Updates Related to COVID-19 »

Updates Related to COVID-19

DWR & VMRC Encourage You To Be Safe While Outdoors

The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is taking the COVID-19 virus very seriously and wants to make sure our staff and constituents are taking all necessary precautions. DWR encourages everyone in the Commonwealth to utilize the online option, gooutdoorsvirginia.com for all of your licensing and registration needs. Hunters, anglers, boaters and wildlife enthusiasts can do most transactions online.

As you may have seen circulating around social media, DWR has not canceled any hunting seasons or fishing opportunities. All access points are open. ALL LICENSE REQUIREMENTS AND REGULATIONS ARE STILL FULLY ENFORCEABLE. YOU MUST HAVE A LICENSE WHEN YOU ARE HUNTING AND FISHING. Please follow all rules and regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are DWR offices still open?

Until further notice, all DWR offices will be closed to walk-in traffic.

Q: Are the woods and waters still open?

Yes, Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and DWR lakes and rivers are still open. However, please check with your local county and city for any additional closures of parks, lakes, or piers.

Every person who is required to have a license to fish, hunt, and/or trap must carry such license with them (electronic copy, printed paper, or annual hard card) and show the license immediately upon request of any officer whose duty it is to enforce the game and inland fish laws, or upon the demand of any owner or lessee, or any employee or representative of such owner or lessee, upon whose land or water such person may be hunting, trapping, or fishing. DWR also requires visitors to obtain an an Access Permit for department-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and public fishing lakes, who are age 17 and older, unless they possess a valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license, or a current Virginia boat registration, or are otherwise waived. Please see Access Permit Waiver Guidance.

Q: Is the Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail (VBWT) still open?

Before heading out, first check with individual sites on the Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail to find out whether they are still open to the public. Information regarding closures is typically posted on a site’s own website. Be advised that some sites, even if still open, may have certain public facilities closed during this time. If a site is still open, maintain CDC social distancing guidelines while enjoying the outdoors.

Q: Is DWR still stocking trout?

All waters will still receive their full allotment of trout stockings for the season, but stockings will not be announced ahead of time and we will no longer be updating trout stockings on the website or the trout line. All stockings are still planned to occur. We encourage you to continue to get outdoors and abide by the Governors orders of social distancing. Please note the following changes:

Q: Are sighting-in ranges closed?

Since the WMAs are open, the ranges are open. However, the ranges are normally only open from September 1 through March 31, so they will close at the end of the regular season on March 31.

To protect public health and safety and align with federal, state, and local guidance, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests officials have announced the temporary shutdown of all George Washington and Jefferson National Forest sighting-in ranges. For more information on closures and other alerts regarding facilities on National Forest lands, please visit the GW&J National Forest website.

Q: Where can I buy a fishing/hunting license?

You can utilize our online option — Go Outdoors Virginia — or visit one of our license agents throughout the Commonwealth. If choosing a license agent, please ensure that the agent’s location is open and follow all requirements for social distancing.

Q: Can I still take my boat out?

Outdoor activities, including boating, are a great way to relax and enjoy nature. Social distancing guidelines still apply. If you need to register your boat or renew your boat registration, visit Go Outdoors Virginia.

Other Changes, Cancellations, and Closures

The following closures to access points have been made:

  • Public Restrooms and Porta-Potties: in compliance with the Governor’s orders, we will be shutting down all public restrooms and porta-potties that are located at DWR boat ramps and access points until further notice.
  • Burke Lake Park: REOPENING 5/20/2020. Previously, the parking area and boat launch at Burke Lake were closed. This coincided with the Fairfax County Park Authority’s decision to close Burke Lake Park in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Goshen Scout Reservation and Lake Merriweather: As of March 30, the Goshen Scout Reservation and Lake Merriweather will be closed until further notice. This coincides with the National Capital Council’s decision to close the property in response to COVID-19.
  • George Washington & Jefferson National Forests: the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests are still currently open for recreational hunting and fishing. More info: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation and  http://www.dof.virginia.gov/stateforest/index.htm
  • Shenandoah National Park: Please check the Shenandoah National Park website for up-to-date information on the status of the Park.
  • Goshen and Little North Mountain WMA: Due to ongoing safety concerns, the swinging bridge access over the Maury River at Goshen and Little North Mountain WMA has been closed to the public until further notice. This bridge is the public access point to the southern portion of the Little North Mountain WMA and the only access point to VDCR Division of Natural Heritage’s Goshen Pass Natural Area Preserve.
  • DWR Temporarily Closes Access to Caves on Agency Lands: Due to the potential for infected people to transfer the virus to bats, DWR is temporarily closing access to caves on agency lands. While DWR does not have regulatory authority over cave access other than on agency lands, we ask that you consider refraining from accessing caves where bats roost until the assessment of the risk that COVID-19 poses to North American bats is completed.
  • Westmoreland State Park (DCR): Westmoreland State Park in Westmoreland County will be closed to the public until further notice. Please see DCR’s State Parks website for the latest information.
  • Bark Camp Lake and Keokee: REOPENED. The US Forest Service had gated the access roads to Bark Camp Lake in Scott County and Keokee Lake in Lee County in response to COVID-19. Boating access sites at these two lakes was inaccessible until further notice.
  • Thompson WMA: PARKING AREA REOPENED. Due to the Governor’s order of social distancing and the overcrowding at certain access points, the Trillium Trail Parking Area was closing until further notice on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. When visiting Thompson WMA or the trillium wildflowers, please respect social distancing expectations during your visit and we request that you do not travel in buses, large vehicles or large groups. Certain access points are still open and can be found on the Thompson WMA page.
  • Cavalier WMA: The seasonal gate is closed past the first parking lot, but visitors may walk in beyond that.

Fishing Tournaments:

  • DWR does not issue permits regulating fishing tournaments in Virginia, and so the agency’s approval is not required for them to be held under normal circumstances. However, Governor Northam’s Executive Order #55 prohibits gatherings of 10 or more individuals and permits only those outdoor recreation activities that comply with social distancing requirements. Given the difficulty in maintaining appropriate social distancing during a fishing tournament, we strongly recommend that organizations and clubs cancel all fishing tournaments until the current stay at home order is lifted, regardless of the number of participants. Law enforcement will enforce social distance requirements when necessary.

DWR’s Wildlife Management Areas remain open. Check out the website for more information. This will be updated accordingly should things change. If you are heading out of state to hunt or fish, please check with those states to make sure there are no restrictions. Some states have banned out of state hunting and fishing.

The following changes have been made to the 2020 Trout Stocking Program:

  • All pre-announced stockings including Urban Program Waters and the Youth-Only Stocked Trout Program will be rescheduled and will no longer be announced before hand.  All waters will still receive their full allotment of trout stockings for the season but stockings will not be announced ahead of time.
  • Due to large crowds of anglers at some waters, the US Forest Service has requested that daily trout stockings of national forest waters no longer be announced until further notice.
  • Information on daily trout stockings can be found on the DWR website or by calling the Trout Line at 434-525-3474.
  • DWR Fee Fishing Areas Reopened June 1 – As Virginia began to slowly “reopen” parks and recreation areas that had been closed, DWR decided to reopen the three Fee Fishing Areas where hatchery trout are stocked (Clinch Mountain, Crooked Creek, and Douthat State Park).To minimize angler crowding, stocking days and time of day are being randomly determined, and not announced to the public. Requirements and regulations for the Fee Fishing Areas remain the same.Anglers are reminded to practice social distancing as recommended by the CDC. This involves keeping at least 6 feet from other people, wearing a face covering, and washing your hands frequently. Above all else, if you feel sick or have flu-like symptoms, please stay home and plan to go fishing when you are feeling healthy. DWR has been monitoring angler behavior at the Fee Areas since reopening and anglers have been spacing themselves appropriately. The Department encourages users to continue practicing proper social distancing. However, if angler crowding or behavior compromises the health/safety of the public or hatchery staff, DWR may decide to re-close the Fee Areas. For more information regarding the three Fee Fishing Areas, visit the Fee Fishing Areas section of the DWR website.

All DWR fish hatcheries have been closed to the public until further notice.

The following changes have been made to hunter education classes:

  • All in-person Hunter Ed classes have been postponed until further notice, but are still available online.

The following other changes have been made:

  • Due to the COVID-19 health risk and the Governor’s order, the Department of Wildlife Resources is suspending all dog field trial permits for field trials with more than 10 participants and cancelling those events until further notice.

Further Resources

Follow DWR on Social Media and Subscribe to Email Updates with Notes from the Field:

DWR asks that if you or someone you have been in contact with has a known connection to COVID-19, please stay at home so that you do not spread the virus and/or germs. DWR will keep working diligently with other agencies to make sure we do our part to help prevent the spread of he virus.

If you have any questions regarding DWR services or activities, please give us a call (804-367-1000) and we will help with your needs as best we can.