While everyone can fish in public waters 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.
"Free fishing day is a great opportunity for families to enjoy some quality time together on the water and it is a relatively inexpensive activity that anyone, no matter what their age or skill level, can enjoy," said Kyle Briggs, a program manager with the Commission's Division of Inland Fisheries.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission manages recreational fisheries, stocks fish, and provides free access to fishing sites across the state. To make finding a spot to fish easier, the Commission has a list of free fishing-access areas on its website. Some of the areas are public fishing areas that are developed through partnerships between the Commission and local municipalities, state and federal agencies and private landowners. These sites range from well-developed access areas with universally accessible boat ramps and piers, to areas with only gravel parking lots and an access trail leading to the water. Other areas are 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, a stringer.
While a fishing license is not required for anglers 15 years and younger, anyone age 16 and older must have a fishing license to fish in any public water in North Carolina. A one-year comprehensive inland fishing license, which includes public trout waters, is $20.