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Fish Bait Information

Bait Type Possession Limit Note
1, 2 Minnows, Chubs, Madtoms 50 In aggregate with other bait, see below
1, 3 Crayfish 20 In aggregate with other bait, see below
1 Hellgrammites 50 In aggregate with other bait, see below
1 Salamanders 0 No possession allowed
4 Shad (Gizzard, Threadfin, Herring) Unlimited Only permitted in certain waters, see below
6 Trout Unlimited Artificially raised trout only, see below
6 Virginia Game Fish See Creel and Length Limit Table (PDF) Collected by angling with hook and line only
Fathead minnows, golden shiners, goldfish Unlimited
Legally purchased fish bait Unlimited Receipt needed specifying # and species
  1. Minnows, chubs, madtoms, crayfish, and hellgrammites are limited to 50 total for all species combined (aggregate), not 50 of each species at the same time.
  2. Collection of minnows and chubs for sale is no longer allowed and the permit to do so is no longer available. Anglers are still allowed to collect minnows and chubs for personal use.
  3. All crayfish collected for bait may only be used for bait in the water in which they were captured. Collection of crayfish is not allowed in the Big Sandy River drainage basin (Russell Fork, Pound River, Cranes Nest River, McClure River, Levisa Fork, Dismal Creek, Knox Creek, and tributaries).
  4. Gizzard and threadfin shad can be used in any of Virginia’s waters but there are geographical limitations for herring. There are no restrictions for the use of herring in Virginia waters that are within the Roanoke, New, or Tennessee River drainages. However, it is unlawful to possess herring in all coastal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay, Meherrin River, Nottoway River, Blackwater River (Chowan Drainage), North Landing and Northwest rivers and their tributaries, and Back Bay.
  5. Only artificially raised trout may be used as bait. Must have an invoice or bill of sale specifying date of purchase, number of trout purchased and business where trout were purchased. Trout may be used as bait in the James River, New River, and in impoundments except Lake Moomaw and Philpott Reservoir.
  6. Any legally possessed game fish may be used as bait when fished whole. Must comply with creel and length limits. The only game fish that can be used as cut bait are bluegill, sunfish, and bream. It is unlawful to remove the head, tail, or change the appearance of any other game fish since it would be impractical to measure original lengths or count the number of fish in possession.

Legal Methods for Capturing Nongame Bait:

  • Seine not exceeding 4 feet depth by 10 feet in length.
  • Minnow traps with throat openings no larger than 1 inch in diameter.
  • Collected by angling with hook and line.
  • Cast net.
  • Hand-held bow nets with diameter no larger than 20 inches and handle length not to exceed 8 feet.
  • Umbrella-type net not to exceed 5 by 5 feet square.
  • Dip nets may be used to take shad, herring, mullet, and suckers only but may not be used in waters where anadromous (American) shad and herring cannot be possessed.

Areas Restricted:

  • Designated stocked trout waters between October 1 and June 15.
  • Department-owned lakes, unless otherwise posted.
  • Lick Creek in Smyth and Bland counties, Bear Creek in Smyth County, Laurel Creek and tributaries upstream of the Highway 16 bridge in Tazewell and Bland counties, streams and their tributaries that flow into Hungry Mother Lake in Smyth County, Susong Branch and Mumpower Creek in Washington County and the City of Bristol, and Timbertree Branch in Scott County.
  • The use of nets other than cast nets (throw nets) to collect bait in the Roanoke (Staunton) and Dan Rivers in Campbell, Charlotte, Halifax, and Pittsylvania counties, and in the City of Danville is prohibited. Cast nets may be used to collect bait in these rivers.