North Carolina Fishing License (2024): Costs, Types & How to Buy

Find out how to get the right license to take advantage of the great coastal and inland fishing in North Carolina. Costs, types and where to buy

North Carolina offers some excellent fishing for both the saltwater and freshwater angler.

It’s important to make sure you have the right fishing license to fish legally within the state.

We’ve broken down all the essentials on North Carolina fishing licenses including:

  • Where to get one
  • How to decide which one you need
  • What the license costs
  • Whether you are eligible for a discount

Fishing in North Carolina

Before we give you the details of North Carolina’s fishing license regime, a quick word on the fishing available in the state.

North Carolina is well known for its sea fishing with redfish, striped bass and Spanish mackerel among the popular targets. See our guide to fishing North Carolina’s famous fishing piers.

But there is also great inland fishing in North Carolina for largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish. There’s even some decent trout fishing available too (see here for our guide to trout fishing in North Carolina).

How Much is a North Carolina Fishing License?

For residents of North Carolina, an annual freshwater fishing license costs $25 while an annual North Carolina saltwater fishing license costs $16.

For non resident anglers, an annual freshwater North Carolina fishing license costs $45 while an annual North Carolina saltwater fishing license costs $32.

There are a variety of other licenses with different prices including short term licenses. We’ve summarized the costs of these licenses in the table below.

See also: How much is a fishing license in all 50 states

North Carolina Fishing Age

Children in North Carolina can fish without needing a license up until the age of 16. This is pretty standardard compared to other states, although some jurisdictions require a license from age 12.

Who Needs a Fishing License In North Carolina?

North Carolina Fishing License
Coastal fishing in North Carolina is excellent

Anyone who is 16 years or older and wants to fish in the public waters of the state must possess a valid North Carolina fishing license. This applies to both residents and non-residents of North Carolina. 

The license is required for any type of fishing, including freshwater, saltwater, and trout fishing. This license requirement does not apply to private ponds.


Who is Exempt from Needing a Fishing License in North Carolina?

There are certain groups of people who are exempt from needing a fishing license in North Carolina. These include:

  • Youth under age 16
  • A landowner or Person leasing land primarily for cultivation, their spouse, and dependents under 18 residing with them
  • A resident of this state who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces serving outside N.C., or who is on full-time mil­itary duty outside the state in a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces 
  • Any person fishing during the Free Fishing Day
  • Residents with a valid Unified Subsistence Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing License Waiver

Fishing License Types in North Carolina

North Carolina Fishing License 1
There are two types of North Carolina fishing license: Coastal and Inland

The two types of fishing licenses in North Carolina are the Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) and Inland Fishing License.

Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL): This license is required for recreational saltwater fishing in North Carolina’s coastal waters, including sounds, coastal rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean. It is available for both residents and non-residents, and the fees vary based on the type of license and the duration of validity.

Inland Fishing License: This license is required for freshwater fishing in North Carolina’s inland waters, including lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Like the CRFL, it is available for both residents and non-residents and can be purchased online or at retail locations throughout the state.

North Carolina Fishing License Cost

The cost of a fishing license in North Carolina is determined by a variety of factors including the type of license, the individual’s age, the length of time the license is valid for, and other relevant considerations.

Resident Fishing Licenses: Costs

Residents of North Carolina enjoy some exclusive privileges such as discounted rates and access to other special types of licenses, depending on eligibility. To be considered a resident of North Carolina, you must: 

  • Reside in the state for 6 months or have been domiciled (established a perma­nent residence) for 60 days.
  • Complete a Certificate of Residency, available from a wildlife service agent or the Wildlife Resources Commission, certifying that they have maintained a residence in a county of the state for at least 60 days with the intent to reside there permanently
  • Not claim residency in another state regardless of whether they own property, pay property tax, pay utility bills, etc., in N.C.
  • Nonresident students may purchase a resident license while attending a university, college, or community college in North Carolina. 
  • Nonresident members of the U.S. Armed Forces (including their spouses and children under 18) who are stationed in the state are deemed residents of the state and of the counties in which they reside
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty outside of North Carolina shall be deemed an individual resident of the state
License TypePrice
Short-Term Licenses
Inland Fishing­ 10-Day$9
Coastal Recreational Fishing 10-Day$6
Annual Licenses
State Inland Fishing$25
Coastal Recreational Fishing$16
Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing$41
Subsistence Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing License WaiverFREE
Special Device (inland fishing)$80

Non Resident Fishing Licenses: Costs

Nonresident status applies to anyone who does not live in the state of North Carolina, with the exceptions noted above (students and military).

License TypePrice
Short-Term Licenses
Inland Fishing­ 10-Day$23
Coastal Recreational Fishing 10-Day$11
Annual Licenses
State Inland Fishing$45
Coastal Recreational Fishing$32
Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational FishingN/A
Subsistence Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing License WaiverN/A
Special Device (inland fishing)$530

Who Can Purchase Discounted North Carolina Fishing Licenses?

The State of North Carolina offers free and reduced-fee licenses to the following groups:

  • Resident veterans who are 50% or more disabled.
  • Residents who are permanently and totally disabled.
  • Residents who are legally blind
  • Residents in North Carolina care homes

To qualify for a discounted license, individuals must provide proof of eligibility.

Special Fishing Licenses in North Carolina

In addition to the regular fishing licenses, North Carolina offers several special fishing licenses for specific types of fishing. These include:

License TypeResidentNon-Resident
Disabled Veteran (Inland and Coastal Fishing)$11N/A
Totally Disabled (Inland and Coastal Fishing)$11N/A
Legally Blind Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational FishingFREEN/A
Adult Care Home Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational FishingFREEN/A
* Unified Sportsman/Coastal Recreational Fishing License (Adult – age 16 and older)$69N/A

*Annual statewide hunting, inland and coastal recreational fishing for residents. Includes the privileges of hunting for big game, hunting on game lands, hunting for waterfowl (does not include the bear management e-stamp or federal duck stamp), fishing in Public Mountain Trout Waters, fishing in trout waters on game lands, and fishing in joint waters.

See these links for info on discounts for seniors, veterans and disabled anglers in other states.

Where Can I Buy A North Carolina Fishing Licence?

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

To purchase a fishing license in North Carolina, you have a few different choices. One of the easiest ways is to head to a North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission office. If you’re not sure where the closest one is, you can just check out their website or give them a call at 888-248-6834. You can always buy a North Carolina fishing license at a Walmart store too.


To purchase a fishing license online, just follow the procedures here.

Wildlife Service Agents

Wildlife Service Agents work independently for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and assist the Commission in achieving its goals by providing wildlife resource services at convenient and effective locations throughout the state. To find Wildlife Service Agents near you, you can use their locator tool here.

What Happens with North Carolina Fishing License Fees?

The fees collected from North Carolina fishing licenses are used to support the conservation and management of the state’s fish and wildlife resources. This includes funding for habitat restoration, research, education, and law enforcement.

Does North Carolina Have Reciprocal License arrangements with neighboring states?

North Carolina has reciprocal license agreements with several neighboring states, including Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia (info here on Georgia fishing licenses), and South Carolina. These agreements allow residents of one state to fish in the public waters of the other state without having to purchase a separate fishing license. However, it is important to note that the rules and regulations of each state still apply.

Does North Carolina offer Lifetime Fishing Licenses?

Lifetime licenses are valid for the lifetime of the license-holder. Residents born on or before Aug. 1, 1953, are eligible to purchase a senior lifetime license when they turn 65 years of age. Those born after Aug. 1, 1953, are eligible to purchase a senior lifetime license when they turn 70 years of age.

License TypeResidentNon-Resident
Comprehensive Inland Fishing$265N/A
Senior (see above for eligibility requirements)$16N/A
Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing$477N/A
Coastal Recreational Fishing License
Adult (ages 12 & older)$265$530
Youth (ages 1–11)$159$159
Infant (under age 1)$106$106
Senior (see above for eligibility requirements)$16N/A
Disabled Veteran $11N/A
Totally Disabled$11N/A
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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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