There are over 11,000 inland lakes in Michigan and when these lakes take their course to open waters the term "gone fishing" should have the added clause " and don't know when will be back". The waters of Michigan are some of the best in the world of freshwater fishing. The Great Lakes offer some of the best salmon catch. The Au Sable River is perfect to fly fish for trout. The inland lakes and estuaries are teeming with various species of bass, walleye, sunfish, perch, crappie, carp, pike, catfish and more.

During the Free Fishing Weekend, all fishing license fees are waived for two days. However, after this event, purchasing a Michigan fishing license is required. This can be purchased form the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' website or from any legitimate fishing license vendor such as an outdoor sporting goods retailer or a tackle shop in the area.

Michigan's fishing rules and regulations were formulated and strictly implemented for the protection and propagation of healthy fish populations. These regulations may be modified from time to time to synch with present fishing conditions so it is important to for an angler to read current fishing rules and regulations for each fishing trip.

The conservation of the fish populations and the many waterways of Michigan is priority. Each one is highly encouraged to join this movement. One way an angler can help is to make sure his catch and released technique is correct. This will ensure that all caught and released fish will thrive once back in the water. The use of release tools such as dehookers, rubberized mesh nets and such will help in decreasing the stress on the caught fish.

When it comes to fishing, Michigan has a lot to offer. With more than 11,000 inland lakes and long miles of coastline, the state is home to some of the most sought after fish and marine species. The Great Lakes offer some of the best salmon catch, and the Au Sable River is perfect for flying fish for trout. More than these delights, Michigan has a lot more, and you can only experience it if you decide to go and live it yourself. 

But before that, you have to know what requirements you need to secure when fishing in the waters of Michigan. The same with many other states in the U.S.A., Michigan also requires any angler (depending on eligibility) to own a fishing license before they are allowed to fish in its waters. These licenses can be purchased across the state, and the fees vary depending on certain qualification and status. If you still don’t know what kind of license you need to purchase for your next fishing trip to Michigan or you don’t know where to buy one, then this article will lay down everything that you need to know about Michigan fishing licenses and other fishing regulations.

Who is required to possess a Michigan Fishing License? 

All anglers who are 17 years old and older must purchase a Michigan fishing license before they are allowed to fish in any fishing location within the state. Anglers younger than 17 years old are not required to procure a fishing license but are still subject to the same fishing rules and regulations as adult anglers. Please note that adults who are assisting a minor who does not have a license must also have a fishing license. However, an adult without a license who are assisting a minor may: 

  • Help land a fish with a net or their hands
  • Help unhook a fish
  • Set up the fishing rod with the appropriate gear
  • Bait the hook
  • Fix tangles or snags
  • Cast the line for young anglers; however, it should be stressed that the young angler must be an active participant while the adult is only assisting

The different Michigan fishing licenses are required when targeting fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and reptiles in the water. When fishing, you must carry your license and the identification used to purchase your license and exhibit both upon request of a Michigan Conservation Officer, a Tribal Conservation Officer, or any law enforcement officer. In the absence of a paper license, a digital version of the license may be exhibited upon the request of relevant officers. 

How to purchase a Michigan Fishing License? 

There are different ways that you can purchase a Michigan Fishing License. The first option is to buy online. You can visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website or follow this link to buy your fishing license conveniently. 

You can also opt to purchase one in person through the Department of Natural Resources offices and DNR License agents across the state. To find the nearest DNR license agents near you, you can check this comprehensive map for reference. You can also choose to buy one from the DNR Customer Service Center. The closest one can be found on page 65 of this document

Different Types of Licenses in Michigan

Residents and non-resident who are over the age of 17 years old are required to purchase a Michigan fishing license. The cost of the license also varies depending on the type of license, the duration of its validity, and the residency status of the licensee. Here is a summary of the different fishing licenses you can purchase in the state of Michigan: 

License Type


DNR Sportcard


All-Species Fishing Licenses

Resident Annual


Nonresident Annual


Senior Annual (Residents 65 or older or Residents who are legally blind)


24-hour (Resident or Nonresident)


72-hour (Resident or Nonresident)


Combo Hunt/Fish Licenses (Base, Annual Fishing, 2 Deer)

Hunt/Fish Resident


Hunt/Fish Senior Resident


Hunt/Fish Nonresident


If you are a resident or a non-resident angler who wants to fish in the waters of Michigan and you are older than 17 years old, then you can purchase an annual fishing license for only $26.00 (resident) and $76.00 (non-resident). Senior residents, including those who are 65 years and older as well as those who are legally blind, can avail of the annual fishing license for a discounted rate of $11.00. 

Furthermore, if you don’t plan to fish in the waters of Michigan for more than just a few days, then you have an option to purchase a 24-hour or a 72-hour license instead. These licenses are available to both residents and not residents. The 24-hour license can be purchased for $10.00 for both residents and non-residents, while the 72-hour license can be bought for $30.00 for both residents and non-residents. 

Combination licenses are also available, which grants a license to both fish and hunt in the state of Michigan. A resident has to pay $76.00 for an annual combo hunt/fish license while a non-resident needs to pay $266.00 for this license. Please note that resident seniors who are 65 years old and older, as well as those who are legally blind, can purchase a combo license for a discounted rate of $43.00. 

Residency Requirements

As mentioned above, a resident angler can enjoy a lower rate when purchasing an annual fishing license as compared to a non-resident. In order to be qualified as a resident, 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
  • a full-time student at a Michigan college or university, and reside in Michigan, or
  • a member who serves full-time in the U.S. Military and be either officially stationed in Michigan or maintain residency in Michigan.

Please note that owning land or property in Michigan by itself does not qualify you as a resident. When purchasing your license as a resident, you need to present the following requirements: 

  • A valid Michigan Driver's License; or
  • A valid Michigan ID Card (issued by the Secretary of State); 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. NOTE: When purchasing a DNR Sportcard you will be asked to verify your residency with two pieces of proof of residency.

Daily Fishing Limits and other fishing regulation in Michigan

In order to maintain sustainable populations of fish in all the fishing grounds across the state of Michigan, the following fishing regulations are to be followed:


Minimum Size (inches)

Daily Possession Limit

Possession Seasons

Largemouth Bass Smallmouth Bass



3rd. Sat. in June - Dec. 31: L. St. Clair, St. Clair R., Detroit R.

Sat. before Memorial Day - Dec. 31: All other waters including Great Lakes




May 15 – March 15: Upper Peninsula Great Lakes and inland waters, and St. Marys R. Last Sat. in April – March 15: Lower Peninsula inland waters Open All Year: Lower Peninsula Great Lakes, L. St. Clair, St. Clair R. and Detroit R.

Northern Pike



Flathead Catfish



Open All Year

Channel Catfish



Muskellunge (including Tiger Muskellunge)


Only 1 per angler per license year

1st Sat. in June – March 15: All Great Lakes and inland waters and St. Marys R.

1st Sat. in June – Dec. 31: L. St. Clair, St. Clair R. and Detroit R.

Yellow Perch

No size limit


Open All Year


25 in any combination of the listed species

White Bass

25 on Gr. Lakes, L. St. Clair, St. Marys R., St. Clair R., and Detroit R. 10 on inland waters

Lake Whitefish Cisco (Lake Herring)

12 in any combination


No size limit

2 gallons

Open All Year

All others

No size limit

No possession limit

Open All Year

For more information, please consult the DNR Fishing Guideboook

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are non-resident military personnel qualified for any special rates? 

Non-resident, active-duty military personnel officially stationed in Michigan qualify for Michigan resident rates.

Q: What is the date of validity of annual licenses? 

An annual license is valid from the date of purchase all throughout the entire year until March 31 of the next year. The best time purchase a license and to maximize its validity is every March 1. 

Q: Do I need a sturgeon permit to catch it? 

Please note that a sturgeon permit and harvest tag are NO LONGER REQUIRED. However, you must register your sturgeon harvest within 24 hours.