Michigan Fishing License Rules Explained
Apr 19, 2021 | 5 minute read
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!

Who needs a fishing license in Michigan?

A flag of the state of Michigan

Any angler over the age of 17 needs to buy a fishing license, whether you’re on your own or on a fishing charter. Depending on 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.

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

Michigan fishing license Cost

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

24 Hour License Annual License
Resident $10 $26
Non-resident $10 $76
Senior resident $10 $11

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, and pay $76 for your annual license. Along with the fishing license of their choosing, all non-residents also need to buy a $1 Sportcard to go with the 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 licenses are valid for that 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 24 hours after that.
  • Every annual license will run up until March 31 the following year

Can I get a lifetime license?

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.

Where to Buy a Michigan Fishing License

A sign on a wooden wall advertising a bait and tackle shop, a common place to buy 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.
  • In-person. All across the state, there are plenty of official stores selling fishing licenses. From bait and tackle stores to Walmart, there’s one on your doorstep.

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 to Do if You Lose Your 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.

Fishing Other States With a MI 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. Luckily, Michigan has deals with the following states:

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

You can take advantage of a lot of Wisconsin and Michigan’s rich and productive waters with the same fishing license. If you fish any of the intrastate waters, including parts of 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! Find out which areas this applies to here.

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.

Common Questions about MI Licenses

Assorted fishing tackle on a wooden table, with a hook and sinker making a question mark in the middle
  1. Do I need a fishing tag?

    No. You no longer need a tag to catch protected species like Sturgeon and Muskie. However, you do need to report your catch, either on the DNR website or by phone at 844-345-FISH.

  2. Do I need a separate license for ice fishing?

    No. When ice fishing in Michigan, 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.

  3. Can non-residents get a senior discount?

    No. Unfortunately, there are no discounts available for non-residents.

  4. How old do I need to be to get a senior license?

    65. Senior licenses are available for anyone aged 65 or over.

  5. Do I need a license to fish on private property?

    It depends. If the water you're fishing is entirely enclosed by your land (such as a private pond), you don't need a license. However, if it borders you land (such as a river) you do.

We tried to cover everything you need to know about licenses in Michigan. If you still have questions, we recommend getting in touch with your local DNR office. If not, it’s time to grab your rod, maybe book a local charter, and get fishing!

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