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New license requirement for inland fishing guides begins March 1

Beginning Friday, March 1, sport fishing guides operating in Michigan will need an inland guide license to take clients on guided trips on inland lakes, rivers or streams. The license is required for anyone guiding on any water except the Great Lakes, Great Lakes connecting waters and bodies of water with a surface area of less than 5 acres.

Great Lakes connecting waters refers to specific bodies of water in Michigan that connect the Great Lakes: the St. Marys River, the St. Clair River (beginning at the Fort Gratiot Light), Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River (beginning at the imaginary line extending due south of the Windmill Point Light, Wayne County, and ending at the imaginary east/west line drawn through the most southernly point of Celeron Island).

An inland sport fishing guide can get a license by completing the following steps:

  1. Complete the questionnaire, which will be available March 1. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will review responses to verify license requirements are met. Applicants will be notified via email within five business days. If the requirements are not met, applicants will be notified that additional eligibility steps are needed.
  2. Applicants who meet the requirements and receive notification of DNR approval can obtain their license via the DNR’s online licensing program or the DNR Hunt Fish app.

The resident license fee is $150, and a nonresident license fee is $300. The inland sport fishing guide license is valid for three years after the date it is issued. Captains who possess a valid U.S. Coast Guard-issued captain’s license will receive a license fee waiver.

“This is a new statutory requirement for inland fishing guides, and DNR staff has been working to determine the best way to implement it for everyone’s ease of use,” said Brandon Kieft, assistant chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “As with any new regulatory requirement, it will take time to adjust to it. Our main focus during the early stages of this new program is to make sure that everyone who wants to operate as an inland fishing guide is aware of the need for this license.”

License requirements

To be eligible for a sport fishing guide license, an applicant must:

  • Possess a valid certification in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation issued by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association, and be able to provide a copy of the certification to the DNR upon request.
  • Possess a valid, lawfully obtained Michigan driver’s license issued under the Michigan vehicle code, an official state personal identification card or a DNR-issued Sportcard.
  • Have not been convicted of a felony or other violation listed within MCL 324.48714a(2)(c) in the last three years.
  • Be eligible to purchase a license for the fish species targeted while acting as a sport fishing guide.
  • Possess a valid state inland pilot’s license issued by the DNR or a valid captain’s license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, if you intend to operate a watercraft while acting as a sport fishing guide.
  • Possess, while acting as a sport fishing guide, a basic first aid kit that includes, but is not limited to, all of the following: tourniquet, chest seals, compression gauze, CPR mask, trauma shears, sterile eyewash, mylar emergency blanket, bandages, moleskin and tweezers.

If you have questions about the DNR inland pilot’s license, contact the DNR Law Enforcement Division representative at your nearest DNR Customer Service Center.

Mandatory reporting

Beginning April 1, 2024, all licensed inland sport fishing guides must file an electronic report of their monthly catch activity for all trips that occurred on all waters except the Great Lakes, Great Lakes connecting waters, and lakes or ponds with a surface area of less than 5 acres. Details about the reporting requirements are available on the inland fishing guides webpage. Guides who have questions regarding submitting monthly catch activity reports or how to obtain an inland sport fishing guide license can contact Kendra Kozlauskos at 231-330-2845 or

This new program is in addition to the existing requirements for the Great Lakes charter boat program. Visit the Great Lakes charter boat program webpage for more information.

An accompanying photo is available below for download. Caption information follows.

  • Fishing: Starting March 1, 2024, the sport fishing guide license is required in Michigan for anyone guiding on any water except the Great Lakes, Great Lakes connecting waters and bodies of water with a surface area of less than 5 acres.