Florida

Virginia is home to one of the most diverse and unique angling opportunities in the United States. The state offers over 176,000 acres of public lakes and 27,300 miles of fishable streams with many freshwater streams. Due to its excellent location, anglers can experience the saltwater sea of the Atlantic Ocean. For those looking for a more regulated environment, anglers can also experience a unique bank, pier, and boat fishing.

Virginia has over 2,800 miles of trout streams along with a plethora of ponds, small lakes, and reservoirs. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries predictably stock up on trout from the fall through spring seasons. With all of these resources available, it’s no surprise that 80,000 anglers visit Virginia every year. 

For more experienced anglers, you’ll be excited to know 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 area, and there are over 22 state rivers, streams, lakes, or ponds. Even though there are thousands of anglers nationwide, there is plenty of fish stocked to go around for everyone. 

Getting a Virginia Fishing License

For both residents and non-residents of Virginia, there are several ways that you can purchase a fishing license. 

In-person: You can walk in through the hundreds of license agents throughout the Commonwealth

Phone: Individuals may call the phone number 866-721-6911 to make a purchase. 

Online Website: You can go to 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 that states, “Buy Online Now.”
  • Go to the top left-hand corner where it says “Licenses & Permits,” and click on the Go to Site button.
  • You will be taken to a website where you can create a new account for new Go Outdoors customers or log in if you’re 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, submit your Date of Birth, Customer Last Name and the Last Four of your Social Security Number to sign in.
  • Next, fill out the registration form. The first question asks about your current residency status, whether you’re a current Virginia Resident, Non-Resident, but a college student in VA, U.S. military currently stationed in VA, or merely a non-resident. From there, you’ll fill out other information such as your Name, Gender, Birthday, Ethnicity, Social Security, Identification Documents, Email, Phone, and Physical Address. Once finished, click on the button to create a customer profile.
  • Once finished, you can click on the button to proceed to purchase your desired License.
  • A page will appear to show all of the possible licenses, permits, consents, stamps, and memberships available to purchase. Click on the add to cart button and proceed to checkout.
  • Enter your billing information and finalize your purchase.
  • Once your purchase is complete, you will receive an email confirmation with your details. And you’ll be able to print your licenses and permits from the Virginia DGIF portal. 

Who Needs a Virginia Fishing License?

Residents 16 Years and Older: All residents who are 16 years of age and older must have a state or county-wide freshwater fishing license. For individuals looking to fish for trout, these individuals also want to have a trout license. For those looking to catch in national forests such as George Washington and Jefferson National Forests will need a National Forest Stamp. 

Non-residents 16 Years and Older: All non-residents who are 16 years of age and older are required to have a form of freshwater fishing license, whether it is annual, daily, or a 5-day permit. Non-residents of any age looking to fish trout must also have an additional non-resident trout license. Just like residents, anglers looking to fish in national waters such as the George Washington and Jefferson Forests will need a National Forest Stamp in addition to fishing licenses. 

Fishing License Exemptions 

The following individuals who fall under any of these categories are not required to have a fishing license: 

  • Residents who are under the age of 16. These individuals also do not need a trout license. 
  • Landowners and their immediate family (spouse, children, and grandchildren) within the boundaries of their land
  • Tenants of landowners with written permission to fish in specified areas without a license
  • Guest fishing in individually owned private ponds 
  • Non-residents under the age of 12 
  • Individuals who are legally blind

Resident Fishing License Qualification: To obtain a resident fishing license, one must be a qualified resident. Individuals have physically resided in the state for six consecutive months preceding the date of applying for a fishing license. 

Types of Virginia Fishing License and Fees

Below is the complete list of all licenses in Virginia with its separate charges.

Resident License and Fees 

License 

Fee

Sportsman’s License (16 years or older) Includes all of the following: hunting license, bear license, deer/turkey license, archery license, muzzleloader license, freshwater fishing license and trout license

$100

County/City Resident Freshwater fishing 

$16

Resident State Freshwater fishing license (age 16 and older)

 

1-Year License

$23

2-Year License

$44

3-Year License

$65

4-Year License

$86

Resident State Fresh/Saltwater Fishing

$39.50

Resident Saltwater Fishing License

$17.50

South Holston Reservoir Fishing License - allows anglers to fish in both Tennessee and Virginia waters of South Holston Reservoir upstream of the dam. 

$21

Resident 5 Day Freshwater Fishing (5 consecutive days - not valid for trout waters)

$14

Resident 5 Day Fresh/Saltwater Fishing (5 straight days - not valid for trout waters) 

$24

Resident 10 Day Saltwater Fishing (10 consecutive days)

$10

Resident Tidal Boat Sport Fishing

$126

Resident 65 and Over 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 are fishing in stocked trout waters from October 1 to June 15 for $47 annually and $555 for a lifetime. 

License 

Fee

Nonresident State Freshwater Fishing (age 16 or older)

$47

Nonresident Saltwater Fishing License

$25

Nonresident State Fresh/Saltwater Fishing

$71

Nonresident 1-Day Freshwater Fishing

$8

Nonresident 5-Day Freshwater Fishing (5 consecutive days)

$21

Non-resident 10-Day Saltwater Fishing License (10 straight days)

$10

Non-resident 5-Day Fresh/Saltwater Fishing(5 consecutive days)

$31

Nonresident Tidal Boat Sport Fishing

$201

Non-resident Trout Fishing (October 1–June 15)

Required if fishing in stocked waters.

$47

Miscellaneous License and Fees for Specific Areas

License

Fee

Daily Permit Required at Clinch Mountain, Crooked Creek, and Douthat State Park Fee Fishing Areas

$8

National Forest Permit

$4

Virginia State Forest Use Permit

$16

County Dip Net Permit

$4.50

Public Access Lands for Sportsmen (PALS) Permit - for Lake Merriweather in Rockbridge County

$18

Virginia License Renewal

To renew your fishing license, go on your online portal in the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Go to your account and renew your expired permits. You may also call customer service at 1-866-721-6911 or email CustomerService@dgif.virginia.gov. Available hours are Monday through Friday during business hours. Lastly, you can go to any of the licensed agents in the Commonwealth area. 

Fishing License Expiration: For both residents and non-resident licenses, fishing licenses will be valid for one year from the date of purchase unless otherwise noted. For example, you may purchase a two-year license or a different length of time. 

Virginia Fish Size and Limits 

Virginia Trout Limits: For trout in Virginia, the trout season is open year-round. The statewide limits are 6 per day, and no fish caught shall be less than 7 inches. 

Creel and Length Limits: Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass

Note: Only 5 per day can be caught and no statewide length limits.

Fish Size and Limits (Lakes)

Briery Creek Lake

No bass 16 to 24 inches, only 1 per day longer than 24 inches

Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir

Only 2 of 5 basses less than 14 inches

Claytor Lake

No smallmouth less than 14 inches; 15 spotted basses per day

Flannagan Reservoir

No bass less than 12 inches

Lake Gaston

Only 2 of 5 basses less than 14 inches

Leesville Reservoir

Only 2 of 5 basses less than 14 inches

Lake Moomaw

No bass less than 12 inches

Philpott Reservoir

No bass less than 12 inches

Quantico Marine Base waters

No bass 12 to 15 inches

Smith Mt. Lake and its tributaries below Niagara Dam

Only 2 of 5 basses less than 14 inches

South Holston Reservoir

No smallmouth less than 15 inches, 15 spotted basses per day

Fish Size and Limits (Rivers)

Clinch River

No bass less than 20 inches, only one bass per day longer than 20 inches

Dan River and tributaries

Only 2 of 5 basses less than 14 inches

James River

No bass 14 to 22 inches, only 1 per day longer than 22 inches

Levisa Fork River

No bass less than 20 inches, only one bass per 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

Potomac River 

No bass less than 15 inches from March 1 through June 15

Staunton (Roanoke) River

Only 2 of 5 basses less than 14 inches

Shenandoah River

No bass 11 to 14 inches

The base of 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 Shenandoah Dam

No bass 14 to 20 inches, only 1 per day longer than 20 inches

The base of 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 Limits

The law is to catch only 5 per day and must not be less than 18 inches. 

New River upstream of Buck Dam in Carroll County

No walleye less than 20 inches

New River downstream from Claytor Dam

No walleye less than 18 inches

Claytor Lake and the New River upstream of Claytor Lake Dam to Buck Dam in Carroll County

February 1–May 31: 2 walleye per day; no walleye 19 to 28 inches

Claytor Lake and the New River upstream of Claytor Lake Dam to Buck Dam in Carroll County

June 1–January 31: 5 walleye per day; no walleye less than 20 inches

 

Sauger

2 per day

No statewide length limits

N/A

N/A

White Bass

5 per day

No statewide length limits

South Holston Reservoir

catch and release only

  

Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir

10 per day; no white bass less than 14 inches

Chain Pickerel

5 per day

No statewide length limits

Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir

No daily limit

Northern Pike

2 per day

No pike less than 20 inches

N/A

N/A

Muskellunge

2 per day

No muskellunge less than 30 inches

New River

1 per day

No muskellunge less than 42 inches

Bluegill

50 per day, No statewide length limits

Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir 

No daily limit

Crappie (black or white)

25 per day, No statewide length limits

Lake Gaston

None

  

Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir, Briery Creek and Sandy River reservoirs

No crappie less than 9 inches

  

Flannagan and South Holston reservoirs

No crappie less than 10 inches

Trout

6 per day

7-inch minimum size

  
 

No minimum size limit

South Holston Reservoir

Seven fish per day—only two lake trout. No minimum size

Catfish

20 per day

No length limits

All rivers below the fall line

No Daily Limit

Fishing in Virginia

When it comes to fishing in Virginia, there are a plethora of options. There are lakes, rivers, streams, trout waters, urban waters, public boating access, accessible fishing and boating, and saltwater fishing. For trout fishing, the Lexington county reservoir, mills creek, and coles run reservoirs, lake Moomaw, mossy creek, and the Rapidan have been voted as the best spots for trout. For example, many of the trout in Lexington county measure around 9 to 13 inches and offer 22 acres of water. 

For anglers who love to boat fish, one fantastic spot is the Bear Creek Lake located in Cumberland, Virginia. It has 40 acres of the lake, which has boat launches, fishing piers, and boat rentals. The park includes fish such as the largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, black crappie, and channel catfish. At Mossy creek, it’s known for being a place for expert fly fishers. Brown trout here can be up to 25 inches.