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Meherrin River

Moratorium on Possession of River Herring

It is now illegal for any person fishing this river 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.

New Regulations for Herring

The Meherrin River originates on the Lunenburg-Mecklenburg County line in Virginia and flows southeasterly through the coastal piedmont into Emporia Reservoir. The reservoir is a source of municipal water for the city of Emporia, VA and it is also available for recreational fishing. From the base of the Emporia Dam, the waters of the Meherrin River flow again south east into North Carolina where it merges with the Chowan River. The Meherrin River basin in Virginia is primarily agriculture and mixed hardwood-pine forest. Water levels below the dam do fluctuate greatly with hydroelectric power generation, so be cautious when wading or bank fishing in this area. Logjams are common in the extensive swamps below Emporia. Consequently, boating is slow as well as dangerous. Wading is possible in only a few places but is not recommended. The only public boat ramp below the Emporia Dam is in the city park on the north side of the river.

Maps & Directions

For access to the boat ramp in the city of Emporia, Virginia, take the Rt. 58 East Business exit off of Interstate 95. Continue east on Business Rt. 58 to Main Street (Rt. 301 South). Turn south on Main Street and follow the Meherrin River. The entrance to the boat ramp is on the east side of the street. The boat ramp is located under the Main Street bridge.


Downstream from the Emporia Dam, the Meherrin River offers a wide variety of species eager to take a lure or live bait. Starting in early spring and ending in June, American and Hickory shad make their annual spawning trips up the muddy waters. During this time fishermen can catch these “poor man’s tarpon” on a variety of fishing lures such as shad darts, spoons and the occasional fly. The “hot spot” for shad fishing is at the base of Emporia Dam in May, where the fish congregate looking for upstream passage. Extensive herring runs are also available, especially in tributary streams such as Fountains’ Creek. Blueback herring and alewives can be caught on many of the same lures and flies as the shad.

The river has bluegill, white and black crappie, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and the occasional smallmouth bass and walleye. Since 2001, five species of fish have been reported for citations in the Meherrin River. Citations have included largemouth bass, rock bass (which is probably Roanoke bass), sunfish, walleye and even gar. Live bait fishing is a good all around option for fishermen wanting to catch “whatever is biting”. Many fishermen use crickets for sunfish and minnows or worms to catch bass, catfish or crappie. However, to target largemouth or smallmouth bass, throw small crankbaits or jigs that imitate crayfish in the slack water areas behind mid-channel boulders and log jams. Many predatory fish lie and wait for bait before they strike at prey items as they float by. Redhorse suckers and long-nose gar are abundant for fishermen targeting some “non-traditional” species.

Biologist Reports

  • None available at this time.
  • Regulations

    Striped Bass

    • 2 per day
    • No Striped Bass less than 18 inches

    Shad (Hickory and American)

    Above Emporia Dam

    • No Possession; Catch and Release Only

    Below Emporia Dam

    • 10 per day in aggregate
    • No length limits

    River Herring (Blueback and Alewife)

    Above Emporia Dam

    • No Possession; Catch and Release Only

    Below Emporia Dam

    • No possession

    Other Species

    Facilities, Amenities, and Nearby Attractions

    While there are no Department owned boat ramps on the Meherrin River, one boat ramp is maintained in the city of Emporia. At times launching and loading a boat can be hazardous, so take caution when doing so. The ramp can also become covered in sand and silt after periods of hydroelectric generation or from flooding rains, so come prepared. There are convenience stores, bait shops and lodging facilities in Emporia that will satisfy all your angling needs.

    More Information

    For more information on the Meherrin River, please contact the Chesapeake office:

    3909 Airline Boulevard
    Chesapeake, VA 23321
    Phone: 757-465-6811