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Fish Bait Information

Fishing Regulations Virginia Freshwater Fishing

Bait Type

Possession Limit


1 Minnows, Chubs, Madtoms


In aggregate with other bait, see below

1 Crayfish


In aggregate with other bait, see below

1 Hellgrammites


In aggregate with other bait, see below

1 Salamanders (less than 6 inches)


In aggregate with other bait, see below

2 Shad (Gizzard, Threadfin, Herring)


Only permitted in certain waters, see below

3 Trout


Artificially raised trout only, see below

4 Virginia Game Fish

See Creel (Harvest) and Length Limits

Collected by angling with hook and line only

Fathead minnows, golden shiners, goldfish


Legally purchased fish bait


Receipt needed specifying # and species

1–Minnows, chubs, madtoms, crayfish, hellgrammites, salamanders are limited to 50 total for all species combined (aggregate), not 50 of each species at the same time.

2–Gizzard and threadfin shad can be collected and used in any of Virginia’s waters but there are geographical limitations for herring. There are no restrictions for 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.

3–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.

4–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.

For more information see Nongame Fish, Reptile, Amphibian, and Aquatic Invertibrate Regulations.

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
  • 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 (DGIF) 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, Hungry Mother Creek above 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.
  • Unlawful to take salamanders in Grayson Highlands State Park and on national forest lands in the Jefferson National Forest in those portions of Grayson, Smyth, and Washington counties bounded on the east by Rt. 16, on the north side by Rt. 603, and on the south and west by Rt. 58