Virginia Fishing Licenses, Laws, and Regulations
Virginia is home to one of the most diverse and unique fishing opportunities in the United States. The state offers over 176,000 acres of public lakes and 27,300 miles of fishable creeks with many freshwater streams. Due to its excellent location, anglers can experience the salt water seas of the Atlantic Ocean. For those looking for a more regulated environment, anglers can also experience unique shore, pier and boat angling.
Virginia has over 2,800 miles of trout streams along with an abundance of ponds, small lakes, and reservoirs. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is expected to spot trout from fall through spring. With all of these resources available, it’s no surprise that 80,000 anglers visit Virginia each year.
Seasoned anglers will be delighted to learn that there are more than 30 species of freshwater fish in the state’s lakes, rivers, and streams. The famous Virginia Scenic River has 815 miles of available fishing grounds and there are over 22 state rivers, creeks, lakes, or ponds. Although there are thousands of anglers across the country, there is plenty of fish for everyone.
Got a Virginia fishing license
There are several ways to obtain a fishing license for both residents and non-residents of Virginia.
Personally: You can go through the hundreds of license agents across the Commonwealth
Phone: Individuals can call 866-721-6911 to make a purchase.
Online website: You can visit the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website to purchase your desired licenses. Please follow the steps below:
- Visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website: https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/licenses/.
- Click on the green button “Buy online now”.
- Go to the upper left corner where it says “Licenses and Permits” and click the Go to Site button.
- You will be redirected to a website where you can create a new account for new Go Outdoors customers or log in as an existing customer. With this portal you can make purchases, view or print your licenses and permits, submit harvest reports and check game activity as well as manage your customer account.
- For new customers, please include your date of birth, the customer’s last name and the last four of your social security number to register.
- Next, fill out the registration form. The first question pertains to your current residency status, whether you are currently a Virginia resident or non-resident but are a VA college student, a U.S. military currently stationed in VA, or just a non-resident. From there, enter additional information such as name, gender, birthday, ethnicity, social security, identification documents, email, phone, and mailing address. When you’re done, click the button to create a customer profile.
- When you’re done, you can click the button to proceed with purchasing your desired license.
- A page will appear with all the possible licenses, permits, consents, stamps, and memberships available for purchase. Click the Add to Cart button and proceed to checkout.
- Enter your payment information and complete your purchase.
- Once your purchase is complete, you will receive an email confirmation with your details. And you can print your licenses and permits from the Virginia DGIF portal.
Who Do I Need a Virginia Fishing License?
Residents aged 16 and over:
All residents 16 years of age or older must have a state or county freshwater fishery license. For people who want to fish for trout, these people also want to have a trout license. For those looking to catch in National Forests like George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, you’ll need a National Forest Stamp.
Foreigners aged 16 and over:
All non-residents who are 16 years of age or older require some form of freshwater fishing license, be it an annual, daily, or 5-day fishing license. Non-residents of all ages who wish to fish for trout must also have an additional foreign trout license. Just like local residents, anglers who wish to fish in national waters such as George Washington and Jefferson Forest require a National Forest Stamp in addition to fishing licenses.
Exceptions to the fishing license
The following people who fall under one of these categories do not need a fishing license:
- Residents under 16 years of age. These people do not need a trout license either.
- Landowners and their immediate family members (spouses, children and grandchildren) within the boundaries of their land
- Tenants from landowners with written permission to fish in certain areas without a license
- Guest fishing in privately owned ponds
- Non-residents under 12 years of age
- Persons who are legally blind
Resident fishing license qualification:
To obtain a resident fishing license, one must be a qualified resident. Individuals who have resided in the state for six consecutive months prior to the date of application for a fishing license.
Types of Virginia Fishing Licenses and Fees
Below is the full list of all Virginia licenses with their separate fees.
Residence permit and fees
|Sportsman’s License (from 16 years) Includes everything: hunting license, bear license, deer / turkey license, archery license, muzzle loading license, freshwater fishing license and trout license||$ 100|
|Residents of the district / town fishing for fresh water||$ 16|
|Resident state freshwater fishing license (from 16 years)|
|1 year license||$ 23|
|2 year license||$ 44|
|3 year license||$ 65|
|4 year license||$ 86|
|Resident State Fresh / Saltwater Fishing||$ 39.50|
|Residence permit for saltwater fishing||$ 17.50|
|South Holston Reservoir Fishing License – Allows anglers to fish in the waters of South Holston Reservoir upstream of the dam in Tennessee and Virginia.||$ 21|
|Resident 5 days freshwater fishing (5 consecutive days – not valid for trout waters)||$ 14|
|Resident 5 days fresh / saltwater fishing (5 days in a row – not valid for trout waters)||$ 24|
|Resident 10 days of saltwater fishing (10 consecutive days)||$ 10|
|Resident sport fishing with tide boats||$ 126|
|Population 65 and older. Annual freshwater fishing||$ 9|
|Resident Trout Fishing (October 1 to June 15)||$ 23|
Non-resident license and fees
A valid non-resident trout license is required in addition to other permits if you fish in stocked trout waters from October 1 to June 15 for $ 47 per year and $ 555 for life.
|Non-resident state freshwater fishing (ages 16+)||$ 47|
|Non-resident saltwater fishing license||$ 25|
|Non-resident state freshwater / saltwater fisheries||$ 71|
|Non-resident 1-day fishing water fishing||$ 8|
|5-day freshwater fishing for non-residents (5 consecutive days)||$ 21|
|10-day saltwater fishing license for non-residents (10 days in a row)||$ 10|
|5-day freshwater and saltwater fishing for non-residents(5 consecutive days)||$ 31|
|Non-resident tide boat sport fishing||$ 201|
|Trout fishing by non-residents (October 1 to June 15)
Required when fishing in stocky waters.
Other licenses and fees for specific areas
|In the Clinch Mountain, Crooked Creek, and Douthat State Park fishing areas is one Daily permit required||$ 8|
|National forest permit||$ 4|
|Permission to use the Virginia State Forest||$ 16|
|County Dip Net Permit||$ 4.50|
|Public Access Lands for Sportsmen (PALS) Permit – for Lake Merriweather in Rockbridge County||$ 18|
License renewal in Virginia
To renew your fishing license, visit your online portal in the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Go to your account and renew your expired permits. You can also call Customer Service at 1-866-721-6911 or by email CustomerService@dgif.virginia.gov.
Expiry of the fishing license: For both resident and non-resident licenses, fishing licenses are valid for one year from the date of purchase, unless otherwise stated. For example, you can purchase a two-year license or a different term.
Virginia Fish Size and Limits
Limits for Virginia Trout: For trout in Virginia, the trout season is open year round. The statewide limits are 6 per day, and no fish caught can be less than 7 inches.
Creel and length limits: Trout, lesser mouth and spotted bass
Note: Only 5 can be caught per day and there are no national length restrictions.
Fish size and limits (lakes)
|Briery Creek Lake||No bass 16 to 24 inches, just 1 a day longer than 24 inches|
|Buggs Island Lake / Kerr Reservoir||Only 2 out of 5 basses smaller than 14 inches|
|Claytor Lake||No smallmouth less than 14 inches; 15 spotted basses per day|
|Flannagan reservoir||No bass under 12 inches|
|Lake Gaston||Only 2 out of 5 basses smaller than 14 inches|
|Leesville Reservoir||Only 2 out of 5 basses smaller than 14 inches|
|Lake Moomaw||No bass under 12 inches|
|Philpott reservoir||No bass under 12 inches|
|Quantico Marine Base waters||No bass 12 to 15 inches|
|Smith Mt. Lake and its tributaries below the Niagara Dam||Only 2 out of 5 basses smaller than 14 inches|
|South Holston Reservoir||No narrow mouth less than 15 inches, 15 spotted bass a day|
Fish size and limits (rivers)
|Clinch flow||No bass under 20 inches, just one bass a day longer than 20 inches|
|Dan River and tributaries||Only 2 out of 5 basses smaller than 14 inches|
|James River||No bass 14 to 22 inches, only 1 per day longer than 22 inches|
|Levisa Fork River||No bass under 20 inches, just one bass a day longer than 20 inches|
|New river||No bass 14 to 22 inches, only 1 per day longer than 22 inches|
|North Fork Holston River||No bass 14 to 22 inches, only 1 per day longer than 22 inches|
|North Fork Shenandoah River||No bass 11 to 14 inches|
|the Potomac||No bass under 15 inches from March 1st to June 15th|
|Staunton (Roanoke) River||Only 2 out of 5 basses smaller than 14 inches|
|Shenandoah River||No bass 11 to 14 inches|
|The base of the Warren Dam||No bass 14 to 20 inches, only 1 per day longer than 20 inches|
|Rt. 17/50 bridge downstream||No bass 11 to 14 inches|
|South Fork Shenandoah River||No bass 11 to 14 inches|
|The base of the Shenandoah Dam||No bass 14 to 20 inches, only 1 per day longer than 20 inches|
|The base of the Luray Dam||No bass 11 to 14 inches|
|Staunton River||No smallmouth bass less than 20 inches, only 1 per day longer than 20 inches|
Walleye and Saugeye borders
The law only allows you to catch 5 per day and cannot be less than 18 inches.
|New River upstream of Buck Dam in Carroll County||No pikeperch less than 20 inches|
|New River downstream from Claytor Dam||No pikeperch less than 18 inches|
|Claytor Lake and the New River upstream from Claytor Lake Dam to Buck Dam in Carroll County||February 1st – May 31st: 2 pikeperch per day; no pikeperch 19 to 28 inches|
|Claytor Lake and the New River upstream from Claytor Lake Dam to Buck Dam in Carroll County||June 1st – January 31st: 5 pikeperch per day; no pikeperch less than 20 inches|
|Mammal||2 per day
No national length restrictions
|N / A||N / A|
|White bass||5 per day
No national length restrictions
|South Holston Reservoir||just catch and let go|
|Buggs Island Lake / Kerr Reservoir||10 per day; no white bass under 14 inches|
|Chain picker||5 per day
No national length restrictions
|Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake / Kerr Reservoir||No daily limit|
|Northern pike||2 per day
No pike smaller than 20 inches
|N / A||N / A|
|Muscle lungs||2 per day
No muscle lungs under 30 inches
|New river||1 per day
No muscle lungs under 42 inches
|Bluegill||50 per day, no national length restrictions||Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake / Kerr Reservoir||No daily limit|
|Crappie (black or white)||25 per day, no national length restrictions||Lake Gaston||None|
|Buggs Island Lake / Kerr Reservoir, Briery Creek and Sandy River Reservoirs||No crappie smaller than 9 inches|
|Flannagan and South Holston Reservoirs||No crappie smaller than 10 inches|
|Trout||6 per day
7 inch minimum size
|No minimum size limit||South Holston Reservoir||Seven fish a day – only two lake trout. No minimum size|
|catfish||20 per day
No length restrictions
|All rivers below the fall line||No daily limit|
Fishing in Virginia
When it comes to fishing in Virginia, there are a multitude of options. There are lakes, rivers, streams, trout waters, urban waters, public boat access, accessible fishing and boating, and saltwater fishing. For trout fishing, Lexington County Reservoir, Mills Creek and Coles Run Reservoir, Lake Moomaw, Mossy Creek and Rapidan were voted top trout spots. For example, many trout in Lexington County measure about 9 to 13 inches and offer 22 acres of water.
For anglers who love boat fishing, Bear Creek Lake in Cumberland, Virginia is a fantastic spot. It has 40 acres of lake with boat docks, fishing piers and boat rentals. The park includes fish such as largemouth bass, bluegill fish, red-eared bluegill, black crappie, and channel catfish. Mossy Creek is known for being a place for seasoned fly fishermen. Brown trout can grow up to 25 inches here.