How to Get a Michigan Fishing License: All You Need to Know
May 3, 2019 | 6 minute read
Reading Time: 6 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 showing that a Michigan fishing license is required for all anglers over 17 across the state and that a special tag must be purchased to harvest Musky and Sturgeon.

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!

If you’re planning to take home a Musky or Sturgeon, be aware that you’ll need a special permit in addition to your fishing license. More on that below.

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?

Yes. After a long-anticipated wait, Michigan has re-introduced lifelong fishing licenses. For residents only, the cost of a lifetime license is the same as an annual license for residents and senior citizens. This makes them the most cost-effective way to go fishing more than once!

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. The following guide will let you know what to do in case you want to catch some prized fish.

Sturgeon and Muskies

You can only keep one Sturgeon and one Muskellunge per calendar year. In order to do so, you’ll need to obtain a tag from the DNR. These are free, but each angler can only receive one for each species. You must report your “harvest” within 24 hours. You can do thisonline, at any DNR customer service center, or by phone at 844-345-FISH (3474). Of course, you’re always welcome to practice catch and release without tagging the fish.

Neither of the tags are available online, so you’ll have to head to any state-sanctioned license vendor to pick up yours.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 tag with an MI tag and report to the 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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