How to Get a Michigan Fishing License: All You Need to Know
Aug 2, 2019 | 5 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Bordering four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan is all about serious game fishing. A statewide tradition for families from Detroit to Mackinaw City, you’ll have the pick of over 11,000 lakes, 3,000 rivers, and one of the longest big water coastlines in the whole country. But before you head off, here are some tips on how to get your Michigan fishing license!

Quickview: Michigan Fishing License Requirements

A graphic displaying the outline of the state of Michigan with text stating that a freshwater license is required for anglers over the age of 17.

In order to fish the rich waters on offer in Michigan, you’ll need a permit. A Michigan fishing license will give you the right to fish all of the state’s freshwater lakes and rivers for the duration of its validity. Ranging from 24 hours to a year-long period, there’s something for every angler!

Who needs a fishing license in Michigan?

Any angler over the age of 17 needs to buy a fishing license. Whether you’re from Michigan or from out of state, you’ll have to apply for separate permits. A resident is anyone who has been residing in MI continuously for six months or longer. You can prove this through your state-issued driver’s license or social security number.

Whether you’re looking to go fishing on the Great Lakes, smaller lakes, or one of the numerous rivers that make up Michigan’s productive waterways – one license fits all. Buying a fishing license in Michigan gives you the right to fish on any body of freshwater around the state.

How much are Michigan fishing licenses?

Michigan state residents and non-residents can purchase 24-hour and 72-hour licenses for the same price. However, prices vary for annual fishing licenses.

Table showing the cost of a Michigan fishing license for residents, non-residents and senior citizens, ranging from 24-hour licenses to annual licenses.

All state residents can take advantage of the great discount that an annual license provides. If you’re a senior citizen residing in Michigan, for just $1 more than your 1-day license, you’ll be able to buy a yearly pass. For those between the ages of 17 and 65, the yearly license is still cheaper than a 3-day pass. If you’re from out-of-state, you will face a big leap in price, though.

Can I get a lifetime fishing license in Michigan?

No. Despite proposals in the state legislature to bring back lifetime fishing licenses in Michigan, there is still no option to buy a permit for the rest of your life.

Exceptions to Michigan Fishing License Requirements:

  • Children aged 16 and under do not need a fishing license to fish in Michigan
  • Adults assisting a child may help set up the fishing gear, bait the hook, and cast without a fishing license. For all other fishing activities, an adult must have their own license
  • Michigan residents in active duty in the military services do not need to hold a license provided they can prove their status
  • Resident veterans who are unemployable due to disability can fish without a license
  • Non-resident military personnel stationed in Michigan can get a license at resident prices
  • Registered blind residents are eligible for senior prices for their license

When do Michigan fishing licenses expire?

The fishing season in Michigan runs from March 31 every year. But what does that mean for your license?

  • 24-hour and 72-hour licenses are valid for the time period. From the moment you purchase them, you’ll have the exact dedicated time to go fishing. If you buy your license ahead of time, you can choose which date you would like it to be valid and it will remain valid for either 24 or 72 hours after that, depending on the license.
  • Every annual license will run up until March 31 the following year
  • Lifelong fishing licenses, as you’d expect, don’t have an expiration date. It’s worth checking with the DNR, however, if there are any changes to fishing regulations from March 31.  

Where can I get a Michigan Fishing License?

Michigan state has made a concerted effort to keep up with technology. This means you can be fishing within minutes of paying for your fishing license. Get your license in any of the following ways:

  • Online. Both residents and non-residents are able to apply for a fishing license online. It’s never been easier! Provide all the necessary documentation and download the PDF form license and carry it on your mobile device or print it out.
  • Vendors. All across the state and beyond, there are plenty of official stores selling fishing licenses. From bait and tackle stores to Walmart, there’s one on your doorstep. Find your local store here.

Just be sure to provide some form of proof of residency when you apply and make sure you have a form of identification along with your license whenever you go fishing.

What is a fishing “tag”?

Some fish species are heavily protected for conservation purposes. In Michigan, there are restrictions on some sought-after game favorites. Sturgeon and Muskies are limited to one catch per licensed angler per year. This used to be recorded through the issuing of fishing “tags.” As of 2019, these tags are no longer available and you must report your yearly catch either:

  • Online at the DNR website
  • By phone at 844-345-FISH (3474)

Of course, you’re always welcome to practice catch and release without reporting the fish.

Do I need a separate license for ice fishing?

No – it’s just as easy to fish Michigan’s rich waters during the winter. When fishing on ice, you just need the same freshwater fishing license as throughout the rest of the year. If you’re using an ice hut, you should just make sure that your full name and address or driver’s license number is visible on every side.

Can I fish in other states with a Michigan fishing license?

With the wealth of water on offer all around the state of Michigan, you don’t really need to head into another state to go fishing. But it’s quite easy to cross over into Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and even Canadian waters without meaning to. This section will address your concerns about fishing interstate waters.

Canada

In order to fish in the Canadian section of Lake Huron or Lake Superior, you must purchase on Ontario fishing license. You can’t, under any circumstances, fish using your MI license.

Ohio

There was a certain cause for controversy in Ohio in 2014 after Michigan changed its pricing structure for fishing licenses. However, in practice, very little has changed for people in either state. Michigan fishing licenses are not valid in Ohio and vice-versa.

Illinois

There are no reciprocal agreements between Illinois and Michigan, meaning that you will have to purchase an Illinois license on top of your Michigan one if you want to fish both states’ waters.

Indiana

Residents of both Michigan and Indiana can fish in each other’s interstate waters with just the one license. An agreement between the two states means that if you have a resident-issued Michigan fishing license, you can wander along the southern basin of Lake Michigan and smaller bodies of water along the state border and fish for free.

Wisconsin

We’ve saved the best bit until last! You can take advantage of both Wisconsin and Michigan’s rich and productive waters with the same fishing license. If you fish any of the intrastate waters, for example, Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, your Michigan fishing license will be valid in Wisconsin, and a Wisconsin license will be valid in Michigan – whether you’re a resident or not!

If you catch a Sturgeon or a Musky, you must adhere to each state’s regulations. Anyone with a Wisconsin license in Michigan must report to the MI county authorities where it was caught. If you’re a Michigan-licensed angler in Wisconsin, you’ll need to get your WI Sturgeon tag beforehand. While MI residents can get this for $20, those of you from neither Wisconsin nor Michigan will have to pay $50.

What to Do if You Lose a Michigan Fishing License

The Michigan DNR recommends contacting their Help Desk on 517-284-6057 in the event of losing your license. They will let you know what to do to retrieve your permit and get back on the water right away.

Hopefully, this blog will help you start your journey to some exciting fishing in Michigan’s wealth of waters. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!

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Comments (26)
  • bob

    Jun 21, 2019

    I do not think tags are required anymore for musky and sturgeon, but registration is by app or phone. Might want to update.

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      Rhys

      Jun 24, 2019

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for taking the time to read our blog. You’re correct that, as of 2019, there is no need for fishing tags anymore, and it can be done online.

      I’ve updated the information and hope it’s all clear now.

      Tight lines!

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  • Robert L Hall

    Jul 3, 2019

    I am staying on Mullett Lake 8.4 through 8.6, then at a second location on Lake Huron 8.9 through 8.10. Can I purchase two, non-resident 72 hour permits?

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      Rhys

      Jul 4, 2019

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for the question. You sure can get two separate 72-hour licenses in Michigan, just make sure to buy them separately.

      Enjoy your trip!

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  • Aaron

    Jul 14, 2019

    If I am not eligible for a license in illinois for back child support, can I purchase a michigan fishing license for a day in a chartered fishing trip??

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      Rhys

      Jul 16, 2019

      Hi Aaron,

      Thanks for reading the post! Unfortunately, there are no agreements between Illinois and Michigan with regards to fishing licenses, so you’ll have to get an Illinois license to fish there. If you’re fishing in Michigan, you should have no issues getting a license, as far as I can see, but it’s always worth consulting with your charter operator if you have any doubts.

      Tight lines!

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      Kathy

      Aug 5, 2019

      I thought if you are on a charter boat you do not need a license

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      Rhys

      Aug 5, 2019

      Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for reading. Unfortunately, Michigan charter boat licenses don’t cover individual fishing licenses. Some captains may be able to sell licenses on board, so it’s worth checking, if you’d find that easier.

      Tight lines!

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  • James Elder

    Jul 22, 2019

    Can an Ohio senior get a license at a cheaper price? I just need a 3 day license. Thank you.

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      Rhys

      Jul 23, 2019

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your question. A 72-hour (3-day) license is the same for residents and non-residents of all ages, costing you $30. I hope this helps.

      Enjoy your trip!

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  • Ty C.

    Aug 1, 2019

    There are no lifetime fishing licenses available for purchase in Michigan.

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      Rhys

      Aug 2, 2019

      Hi Ty!

      Thanks for getting in touch. You are correct that lifetime licenses aren’t available in Michigan. The incorrect information came from a misleading article and it’s now been removed.

      Thanks for your help!

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  • Jack

    Aug 5, 2019

    If I am driving a boat and not fishing, while others in the boat are licensed and fishing do I need a fishing license?

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      Rhys

      Aug 5, 2019

      Hi Jack,

      Good question! Unfortunately, Michigan’s DNR is pretty vague when it comes to whether everyone on board needs a fishing license. I suggest you get in touch with them directly by e-mail at: [email protected] or call: 517-284-6057.

      Good luck!

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  • Frank Bailey

    Aug 10, 2019

    If I purchase a non-resident 72-hour license and my plane is cancelled can I change the start date of my license so I get the full 72-hours of use?

    This did really just happened to me.

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      Rhys

      Aug 13, 2019

      Hi Frank,

      I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. Unfortunately, the Michigan DNR doesn’t advertize their policy on changing the dates on a fishing license. I suggest you call them directly and see what they suggest. Try 517-284-6057 and let us know how you get on.

      Good luck!

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  • Robbie G

    Aug 15, 2019

    I live in Wisconsin and have an annual fishing license/with trout stamp for Michigan. Now I want to fish lake Michigan out of Wisconsin on a one day charter. Since I have a annual fishing license with trout stamp ($76) that covers the great lakes, do I need another license from Wisconsin ????

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      Rhys

      Aug 16, 2019

      Hi Robbie,

      Thanks for your question! While your Michigan fishing license will be respected in Wisconsin’s portion of Lake Michigan, the law on fishing stamps differs in both states. It seems that you’ll need to buy a WI Trout Stamp to be able to catch Trout in Wisconsin’s waters. I hope this helps.

      Safe trip!

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  • ron

    Aug 22, 2019

    As a 100% disabled veteran I’d like to see Michigan and Ohio get together and at least offer a reduced rate on non resident license to us, or honor them from state to state.

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      Rhys

      Aug 23, 2019

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for taking the time to read the piece. I agree that it would be great if the states could co-operate to recognize each other’s licenses in some way. Anything to make fishing easier and more accessible is welcome in my book!

      Good luck!

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  • Clarence Hardin

    Aug 24, 2019

    What is the legal age for senior to purchase a license and what is the price

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      Rhys

      Aug 26, 2019

      Hi Clarence,

      Thanks for reading! In order to qualify for a senior fishing license, you must be an MI resident over the age of 65. Senior fishing licenses cost jus $11 for the whole year and works out as great value-for-money, at only $1 more than a one-day permit.

      Good luck!

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  • Carl Wisneski

    Aug 29, 2019

    I have a house in Michigan and in Florida. Since my children go to school in Florida, I had to get a Florida drivers license or they would have to pay out-of-state tuition. Can I get a Michigan resident fishing license?

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      Rhys

      Aug 29, 2019

      Hi Carl,

      Thanks for reading the blog. You should be able to get a Michigan fishing license if you can prove your residency in Michigan. This can be done with any MI-issued ID card, which you can get by providing your social security number. I hope this helps.

      Tight lines,

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  • Heidi

    Sep 1, 2019

    What age is considered a senior? For a license.

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      Sean

      Sep 2, 2019

      Hi Heidi,

      Thanks for reading.

      Anyone over the age of 65 is considered a senior. Seniors can purchase an annual Michigan fishing license for $11.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Tight lines!

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