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Trout Fishing Guide

Fishing Regulations Virginia Freshwater Fishing

Virginia contains over 2,900 miles of trout streams, in addition to numerous ponds, small lakes and reservoirs. The total includes over 2,300 miles of wild trout streams and about 600 miles of water inhabited with stocked trout. Virginia’s diversified trout habitat offers a wide range of trout fishing opportunities.

Trout management in Virginia consists of three basic programs:

  • The Catchable Trout Stocking Program is the best known and most popular. “Designated Stocked Trout Waters” are stocked from October through May with catchable-sized trout. See the Trout Stocking Plan for the streams and lakes stocked and their stocking schedule.
  • The Wild Trout Program includes the management of reproducing populations of brook, rainbow, and brown trout. Efforts are directed primarily at habitat preservation and proper regulation for protection of spawning stocks.
  • The Fingerling Trout Stocking Program involves stocking sublegal trout into waters that have cold summer water temperatures and a good food source. This is the smallest of the three programs, but includes many of our high quality, special regulation trout fishing waters.

Virginia’s trout season is open year-round and the general statewide limits are 6 trout per day, no fish less than 7 inches. There are a number of exceptions found below for certain areas and waters (i.e., heritage, urban, special area, special regulation, and fee fishing waters), so please study the sections following for fishing times, dates, and limits. These different restrictions have been applied to certain wild trout waters, as well as several types of stocked trout streams, to provide anglers with the opportunity to catch more and larger trout.

Success for both wild and stocked trout should be very high through the spring, fall, and mild winter periods. From June through September, normally low stream flows and warming water temperatures make trout fishing more difficult. However, experienced trout anglers can find good trout fishing opportunities throughout the year.


An interactive mapping application for stocked trout waters, special regulation trout waters, and wild trout waters is available on DGIF’s website: and click on link to stocked trout interactive map.

Middle Fork of the Powell River flowing through Appalachia in Wise County, Armistead Point Park Pond in Hampton, and Upper Norton Reservoir in Norton have been added to the Catchable Trout Stocking Program.

Designated Trout Waters (Catchable Trout Stocking Waters)

“Designated Stocked Trout Waters” include those waters that are stocked with catchable-sized trout and are listed by the Director in the annual Trout Stocking Plan (see pages Catchable Trout Stocking Plan). These waters will only be considered designated stocked trout waters from October 1 through June 15 (trout license required). A trout license is not required from June 16 through September 30. Trout angling hours on designated stocked trout waters are from 5:00 am until one hour after sunset. See exceptions for Trout Heritage Waters (below), Urban Program Waters (Below) and Fee Fishing Areas (Special Regulation Trout Waters). Designated stocked trout waters are posted by the Department with appropriate “stocked trout waters” signs.

It is unlawful to fish in designated stocked trout waters after the daily creel limit of trout has been obtained or during the closed hours for taking trout. Once a trout is taken into possession by placing in the creel (basket, bucket, stringer, cooler, etc.) it becomes part of the daily creel limit and may not be released (culled). It is unlawful to feed, bait, or snag trout in designated stocked trout waters. It shall be unlawful for any person fishing in designated stocked trout waters to use more than one rod, one line, and one baited hook (a treble hook is considered one hook); however, any combination of artificial lures is allowed. It shall be unlawful to use seines and nets in designated stocked waters, except that a hand-landing net to land fish legally hooked may be used in all waters.

Urban Program Waters

Waters in the Urban Fishing Program will be considered designated stocked trout waters from November 1 through April 30 only (trout license required). A trout license is not required from May 1 through October 31. In addition trout may be creeled from these waters year-round and the trout creel limit is 4 per day, no fish less than 7 inches. Once a trout is taken into possession by placing in the creel (basket, bucket, stringer, cooler, etc.) it becomes part of the daily creel limit and may not be released (culled).

Special Trout Areas

Blue Ridge Parkway

Fishing is prohibited from one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise. No live or dead fish or fish eggs may be used as bait. Digging for worms is prohibited. Special creel limits and other regulations for Parkway waters may be posted.

Shenandoah National Park

Only single-point hook artificial lures may be used—no bait. On those streams open to harvest, the creel limit is 6 trout per day with a 9-inch minimum size for brook trout and a 7-inch minimum size for brown and rainbow trout. On all other streams open to fishing, catch and release regulations apply. The release of any brown trout back into any Park stream is prohibited and brown trout less than 7 inches must be disposed of within the Park but away from Park streams, roads or trails. This is an effort to limit the impacts of brown trout on the native brook trout populations. Contact the Shenandoah National Park at 540-999-3500 for the annual list of streams open to harvest.

License requirements for trout fishing

(See License Fees for details and costs)

Note: The trout license is only required from October 1 through June 15. From June 16 through September 30 anglers can fish in stocked trout waters without a trout license.

Fee Fishing Areas (Special Regulations Trout Waters) require a daily fishing permit in addition to an appropriate freshwater fishing license.

Residents 16 years of age and older.

  1. A state or county freshwater fishing license.
  2. Fishing a Designated Stocked Trout Water? Need an additional trout license. (Note a resident may not use a 5-day freshwater license in combination with a trout license).
  3. Fishing in most waters within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests? Need a National Forest Stamp
  4. Fishing in wild trout or most special regulation waters? Some require a signed landowner permit card which can be obtained from certain DGIF offices, streamside landowners (see individual stream descriptions), and online at

Nonresidents 12 years of age and older.

  1. A nonresident annual, daily, or 5-day freshwater fishing license.
  2. Fishing a Designated Stocked Water? Need an additional nonresident trout license.

    Note: Nonresidents of any age, including children under 12, must have a nonresident fishing license (annual, daily or 5 day) and an additional trout license to fish designated stocked trout waters.

  3. Fishing in most waters within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests? Need a National Forest Stamp.
  4. Fishing in wild trout or most special regulation waters? Some require a signed landowner permit card which can be obtained from certain DGIF offices, streamside landowners (see individual stream descriptions), and online at

2016 Trout Heritage Waters

This program was added for those anglers who enjoyed and missed the old opening day. Selected waters are stocked for the first Saturday in April to create an announced stocking event.

The following waters will be stocked for Heritage Day on April 2:

Beartree Lake
Washington County

Bark Camp Lake
Scott County

Clinch Mountain Fee Fishing Area*
Washington County

Cripple Creek
(Ravens Cliff)
Wythe County

Crooked Creek Fee Fishing Area*
Carroll County

Douthat Lake Fee Fishing Area*
Bath County

Hawksbill Creek
Page County

Jennings Creek
Botetourt County

Lake Witten
Tazewell County

Liberty Lake
Bedford County

Lincolnshire Lake
Tazewell County

Middle Fork
Holston River

Smyth County

Passage Creek
Shenandoah County

Pedlar River (upper)
Amherst County

Pigg Rive
Franklin County

Quantico MCB
Prince William County

Robinson River
Madison County

Rose River
Madison County

South Fork Powell River
Wise County

Tinker Creek
Roanoke County

* The fee fishing areas are closed to angling from March 28–April 1.

Heritage Waters are closed on April 1. On April 2 fishing can begin at 9:00 a.m.