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Virginia Fishing Licenses and Regulations

Virginia is known for having amazing lakes, ponds, and rivers. It also has great saltwater Fishing, via Virginia Beach. Anglers from all over the country put it on their top places to fish list. Simply put, it’s a fisherman’s dream.

The catch? You’ll probably need to get a Virginia fishing License to legally fish there. You’ll also need to brush up on the state’s fishing regulations before you set out on the water.

Here’s some information to help you learn the rules and types of Virginia Fishing Licenses that are available to you: 

Recreational fishing licenses

If you’re into fishing for fun and sport, this is the license you’ll need. There are many types of recreational fishing licenses issued by the DGIF. They have different prices. They’re divided into resident and nonresident licenses. Resident licenses are typically less expensive.

You can also click the above link to see if you’re exempt from needing a fishing license at all. The link also lists the qualifications for residency.

The price of your fishing license also depends on how long it’s valid. For example, a one-year license is cheaper than a four-year license. However, long-term licenses are a better bargain.

If you’re a resident and plan on living in Virginia for years to come, then buy a longer-lasting license. A lifetime license would work best for permanent residents. If you’re just visiting, then a five-day non-resident license would be ideal. Let the situation dictate your choice.

Recreational fishing licenses may be purchased online.

Commercial fishing licenses: 

If you plan on selling the fish you catch, you’ll need a commercial fishing license. Here’s some detailed information on Virginia commercial fishing licenses.

Commercial licenses are typically for catching large amounts of non-game fish. Transporting fish for the purpose of sale is also covered when you get this license. However, you may need additional permits to legally carry fish across the state. Commercial freshwater fishing licenses can be purchased at any of the locations mention here.

Virginia freshwater license

This license allows you to legally fish public freshwaters in Virginia. Freshwater licenses are offered to both residents and non-residents.

You may acquire both recreational and commercial freshwater licenses. There are a variety of freshwater license options offered through the DGIF.

Virginia saltwater license

To fish the Atlantic Ocean for species like tuna, blue marlin, and mackerel, you’ll need this license. The prices for saltwater licenses vary, depending on the specific license. Keep in mind that you may also need a special license to operate specific saltwater boats. 

Freshwater fishing regulations 

Daily catch limit: 

Certain non-game fish have no daily catch limit. However, many gamefish in Virginia are protected by regulation.

You’ll need to know how many fish you can keep per day. For example, in the South Houston Reservoir, you’re allowed to keep seven trout per day. If you’re targeting Roanoke bass in the Nottoaway River, the daily catch limit would be five.

In other words, the limit varies depending on fish species. This variance applies to both freshwater and saltwater fish. Here’s a more detailed list of daily catch limits.

Length limit: 

Certain species of fish must be of legal length to keep. There is minimum and maximum length limit. Here’s an example of each –

Minimum length limit:

In Flannagan Reservoir, bass must be at least 12 inches in length to keep.

Maximum length limit: 

In Briery Creek, you can keep just one bass per day longer than 24 inches.

Saltwater fishing regulations 

Many of the same general rules apply for saltwater fishing. There is a daily catch limit and length limit for ocean gamefish as well. For example, the minimum keeping length for Atlantic red drum is 18 inches. The daily catch limit is one.

Commercial freshwater fishing gear 

There are rules when it comes to commercial fishing gear. For example, you’ll need to know how to legally use:

  • hooks
  • trotlines
  • snag lines
  • hoop nets
  • dip nets
  • minnow traps

Using baitfish

You’ll also need to know how to legally use baitfish in Virginia. There are possession limits for many live baits. For example, you can have only 50 crayfish in your possession, but you can use an unlimited amount of shad or trout. The trout must be artificially raised.

Fishing for trout

Trout fishing has some special requirements you’ll need to know. For example, certain waters do not allow the use of live bait to fish for trout. You must use artificial lures at these locations.

There is also information about the months these rules apply. All the updated trout information can also be found on the above detailed list link.

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Virginia Fishing Licenses and Regulations


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