while supporting conservation efforts to preserve our precious marine resources.

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