In the State of Michigan, it is illegal to fish without a license unless you are 16-years old or younger. Generally stated, the fee to purchase a license is much less than the penalties imposed should you be caught without one by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or other law enforcement agency. For example, an annual all species license for Michigan residents costs only $26.00 (2021) and $76.00 (2021) for nonresidents. While you or your loved ones may think that going fishing for a day without a license is "no big deal," the State of Michigan's DNR strongly disagrees. Punishments for fishing without a license can be significant.
To purchase a fishing license you must have a:
● A valid Michigan Driver’s License; OR
● A valid Michigan ID Card; OR
● A valid License from your state of residency; OR
● A DNR Sportcard (issued to non-residents, minors, or any individual who does
not have a valid Michigan Driver's License or State ID).
To qualify for a resident fishing license you must be residing in Michigan with the intent to remain, a full-time student at a Michigan college/university and be living here, OR serve full time in the Military and be either stationed or maintain residency in Michigan.
If you are assisting a minor with fishing, you do not have to have a license IF you are only doing the following:
● Helping land a fish with a net or hands
● Helping unhook a fish
● Setting up the fishing rod with the appropriate gear
● Baiting the hook
● Fixing tangles or snags
● Casting the line for young anglers. The young angler MUST be an active
participant and the adult can only be assisting.
While fishing you must carry your license and the identification used to purchase that license so that you can show it to a DNR/law enforcement officer if asked. If you are caught fishing without a license you can be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail AND/OR a fine between $25 and $250.00. If you are found to have been ineligible in the first place for a license, it could lead to 180 days or less in jail AND/OR a fine between $500.00 and $2,500.00. Fishing out of season can also lead to a fine between $50 and $500 AND/OR up to 90 days in jail.
Make sure you research the area you will be fishing on the Department of Natural Resources website before going out to make sure you are fishing in season and with the correct equipment. The Department of Natural Resources offenses are often particularized and hard to follow. If you or your loved one run into issues with the DNR or other law enforcement agency while out fishing, please make sure to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.