Fish for free in all public waters – including coastal waters – on July 4 from 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. While everyone, residents and non-residents, can fish in public waters on this date without a license, all other fishing regulations, such as length and daily possession limits, as well as bait and tackle restrictions, apply.
Authorized by the N.C. General Assembly and started in 1994, North Carolina’s annual free fishing day, which always falls on July 4, was created to promote the sport of fishing.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission manages recreational fisheries, stocks fish, and provides free access to fishing sites across the state. And, while many sport fisheries in North Carolina are self-sustaining, the Commission annually stocks a variety of fish in public, inland waters – from trout in the mountains to striped bass in Piedmont reservoirs and channel catfish in Community Fishing Program (CFP) waters.
“We stock waters so anglers of all ages and skill levels have an excellent chance of catching fish,” said Kyle Briggs, a program manager with the Division of Inland Fisheries. “The purpose of a free fishing day is to get people hooked on fishing. The more positive a fishing experience is, the more likely a person will continue fishing.”
To make finding a spot to fish easier, the Commission has a list of free fishing-access areas on its website. Public Fishing Areas offer free access from the banks of many streams, rivers, lakes and ponds across the state while CFP sites provide fishing opportunities in urban areas. These sites typically feature solar-powered fish feeders, universally-accessible piers and periodic stockings of harvestable-sized channel catfish from April through September.
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 they check out a library book. They receive a Tackle Loaner card, which is good 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, a stringer – all the necessary components of a successful fishing trip.
North Carolina residents age 16 and older who are interested in fishing the remaining 364 days of the year can purchase a one-year comprehensive inland fishing license, which includes public trout waters, for $20. A one-year license to fish in coastal waters is $15; to fish in inland waters, including public trout waters, and coastal waters, a unified license is $35 and is valid for one year from purchase date. To purchase a license:
• Call the Wildlife Resources Commission at 1 (888) 248-6834. Hours of operation are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 7 days a week;
• Go to the Wildlife Resources Commission’s website, www.ncwildlife.org and click on the yellow “Purchase License” button at the top left side of the home page.
• Visit a local Wildlife Service Agent. Most are located in bait-and-tackle shops, hunting and sporting good stores and larger chain stores.
For a list of all public fishing areas, Community Fishing Program sites and Tackle Loaner Program sites, visit the Fishing page, or call the Division of Inland Fisheries, (919) 707-0220.
About the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Since 1947, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has been dedicated to the conservation and sustainability of the state’s fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use, and public input. The Commission is the state regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws and provides programs and opportunities for wildlife-related educational, recreational and sporting activities. To learn more, visit www.ncwildlife.org.
Get N.C. Wildlife Update – news including season dates, bag limits, legislative updates and more – delivered to your Inbox from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Go to www.ncwildlife.org/enews.
Jodie B. Owen