Commercial Fishing Licenses

Commercial Fishing License example

Commercial Fishing License FAQs

Commercial License and Permit Fees 2021-2022

The following licenses can be purchased to participate in commercial fishing in North Carolina state ocean and estuarine waters. Application forms can be found in the appropriate section of this page, but please read the application instructions document before downloading. 

For information on additional federal permits that may be required for some species, click here.

Some commercial licenses issued by NCDMF can be transferred or assigned to another person. For more information on transfers and assignments, see below.

License Types and Information

Standard or Retired Standard Commercial Fishing License

Standard or Retired Standard Commercial Fishing License

The Standard Commercial Fishing License is an annual license for commercial fishermen who harvest and sell fish, shrimp, crab or any marine species, except menhaden, and shellfish. To harvest shellfish, fishermen must elect the shellfish endorsement to their Standard Commercial Fishing License, or purchase a Shellfish License. To be eligible for this license, an individual or business must have a current/valid Standard or Retired Standard Commercial Fishing License for the previous license year. This license can be transferred and assigned. A Commercial Fishing Vessel Registration will be required for fishermen who use boats to harvest seafood. Fishermen holding this license can only sell their catch to a licensed fish dealer.

Expiration Date: June 30 of each year

Type Residents Non-Residents
SCFL $400 

Fee varies based on state of residency. For non-resident fees for the current license year, click here.

RSCFL $200 $260

Standard (SCFL) or Retired (RSCFL) Commercial Fishing License RENEWAL Application with Instructions

Retired Standard Commercial Fishing License (RSCFL) CONVERT to Standard Fishing License (SCFL) with Instructions

Note: If you do not possess a Standard Commercial Fishing Licenses or Retired Standard Commercial Fishing Licenses you may apply for one through the Eligibility Board. Licenses are distributed to persons meeting established criteria, including past involvement in commercial fishing, degree of reliance on commercial fishing and other factors. For information about applying for a license through the Eligibility Board, click here.

Commercial Fishing Vessel Registration

Commercial Fishing Vessel Registration

A Commercial Fishing Vessel Registration will be required annually for commercial fishermen who use boats to harvest seafood. This registration can be purchased independent of an individual’s fishing license and is separate from the Wildlife Resource Commission’s (WRC) boat registration. The registration fee is based on boat length. A decal will be issued to legally registered vessels — this decal must be affixed to the vessel and all previous vessel license decals must be removed. This registration can be transferred.

Expiration Date: June 30 of Each Year

Fee: The fee for a Commercial Fishing Vessel Registration is based on the length of the vessel and is calculated on a price per foot.

Length Fee
0-18 feet $1.25/ft
> 18-38 feet $1.90/ft
> 38-50 feet $3.75/ft
> 50 feet $7.50/ft

For sample calculations based on vessel length, click here.

Commercial Fishing Vessel Registration Application

Commercial Fishing Vessel Registration Transfer Application

Shellfish License

Shellfish License

The Shellfish License is an annual license available to any North Carolina resident - residents from other states are not eligible. There are no previous license requirements to qualify for this license. This license allows the commercial harvest of shellfish and the sale of shellfish to a licensed fish dealer. If a boat is used in a shellfish operation, that boat must have a commercial fishing vessel registration. This license, or a shellfish endorsement on a standard commercial fishing license, is required for fishermen taking shellfish from public or privately held grounds. This license cannot be transferred or assigned.

Expiration Date: June 30 of each year

Fee: $50

Shellfish License Application

Land or Sell License

Land or Sell License

The Land or Sell License is an annual license which allows nonresident vessel owners to offload any catch that was caught beyond the 3-mile ocean limit. This license must be purchased prior to offloading. This license cannot be transferred or assigned.

Expiration Date: June 30 of each year

Fee:

  • Resident  - $400
  • Non-resident  - Varies based on state of residency. For non-resident fees for the current license year, click here.

Land or Sell License Application

License to Land Flounder From the Atlantic Ocean

License to Land Flounder From the Atlantic Ocean

The License to Land Flounder From the Atlantic Ocean is an annual license which allows fishermen to land more than 100 pounds of ocean-caught flounder. The vessel used in the fishing operations must have been licensed (vessel license or land or sell ETS) by the Division of Marine Fisheries during two of the years between 1993-1995. The applicant must also have documented landings from a single vessel of at least 1,000 pounds of ocean-caught flounder in two of the years between 1993-1995. This license can be transferred, but it cannot be assigned.

Expiration Date: June 30 of each year

Fee: $0

To obtain an application for this license, contact Carolyn Piner, License Clerk, at 252-808-8035

Fish Dealer License

Fish Dealer License

The Fish Dealer License is an annual license available only to North Carolina residents with a physical address/established location in North Carolina. Fish Dealers are required to buy seafood only from licensed commercial fishermen. This license is required for anyone who buys seafood directly from a fisherman and is also required for fishermen who sell their catch to the public. All fish and shellfish must be purchased from a licensed dealer to resell. 

A Fish Dealer License is also required for ocean fishing pier operators or other people that deal in bait. To deal in bait (i.e., purchase bait from a licensed fisherman, or catch and sell bait to the public), a Fish Dealer License with either a shrimp or finfish category is required.

Expiration Date: June 30 of each year

Fee: $100 per category

Available categories include: 

  • Finfish
  • Clams
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Hard or Soft Crabs
  • Scallops

Note: A new license application fee ($100) will be required for first-time Fish Dealer License applicants or for those that renew a Fish Dealer License after successive years of non-renewal.

A additional certification is required to sell shellfish (oysters, clams, and mussels) in North Carolina by the DMF Shellfish Sanitation — call 252-726-6827 regarding certification requirements.

Fish Dealer License Application

License Transfers

License Transfers

A license transfer is a permanent transfer of license priveleges to another person. The person transferring the license retains no rights or interest to the license once it is transferred.

Licenses that can be transferred include:

  • Standard Commercial Fishing License
  • Retired Standard Commercial Fishing License
  • Commercial Fishing Vessel Registration
  • License to Land Flounder from the Atlantic Ocean

 

SCFL or RSCFL Transfer Application

License Assignments

License Assignments

A license assignment is a temporary transfer of license priveleges to another person. The person assigning the license delegates the privileges permitted under the license to an assignee, but retains the power to revoke the assignment at any time and is still the responsible party for the license. 

The only license that can be assigned is the Standard Commercial Fishing License.

Permits

Permits

Estuarine Gill Net Permit

An Estuarine Gill Net Permit will be required for anyone setting anchored gill nets in estuarine waters beginning September 1, 2014, whether for commercial or recreational purposes. The permit is free of charge and is available at any division license office, on our website, or by calling a division office and requesting an application. Refer to proclamation number M-24-2014 and the list of Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Expiration Date: June 30 of each year

Fee: $0

Estuarine Gill Net Permit Application
 

Pound Net Set Permit

The use of a pound net or any part of one in joint or coastal fishing waters of North Carolina requires this permit. A 90-day application process begins once the completed application is received by the Fisheries Management office. During this process, there is a 20-day public notice period during which staff and the public may comment upon the proposed pound net set. A SCFL or RSCFL is required to apply. 

Expiration Date: Valid for one year from date of issuance

Fee: $0 

Email Jennifer Lewis or call the DMF Fisheries Management Office in Morehead City at 1-800-682-2632 for more information and to obtain an application for this permit. 
 

Atlantic Ocean Striped Bass Commercial Gear Permit

This permit is required to participate in the commercial striped bass fishery in the Atlantic Ocean. Only one permit per person or business is allowed. Persons with assigned SCFL’s are eligible for a permit. Gear declarations are binding for three years.

Atlantic Ocean Striped Bass Commercial Gear Permit Application
 

Issuable Permits

Issuable permits include: Striped Bass Dealer Permit, Atlantic Ocean Flounder Dealer Permit, Spiny Dogfish Dealer Permit, Black Sea Bass – North of Cape Hatteras Dealer Permit, Blue Crab Shedding Permit, Horseshoe Crab Biomedical Use Permit, and Monkfish Large Mesh Gill Net Permit.

Application Form for Issuable Permits
 

Aquaculture Permits

Visit the Aquaculture Permits page to learn about the permits needed for aquaculture.

Recreational Fishing Tournament License

Recreational fishing tournaments that want to sell fish caught from a tournament are required to purchase a Recreational Fishing Tournament License to Sell Fish.

Recreational Fishing Tournament License to Sell Fish Application

Required Documentation

Required Documentation

Fishermen MUST provide the following information to receive a license:

  • Picture identification of applicant or responsible party. Includes drivers license, State identification card, military identification card, resident alien card or passport.
  • For a standard or retired commercial fishing license, bring all 1999 Endorsement to Sell license receipts and/or cards. 
  • For a commercial vessel registration: Valid vessel registration or U.S. Coast Guard documentation.
  • For a corporation: Current articles of incorporation with a list of all corporate officers.
  • For a partnership: Written partnership agreement (if partnership is established by such an agreement).
  • For an ocean pier license: Marine Patrol certification of pier length.
  • For a spotter plane license: Copy of aircraft registration.
  • For a fish dealer’s license: 1999 permanent seafood dealer reporting number (number reported on trip tickets)
  • In addition, applicants will be asked to certify their residency, whether their state taxes have been paid and whether they have had any fishing violations within the past three years. Each license sales location will have a notary available for the applicant’s convenience.

If purchasing licenses by mail, photocopies of the above items will be accepted with the original application. Only the Morehead City License Office will accept license applications by mail. 

For businesses, there may be additional requirements. Please call the nearest license office for details.

Residency Requirements 

Generally, resident State licenses may be used only by those who have resided in North Carolina for six months or who have been domiciled in the State for 60 days. When Domicile is used to establish eligibility, the applicant must complete a certificate, available from Division of Marine Fisheries’ license offices, certifying that they have maintained their residence in a county of the State for at least 60 days with the intent to reside there permanently or indefinitely.

Nonresident members of the armed forces, including their spouses and children under 18, who are stationed in North Carolina are deemed residents of the State in which they are stationed or reside for the purpose of purchasing resident licenses.

 

Other Information

Other Information

Replacing a License

License holders can apply for replacements for lost or destroyed licenses, once the Division of Marine Fisheries has determined that the applicant’s current license has not been suspended or revoked. Click here for a list of sales locations.

Shellfish Leases

To learn more about the shellfish leases, view the Shellfish Lease and Franchise page, and to learn about the permits required for aquaculture activities, view the Aquaculture Permits page.

NCDEQ Permit Directory 

This permit directory, produced by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, centralizes all of the department’s permit information. It is a guide that covers North Carolina’s most commonly required environmental permits, licenses, certifications, approvals, etc. By using this directory, NCDEQ hopes that you can quickly gain an initial understanding of regulatory requirements for various permitted activities. 

View the NCDEQ Permit Directory