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Fish for Free in North Carolina’s Public Waters on July 4, 2020

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On July 4, anyone in North Carolina, regardless of age, can enjoy one of the state’s best outdoor activities for free.

Free Fishing Day, which runs from 12 a.m. until 11:59 p.m., offers residents and out-of-state visitors the opportunity to fish without having to purchase a license; however, all other fishing regulations apply, such as length and daily possession limits, as well as bait and tackle restrictions.

Authorized by the N.C. General Assembly in 1994 and sponsored by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina’s annual free fishing day, which always falls on July 4, was created to promote the sport of fishing.  

“Free Fishing Day is a great opportunity for families to enjoy some quality time together on the water,” said Christian Waters, the agency’s chief of the Inland Fisheries Division. “Fishing is relatively inexpensive activity that anyone, no matter what their age or skill level, can enjoy.”  

To give anglers a better chance of catching fish, the Commission stocks a variety of fish in waters across the state — including trout and channel catfish. The agency also provides access to fishing sites across the state, including public fishing areas and boating access areas. The interactive fishing and boating maps on the Commission’s website list more than 500 fishing and boating areas, many of which are free, that are open to the public.

Many of the boating areas likely will be crowded over the busy holiday weekend, so the Commission urges boaters to be patient, courteous and follow the boating etiquette tips below:

  • Realize that parking lots will be crowded.  Be patient and remain calm until an open parking space is available
  • Wait your turn in the launch line. Get in line without block or cutting off others
  • If possible, park your vehicle and trailer while someone moves the boat away from the ramp
  • Also if possible, have someone move the boat away from the ramp while you retrieve your vehicle and trailer
  • Observe no-wake zones and be cautious

Also, because of COVID-19, the Commission recommends maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet between you and others while on the boat ramp, on beaches or islands, or when rafting up with other boaters. Read more social distancing while boating safety tips.  

While anyone can fish for free on July 4, on all other days of the year, a fishing license is required for people age 16 and older, in order to fish in any public water in North Carolina, including coastal waters. Purchasing a license online is quick and easy. Other ways to purchase a license are:

  • Call the Commission at 888-248-6834. Current hours of operation are 8 a.m.-2 p.m.;
  • Visit a local Wildlife Service Agent

For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, visit the Fishing page.

Due to the COVID-19 virus, the sales counter at the Wildlife Commission’s headquarters in Raleigh is closed. We encourage the public to visit our website, www.ncwildlife.org, to purchase fishing, trapping and hunting licenses and to renew a vessel registration. Currently, the Commission’s License and Vessel Registration Call Centers are open from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Monday-Friday. For the most up-to-date information on agency-related closures, cancellations and postponements visit ncwildlife.org/covid19.

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