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Annual Free Fishing Day, July 4


Residents and non-residents can fish for free in public, inland waters, as well as coastal waters, although they will need to abide by all other fishing regulations, such as size and creel limits, as well as lure restrictions.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission stocks a variety of fish in public, inland waters across the state throughout the year to give anglers a better chance of catching fish. Staff stocks cool mountain waters with brook, brown and rainbow trout, as well as walleye and muskellunge. In warm waters, staff stocks largemouth bass, American shad, striped bass, channel catfish and sunfishes.

The agency also provides access to free fishing sites across the state, including public fishing areas and boating access areas. The interactive fishing and boating maps at the Commission website,, list more than 500 fishing and boating areas, most of which are free, that are open to the public. Authorized by the N.C. General Assembly and enacted in 1994, North Carolina’s annual free fishing day always falls on July 4. On all other days of the year, a fishing license is not required for anglers 15 years and younger, but anyone age 16 and older must have a fishing license to fish in any public water in North Carolina, including coastal waters.

The Wildlife Resources Commission closed its comment period for the Early Waterfowl and migratory bird seasons. I commented on the planned season for woodcock although my comment is probably too late to affect this season. I recommended they consider a split season between the eastern and western regions of the state with I-77 being the dividing line. The season currently starts in mid-December and runs through late January, limited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to 45 total days. The earliest start date from the USFWS is October 1st. The mid-December start date is based on migratory woodcock along the Atlantic flyway and we have many woodcock that winter in low lying areas along the coast. I’ve flushed them while hunting in the Croatan National Forest near New Bern.

The problem is that many of the woodcock moving through the mountains do so during the early months. Again, I routinely flush them while out grouse hunting in October and November. With a mid-December start date the ground is frozen in the mountains in many instances and the birds have moved on. I don’t know of any prohibition by the USFWS on a split season. Hope they consider my recommendation.

This reminds me, if you hunt and fish in North Carolina and want to keep up with activities important to you I recommend you go to the Commission website and sign up for their email newsletter. Any time they schedule public meetings or request public comment that is the quickest way to get word. Sometimes those notices don’t have much response time. For instance, they just announced last week a public meeting in Morganton for a new range on the Johns River Game Lands in Burke County and the meeting was this past Tuesday, June 23rd. That’s not enough notice for me to get it in this column. Sign up and stay informed.

As of this writing it looks like the Outdoor Heritage Act has made it out of the House headed to the Senate. It is a small victory but victory none-the-less. It looks like you will be able to hunt private property on Sundays except between 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The distance restriction remains 500 yards and no waterfowl or bear and deer hunting with dogs. It is not what we had hoped for but again we will take what we can get. Small battles lead to large victories.

The Omnibus Gun Bill finally moved out of the House. Unfortunately the effort to repeal the current Pistol Purchase Permit requirement was stripped from the bill after intense lobbying by the NC Sherriff’s Association. Can someone please explain to me why the Sherriff’s want to keep this requirement when they say each permit loses them money? The only answer is they are stuck in the early 20th century and want to maintain government control over their citizens. It is the 21st century folks. There are better ways.

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