North Carolina Saltwater Fishing Regulations

North Carolina Saltwater Fishing Regulations
There are many opportunities for saltwater fishing along the North Carolina coast. From the Intracoastal Waterway, back bays, sounds, surf and pier to the open ocean, a wide variety of fishing exists to potentially catch a huge array of fish species. Just as with inland fish species such as bass and trout, regulations have been enacted to help maintain saltwater fisheries and manage this resource for future generations.

Coastal Recreational Fishing License

As of 2007, it is required that all persons over the age of 16 have a coastal fishing license, commonly called a saltwater license. The license is now required to fish any coastal waters along the North Carolina coastline with the exception of piers, which are licensed and charge a fee for use. The Coastal Recreational Fishing License is separate and apart from the inland license, which covers freshwater fishing for species such as bass. The Coastal Recreational Fishing License may be obtained from many license outlets across the state of North Carolina. Sporting-goods stores, including big-box stores that carry fishing equipment, commonly sell the license. The Coastal Recreational Fishing License can also be obtained online by visiting


Size and Catch Limits

Just as inland fish species such as mountain trout have imposed limits on size and number that may be kept, saltwater species are regulated in much the same manner. Limits imposed by NC Wildlife may be viewed online at or in the fishing regulation guide available free of charge. The limits are in place to help ensure that the proper size and quantity of fish are kept, which will promote healthy fisheries as well as opportunities for future generations to enjoy the sport. Some fish species that are regulated by limit include cobia, king mackerel and tuna.

Special Permits

Special permits exist in regard to specific fish species and methods of fishing. For example, a special permit is required to fish for and possess blue fin tuna. There are also special permits required for netting or live trapping, as with the case of crab or lobster traps. The reason for the special licensing is to help with regulation of specific species as well as methods of taking fish. Special use permits are available from outlets across the state of North Carolina as well as online from


Article Written By Keith Dooley

Keith Dooley has a degree in outdoor education and sports management. He has worked as an assistant athletic director, head coach and assistant coach in various sports including football, softball and golf. Dooley has worked for various websites in the past, contributing instructional articles on a wide variety of topics.

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