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Freshwater Fishing Regulations

January 1–December 31, 2024

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Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater fishing in Virginia is regulated by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). More information about saltwater recreational and commercial fishing regulations, recreational permit requirements, and commercial saltwater licenses may be found on VMRC’s website. If you would like more information about how to purchase a recreational saltwater fishing license and the associated fees please visit the Fishing Licenses & Fees section of this website.

Saltwater Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) Requires Angler Registration

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) has implemented a free state saltwater angler identification program. Purchasers of annual Virginia saltwater fishing licenses do NOT have to register. The Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) will require unlicensed saltwater anglers aged 16 and older to register and receive an identification number annually. Adult anglers who fish for anadromous or marine species in freshwater must also register. There is no cost for registration. Online registration is available on VMRC’s website. For more information, visit VMRC’s website or contact VMRC at (757) 247-2200.

American Shad Possession

As of January 1st, 2019, there is a statewide moratorium on the possession of American shad. However, catch and immediate release is permitted.

Moratorium on Possession of River Herring

It is now illegal for any person to have river herring in their possession—this includes blueback herring and alewife. All river herring inadvertently caught by anglers must be immediately released back into the water. In Virginia, regulations regarding the harvest and possession of river herring are set by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). On January 1, 2012, VMRC enacted a regulation which makes it unlawful for any person to be in possession of river herring in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Anglers with concerns or questions should contact the Virginia Marine Fisheries Commission (VMRC) in Newport News at 1-800-541-4646. Additional information can be found on the VMRC website.

This website contains general information. Specific laws and regulations are found in the Code of Virginia or the DWR Fisheries, Wildlife, and Boating Regulations. For answers to specific questions about fishing, please contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.