On July 4 from 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m., anyone --esident and non-resident -- 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 always falls 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 Commission.

     There is no shortage of places where anglers of all ages can go to reel in a variety of fish - 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.