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North Carolina Coastal Fishing - New License Required

Updated on October 21, 2007
Kure Beach Fishing Pier
Kure Beach Fishing Pier

North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License

Beginning on January 1, 2007, any person 16 years of age or older who wants to fish recreationally in North Carolina's coastal waters must purchase a Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL). The N.C. General Assembly passed legislation in 2004 to require 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 change in the law. These people are not required to purchase a separate license in order to fish in coastal waters. The 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.

Anglers who had a hook and line license for the legally blind and adult care home fishing license were grandfathered until Jan. 1, 2007. Both of these licenses issued after that date included coastal recreational fishing privileges. Anyone purchasing a Wildlife Resources Commission lifetime license of any type on or after Jan. 1, 2006 was not grandfathered and is required to purchase a CRFL, when fishing in coastal waters.

CRFL Basic Facts

1. A CRFL is required for recreational fishing in coastal waters managed by the Division of Marine Fisheries.

2. A CRFL is not required for people living in coastal counties who have private ponds on their property.

3. People who receive Food Stamps, Medicaid or Work First Family Assistance may receive a subsistence waiver through their county Department of Social Services. This annual waiver allows the holder to fish recreationally with hook-and-line in inland waters (with the exception of Public Mountain Trout Waters), joint and coastal waters.

4. A CRFL must be obtained by any per­son 16 years or older who wants to fish recre­ationally in any water designated as coastal and joint waters of North Carolina. The exceptions are:

  • An individual who holds a resident/non­resident lifetime infant, youth, adult, over 70, disabled sportsman, lifetime comprehensive fishing license, hunting/fishing basic disabled veteran or hunting/fishing basic total disabled license issued by the Wildlife Resources Commission before Jan. 1, 2006.
  • An individual who holds a lifetime legally blind or adult care home license, regardless of when it was issued.

5. There are several types of individual CRFLs available to accommo­date a variety of needs and situations. They include short-term licenses; annual licenses; lifetime licenses, which are valid for the life­time of the holder; and unified licenses, which include hunting/statewide fishing privileges.

6. The most common CRFLs are:

  • Annual Resident ($15)
  • Annual Non-Resident ($30)
  • 10-day Resident ($5)
  • 10-day Non-Resident ($10)
  • Annual Inland/CRFL ($35)
  • Annual Unified ($55)
  • Various Lifetime (fees vary)
  • Various Lifetime Unified (fees vary)

7. To purchase a CRFL:

  • Visit a Wildlife Resources Commission Wildlife Service Agent. Many are located in bait-and-tackle shops, hunting and sporting good stores and larger chain stores.
  • Call toll-free 1-888-248-6834. Normal hours of operation are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday - Friday.
  • Visit one of 6 Division of Marine Fish­eries offices located on the coast. Loca­tions can be obtained on the Division of Marine Fisheries Web site,

8. Two types of blanket CRFLs are avail­able only through Division of Marine Fisher­ies offices:

  • For-Hire Blanket - a person who oper­ates a "for-hire boat" (such as a charter boat) may purchase a CRFL that allows all individuals on the for-hire boat who do not hold a CRFL to fish in coastal fishing waters that are not joint fishing waters. This license does not authorize individuals to fish recreationally in inland or joint fishing waters.
  • Ocean Fishing Pier Blanket - a person who operates or owns an ocean fishing pier and who charges a fee to allow a person to fish recreationally from the pier may pur­chase an Ocean Fishing Pier Blanket CRFL. This license allows all individuals who do not hold an individual CRFL to engage in recreational fishing in coastal waters while on the pier.

9. A CRFL is not required to harvest crabs, mussels, clams, lobsters, shrimp and other shellfish.

10. Anglers using gigs and cast­nets to harvest finfish recreationally are also required to have a license.

11. A CRFL is needed to fish from a privately owned pier. Nonresident members of the armed forces currently stationed in North Carolina, including their spouses and children under 18 will be considered residents of North Carolina for the purposes of purchasing and using a Coastal Recreational Fishing or Unified License.

12. Seafood harvested under the license is for personal consumption only and cannot be sold commercially.

13. Anglers who have lost their license may apply for another license to be reissued for a $5 fee.

Click here for more info on North Carolina Coastal Fishing Piers.


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