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Pamunkey River

Moratorium on Possession of River Herring

It is now illegal for any person fishing tidal rivers 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. On January 1st, 2012, VMRC enacted a regulation which makes it unlawful to be in possession of river herring while on tidal waters. 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 (

From the confluence of the North Anna River and South Anna River downstream to below Hanovertown, the Pamunkey is a narrow steep banked meandering stream with no upstream tidal flow (continuous downstream flow as opposed to ebb and flood flow). Although, as you move closer to the Route 360 Bridge you may experience small fluctuations in river levels during periods of low flow due to tidal influences. For those floating or bank fishing this secluded section of river, a diverse angling experience is provided by: black crappie, blue and channel catfish, redbreast sunfish, striped bass, three species of black bass (largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass), yellow perch, and spring runs of American, hickory shad, and river herring. Public access on the upper Pamunkey is limited.

From the Route 360 crossing downstream to Putneys Mill, the Pamunkey is a fairly constricted tidal river with forested swamps adjacent to the main channel. In this section of the river largemouth bass dominate the black bass assemblage, and fishing for blue catfish picks up, particularly in the deeps bends.
Below Putneys Mill, the river begins to take on more of the characteristics of a tidal estuary, with broad tidal marshes replacing forested swamps, and a channel that quickly increases in width as one moves downstream.

The Pamunkey River provides excellent spawning and nursery habitat for several anadromous fish species including river herring (both alewife and blueback herring), shad (American and hickory) and striped bass.

Maps & Directions

Public access on the upper Pamunkey is limited to a few road crossings and a VDWR maintained canoe/small boat launch at Route 301 north of Hanover.

On the Pamunkey below Route 360 there are public ramps at:

  • Lester Manor, just downstream of the Pamunkey Indian Reservation
  • West Point (Mattaponi River).


A private fee ramp near Putney’s Mill (Williams Landing) provides access to the upper portion of the tidal Pamunkey.


Black Bass

Largemouth Bass

Tidal River Largemouth Bass Outlook

Fishing for this species is best from below the Route 360 Bridge downstream to Brickhouse (several river miles below Lester Manor). In this tidal river, anglers can expect good numbers of largemouth in the 1 – 3 pound range, with very few largemouth larger than this.

Smallmouth Bass

Prior to the introduction of spotted bass in the mid-1980’s anglers found numbers of smallmouth in the Pamunkey from the confluence of the North Anna and South Anna rivers to the Route 360 Bridge. Spotted bass have now replaced smallmouth as the most abundant black bass in much of this section of the Pamunkey.

Spotted Bass

This species is abundant in the Pamunkey from the confluence of the North Anna and South Anna rivers to the Route 360 Bridge, unfortunately they are seldom larger than 12 inches, or 1 � pounds.


Tidal River Blue Catfish

Blue catfish:

Blue catfish are abundant throughout the river below Route 360, and are increasing in number between Route 360 and Route 301. The number of blue catfish in this river is growing steadily, with blue cats up to 20 pounds common and blue catfish to 80 lbs. known to occur in the river. While catfish angling is good throughout the river, the number of citation-size blue cats is highest from the railroad trestle at White House downstream.

Channel & White Catfish:

The Pamunkey continues to support channel catfish and white catfish fisheries, with channel catfish up to four pounds common in some sections.

Striped Bass
During the open spring season, keeper striped bass are can be found throughout the Pamunkey. During the fall season, striper fishing is best in the lower river, and typically slacks off in late fall. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) sets season and size-limits for striped bass in the Pamunkey.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) sets season and size-limits for striped bass in the Pamunkey. For information, contact VMRC in Newport News at 1-800-541-4646 or on the web at: VMRC

White Perch

White perch are common throughout the tidal river, but fishing is best in the lower river during spring and summer. White perch can be caught using plastic grubs, beetle spins, or grass shrimp.

Biologist Reports


General Regulations

See the fishing regulations section on the web at:a href=”

Blue Catfish

There is a possession limit of one blue catfish larger than 32 inches per person per day. There is no creel limit for blue catfish less than 32 inches in Virginia’s tidal rivers.

Anadromous Species

Regulations regarding season and creel limits for American shad, hickory shad, river herring, and striped bass in the Pamunkey are set by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). For information contact VMRC in Newport News at 1-800-541-4646 or on the web at: VMRC


Above Route 360, fishing for American and hickory shad is strictly catch and release only – No possession.

More Information

For further information please contact:

Department of Wildlife Resources
3801 John Tyler Hwy.
Charles City, VA 23030

Phone: (804) 829-6715