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Your guide to fishing in Michigan 2024: License requirements, fees and regulations

Anglers gear up each Michigan fishing season to traverse the state's waters, which teem with 154 species of fish including trout, salmon, walleye, blue gill and bass.

Whether you’re a beginner angler or a seasoned professional, it’s important to stay up to date on fishing regulations before you head to the shore or water. Violating a Michigan fishing regulation can result in fines ranging from up to $100 to $2,500, or even jail time for severe offenses.

Before you cast your reel, here’s what you should know about fishing licenses, regulations and reports in Michigan.

Michigan fishing license requirements

  • You must have a fishing license if you are 17 or older.

  • You can fish if you are under the age of 17, but you must observe all fishing rules and regulations.

  • A license is required when targeting fish, amphibians, crustaceans and reptiles.

  • Michigan’s annual fishing license is valid from March 1 through March 31 of the following year.

  • DNR Sportcards are issued to non-residents, minors or individuals without a valid Michigan Driver’s license or State I.D. for a cost of $1. If the information on the DNR Sportcard from a previous year is still accurate, it can continue to be used.

Fishing license fees

  • Resident annual: $26

  • Nonresident annual: $76

  • Senior Annual (residents 65 and over or residents who are legally blind): $11

  • 24-hour (residents or nonresidents): $10 per day

Combination hunt and fish license fees

  • Resident hunt/fish: $76

  • Nonresident hunt/fish: $266

  • Senior hunt/fish (residents 65 and over): $43

Michigan free fishing weekends

The shoreline of Lake St. Clair at the Metropark in Harrison Township on Wednesday, July 19, 2023 only had a couple  of people fishing but come the weekend this area has plenty of those fishing from shore and many more on boats on the popular lake.
The shoreline of Lake St. Clair at the Metropark in Harrison Township on Wednesday, July 19, 2023 only had a couple of people fishing but come the weekend this area has plenty of those fishing from shore and many more on boats on the popular lake.

Michigan offers free fishing weekends two days twice a year. Residents and out-of-state visitors can fish for all species on those days and don't need a recreation passport for entry into state parks or boating access sites.

The winter free fishing weekend is always the Saturday and Sunday of President's Day weekend and the summer weekend is always the Saturday and Sunday following the first full week of June, according to the DNR.

Important Michigan fishing regulations

Lawful fishing methods include artificial lights, bait, bow fishing, crayfish, dip nets, drop-shotting, gaffs, hand nets, hook-and-line fishing, hoop nets, spearing and minnows for personal use. However, there may be restrictions on these methods depending on the location where you are fishing.

A fisherman enjoying a calm day on Lake St. Clair fishing  from his kayak at the Metropark in Harrison Township on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.
A fisherman enjoying a calm day on Lake St. Clair fishing from his kayak at the Metropark in Harrison Township on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

Some key fishing regulations include:

  • Do not take fish outside of the open season for that species.

  • Do not harvest, attempt to harvest, or possess any threatened or endangered species unless authorized by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

  • Do not possess a prohibited or restricted species.

  • Do not possess more than the Michigan daily possession limit for a species when fishing in Michigan waters.

  • Do not snag a fish or possess a fish that was snagged.

  • Do not use cast nets in any inland water.

  • Do not fish with your hands, firearms, explosives, setlines, poisons or methods other than lawful fishing methods.

  • Do not deposit litter, fish offal or any foreign matter in any waters.

Other rules and regulations can be found in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' fishing guide for the current year.

Michigan open seasons

In 2024, some of the open seasons for popular fish include:

Largemouth and smallmouth bass

Lakes Erie has some the best concentrations of smallmouth bass in the world, fish that are not only very numerous but unusually large. This 4--pounder caught Tuesday was typical of the bigger fish that anglers expect to take here.
Lakes Erie has some the best concentrations of smallmouth bass in the world, fish that are not only very numerous but unusually large. This 4--pounder caught Tuesday was typical of the bigger fish that anglers expect to take here.
  • Catch-and-immediate release on all waters: Open for entire year

  • Possession season on all waters, with exception below: May 25 through Dec. 31

  • Possession season on Lake St. Clair and St. Clair and Detroit rivers: June 15 through Dec. 31

Muskellunge

This 35-inch muskellunge was one of ten species of fish landed on the St. Clair River an an afternoon.
This 35-inch muskellunge was one of ten species of fish landed on the St. Clair River an an afternoon.

Only one muskellunge per angler may be harvested per license year.

  • Catch-and-immediate release on all waters: Open for entire year

  • Possession season on all waters, with exception below: June 1 through March 15, 2025

  • Possession season on Lake St. Clair and St. Clair and Detroit rivers: June 1 through Dec. 31

Northern pike and walleye

A small walleye is pulled in on the Twin Pines Resort boat during an evening excursion on Lake Mille Lacs in 2015.
A small walleye is pulled in on the Twin Pines Resort boat during an evening excursion on Lake Mille Lacs in 2015.
  • Possession season on Lower Peninsula Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair and St. Clair and Detroit rivers: Open for entire year

  • Possession season on Lower Peninsula inland waters: April 27 through March 15, 2025

  • Possession season on Upper Peninsula Great Lakes, inland waters and St. Marys River: May 15 through March 15, 2025

Open seasons for other fish in 2024 can be found in this year's MDNR fishing guide. Open seasons for other years can be found in the MDNR fishing guide for that year.

Reporting sturgeon and muskellunge harvests

Caught lake sturgeon wait to be weighed on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 near Black Lake in Cheboygan County.
Caught lake sturgeon wait to be weighed on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 near Black Lake in Cheboygan County.

A sturgeon or muskellunge harvest must be registered within 24 hours. Only one muskellunge may be harvested per angler per license year during established fishing seasons for each species.

Harvest reports can be made to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources by filling out the online form, calling 888-636-7778, using the MDNR Hunt Fish app, or reporting in person at a MDNR Customer Service Center.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan fishing guide 2024: Licenses, regulations, more