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Regulations

Fishing Regulations Virginia Freshwater Fishing

Seasons

There is a continuous, year-round season for all freshwater fish, with the following exceptions:

Regulations for anadromous (coastal) striped bass, alewife and blueback herring above and below the fall line, in tidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay; and anadromous (coastal) American shad and hickory shad, and all other saltwater fish below the fall line, in tidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay, are set by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. For more information call 757-247-2200 or go online at www.mrc.virginia.gov.

Catch-and-Release Fishing

It is often necessary to release a fish because it is too small, illegal to keep, or you just don’t want to take it home to eat. In some cases, releasing fish unharmed is a conservation measure that will assist in helping to maintain and build population abundance and size. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries encourages anglers who practice catch and release fishing to use a few simple precautions when doing so. Using the tips below will help to assure that the fish you release will survive to bite again another day.

  • When catching a fish, play it quickly and keep the fish in the water as much as possible while handling. Avoid the use of a net in landing the fish and release it quickly to avoid exhaustion.
  • Handle the fish gently and as little as possible. Do not put your fingers in its eyes or gills. Avoid wiping the slime or scales off the fish; this reduces their survival by making them more susceptible to disease or infection.
  • Remove hook promptly using needle­nose pliers or a “hook out” device. If the hook is too deep or hooked in the stomach or throat, cut the line and leave the hook in. The hook will dissolve without harming the fish.
  • Carefully revive the fish if it appears exhausted by holding it upright and moving it gently forward so water runs over the gills. Release the fish when it begins to struggle and is able to swim.
  • Do not hold fish in a live well and later decide to release it. If you are going to release a fish, do so right away.
  • With a little care and by following the guidelines set above, you can give released fish a better chance of survival.
  • See the “Qualifying a Trophy Fish by Length and Photo” option for Trophy Fish Awards on Virginia Angler Recognition Program.