How to Get A North Carolina Fishing License

Lake Norman in the Piedmont of North Carolina

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There are plenty of great places for inland fishing in North Carolina in lakes and rivers in addition to coastal saltwater fishing. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission provides fishing licenses and it's easy and affordable to get one. Getting a fishing license in North Carolina is essential for most anglers over the age of 16 with a few exceptions.

Cost of a North Carolina Fishing License

Separate licenses are needed for coastal saltwater fishing and inland fishing. These prices are for North Carolina residents. Non-resident licenses cost double these amounts.

Short-term (10 days) fishing license:

  • Inland fishing - $5
  • Coastal Fishing - $5

Annual fishing license:

  • Statewide inland (basic) - $15
  • Statewide coastal - $15

A statewide inland and coastal recreational fishing license for residents which includes fishing in designated Public Mountain Trout Waters, fishing in trout waters on game lands, and fishing in joint waters is sold for $35 annually. It is not available to non-residents.

There are several other specialized types of fishing licenses and even a lifetime fishing license available as explained on this page.

Special free licenses:

The following people must have a license, but there is no charge for it:

  • People who are legally blind
  • Residents who live in an adult care home
  • Residents who receive any of the following: Medicaid, Food Stamps, or Work First Family Assistance

How to Purchase a North Carolina Fishing License

You can purchase your short-term or annual license online, by phone, or in person. Options for purchasing the license are:

  • Online using a VISA or MasterCard. Having a printer handy is recommended. The price of the license will include a $2 transaction fee.
  • By telephone at 888-248-6834, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Or, in person, at a Wildlife Service Agent office.

North Carolina Fishing License Exceptions

There are always exceptions to every rule, and a fishing license in North Carolina is the same. This is a list of who is exempt from needing a fishing license:

  • Persons who are under age 16 don't need a basic inland fishing and trout privilege license.
  • A game lands license is not required to fish in any waters on game lands or Wildlife Conservation Areas.
  • An inland fishing license is not required to fish in a private pond. Note that a pond or lake located on land owned by a public body, like a state-supported university or a governmental building is not a private pond.
  • July 4th is “free fishing day” each year and a fishing license and trout privilege license are not required in any public waters.
  • Residents with a valid Unified Subsistence Inland/Coastal Recreation Fishing License Waiver are exempt from requirement of a basic inland or coastal recreational fishing license.
  • A landowner or person leasing land primarily for cultivation, their spouse, and dependents under 18 residing with them, may hunt, trap, and fish on such land without a license.
  • A resident of North Carolina state who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States serving outside the state, or who is on full-time military duty outside the state in a reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States is exempt from hunting, inland, and coastal fishing license requirements while on leave in North Carolina for 30 days or less. Those who qualify for this exemption need to have their military identification card and a copy of the official document confirming they are on authorized leave from a duty station outside of North Carolina with them when hunting or fishing.
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