Fish for free on July 4
On July 4, anyone ó resident or non-resident ó can fish in any public water in North Carolina, including coastal waters, without the purchase of a fishing license or trout privilege license.
All other fishing regulations, such as fish length and daily possession limits, as well as bait and tackle restrictions and park-use fees, apply.
Authorized by the N.C. General Assembly and started in 1994, North Carolina’s annual free fishing day, which is always on July 4, was created to encourage people to go fishing and promote North Carolina’s vast aquatic resources.
“Even with the cost of fishing licenses, fishing is a relatively inexpensive family pastime that can be enjoyed year-round by children and adults,” said Kyle Briggs, a fisheries program manager with the Wildlife Resources Commission.
There is no shortage of places where anglers of all ages can go to reel in a variety of fish ó from largemouth bass and catfish in coastal rivers to striped bass, crappie and sunfish in Piedmont reservoirs to trout and smallmouth bass in cool, mountain streams.
To make finding a spot to fish easier, the commission provides a list of free fishing-access areas across the state on its Web site, www.ncwildlife.org.
The agency’s public fishing areas offer free access from the banks of many streams, rivers and ponds across the state. Staff maintain these areas by clearing banks of underbrush, and in some cases, by constructing universally accessible fishing piers and graveled or paved parking lots, installing fish attractors or baiting the areas with fish feed.
The agency also works with local governments to provide fishing opportunities in urban areas through the Community Fishing Program. These sites typically feature solar-powered fish feeders, universally-accessible piers and periodic stockings of harvestable-sized channel catfish from April through September. The commission currently has more than 40 sites in the program, with more being added each year.
Some of these sites even 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 ó 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 Web site, www.ncwildlife.org for more information.