How to Get a Fishing License in North Carolina: Everything You Need to Know

Fishing is more than just a pastime in North Carolina—it’s a way to connect with nature, unwind, and even bring home a fresh catch for dinner. But before you can enjoy the serene waters and the thrill of the catch, there’s one essential step you need to take: getting a fishing license.

Who Needs A Fishing License In North Carolina?

In the Tar Heel State, if you’re over 16 and dreaming of reeling in your next big catch from public waters, you’re going to need a fishing license. This rule applies to all, whether you’re casting your line in the tranquil inland waters or braving the ocean waves within three miles of the coast. And if you find yourself in waters that North Carolina shares with its neighbors, remember, your license needs to match the state you’re fishing in.

Types Of Fishing Licenses In North Carolina

North Carolina’s diverse fishing licenses cater to everyone from the weekend visitor to the lifelong angler. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Resident Annual Fishing License: Tailored for those who’ve called North Carolina home for the past six months.
  • Non-Resident Annual Fishing License: For our out-of-state friends looking to make North Carolina their fishing destination year after year.
  • 10-Day Coastal Recreational Fishing License: Perfect for non-residents planning a short-term adventure in coastal waters.
  • Lifetime Fishing License: A one-time purchase that promises endless fishing adventures for North Carolina residents.
  • Disabled Veteran Lifetime Fishing License: Honoring North Carolina’s disabled veterans with a lifetime of fishing.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs for short-term, annual, and lifetime licenses:

License Type Resident Non-resident
Short-Term Licenses
Inland Fishing­ 10-Day $9 $23
Coastal Recreational Fishing 10-Day $6 $11
Annual Licenses
State Inland Fishing $25 $45
Coastal Recreational Fishing $16 $32
Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing $41 N/A
Subsistence Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing License Waiver FREE N/A
Special Device (inland fishing) $80 $530
Lifetime And Other Special Licenses
Comprehensive Inland Fishing $265 N/A
Senior (see above for eligibility requirements) $16 N/A
Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing $477 N/A
Coastal Recreational Fishing Adult (ages 12 & older) $265 $530
Youth (ages 1-11) $159 $159
Infant (under age 1) $106 $106
Senior (see above for eligibility requirements) $16 N/A
Disabled Veteran Inland Fishing $11 N/A
Disabled Veteran Coastal Recreational Fishing $11 N/A
Totally Disabled Inland Fishing $11 N/A
Totally Disabled Coastal Recreational Fishing $11 N/A
Legally Blind Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing FREE N/A
Adult Care Home Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing FREE N/A

How To Obtain A North Carolina Fishing License

There are several ways to obtain a fishing license in North Carolina. You can purchase a license online through the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website, by phone, or at a local Wildlife Service Agent. When purchasing a license, you’ll need to provide your name, address, and social security number.

Where To Buy A North Carolina Fishing License

If you’re planning to go fishing in North Carolina, you’ll need a valid fishing license. You can buy your license in a number of ways, including online, in person, and at a number of retail locations across the state. Here’s a rundown of where you can buy a North Carolina fishing license.

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) Offices:

You can purchase your North Carolina fishing license in person at any NCWRC office. These offices are located throughout the state and offer a wide range of services, including fishing license sales, fishing regulation information, and wildlife management education. Here are the contact details for a few NCWRC offices:

  • Raleigh Office: 1701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1701. Tel: (919) 707-0010
  • Asheville Office: 50 Conservation Way, Asheville, NC 28806. Tel: (828) 258-2667
  • Greenville Office: 943 Washington Square Mall, Washington, NC 27889; Tel: (252) 946-6481

You can find a full list of NCWRC office locations on their website at https://www.ncwildlife.org/Contact.

Retail Locations:

You can also buy a North Carolina fishing license at many stores around the state, such as sporting goods stores, bait and tackle shops, and convenience stores. Here are some popular retail locations where you can buy a North Carolina fishing license:

Be sure to call ahead to confirm that the store you plan to visit has fishing licenses available, as well as any specific requirements or documents you may need to bring with you.

Online Through The NCWRC Website:

Purchasing your North Carolina fishing license online is quick and easy through the NCWRC website. Here is the website address where you can purchase your fishing license online:

NCWRC website: https://www.ncwildlife.org/Licensing

You can buy your fishing license online by going to the website above and following the instructions. To finish the transaction, you will need to provide some personal information and payment information. If you have any questions or concerns about purchasing your fishing license online, you can contact the NCWRC call center at (888) 248-6834. Their call center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

You can buy a North Carolina fishing license in person at NCWRC offices, at retail locations throughout the state, or online through the NCWRC website. You can buy a fishing license in North Carolina in person or online. This gives you a lot of options to make sure you’re ready for your next fishing trip. For more information on North Carolina fishing regulations and resources, visit https://www.ncwildlife.org/Fishing.

North Carolina Fishing Regulations

In addition to having a fishing license, there are several fishing regulations that you need to be aware of when fishing in North Carolina. These regulations include:

  • Size and creel limits: There are specific size and creel limits for different fish species in North Carolina. It is important to familiarize yourself with these limits before you start fishing.
  • Fishing seasons: There are certain times of the year when you are not allowed to fish for certain species in North Carolina. Make sure you are aware of these seasons before you head out to fish.
  • Gear restrictions: There are certain gear restrictions for fishing in North Carolina, such as the type of bait you can use and the number of hooks allowed on a line.

Here’s a snapshot of the size and daily creel limits for some popular fish species:

Location Size Limit Daily Creel Limit
CATFISH
All inland fishing waters except those listed below None None
Cedarock Park Pond and other locations (please see list in the Fishing Regulation Guidebook) None 6 in combination for Channel, White, and Blue Catfish (forked-tail catfish)
Ponds located on game lands
Pee Dee River downstream of Blewett Falls Dam to the South Carolina state line and all tributaries None 5 in combination
Badin Lake, Lake Gaston (North Carolina portion), John H. Kerr Reservoir (North Carolina portion), Mountain Island Reservoir, Lake Norman, Roanoke Rapids Reservoir, Lake Tillery, Lake Wylie No minimum size limit, and only one Blue Catfish may be greater than 32 inches No daily creel limit for Blue Catfish less than 32 inches, and only one Blue Catfish may be greater than 32 inches
American Eel
All inland fishing waters 9-inch minimum (regardless of origin) 25 (regardless of origin)
Blue Crabs
All inland fishing waters or in designated waterfowl impoundments located on game lands when taken by hook and line minimum carapace width of 5 inches (point to point) 50 crabs per person or 100 per vessel
RIVER HERRING (ALEWIFE AND BLUEBACK HERRING)
All inland fishing waters except those listed below None None
Inland fishing waters of coastal rivers and their tributaries up to the first impoundment of the main course on the river. No minimum size limit, but no river herring greater than 6 inches may be taken or possessed (regardless of origin) No daily creel limit for river herring less than 6 inches, and no river herring greater than 6 inches may be taken or possessed (regardless of origin)
Lumber River including Drowning Creek
all other inland fishing waters east of I-95
Little Tennessee River Basin in and upstream of Lake Santeetlah and Cedar Cliff Lake including all tributaries and impoundments No live alewife or blueback herring may be possessed, transported or released.
Grass Carp
All inland fishing waters except those listed below None None
Lake James No grass carp may be possessed except one fish per day may be taken and possessed with archery equipment.
Lookout Shoals Lake
Mountain Island Reservoir
Lake Wylie
Lake Gaston No grass carp may be possessed or taken by any method including archery equipment except for by permit issued by the Wildlife Resources Commission for scientific study
Roanoke Rapids Reservoir
Lake Norman
John H. Kerr Reservoir
FRESHWATER MUSSELS INCLUDING THE ASIAN CLAM (Corbicula fluminea)
All impounded inland fishing waters except those listed below None 200 in combination, except there is no daily possession limit for the Asian clam
Lake Waccamaw No freshwater mussels including the Asian clam may be taken or possessed.
University Lake (Orange Co.)
Gray Trout
All inland fishing waters Same as those recreational limits established by Division of Marine Fisheries in adjacent joint and coastal fishing waters. For current limits, see portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-size-and-bag-limits or call 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632.
Sturgeon
All inland fishing waters No sturgeon may be possessed.

For more information, please download the North Carolina Inland Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping Regulation Digest.

Benefits Of Obtaining A Fishing License

Getting a fishing license in North Carolina not only lets you fish legally in public waters, but it also helps keep fish populations healthy and under control. The money from fishing license sales goes towards funding fishery management programs, habitat restoration, and fish stocking efforts.

Moreover, fishing is an activity that promotes physical and mental health. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It also provides an opportunity to spend time outdoors and connect with nature.

Fishing is also a great way to spend time with friends and family. It provides an opportunity to bond over a shared interest and create lasting memories. Additionally, fishing can teach children about the importance of conservation and environmental stewardship.

Getting a fishing license in North Carolina not only lets you fish legally in public waters, but it also helps protect fish populations and is good for your health and well-being in many other ways. So, if you like to fish or are just starting out, make sure to get a fishing license and check out the many places to fish in North Carolina.

Renewing A Fishing License In North Carolina

In North Carolina, fishing licenses are good for one year from the date they are bought. To continue fishing legally, you need to renew your license before it expires. You can renew your license online or by visiting a Wildlife Service agent. You will need to provide your current license information and pay the renewal fee.

Conclusion

Embracing the fishing culture in North Carolina is an adventure that begins with a simple step: getting your fishing license. It’s not just about following the rules—it’s about contributing to the conservation efforts and ensuring the beauty and bounty of North Carolina’s waters for generations to come. So, gear up, get your license, and dive into the rich fishing experiences that await in North Carolina.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cost of a fishing license in North Carolina?

The cost of a fishing license in North Carolina varies depending on the type of license. As of 2023, the cost for a resident annual license is $25, and the cost for a non-resident annual license is $50.

Can I fish without a license in North Carolina?

No, anyone over the age of 16 needs a fishing license to fish in public waters in North Carolina.

How can I purchase a fishing license in North Carolina?

You can get a fishing license from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s website, over the phone, or from a Wildlife Service Agent in your area.

What are the consequences of fishing without a license in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, fishing without a license is a Class 3 misdemeanor that can lead to fines and jail time.

Are there any exemptions to the fishing license requirement in North Carolina?

Yes, there are some exemptions to the fishing license requirement in North Carolina. These include individuals fishing on private ponds, individuals fishing during a free fishing day, and individuals fishing with a licensed charter or guide.

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