Natural Bait Exemption Law Repealed

As od January 1, 2007, there is no longer a license exemption for fresh water anglers fishing with natural bait in their home county. Many fish, such as this state record blue catfish are caught using natural baits.

RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reminds anglers that effective January 1, 2007 there is no longer a license exemption for fishing with natural bait in their county of residence and that they now must have a fishing license.

A new law, passed by the General Assembly in 2005 and effective Jan. 1, repealed the “natural bait exemption,” which allowed people to fish in public, inland fishing waters in their county of residence without a fishing license as long as they were fishing with natural bait, such as worms, crickets, shrimp, fish, etc.

A fishing license is not required to fish in a private pond or for children under 16 years old.

The “natural bait exemption” was originally created to help anglers, particularly those living below the poverty level, feed their families without having to purchase a license.

With the new law, people who receive food stamps, Medicaid or Work First Family Assistance can receive a free subsistence waiver that will allow them to fish recreationally with hook-and-line in public, inland, joint and coastal waters. This annual waiver is not valid for fishing in Public Mountain Trout Waters.

“The free subsistence waiver actually expands fishing opportunities because it allows anglers who qualify to fish throughout the state with both natural bait and artificial lures, not just in their county of residence,” said Bob Curry, chief of the Commission’s Division of Inland Fisheries.

With the repeal of the natural bait exemption, the Commission, which manages the state’s public, inland waters, will be able to collect license revenues from anglers who do not qualify for assistance. These revenues will be used to:

* Expand and maintain public boating and fishing access areas;
* Improve freshwater fishing opportunities;
* Sample and monitor fish populations;
* Protect and improve fish habitats;
* Rear fish to stock into public, inland waters;
* Enforce fishing rules and regulations.

“The cost for managing freshwater fishery resources has increased dramatically over the past half century and the cost for providing quality fishing opportunities continues to rise,” Curry said.  “Anglers who do not pay for a fishing license are not contributing to these successful programs.”

To download a frequently asked questions document about the natural bait exemption or for more information about fishing in North Carolina’s public, inland waters, visit the Commission’s Web site,

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