Fishing in Virginia

Shot of a two friends going fishing on an early overcast morning
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Virginia offers a wide range of fishing opportunities with more than 2,800 miles of trout streams, in addition to numerous ponds, small lakes, and reservoirs. With the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay and its many tributaries, the state is the nation's third largest seafood producer. The Eastern Shore is especially known for blue crabs, oysters, clams, and sea scallops, flounder, and catfish.


A fishing license is required for anyone over 16 years of age. Licenses are valid for one year from the date of purchase. Virginia offers freshwater and saltwater fishing licenses. A license is not required to crab recreationally in Virginia as long as you do not use commercial fishing gear and limit your take to one bushel of hard crabs or two dozen peeler crabs per day. Two crab pots per person are allowed without a license. Apply online for fishing licenses.
Reciprocal Recreational Saltwater Fishing Licenses: Anglers with saltwater licenses from either Virginia or Maryland may fish in any portion of the Chesapeake Bay, or any of the saltwater reaches of its tributary rivers, as well as seaside bays and creeks and the Atlantic Ocean where a saltwater license is required. Maryland licensees may fish in VA tidal waters, but must register in the VA Fisherman Identification Program.


It is the angler’s responsibility to know the fishing limits and regulations. Fishing is permitted 24 hours a day unless otherwise posted at lakes, ponds, streams, or boat access sites. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries oversees the licensing and regulations of freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing is handled by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

Most Popular Fish Species in Virginia

Freshwater: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Spotted Bass, Black Crappie, White Crappie, Bluegill, Flier, Green Sunfish, Pumpkinseed, Redbreast Sunfish, Redear Sunfish, Roanoke Bass, Rock Bass, Warmouth, Hybrid Striped Bass, Striped Bass, White Bass, White Perch, Sauger, Walleye, Yellow Perch, Chain Pickerel, Muskellunge, Northern Pike, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Blue Catfish, Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish, White Catfish, Alewife, American Shad, Blueback Herring, Hickory Shad, Bowfin, Carp, Longnose Gar and Freshwater Drum.<br/>Saltwater: Amberjack, American Eel, Black Drum, Black Sea Bass, Blue Catfish, Bluefish, Cobia, Grey Trout, Grouper, King Mackerel, Red Drum, Scup (Porgy), American Shad, River Herrings, Shark, Sheepshead, Spadefish, Spanish Mackerel, Speckled Trout, Striped Bass, Sturgeon, Summer Flounder, Tautog, and Tile Fish.
Shellfish: Bay Scallop, Blue Crab, Eastern Oyster, Horseshoe Crab, and Hard-shell Clam.

Places to Go Fishing

Virginia offers endless opportunities for fishing and crabbing. Here are some resources across the state:

Fishing Spots in Northern Virginia

These are some of our favorite fishing spots in Northern Virginia:

  • Cook Lake
  • Lake Burke
  • Fairfax Lake
  • Occoquan River
  • Occoquan Reservoir
  • Beaverdam Creek Reservoir
  • Locust Shade Park
  • Lake Manassas

Where to Buy Fishing Gear

Bass Pro Shop - Outdoor World, 1972 Power Plant Parkway Hampton, VA 23666 (757) 262-5200 and 11550 Lakeridge Parkway Ashland, VA 23005 (804) 496-4700.
Greentop Hunt and Fish - 10193 Washington Hwy Glen Allen, VA 23059 (804) 550-2188.
Angler's Lane - Graves Mill Shopping Center Forest, VA 24551 (434) 385-0200.
Bobcat's Bait and Tackle - 12690 Highway 15, Clarksville, VA 23927 (434) 374-8381.
Chris Bait and Tackle - Rt. 13, Capeville, VA (757) 331-3000
Dicks Sporting Goods – Locations in Virginia include Fairfax, Woodbridge, Baileys Crossroads, Dulles, Manassas, Gainesville, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, Glen Allen, Roanoke, Charlottesville, West Chesterfield, Christiansburg, Virginia Beach, and Suffolk.<br/>Check out these articles on fishing in Washington DC and fishing in Maryland.

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