License Requirements

Fishing Regulations Michigan Freshwater Fishing

Fishing License Requirements and Special Provisions:

  • You must purchase a license if you are 17 years of age or older.
  • If you are under 17, you may fish without a license, but you are required to observe all fishing rules and regulations.
  • When fishing, you must carry your license and the identification used to purchase that license and exhibit both upon demand of a Michigan Conservation Officer, a Tribal Conservation Officer or any law enforcement officer.

Your fishing license is valid from Mar. 1 of a given year through Mar. 31 of the following year.

To purchase a fishing
license or to obtain a permit or tag, you must have:

  • A valid Michigan Driver License; or
  • A valid Michigan ID Card (issued by the Secretary of State) with additional proof of Michigan residency, such as a Michigan voter registration card; or
  • A DNR Sportcard (issued by license dealers). If the information on your DNR Sportcard from a previous year is still accurate, you may continue to use it.

To qualify for a resident fishing license, you must:

  • Be a person who resides in a settled or permanent home or domicile within the boundaries of this state with the intention of remaining in this state, or
  • Be a full-time student at a Michigan college or university, and reside in Michigan, or
  • Serve full-time in the U.S. Military and be either officially stationed in Michigan or maintain residency in Michigan.

The ownership of land in Michigan by itself is not qualification for a resident license.

The following special
provisions exist:

Residents serving in the Armed Forces: Active-duty military members who enlisted as Michigan residents and have maintained resident status for the purposes of obtaining a driver’s license or voting may obtain a resident all-species license at no cost. Applicants must present proof of military status when applying for the free license. Proof of military status may include military ID, leave papers, duty papers, military orders or other evidence verifying that the applicant is a member of the military. This license, available at DNR Customer Service Centers and at license retail outlets statewide, is valid for the license year. Military members receiving a free license must present the license, along with proof of military status, if requested by a conservation officer. Note: non-resident, active-duty military personnel officially stationed in Michigan qualify for Michigan resident rates.

Veterans with a disability: A resident (with proof of eligibility) who has been determined by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to be permanently and totally disabled as a result of military service and entitled to veteran benefits at the 100% rate, for a disability other than blindness, or a resident rated by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs as individually unemployable is eligible to obtain any resident fishing license free of charge.

Residents who are blind: A resident who is declared legally blind is eligible to purchase the senior fishing license.

Persons with developmental disabilities or residents of a home for the aged (licensed under the Public Health Code): A developmentally disabled individual or a resident of a home for the aged licensed under the Public Health Code may obtain a permit from the DNR to fish without a license if the developmentally disabled individual or the resident of the licensed home for the aged is a member of a group accompanied by 1 or more adults who hold a valid license to fish. Permits are available at DNR Customer Service Centers.

Description of Inland Waters

Inland waters are all waters within the jurisdiction of the state except the Great Lakes, and the bays and connecting waters. The connecting waters between Lake Superior and Lake Huron include that portion of the St. Marys River located within this state. The connecting waters of Lake Huron and Lake Erie include the St. Clair River (begins at the Fort Gratiot Light), Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River (beginning at the imaginary line extending due south of the Windmill Point Light, Wayne County and ending at the imaginary east-west line drawn through the most southerly point of Celeron Island). Inland waters also include all inland lakes, streams and tributaries to the Great Lakes.

Fishing and Harvest Closures (Spawning Closures)

Michigan prohibits fishing for various species at certain times of the year. These seasonal closures generally coincide with spawning periods and are often referred to as spawning closures. Many anglers and managers tend to think of these regulations as providing specific protection to spawning fish, and the timing and length of closed seasons are generally related to the timing and duration of spawning seasons. These closures are indicated by lake or stream in the county listing (see Exceptions to General Regulations by County and Inland Trout & Salmon Regulations). Lakes and streams are closed to all fishing during the period listed.

Native American Fishing on Inland Waters

Federal treaties exist between the United States government and tribes residing in Michigan. Although the entire State of Michigan is covered by treaties, only two treaty areas are currently subject to fishing by tribal governments. The Treaty of Washington, signed in 1836, covers the eastern Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The Treaty of La Pointe, signed in 1842, covers the western Upper Peninsula, except Menominee County and areas of northern Wisconsin.

Seasons and possession limits for tribal members may differ somewhat from state regulations.  In addition, under a permit system, tribal members may use spears and may place impoundment nets on designated public waters.  The use of gill nets are prohibited in inland waters. If you encounter these activities, do not disrupt the fishers or interfere with their nets. For more information please visit michigan.gov/fishing and search for tribal coordination unit.