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Help Protect the Health of Virginia’s Waters!

Do your part to help protect the health of Virginia’s waterways. Don’t stock fish, live bait, or other aquatic organisms into our waterways, or move organisms between waterways.

This illegal act may be punishable by up to six months in jail time and a $1000 fine (Code of Virginia § 29.1-543.1).

Moving fish from one waterbody to another can have unforeseen consequences such as the introduction of aquatic invasive species. Aquatic invasive species are species that are not native to a waterbody and, if introduced, can or will likely cause negative ecological or economic consequences.

Some aquatic invasive species that DWR is actively working to prevent the spread of include:

  • Alabama bass, an invasive species that outcompetes largemouth bass and hybridizes with smallmouth bass, directly harming these important and popular resources.
  • Blue catfish, an invasive species which are overabundant in our tidal rivers, with ongoing efforts to reduce their abundance.
  • Flathead catfish, an invasive species outside its native range. Flatheads are native to the Upper Tennessee river, Big Sandy river, and New river drainages in southwest Virginia. These predatory fish prey on other fish species almost from the time they hatch.
  • Northern snakeheads, an invasive species that’s native to Asia. DWR continues to remind anglers that transporting northern snakehead from one waterbody to another is illegal.
    • Rusty crayfish, an invasive species that can destroy aquatic vegetation used as nursery habitat by other fish species.
    • Zebra or Quagga Mussels and New Zealand Mud Snails, which are invasive mollusks that may be easily and accidentally transported on or in boats, trailers, bait buckets, waders, or other fishing equipment.
    • Hydrilla, Eurasian Milfoil, and Water Chestnut, which are invasive aquatic plants that can be easily transported on boats and trailers.
    • Didymo, also known as rock snot, is a single-celled algae that blankets the bottom of rivers or streams where it is introduced. This invasive algae is firmly established in Virginia’s Smith, Jackson, and Pound river tailwaters.

Also, boaters and anglers should always practice clean, drain, dry, to further prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Anglers are reminded to destroy, or hold for future use, any unused live bait. Minnows released from bait buckets can establish populations that can outcompete native species and disrupt the spawning of native species

Additionally, moving fish from one waterbody to another can also introduce parasites, pathogens, and diseases from one fish population to the next. In order to maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems, anglers are reminded to never stock fish or live bait and to report any suspicious activity to DWR law enforcement.

Violations can be reported by calling 1-800-237-5712 or by emailing