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Creel & Length Limits

Fishing Regulations Icon Virginia Fishing

The tables that follow give statewide creel (harvest) and length limits for major sport fish and exceptions for major rivers and lakes. Regulations for many smaller lakes and boat access areas are posted on site, and posted regulations are in effect (see “OTHER USES” under Department-owned Lakes, Ponds, Streams or Boat Access Sites, General Information). For smaller lakes, information can be found online at: www.virginiawildlife.gov/fishing. Creel limits are per person per day.

Creel and Length Limit

Geographic Exceptions

Creel or Length Limits for Exceptions

Largemouth, Smallmouth Bass

5 per day in the aggregate (combined)

No statewide length limits

Lakes

Briery Creek Lake No largemouth or smallmouth bass 16 to 24 inches, only 1 per day longer than 24 inches
Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir Only 2 of 5 largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 14 inches
Claytor Lake No smallmouth less than 14 inches
Flannagan Reservoir No largemouth bass less than 12 inches; no smallmouth bass less than 15 inches
Lake Gaston Only 2 of 5 largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 14 inches
Leesville Reservoir Only 2 of 5 largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 14 inches
Lake Moomaw No largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 12 inches
Philpott Reservoir No largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 12 inches
Quantico Marine Base waters No largemouth or smallmouth bass 12 to 15 inches
Smith Mt. Lake and its tributaries below Niagara Dam Only 2 of 5 largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 14 inches
South Holston Reservoir No smallmouth less than 15 inches

Rivers

Clinch River–within the boundaries of Scott, Wise, Russell or Tazewell counties No largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 20 inches, only 1 per day longer than 20 inches
Dan River and tributaries downstream from the Union Street Dam, Danville Only 2 of 5 largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 14 inches
James River–Confluence of the Jackson and Cowpasture rivers (Botetourt Cty) downstream to the 14th St. Bridge in Richmond No largemouth or smallmouth bass 14 to 22 inches, only 1 per day longer than 22 inches
Levisa Fork River–within the boundaries Buchanan County No largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 20 inches, only 1 per day longer than 20 inches
New River–Fields Dam (Grayson County) downstream to the VA-WV state line and its tributaries Little River downstream from Little River Dam in Montgomery County, Big Walker Creek from the Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge downstream to the New River and Wolf Creek from the Narrows Dam downstream to the New River in Giles County. (This does not include Claytor Lake which is delineated as: The upper end of the island at Allisonia downstream to the dam.) No largemouth or smallmouth bass 14 to 22 inches, only 1 per day longer than 22 inches
North Fork Holston River–Rt. 91 Bridge upstream of Saltville, Va. downstream to the VA-TN state line No largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 20 inches, only 1 per day longer than 20 inches
Potomac River – Virginia tidal tributaries above Rt. 301 bridge No largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 15 inches from March 1 through June 15
Staunton (Roanoke) River–and its tributaries below Difficult Creek, Charlotte County Only 2 of 5 largemouth or smallmouth bass less than 14 inches
North Fork, South Fork and mainstem Shenandoah River No largemouth or smallmouth bass 11 to 14 inches
Staunton River–Leesville Dam (Campbell County) downstream to the mouth of Difficult Creek, Charlotte County No smallmouth bass less than 20 inches, only 1 per day longer than 20 inches

Alabama, Spotted Bass

No statewide daily limit

No statewide length limit

South Holston Reservoir 15 spotted bass per day

Striped Bass

Landlocked Striped Bass and Landlocked Striped Bass X White Bass Hybrids

4 per day in the aggregate

No fish less than 20 inches

Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir including the Staunton (Roanoke) River to Leesville Dam and the Dan River to the Union Street Dam (Danville) October 1–May 31: 2 per day in the aggregate (combined) No striped bass or hybrid striped bass less than 20 inches
June 1–September 30: 4 per day in the aggregate (combined) No length limit
Claytor Lake and its tributaries September 16–June 30: 2 per day in the aggregate, no striped bass or hybrid bass less than 20 inches
July 1–September 15: 4 per day in the aggregate; no length limit
Lake Gaston 4 per day in the aggregate (combined)
October 1–May 31: No striped bass or hybrid striped bass less than 20 inches
June 1–September 30: No length limit
Smith Mountain Lake and its tributaries, including the Roanoke River upstream to Niagara Dam 2 per day in the aggregate (combined)
November 1–May 31: No striped bass 30 to 40 inches
June 1–October 31: No length limit

Anadromous (coastal) striped bass above the fall line in all coastal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay

Creel and length limits shall be as set by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission for recreational fishing in tidal waters None apply None apply

Striped bass in the Meherrin, Nottoway, Blackwater (Chowan Drainage), North Landing and Northwest rivers and their tributaries plus Back Bay

2 per day

No striped bass less than 18 inches

None apply None apply

Walleye, Saugeye

5 per day in the aggregate

No walleye or saugeye less than 18 inches

Claytor Lake and the New River upstream of Claytor Lake Dam to Buck Dam in Carroll County 2 walleye per day; no walleye 19 to 28 inches

Sauger

2 per day

No statewide length limits

None apply None apply

White Bass

5 per day

No statewide length limits

South Holston Reservoir No harvest or possession (catch and release only)
Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir, including the Staunton River to Leesville Dam and the Dan River to Union Street Dam (Danville) 10 per day; no white bass less than 14 inches

Chain Pickerel

5 per day

No statewide length limits

Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir No daily limit

Northern Pike

2 per day

No pike less than 20 inches

None apply None apply

Muskellunge

2 per day

No muskellunge less than 30 inches

New River-Fields Dam (Grayson County) downstream to Claytor Dam, including Claytor Lake 1 per day

No muskellunge less than 42 inches

New River-Claytor Dam downstream to VA-WV state line 1 per day

June 1–last day of February: No muskellunge 40 to 48 inches

March 1–May 31: No muskellunge less than 48 inches

Bluegill (bream) and other sunfish excluding Crappie, Rock Bass (redeye) and Roanoke Bass

50 per day in the aggregate (combined)

No statewide length limits

Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir and that portion of the New River from the VA–NC state line downstream to the confluence of the New and Little rivers in Grayson County No daily limit

Crappie (black or white)

25 per day in the aggregate (combined)

No statewide length limits

Lake Gaston and that portion of the New River from the VA–NC state line downstream to the confluence of the New and Little rivers in Grayson County No daily limit
Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir No crappie less than 9 inches
Briery Creek and Sandy River reservoirs No crappie less than 9 inches
Flannagan and South Holston reservoirs No crappie less than 10 inches; South Holston Res.–15 per day in the aggregate (combined)

Rock Bass (redeye)

25 per day in the aggregate with
Roanoke bassNo statewide length limits
Lake Gaston and Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir and that portion of the New River from the VA–NC state line downstream to the confluence of the New and Little rivers in Grayson County No daily limit
Nottoway, Meherrin, Blackwater (Franklin County), Falling and Smith rivers and their tributaries 5 per day in the aggregate (combined) with Roanoke bass

No rock bass less than 8 inches

South Holston Reservoir 20 per day

Roanoke Bass

25 per day in the aggregate with rock bass

No statewide length limits

Nottoway, Meherrin, and Blackwater (Franklin County), Falling and Smith rivers and their tributaries 5 per day in the aggregate (combined) with rock bass

No Roanoke bass less than 8 inches

Perch (yellow and white)

No statewide daily limit

No statewide length limit

Lake Moomaw 10 per day
Tidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay below the fall line No yellow perch less than 9 inches

Trout

6 per day

7 inch minimum size

See Trout Waters on Special Regulation Trout Waters
No minimum size limit South Holston Reservoir 7 fish per day—only 2 lake trout. No minimum size.

Catfish

Channel, White and Flathead

20 per day

No length limits

All rivers below the fall line No daily limit

Blue

20 per day

No statewide length limits

Buggs Island Lake/Kerr Reservoir 20 per day, except only 1 blue catfish per day longer than 32 inches
James River and its tributaries below the fall line, Rappahannock River and its tributaries below the fall line, and York River and its tributaries (including the Pamunkey River and Mattaponi River) below the fall line No daily limit, except only 1 blue catfish per day longer than 32 inches
Lake Gaston No daily limit, except only 1 blue catfish per day longer than 32 inches
All rivers below the fall line other than the James River and its tributaries, the Rappahannock River and its tributaries, and the York River and its tributaries No daily limit

Yellow, brown, black, flat, and snail bullhead

No daily limit

No length limits

None apply None apply

All Catfish

South Holston Reservoir 20 per day, only 1 catfish per day longer than 34 inches

Hickory Shad

Above and below the fall line in all coastal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay

Creel and length limits shall be the same as those set by the Virginia Marine Resources Comm. in tidal rivers None apply None apply

Meherrin River below Emporia Dam, Nottoway River, Blackwater River (Chowan Drainage), North Landing and Northwest rivers, and their tributaries plus Back Bay

10 per day

No length limits

None apply None apply

American Shad

No possession (catch and release only)

Anadromous (coastal) Alewife and Blueback Herring

Above and below the fall line in all coastal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay and their tributaries

Creel and length limits shall be the same as those set by the Virginia Marine Resources Comm. for these species in tidal rivers The Virginia Marine Resources Commission enacted a ban on the possession of river herring, effective January 1, 2012, due to the collapse of the stock, and to comply with an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries fishery management plan directive

Meherrin River, Nottoway River, Blackwater River (Chowan Drainage), North Landing and Northwest rivers and their tributaries, plus Back Bay

No possession

Other native or naturalized nongame fish

20 per day

No length limits

Statewide See Nongame Fish for exceptions

Threatened and endangered species

No possession None apply None apply

Grass Carp

No statewide daily limit

No statewide length limit

Anglers may possess grass carp taken from inland public waters, except for public lakes and reservoirs. Anglers must ensure that harvested grass carp are dead.

Northern Snakehead

No statewide daily limit

No statewide length limit

Anglers may possess snakeheads taken from Virginia waters if they immediately kill the fish and notify the headquarters or a regional office of the department; notification may be made by calling (804) 367-2925.

Non-native (Exotic) Fish

See Nongame Fish

Spotted Sea Trout

Back Bay and tributaries, including Brinson’s Inlet Lake (Lake Tecumseh), and the North Landing River and its tributaries

4 per day, no fish less than 14 inches

Red Drum

Back Bay and tributaries, including Brinson’s Inlet Lake (Lake Tecumseh), and the North Landing River and its tributaries

1 per day between 18 and 27 inches

Grey Trout

Back Bay and tributaries, including Brinson’s Inlet Lake (Lake Tecumseh), and the North Landing River and its tributaries

1 per day, no fish less than 12 inches

Southern Flounder

Back Bay and tributaries, including Brinson’s Inlet Lake (Lake Tecumseh), and the North Landing River and its tributaries

6 per day, no fish less than 15 inches

Longnose Gar

5 per day

No statewide length limits

Bowfin

5 per day

No statewide length limits

American Eel

25 per day; no eel less than 9 inches Back Bay and North Landing River No possession limit for those individuals possessing a permit obtained under 4VAC15-340-80

Saltwater Marine Species

See Virginia Marine Resources website: www.mrc.virginia.gov

How To Use Creel & Length Limit Table

Q: I am fishing for smallmouth bass at Lake Moomaw. How many and what size may I keep?

A: The statewide creel limit for bass is 5 in the aggregate, with no length limit. However, under GEOGRAPHICAL EXCEPTIONS, Lake Moomaw is listed. The exception is that no bass may be kept less than 12 inches long. Unless otherwise posted at the site, you could keep 5 bass but none of them can be less than 12 inches long.

Q: What does the term “in the aggregate” mean?

A: Aggregate means combined. In the example above for Lake Moomaw, unless otherwise posted, you can keep 5 bass in the aggregate but none can be less than 12 inches long. Example: You could keep 3 largemouth bass and 2 smallmouth bass for a combined or aggregate total of 5 but none of the 5 can be less than 12 inches in length.

Q: I am fishing for largemouth bass at Lake Brittle in Fauquier County. How many can I keep and of what size length?

A: Lake Brittle is not listed as a GEOGRAPHICAL EXCEPTION since this is not a major lake. The DWR website at www.virginiawildlife.gov/lakes under Lake Brittle indicates there is a 12–15 inch slot limit on largemouth, where all bass between 12–15 inches must be released. You could keep 5 bass but none between 12–15 inches long. This restriction should also be posted at Lake Brittle.