As of Jan. 1, 2007, any person 16 and older who wants to fish recreationally in any water designated as coastal and joint waters of North Carolina must purchase a Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL). The N.C. General Assembly passed legislation in 2004 to create a saltwater license, and Governor Mike Easley signed it into law in 2005.
Anyone who purchased a Wildlife Resources Commission lifetime license that includes basic inland fishing privileges before Jan. 1, 2006 was grandfathered by this law change and is not required to purchase a separate license in order to participate in coastal recreational fishing. These lifetime licenses include any infant, youth, adult, over 70, and disabled sportsman’s license; the comprehensive fishing, over 70 fishing only, disabled veteran’s and totally disabled licenses.
Those who possessed a hook and line license for the legally blind and adult care home fishing license were grandfathered until Jan. 1, 2007. Either of these two licenses issued after that date included coastal recreational fishing privileges.
Those who purchase a Wildlife Resources Commission lifetime license of any type on or after Jan. 1, 2006 were not grandfathered and are required to purchase a CRFL, when fishing in coastal waters.
As of Jan. 1, 2007, any person 16 and older fishing in North Carolina's public waters (excluding private ponds) must have a fishing license. Additionally, anglers fishing with natural bait (i.e., worms, crickets, etc.) are no longer able to fish in public, inland waters in their county of residence without a license. In 2005, the General Assembly passed new legislation that repealed the "natural bait exemption," which allowed people to fish in the public, inland fishing waters in their county of residence without a fishing license as long as they were fishing with natural bait.
Learn more about the repeal of the "natural bait exemption." (pdf)
A number of CRFLs are available to accommodate a variety of needs and situations.
View a list of available licenses (pdf).
Download a list of frequently asked questions about the CRFL here (pdf).
Coastal, Joint, and Inland Fishing Waters Designations in North Carolina (PDF)
Coastal Waters Size Limits Guide for Sports Fishermen (DMF website)
Coastal-Inland-Joint Water Maps (DMF website)
For more information on the CRFL or fishing in coastal waters, visit the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Web site.