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North Carolina Freshwater Fishing

North Carolina fishing licenses are a gateway to enjoying the fishing privileges that the state offers. When fishing in public fresh waters in the Tar Heel State, you must submit an inland fishing license application and pay the licensing fee. Prior to getting an inland fishing license, you should first consider all the factors surrounding fishing license applications in North Carolina.

In North Carolina, residents pay significantly less for fishing licenses than nonresidents do. Additionally, senior and disabled individuals also pay a significantly lower fee for their permits. Various types of fishing licenses are also available depending on the type of fishing you plan on doing and the location where you will be fishing. When purchasing a license to fish, make sure to choose the right type for your trip so you do not run into any problems with authorities. State fines for catching fish with an improper permit or no license at all can be hefty. To avoid this, familiarize yourself with the types of credentials offered by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. To buy freshwater fishing licenses in North Carolina, applicants shall choose between a few different application methods. The most convenient method for buying a fishing license is online through the official NC licensing portal. Via the portal, applicants will be able to pay their permit fee with a Visa or MasterCard. If this is the option that you choose, make sure that you have the capabilities to print your temporary fishing permit and receipt. Another method that may be used to buy freshwater fishing permits is by telephone. Be sure to have a credit card ready for this method of purchase as well. Upon placing an order, fishing permits are mailed to the address provided. If remote purchases are not options for you, visit a WRC wildlife service agent office to purchase your permit to fish in fresh water. Learn more about the types of fishing documents and how to obtain them, by reviewing the questions and answers provided.


What is the difference between a resident and a nonresident North Carolina freshwater fishing permit?

North Carolina fishing licenses are issued according to the applicant's residential status. The main difference being that in-state residents receive a substantial discount on their license purchases versus nonresidents of the state. To receive the resident discount on your inland fishing license, you must have lived in North Carolina for at least six months, and you must have had a permanent residence established for at least 60 days. Additionally, you will need to complete a Certificate of Residency when applying for your license to fish.

Nonresident students living in North Carolina for school are considered residents for the purposes of fishing credentials, as are military members stationed in the state. Some fishing privileges are not available to nonresidents as they are to residents of North Carolina. For example, lifetime fishing licenses for senior citizens and for the disabled are not offered to nonresident NC fishing license applicants. Despite their residential statuses, fishing license applicants can take solace in knowing that a portion of fishing license fees are sent back to the environment in the form of wildlife and habitat conservation efforts.

Do I need to buy a separate North Carolina coastal fishing license?

Yes, if you would like to fish off the coast of North Carolina, you will need to purchase a coastal fishing permit, which is separate from the inland fishing document. Coastal fishing licenses – which are referred to as saltwater fishing licenses in some states – are required to fish in the coastal as well as the joint waters of the state. Therefore, while choosing the best places to fish in North Carolina, consider whether you plan to fish off the coast or inland before purchasing a license. Though, there is an exemption to this rule.

Some current basic inland fishing license holders may be exempt from having to purchase a separate license due to a recent change in the law concerning licensure. Basic license holders who acquired their license to fish prior to January 1, 2006 are not required to obtain new coastal fishing license credentials, as they have been grandfathered into the new policy. To find out more about inland versus coastal fishing regulations in North Carolina, visit our coastal fishing documents page for specific details on how to buy a saltwater fishing license.

How do I replace a North Carolina freshwater fishing license?

Freshwater fishing permits in North Carolina may be applied for by mail only. In the event that you lose your license or it has been stolen, download the replacement hunting/fishing license application form. Enclose a check or money order for the nominal duplicate license fee and mail it to the address designated on the form. In lieu of filling out the replacement license application form, applicants may submit a written request for a duplicate license. The request must include the applicant's name, address, telephone number, date of birth and fishing license number. North Carolina resident fishing license applicants must also provide their driver's license number in the request.

How can I fish for free in North Carolina?

North Carolina has an annual free fishing day when residents of the state can fish in public waters without having to buy a fishing license. Free fishing days are typically held on July 4th of each year and run from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Additionally, over 500 state-sponsored fishing sites exist across the state, many of which are free to the public. Though it is still recommended that you purchase a coastal, inland or comprehensive fishing document, North Carolina's free fishing sites are available for those who would otherwise not utilize a license to fish.

During the free fishing day, regulations restricting size and creel limits are still in place and are strictly enforced. To ensure a fruitful day for participants, the WRC stocks the waters of the state with a variety of fish. Prize catches such as catfish and trout are abundant in the waters of North Carolina on this day.

Are there reduced fishing license fees for veterans or seniors in North Carolina?

Yes, the state of North Carolina does offer reduced-price fishing licenses for specific groups of individuals, including seniors and disabled individuals. When applying for these specific credentials, you will be asked to provide proof of the special condition that grants you a discount, whether it is your age, your residency or your disability.

Fishing Frequently Asked Questions

Oftentimes you can buy a fishing license through your state’s fishing department website. You will most likely need to create an account on the webpage and have a printer nearby to finalize your transaction. Make sure to also have a valid credit card on hand, as no other form of payment is accepted by state departments online. Take note that, as proof of your residency, you may be required to enter your driver’s license number.
In a general sense, a good number of states offer the following types of fishing licenses: a regular fishing license and a commercial fishing license. Depending on where you reside, you may also have the option to get a saltwater license to fish, if you are by coastal waters. In addition to these permits, you may be required to buy a fishing stamp, depending on the specific type of fish species you intend to catch.
A regular fishing permit is often valid for the period of a full year. However, you may also have the option to obtain a license to fish that is good for 24 hours or 72 hours, for example. In some instances, a weekly fishing license or a lifetime license may also be available. Lifetime licenses to fish are the most suitable option for those anglers who intend to fish for the duration of their lives. Keep in mind that if you would like to continue fishing after the expiration date of your current licensure, you will be required to get a new permit to fish.
The fees related to a state fishing license may vary, depending on a few factors. But senior residents and military veterans can usually get a fishing license that is free of charge, as long as they can present official documentation that supports their residency or military service. Resident licenses to fish are often more affordable than nonresident licenses. The most costly licenses are for those who would like to get lifetime credentials.
In the event that you have lost your fishing license or it was stolen, the most common way to obtain a duplicate is through your state’s fishing department. You may be required to make an in-person visit to a nearby office or to contact a licensed agent directly. Depending on where you reside, you may also have the option to order a fishing permit replacement online. But, to be sure, it is important that you double check with your state department first, as you may also need to bring in certain documentation, such as your driver’s license or ID card.
This site is privately owned and is neither affiliated with, nor endorsed by, nor operated by a government agency.