Michigan is home to the five Great Lakes, making it an ideal place for some serious fishing. Adding to these Great Lakes are the state’s 3,000 rivers, 10,000 inland lakes and ponds, and vast coastlines for anglers who wish to experience fishing in Michigan waters. I am quite experienced fishing in this state, and I can attest to how diverse the available fish species are in its waters. It even holds the annual Ludington Offshore Fishing Classic on Lake Michigan. This fun-filled fishing tournament happens in the summer.
But before I headed off to experience how great of a fishing place Michigan is, I first had to get a fishing license. That said, how much is a fishing license in Michigan?
- Annual Michigan Resident = $26
- Annual Senior Resident = $11
- Annual Non-Resident = $76
- Daily Non-Resident = $10 per day (also applies to Michigan residents who want a temporary fishing license)
To Learn More, here’s a link to the Michigan 👉 website.
Michigan holds Free Fishing Weekend twice yearly so residents can enjoy fishing without paying for a license. Each free fishing happens for two consecutive days selected by the state. During these days, Michigan waives all fishing licenses so residents can freely access the state’s Great Lakes and inland waters.
But while fishing license fees do not apply during free fishing days, residents still need to follow all fishing regulations.
For 2023, Michigan’s Free Fishing Weekend dates are:
- February 19 and 20
- June 11 and 12 (source)
Moreover, some individuals can legally fish without a license in Michigan. These people are
- Michigan residents who are war and military veterans with 100 percent disability
- Michigan residents who have full-time active military duties
But before qualifying for a free fishing license, these individuals must prove their military status. They should also be able to provide proof upon request of a conservation officer or law enforcement officer. Military status proof may come in the form of military ID, duty papers, military orders, and leave papers.
In addition, the state’s Department Of Natural Resources will conduct audits without prior notice to verify these individuals’ military status. Those who can fish without a license should also note that Michigan’s fishing regulations still apply to them. (source)
Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:
- How to Fly Fish for Bluegills – These amazing fish are all over the USA. I like to call them the “Gateway Drug to Fly Fishing”
- How to Fly Fish for Brook Trout – Find the cleanest, coldest, most beautiful streams and I’ll bet Brookes are present.
- How to Nymph Fish – Step by Step details for setting up, presenting and catching trout with nymphs.
- How to Fly Fish for Salmon – Image hooking into a +25 pound King Salmon in a river and your Fly Rod breaks! Seriously this happened to me on my first trip.
Non-residents of Michigan can also enjoy the state’s Free Fishing Weekend as much as the residents can. The same rules apply to non-residents, meaning they still need to follow fishing regulations.
Michigan also waives Recreation Passport entrance fees to all of its 103 state parks. This way, vehicles can access the state parks and the state’s boating access sites. The Michigan Department Of Natural Resources waives all these fees to encourage both residents and non-residents to participate in the free fishing days. (source)
|Annual Fishing License||$26||$76|
|Annual Senior Fishing License||$11|
|Annual fishing License for Legally Blind Individuals||$11|
|Annual Youth Fishing License||$2 (voluntary)||$2 (voluntary)|
|Combination of Fishing and Hunting License (includes base, annual fishing, and two deers)||$76||$266|
|Combination of Senior Fishing and Hunting License (includes base, annual fishing, and two deers)||$45|
|Daily Fishing License||$10||$10|
|Underwater Spearfishing License||Free but requires procurement of a DNR Sportcard||Free but requires procurement of a DNR Sportcard|
Getting a fishing license in Michigan is extremely easy. The quickest way to get your license is to purchase it online on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website. You can also visit DNR’s website in instances that you lost your fishing license and need to reprint it.
From the website’s homepage, you will find the Buy A License button. Clicking on this button will lead you to the Sign In page, where you need to create a username and password. Registering your account will let you:
- purchase and print your license
- manage your profile
- view your purchase history
- set up automatic fishing license renewal
Moreover, there are requirements that you need to provide before the Michigan DNR provides you with your fishing license:
- A DNR Sportcard
- Valid Michigan driver’s license or a Michigan ID for residents
- Valid driver’s license for non-residents (source)
Whether you want to fish legally for the entire year or you only want to explore Michigan’s waters for a day, there is a license that fits your needs. In addition, you can explore all of the state’s bodies of fresh water as long as you have a valid license. In the instance that you do not have the physical copy of your license with you, you can provide law enforcers with a soft copy of it.
If it is not possible for you to access Michigan’s DNR website to purchase and print your fishing license, buying from a physical store is another good option. Walmart is an authorized physical store that can provide you with a fishing license. However, it is essential to note that not all Walmart locations have the authorization to provide this service.
Fortunately, Michigan’s DNR website lists all the Walmart locations where you can purchase your fishing license. From here, you can find the closest store to your location.
Residents buying a fishing license at Walmart need to provide valid proof of residency, such as a driver’s license. On the other hand, non-residents must provide valid proof of identification to acquire a license. Another thing worth noting is that purchasing a fishing license at Walmart is a bit more expensive than buying it from DNR’s website.
Moreover, a one-day Michigan fishing license for residents and non-residents costs $11 at Walmart. If you wish to purchase an annual license, Walmart sells it for $40.
Where Can I Get the Fishing Regulations in Michigan?
Michigan has a set of rules and regulations that it strictly implements. These regulations aim to protect and maintain healthy populations of different fish species. They also protect fish habitats by preventing invasive fish and plant species from multiplying.
One of the primary activities regulated by Michigan’s fishing regulations is the catch and release techniques that anglers use. Anglers should ensure that their fishing methods will not harm the fish, allowing it to thrive once put back in the water. For instance, the rules encourage anglers to use rubberized mesh nets and de-hookers to prevent stressing the fish they catch.
Get a PDF copy of the Michigan Fishing Regulations FREE with this shortcut link 👉 Michigan Fishing Regulations PDF
In addition, Michigan’s fishing regulations set a size requirement for catching fish in its waters. Anglers must put the fish they caught back in the water if it is smaller than the size requirement. This rule allows smaller and younger fish to grow, thus keeping their population at a healthy rate.
Michigan requires people 17 years old and older to acquire a fishing license before catching fish in the state’s Great Lakes and inland waters. On the other hand, anglers who are younger than the said age requirement can catch fish without a license. But even without a license, the state’s fishing laws and regulations strictly apply to them.
If an adult is assisting a minor under 17 years of age, this adult should procure a fishing license if they are actively participating in the fishing activity. On the other hand, an adult who does not have a license may assist an underaged angler in fishing preparations such as setting up a fishing rod, baiting the hook, unhooking caught fish, and fixing and landing their net.
Any adult assisting a minor angler should not actively participate in catching fish if they do not have a license. Michigan’s fishing regulations limit their fishing participation to helping a minor angler in catching and releasing fish as well as fixing their fishing equipment.
Your annual Michigan fishing license is valid from March 1 of the year you purchased it until March 31 of the following year. This validity period applies to Michigan residents and non-residents visiting the state for its spectacular waters.
On the other hand, you can choose the validity and expiration period of a one-day license once you purchase it. Meaning you will select the date and time for the license to take effectivity.
If you are a Michigan resident with an annual fishing license, you can opt to renew it automatically once the validity expires. This way, you will always go to the state’s great waters and fish legally there. (source)
As mentioned, anglers who are under 17 years old can fish without a license in Michigan. There is a $2 fishing license for minor anglers but getting one is not mandatory. If you are wondering where these licensing and voluntary fees go, the state uses them to maintain its waters and fish population. It also uses a large portion of the collected fees to fund fishing tournaments.
Anglers 17 years of age and older can fish without a license during the state’s Free Fishing Weekend. The exception from license fees applies to residents and non-residents. This event happens two times a year, so you need to wait for the schedules set by the state if you want to fish without getting a license.
On the other hand, underwater spearfishing does not require a license, irrespective of your residential status. However, you need to create and submit a monthly effort and harvest report.
Residents of Michigan who are active in military services can also fish without a license. All they need is to provide proof of their military status. Meanwhile, military service personnel stationed in Michigan but not residents of the state can purchase their licenses at residence prices. Legally blind residents are also subject to a discount when getting a fishing license. (source)
You can fish without a license on private property as long as your land encloses the entire water where you are fishing. But if the body of water only borders your land or connects to a public body of water, you need to procure a license to catch fish on it. For instance, a river that flows in and out of your property is subject to Michigan’s fishing regulations.
Suppose there is a body of water within your property. In that case, it is not subject to Michigan’s fishing regulations, fishing methods, open and closed seasons, possession limits, and minimum fish sizes. However, possession of fish out of the private property where it was taken is subject to violations if they do not meet the state’s fishing regulations.
Moreover, private property owners with a body of water within their property can designate people who will have the same rights and privileges as they do. This means that the public can fish inside a private property as long as they acquire permission from its owner. (source)
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) takes the responsibility of maintaining and protecting the state’s natural resources. Its jurisdiction applies to fishing activities. That said, DNR enforces violation fines for people caught conducting misdemeanors on the state’s Great Lakes and inland waters.
Failure to follow Michigan’s fishing regulations carries fines that range from $50 to $3,500. The greater your violation, the higher the fine you need to pay. These penalties can also include a jail time of up to 180 days, depending on the severity of your offense.
For instance, fishing without a license in Michigan has a penalty of $250 to $500, costs for prosecution, and imprisonment for not more than three months. (source)
Michigan implements fishing seasons for different species of fish. These fishing seasons aim to protect fish during their spawning season, ensuring the continuous increase of their population. Implementing fishing seasons also allows Michigan’s DNR to limit fishing activities on heavily fished waters.
General catch-and-release fishing in all waters of Michigan is open for the entire year. Note that you need to use fishing methods that will not harm the fish so that they thrive upon release.
The state’s Lower inland walleye, northern pike, and trout season open on April 30, while the Upper Peninsula begins on May 15. Salmon fishing season is open all year on all the waters of Michigan except on Type 1 and 2 streams, where the salmon fishing season opens on April 30.
Moreover, the catch-and-immediate-release season for both largemouth and smallmouth bass is open for the entire year on almost all Michigan waters. Possession season for bass opens on May 28 on all waters except Lake St. Clair and St. Clair and Detroit rivers. For the said rivers, possession season begins on June 18 and closes on December 30.
|Fish Species||Opening Date||Closed Date|
|General Fishing||Open all year for catch-and-release fishing|
|Bass||May 28 (June 18 on Lake St. Claire and St. Claire & Detroit rivers)||December 31|
|Trout||Open all year on Lower Peninsula Great Lakes, St. Clair, and St. Clair & Detroit rivers.Open all year on Type 3 and 4 streams and Type B, C, E, and F lakes.It opens on April 30 for Type 1 and 2 streams||September 30 on Type 1 and 2 streamsOctober 31 on Type A and D lakes|
|Salmon||Open all year on Lower Peninsula Great Lakes, St. Claire, and St. Clair & Detroit rivers.Open all year on Type 3 and 4 streams and Type B, C, E, and F lakes.It opens on April 30 for Type 1 and 2 streams||September 30 on Type 1 and 2 streamsOctober 31 on Type A and D lakes|
|Walleye||Open all year on Lower Peninsula Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair, and St. Clair & Detroit rivers. April 30 on Lower Peninsula inland watersMay 15 on Upper Peninsula Great Lakes, St. Marys River, and inland waters||March 15 on Lower and Upper Peninsula, inland waters, and St. Mary’s River|
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has a list of bodies of water where anglers can fish. There are also maps on DNR’s official website, making it easy for people to find where they can catch fish. (source)
Fishing at night is not illegal in Michigan. The state’s Department of Natural Resources does not have particular fishing laws. However, it is ideal to contact your local authority to check whether particular bodies of water have any restrictions. (source)
Each angler fishing on the waters of Michigan can only have up to three single fishing poles and lines or three single lines. You can also opt for a single fishing pole and line and a single line as long as you will not attach more than six hooks on them. Note that Michigan’s DNR can decrease the number of fishing poles per angler if it deems necessary. (source)
Residents of Michigan who are 65 years of age and older still need a license so they can legally fish in the state’s waters. An annual senior fishing license costs $11 for residents. On the other hand, senior citizens who are not residents of the said state can purchase annual licenses for $76. They can also opt for a 24-hour license that costs $10 per day. (source)
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- Michigan Government Department Of Natural Resources. Free Fishing Weekend. https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/things-to-do/fishing/free-fishing#:~:text=Upcoming%20Free%20Fishing%20Weekend%20dates,for%20all%20species%20of%20fish. Accessed September 1, 2022.
- Michigan Government Department Of Natural Resources. Fishing And Hunting License Information. https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/things-to-do/fishing/license-info. Accessed September 1, 2022.
- Michigan Government Department Of Natural Resources. Licenses & Permits Department Of Natural Resources. https://www.mdnr-elicense.com/Customer/Login?mode=0. Accessed September 1, 2022.
- Michigan Government Department Of Natural Resources. 2022 Michigan Fishing Guide. https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/-/media/Project/Websites/dnr/Documents/LED/digests/2022_fishing_guide_Web.pdf?rev=63050abbf356477fbb2b311b0d90d7d1. Accessed September 1, 2022.
- Law Enforcement Division Public Rights On Michigan Waters. Michigan’s Historical Development. Pg. 4-5. https://www.canr.msu.edu/michiganlakes/uploads/files/FAQPage/MI%20Water%20Laws.pdf. Accessed September 1, 2022.
- Michigan Legislature. Legislative Rules. http://www.legislature.mi.gov/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-324-48739. Accessed September 1, 2022.
- Michigan Government Department Of Natural Resources. Where To Fish. https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/things-to-do/fishing/where. Accessed September 1, 2022.