How Much Does A Fishing License Cost In North Carolina?

North Carolina offers the best of both worlds when it comes to fishing: Freshwater and saltwater fishing. Where you plan to cast your line will determine what type of license you require; either a freshwater fishing license or a coastal recreational fishing license. Any one of these licenses is valid to fish within joint waters.

Residents of North Carolina can expect to pay between $6-$477 for a fishing license. The cost depends on the type of fishing license (coastal or inland) and the duration of the license (10-day, annual, lifetime.) A non-resident license cost will range from $11-$530, dependent on the above parameters.

North Carolina has two bodies of water to fish in, so it makes sense that they have licenses for freshwater and saltwater fishing. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission issues licenses for 3-day, 10-day, annual, and lifetime periods. There are also free and reduced licenses for certain groups of people.

Cost Of A Fishing License In North Carolina

The cost of a fishing license in North Carolina will depend on your residency status. Residents are charged less for a fishing license compared to their non-resident counterparts. A resident in North Carolina is classified as the following:

  • A person residing in North Carolina for six months
  • A person who has set up a permanent residence for sixty days
  • A student attending a college in North Carolina
  • Military personnel stationed in the state of North Carolina

North Carolina Resident Fishing License Cost

Type Of LicenseCost of License
 Coastal Fishing License (10-Day)$6
 Inland Fishing License (10-Day)$9
Annual Coastal Fishing License$16
Annual Inland Fishing License$25
Annual Inland & Coastal Fishing License$41
Trout Fishing License (3-Day)$8

North Carolina Non-Resident Fishing License Cost

Type Of LicenseCost Of License
Non-Resident Coastal Fishing License (10-Day)$11
Non-Resident Inland Fishing License (10-Day)$23
Non-Resident Annual Coastal Fishing License$32
Non-Resident Annual Inland Fishing License$45
Non-Resident Inland/Coastal Fishing License (3-Day)$17
Non-Resident Trout Fishing License (3-Day)$8

North Carolina Lifetime Fishing Licenses: Resident & Non-Resident

Cost Of LicenseResident CostNon-Resident Cost
Lifetime Resident Inland (Adult)$265N/A
Lifetime Resident Inland (Adult)$16N/A
Lifetime Coastal (Under 1)$106$106
Lifetime Coastal (1-11 Years)$159$159
Lifetime Coastal (12+ Years)$265$530
Lifetime Coastal (Senior)$16N/A
Lifetime Unified$477N/A
Lifetime Disabled$110N/A

North Carolina Free And Reduced Fishing Licenses

North Carolina residents who fall under the following groups qualify for free Unified Lifetime Fishing Licenses:

  • Rely on fishing for food
  • Are legally blind
  • Resident in care homes

North Carolina residents who fall under the following groups qualify for discounted Lifetime Fishing Licenses at $11 (plus a $2 processing fee):

  • Residents who are permanently and totally disabled
  • Resident veterans who are 50% or more disabled

North Carolina Free Fishing Day

On the 4th of July, everyone with a fishing rod can fish without a fishing license. Fresh and saltwater fishing on this day is free every year. Standard regulations still apply.

Fishing Without A Valid Fishing License In North Carolina

The cost of fishing without a valid license can result in a misdemeanor charge and a fine ranging from $35-$500. You could also face some jail time, up to 30 days! Instead, go the legal route and enjoy your fishing.

Where Can You Buy A Fishing License In North Carolina?

Largemouth Bass

Now that you know how much a fishing license costs in North Carolina, the following question would be where to buy one. There are various ways to purchase your fishing license, be it online, from a service agent, or directly from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission:

Buy Your License Direct From The Wildlife Commission

For peace of mind, you can buy your license in person at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission located in Rayleigh, North Carolina.

Buy Your Fishing License Online

If you are one of those anglers that wants everything in order before you start your trip, then buying your license online will suit your needs:

Buy Your Fishing License At A Service Agent

For the old-school fishermen who still don’t trust the internet and wants the license handed to them, the following options are for you:

  • Buy your fishing license at various sporting goods and outdoor stores.
  • Purchase a fishing license at any Walmart store.

Please note that Walmart does not sell lifetime fishing licenses, only short-term and annual licenses.

Buy Your Fishing License On The Phone

By calling the following number, 888-248-6834, you can purchase your fishing license with a valid credit card.

Cooperative Fishing Licenses

Being a good neighbor, North Carolina has agreements with certain neighboring states with regards to fishing in specific boundary water sources.  These agreements allow anglers with a valid fishing license from these states to fish in these boundary waters:


North Carolina has a reciprocal agreement with the state of Georgia, and it covers fishing on:

  • Chatuge Reservoir


North Carolina has a reciprocal agreement with the state of Virginia, and it covers boat fishing on sections of:

  • Dan River
  • Staunton River
  • Kerr Reservoir
  • Gaston Reservoir


North Carolina has a reciprocal agreement with the state of Tennessee, and it covers fishing on the state line portion of:

  • Slick Rock Creek
  • Calderwood Reservoir

Best Fishing Spots In North Carolina

If you are lucky enough to fish in North Carolina, you are in for a treat! Make sure that you visit some of the best fishing spots that North Carolina has to offer:

  • Lake Fontana
  • Lake Norman
  • Lake Jordan
  • Lake James
  • Lake Chatuge
  • High Rock Lake
  • Ocracoke Island
  • Smoky Mountains National Park
  • The Tuckasegee River
  • The Nantahala River


North Carolina is a fantastic fishing destination, and if you are planning to visit and fish, obtaining a fishing license should be hassle-free. Make sure that you weigh up the different licensing options and buy one that covers the whole of your stay.

Fishing without a license will cost you more than a valid one, so do the right thing and enjoy the fish!


Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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