Get Your North Carolina Fishing License: All You Need to Know
Apr 18, 2019 | 6 minute read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Whether it’s deep sea fishing or freshwater fishing inland you’re looking for, North Carolina has it all. Just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic’s continental shelf, and with the Outer Banks protecting the shallow inshore waters from the deep sea current, a whole world of exciting fishing awaits. But, before you go, you’ll need to get a North Carolina fishing license. This short guide will tell you everything you need to know!

Quick Glance: North Carolina Sportfishing Requirements

A graphic displaying which licenses are needed to fish freshwater and saltwater bodies in North Carolina and that a separate permit is needed for landlocked Trout.

Anglers in North Carolina must purchase a fishing license before casting their line. There are different permits for freshwater and saltwater fishing, referred to as “Inland” and “Coastal” licenses by the state’s DNR.

If you’re fishing in the ocean, you’re going to need a coastal license. While fishing in freshwater, you’ll need an inland license. If you’re looking to fish the inshore waters, make sure you know which waters you’re fishing. Most licenses cover “joint waters,” but there aren’t many waters “joint.” You can find a comprehensive map here.

There is one big exception. If you’re fishing on a charter boat in saltwater, then you’re already covered!

Some people consider North Carolina’s Trout streams to contain the best Trout fishing in the country. To take advantage of these rich waters, you may need to purchase an additional Trout Stamp.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly what you need to do!

Who needs a North California fishing license?

When fishing any public water, every angler over 16 must carry a North Carolina Fishing License. The only exceptions to these waters are private ponds on privately-owned land. Anyone assisting a minor with fishing must also carry a permit at all times.

Residents and non-residents face the same process to obtain their fishing license, with the only difference being the price. A resident is anyone who has lived in North Carolina continually for the past 6 months. You can prove this by your social security number, driver’s license, and any other form of ID containing your address.

All anglers are eligible to apply for short-term, annual, or lifetime licenses. See which one suits you best and get your fish on in NC’s range of waters.

Who doesn’t need a North Carolina fishing license?

Other than children, there’s only one exception to people who require a fishing license in North Carolina.

  • Military personnel (residents of North Carolina) on official leave can fish for up to 30 days without a license. Make sure to carry your military ID and papers confirming your status, as proof of your right to fish.

Some other groups are eligible for free fishing permits.

  • NC residents who rely on fishing for food can apply for a “Subsistence Fishing Waiver.” Apply for this at the Department of Social Services.
  • Blind and care home residents can get an inland permit without paying a penny. Following the same procedure as when applying for a standard license. Just make sure to bring confirmation of your status to be eligible for this free permit.

How much is a North Carolina fishing license?

The cost of a North Carolina fishing license depends on the length of the permit you want, as well as your status as a resident. Locals can receive significant discounts on fishing licenses compared to those from out of state.

As you see below, residents and non-residents are eligible for 10-day and annual passes. Residents can also take advantage of the comprehensive annual package. This offer allows anglers to fish inland including the mountain streams for Trout without having to purchase the additional stamp.

Similarly, the Combined Coastal and Inland License is only available to NC residents and also permits fishing for Trout.

Table showing the price of 10-day, and annual fishing licenses for residents of North Carolina and non-residents, starting at $7 and rising to $40.

If you’re a keen angler and plan on fishing as often as possible, you may want to consider getting a lifetime license. Prices differ for residents and non-residents, but there are benefits to starting young, especially if you want to fish saltwater.

Table showing the pricing structure for lifetime North Carolina fishing licenses for children, adults, seniors, residents, and non-residents.

Unlike the shorter-term packages, lifetime licenses vary in price depending on your age. Children can be born into a life of fishing with packages from just $100 for their whole life.

Senior citizens can take advantage of discounts for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Both packages costing just $15 – the same price as an annual resident’s license!

Resident veterans and people with disabilities can also make the most of North Carolina’s stunning fishing. Inland and coastal licenses cost $10. If you live in a care home or are registered blind, you’re entitled to a free fishing permit.

Whichever fishing license you want, just make sure to have ID on hand, along with your social security number. You’ll then receive your license right away!

What about the Trout Stamp?

If your fishing license doesn’t cover fishing for Trout in mountain streams, don’t worry. The process to get one is simple. Residents and non-residents face the same price of $13, and you can get it in the same way as your fishing license.

Where do I get a North Carolina fishing license?

You know what you want, now you just need to find out how to do it. This section will answer all your questions about how to get your fishing license.

There are 3 easy ways to obtain your North Carolina fishing license:

  • Online. Using Visa or MasterCard, you can complete your application without leaving your home. Online transactions will incur a $2 transaction fee.
  • By phone. From 8am-5pm Monday – Friday, you can call 888-248-6834 to speak to customer service and get your license over the phone.
  • By visiting an agent. Across the state, there are plenty of vendors for fishing licenses. There are plenty of registered tackle shops, hardware stores, and Walmarts. Visit in-person and get your license right away.

Be careful, though, as youth, infant, and disabled lifetime licenses cannot be purchased online. Call customer service or head to a local agent to secure your lifetime’s worth of fishing.

What happens if I fish without a license?

Fishing without a license in North Carolina is considered a misdemeanor. If you are caught without a valid license, you’ll be fined a minimum of $35. With additional fees, this could increase to $200.

Saltwater fishing without a license carries a stiffer penalty. As per the NC statute book, a minimum fine of $200 is imposed on every angler caught without a license. There’s a maximum punishment of $500 and up to 30 days imprisonment.

With the cost of an annual license much less than any of the fines you could face, just follow our instructions and save yourself the worry of getting caught.

What happens if I lose my North Carolina fishing license?

If you’ve misplaced your fishing license, there’s no need to worry. Fill out this form and send it to:

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission License Section
1707 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC
27699-1707

Along with your application, you should enclose a check or proof of money order to cover administrative fee. For lifetime licenses, this will cost you just $1, while other licenses cost $7 to replace.

Does North Carolina hold any “free fishing days”?

There is one day of the year where you can fish without a license in North Carolina. On July 4, everyone can fish NC’s seas, lakes, and rivers without a permit. Other regulations still apply, though, including bag limits, size limits, and which fish you can target.

Can I use my North Carolina fishing license out of state?

Fishing on border waters can be confusing, so NC has reciprocal agreements with some of its neighboring states. Read on to make sure that you don’t get punished just for making a mistake.

In Georgia, holders of a North Carolina fishing license are welcome to fish the Chatuge Reservoir and all its tributaries that are accessible by boat without getting a Georgia fishing permit. Likewise, anglers crossing over from Georgia can use theirs when fishing NC’s border waters.

Along the Tennessee border, anglers from both states are able to cross Slick Rock Creek and Calderwood Reservoir by boat without worrying about fishing the other state’s waters. The moment you step foot on land, you will be required to purchase a TN fishing license. So make sure to stay on the boat!

The border with Virginia contains many long stretches of water. On the Dan River, Kerr and Gaston Reservoirs, as well as the confluence of the New River with the Little River, anglers holding a fishing license from either state will be able to cross into the other and fish without a separate license.

So far, NC has not agreed to anything with South Carolina. Be careful of fishing Lake Wylie or any other water along the Carolinas’ borders.

And that’s it. Hopefully, this has been a clear and concise guide to getting your North Carolina fishing license. If you have any questions, feel free to ask us in the comments section below!

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