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Freshwater Fish Regulations

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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

Fish Bait Information

Bait Type

Possession Limit


1, 2 Minnows, Chubs, Madtoms


In aggregate with other bait, see below

1, 3 Crayfish


In aggregate with other bait, see below

1 Hellgrammites


In aggregate with other bait, see below

1 Salamanders


No possession allowed

4 Shad (Gizzard, Threadfin, Herring)


Only permitted in certain waters, see below

6 Trout


Artificially raised trout only, see below

6 Virginia Game Fish

See Creel & Length Limits

Collected by angling with hook and line only

Fathead minnows, golden shiners, goldfish


Legally purchased fish bait


Receipt needed specifying # and species

For more information see Nongame Fish, Reptile, Amphibian & Invertebrates.

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.
  • Collected by angling with hook and line.
  • 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-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, streams and their tributaries that flow into 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.
  • The use of nets other than cast nets (throw nets) to collect bait in the Roanoke (Staunton) and Dan Rivers in Campbell, Charlotte, Halifax, and Pittsylvania counties, and in the City of Danville is prohibited. Cast nets may be used to collect bait in these rivers.