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Michigan fishing license 2023: How much does it cost and how to apply

Man holds fish.
Seth Cunningham goes fishing in Lake Michigan nearly everyday, where he said he usually catches trout or salmon.
  • Fishing licenses can be purchased from the Department of Natural resources online or in store at various locations 
  • Licenses range between $2 and $26 and are valid until March 31 of the following year 

As hunting season comes to a close and open-water fishing season begins, Michigan residents can begin purchasing or renewing their fishing license. 

Adults are required to purchase a license to catch fish, amphibians, crustaceans and reptiles in Michigan; the license is valid through March 31 of the following year. 

Seth Cunningham, 29, said he has been fishing since he was 8 years old. 

“I just like … being in nature, the outdoors and fishing with friends,” he said. The Holland native told Bridge Michigan he fishes in Lake Michigan three to four times a week, and usually catches trout or salmon. “There’s not many states that have the opportunities that we have here. There’s something for everybody which is nice.”

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Cunningham’s is a dwindling pastime: Hunting and fishing participation in Michigan has been waning for years. Last year was no exception, with fishing license purchases down 3.4 percent from the 1.31 million sold in 2021.

Those declines come amid uncertainty for the future of some popular Michigan fishing streams, as climate change warms the water. That is raising questions inside the Department of Natural Resources about how to regulate fishing to protect coldwater fish already stressed by warm waters.

At a meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission earlier this month, commissioners considered the topic of so-called “hoot owl regulations” that would require anglers to stop fishing by midday on hot summer days, when fish are already stressed by the sun’s heat.

DNR fisheries manager Gary Whelan told commissioners that such regulations may not work in Michigan rivers like the Au Sable, where stream temperatures don’t neatly follow the patterns needed for hoot owl regulations to benefit trout.

But he warned commissioners that as rivers warm, some of today’s trout streams will cease to support the beloved sportfish.


“We’re going to run into real issues with trout in the distant future, and probably not too long into the future,” Whelan said. “I would not be surprised to see some of our current trout waters … shift away from being trout waters.”

Fishing licenses are $26 for residents and $76 for nonresidents. Michigan seniors who are 65 and older can purchase a license for $11 while youth 17 and younger can purchase one for $2. Day passes for anyone, resident or nonresident are $10.

The Department of Natural resources uses the revenue generated from the licenses to pay for conservation officers, fish hatcheries, and other efforts that benefit anglers.

“We have fish hatcheries located across the state where we raise sport fish from eggs like walleye, pike and sometimes trout and salmon,” said John Pepin, spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources.  “Then we release them into bodies of water to provide opportunities for anglers to go out and catch those fish.”    


Fishing license-holders can fish in any of the Great Lakes and inland waters, from walleye’s popular walleye fishery to the spring steelhead run on the Betsie River. Fishing licenses can be purchased online on the Department of Natural Resources website or in person at a DNR office, snowmobile dealerships and at other licensed agent  locations

Since Michigan shares the Great Lakes with Canada and other states, license holders have to be cautious where they fish because a Michigan license is only valid within the state’s water border.  

“Your catch limits are different, your size limits can be different so you really have to understand the regulations if you cross over into another state or country’s water,” said Paul Laurain, 39 of Sterling Heights. 

In Canada, fishers and hunters must purchase an outdoor card for $8.57 in addition to a fishing license, which is $83.19 for non-residents. In Ohio fishing licenses are $50.96 for non residents, and $60 in Indiana

Laurain said each year he purchases a license in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Canada. 

“Even if you step five feet over the water border … you have to have an Indiana license.” 

People who don’t fish often but want to check it off of their bucket list can do so for free. The DNR sponsors two two free fishing weekends where fees are waived for two days. The winter weekend was on Feb. 18 and 19 and again this summer on June 10 and 11.

“Michigan has more shorelines than any other state except for Alaska,” said Pepin. “Wherever you are in Michigan you’re only within six miles away from some body of water or Great Lake so that provides all kinds of fishing opportunities. "

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