The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reminds anglers and would-be anglers of all ages that July 4 is “free fishing day” in North Carolina. From 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m., anyone can fish without having to pay for a fishing license or additional trout privilege license in all public waters, including coastal waters.
While everyone — residents and non-residents alike — can fish in public waters without a license on July 4, all other fishing regulations, such as length and daily possession limits, as well as bait and tackle restrictions, apply.
The Commission manages recreational inland fisheries, stocks fish, and provides free access to fishing sites across the state. To make finding a spot to fish easier, the Commission has interactive fishing and boating maps on its website that list more than 500 fishing and boating areas, most of which are free and open to the public.
Public fishing areas range from well-developed access areas with universally accessible boat ramps and piers, to sites with only gravel parking lots and an access trail leading to the water. These include Community Fishing Program (CFP) sites that are developed through partnerships between the Commission and local municipalities and organizations. Many of these sites receive routine stockings of channel catfish and often have a universally accessible fishing pier.
Some CFP sites have loaner rods and reels that anglers can borrow for the day on a first-come, first-serve basis. Through the Commission’s Tackle Loaner Program, anglers can check out a fishing rod and reel in much the same way as checking out a library book. They receive a Tackle Loaner card, which is valid at all tackle-loaner sites across the state, although the rods and reels must be returned to the location where they were borrowed. Anglers age 15 and younger who register for the Tackle Loaner Program for the first time receive a mini tackle box filled with hooks, fishing line, a bobber and a stringer.
In addition to providing free places to fish, the Commission stocks a variety of fish in public, inland waters across the state throughout the year to give anglers a better chance of catching fish. Cool mountain waters are stocked with brook, brown and rainbow trout, as well as walleye and muskellunge. In warm waters, Commission staff stocks largemouth bass, American shad, striped bass, channel catfish and sunfishes.
Authorized by the N.C. General Assembly and enacted in 1994, North Carolina’s annual free fishing day always falls on July 4. On all other days of the year, a fishing license is not required for anglers 15 years and younger, but anyone age 16 and older must have a fishing license to fish in any public water in North Carolina, including coastal waters. To purchase a license:
- Call the Commission at 1-888-248-6834. Hours of operation are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 7 days a week;
- Visit the license page;
- Visit a local Wildlife Service Agent.
For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, visit the Fishing page.