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License Information

Fishing License Information

Every person who is required to have a license to fish, hunt, and/or trap must carry such license with them (electronic copy, printed paper, or annual hard card) and show the license immediately upon request of any officer whose duty it is to enforce the game and inland fish laws, or upon the demand of any owner or lessee, or any employee or representative of such owner or lessee, upon whose land or water such person may be hunting, trapping, or fishing.

Residency Qualifications

Persons meeting the following criteria may purchase a state resident license.

  • Individuals who, for two or more months immediately prior to purchasing a license, have been a domiciliary resident of Virginia and who execute a certificate of residency.
  • Member of the U.S. armed forces, their spouse, and their dependents when the armed forces member (i) resides in Virginia, (ii) is on active duty, and (iii) is stationed at a military base within or on a ship based in Virginia.

Persons meeting the following criteria may purchase a city or county resident license.

  • U.S. citizens who have been a bona fide resident of the city or county for six months immediately prior to purchasing a license for that city or county.
  • Legal voter of the city or county for which license is purchased.
  • Residents of a city whose limits are wholly within the county for which the license is purchased, provided the resident has physically resided within the city at least six consecutive months immediately preceding purchase.
  • Any student regularly enrolled in and boarding at a preparatory school or institution of higher education located in Virginia may purchase a city or county license for the city or county in which the school is located upon presenting a certificate of enrollment to the licensing agent.


All persons, except those listed below, must purchase the proper licenses before fishing.

  • Resident or nonresident landowners, their spouses, their children and grandchildren and the spouses of such children and grandchildren, or the landowner’s parents, resident or non­resident, do not need a license to hunt, trap, or fish within the boundaries of their own lands and inland waters.
  • Residents under 16 years of age (also do not need a trout license).
  • Resident, active-duty members of the armed forces while on official leave. However, when trout fishing they must have copy of their Military Orders in their possession.
  • Tenants, on the land they rent and occupy, are not required to have a license, but must have the written permission of the landowner.
  • Guests fishing in individually owned private ponds.
  • Nonresident children under 16 years of age (also do not need a trout license).
  • Legally blind persons.
  • Any Indian who “habitually” resides on an Indian reservation or a member of the Virginia-recognized tribes who resides in the Commonwealth is not required to have a freshwater license; however, such Indian must have on his person an identification card or paper signed by the chief of his tribe, a valid tribal identification card, written confirmation through a central tribal registry, or certification from a tribal office. However, a saltwater fishing license is required.
  • Stockholders owning 50 percent or more of the stock of any domestic corporation owning land in Virginia, his or her spouse and children and minor grandchildren, resident or nonresident, to hunt, trap and fish within the boundaries of lands and inland waters owned by the domestic corporation.
  • Persons 65 years of age or older do not need a saltwater license but must comply with the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) requirements. See page 11.
  • Any person not fishing but aiding a disabled license holder.

Where to Get a License


  • New Customers: Create a unique customer account to access licenses and other products.
  • Existing Customers: Log in using your date of birth, last name, and either your DWR Customer ID, the last 4 digits of your SSN or driver’s license number.

Select the license(s) you want, pay with your credit card and print your license if needed.

In Person:

Sold by some clerks of the Circuit Court , license agents across Virginia, and DWR headquarters. Not sold at DWR regional offices.

To find a license agent visit:

By Phone/Mobile Phone:

(804) 367-1000 during regular business hours, or use your GoOutdoors Virginia mobile app.

Freshwater/Saltwater License Lines on Tidal Waters

Persons fishing upstream of the designated lines on the following waters must have a valid freshwater fishing license, while those fishing below the lines must have a valid saltwater fishing license:

  • Elizabeth River: The Great Bridge Locks
  • James River: A line connecting Hog Point on Hog Island (Surry County) and the downstream point of the mouth of College Creek (James City County)
  • Piankatank River/Dragon Run: The first set of power lines immediately upriver of Anderson Point
  • Potomac River*: Rt. 301 Bridge
  • Rappahannock River: Rt. 360 Bridge
  • York River System (including the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers): Rt. 33 Bridges

Below these designated lines a freshwater or saltwater license will be valid on any tidal portion of any tributary entering the above mainstem waters.

The following waters are entirely freshwater and require a freshwater fishing license throughout: Meherrin River, Nottoway River, Blackwater River (Chowan drainage), Back Bay, Northwest River, and North Landing River and Intracoastal Waterway upstream to Great Bridge Locks, and Dismal Swamp Canal below (or south) of Deep Creek Locks.

* See reciprocal license section.

Additional Fishing License Information

Tidal Boat License

The tidal boat license is available to any boat owner, resident and nonresident. The license is a special combined sport­fishing license that gives the boat owner a license to fish in saltwater and freshwater within Virginia. The license also covers all passengers on board the owner’s boat when fishing in Virginia tidal waters (to river Fall Lines) and saltwater only when the registered boat owner is present. There are no decals issued under this license and the VMRC Fisherman Identification Program rules apply for passengers fishing in saltwater under this tidal boat license;

National Forest Permit

All persons are required to have a National Forest Permit (with the exceptions listed below) when fishing on National Forest lands except on the North and South Fork of the Shenandoah River, the James River, Skidmore Lake in Rockingham County, North Fork Pound Reservoir, Lake Moomaw, the Jackson River below Gathright Dam, and in Wilson Creek below Douthat Lake in Alleghany and Bath Counties. Those exceptions, not required to have a National Forest Permit, are residents under 16 and over 65, and nonresidents under 16.

State Forest Use Permit

Required for those persons aged 16 or older to practice the following activities on a state forest: hunting, trapping, fishing, mountain biking, and horse riding. No motorized vehicles on gated roads/trails (open or closed). The Forest Use Permit is not required for forest visitors who practice the following activities on a state forest: walking, hiking, or boating. Sold in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Access Permit

An access permit is required when using any DWR-owned or managed facility or boating access site. Such permit shall not be required for any person holding a valid hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license, or a current certificate of boat registration issued by the Department or persons under the age of 17. The Access Permit requirement does not apply to passengers of vessels launched from Department-owned boat ramps or segments of the Appalachian Trail on Department-owned land. The permit fee is $4 for a daily permit or $23 for an annual permit and may be purchased online or at any license agent.

Replacement License

If you purchased a license from a retail license agent, online or by phone, you can visit, select “Manage Your Account” and reprint your license anytime. You can also visit any retail license agent that sells hunt/fish licenses or call the Headquarters office at (804) 367-1000 during normal business hours.

Fall Line

The Fall Line is defined as the following landmarks:


The remnants of Harvell Dam approx. 0.5 mi upstream of Rt. 1

Chickahominy River:

Walkers Dam

James River (Richmond):

14th Street Bridge (Mayo Bridge)

Mattaponi River:

Rt. 360 Bridge

Pamunkey River:

Rt. 360 Bridge

Potomac River:

Little Falls

Rappahannock River:

Rt. 1 Bridge

Reciprocal Licenses

All reciprocal license agreements listed below refer to both boat and bank anglers.

Buggs Island (Kerr) and Gaston

Virginia or North Carolina state fishing licenses and permits are honored on those waters lying east of Union Street Dam on the Dan River in Virginia and the mouth of Difficult Creek on the Staunton River of Kerr Reservoir to the Gaston Dam on the Roanoke River, including all tributary waters accessible by boat from the main bodies of the reservoirs, or from the Island Creek sub-impoundment. Note: North Carolina regulations apply on North Carolina portions of these waters. Virginia regulations apply in Virginia waters.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Virginia and North Carolina licenses are honored on all Parkway waters. Note: Virginia regulations apply in Parkway waters in Virginia except where noted herein or in federal regulations.

New River

Virginia or North Carolina state fishing licenses and permits are honored on the mainstream portion lying between the confluence of the North and South Forks of the New River in North Carolina (Alleghany County) downstream to the confluence of the New and Little rivers in Virginia (Grayson County).

Potomac River

Virginia has reciprocal license agreements for three sections of the Potomac River, one above the District of Columbia and two below the District of Columbia. License requirements are different for these sections.

  • Upper Potomac River [above Little Falls (upper border with the District of Columbia) to the West Virginia border/state line]: Resident anglers with state freshwater licenses in Virginia or Maryland may fish the Potomac River and from both banks.
  • Middle Potomac and its Tidal Freshwater Tributaries (between Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Rt. 301): Valid Virginia freshwater and saltwater (excluding county licenses), Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and Maryland Bay sport licenses are all honored on the mainstem Potomac and Maryland tributaries up to the demarcation lines (see below); all of these same licenses, except the Virginia saltwater licenses, are honored on the Virginia tributaries up to demarcation lines (see below):

Virginia tributaries up to the following demarcation lines:

  • Accotink Creek: Rt. 1 Bridge
  • Aquia Creek: First bridge above Aquia Harbor Marina
  • Chopawansic: Rt. 1 Bridge
  • Choptank: Causeway
  • Dougue Creek: Rt. 235, Mt. Vernon Memorial Parkway
  • Four Mile Run: Rt. 1 Bridge
  • Hunting Creek: Rt. 1 Bridge
  • Little Hunting Creek: Rt. 1 Bridge
  • Neabsco: Rt. 1 Bridge
  • Occoquan River: Fall Line
  • Pohick Creek: Rt. 611 (Colchester Road)
  • Potomac Creek: Rt. 608 Bridge
  • Powells Creek: Rt. 1 Bridge
  • Quantico Creek: Rt. 1 Bridge

Unnamed bays and tributaries accessible by gas-powered boats

Maryland tributaries up to the following demarcation lines:

  • Anacostia River: Downstream of Northeast Branch Bridge at northbound lane of Alternate Rt. 1 Bladensburg Road, and Northwest Branch Bridge at southbound lane of Rhode Island Avenue
  • Piscataway Creek: Downstream of Rt. 224 Bridge (Livingston Rd.)
  • Henson Run: Downstream of Oxon Hill Road Bridge
  • Nanjemoy Creek: Downstream of Rt. 6 (Trappe) Bridge
  • Port Tobacco Creek: Downsteam of Rt. 6 Bridge
  • Mattawoman Creek: Downstream of Rt. 225 Bridge

Unnamed bays and tributaries accessible by gas-powered boats

  • Lower Potomac River (between its mouth and the Rt. 301 Bridge): Valid Virginia saltwater (excluding county licenses), Maryland Bay sport, or Potomac River Fisheries Commission licenses are honored in the main stem. In Virginia tributaries below 301, Virginia fresh­water and saltwater, and Potomac River Fisheries Commission licenses are honored.

Note: Maryland regulations apply for the Upper Potomac River and the Maryland Potomac River tributaries (call 1-800-688-3467 for current Maryland regulations).

Note: Potomac River Fisheries Commission regulations are enforced in the Potomac mainstem between the lower District of Columbia border and the mouth of the Potomac (call 1-804-224-7148 or 1-800-266-3904 for current PRFC regulations or

Waters between the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Little Falls are controlled by D.C., and a D.C. fishing license is required.

South Holston Reservoir

Any person possessing a valid Tennessee or Virginia resident freshwater fishing license, or who is legally exempt from those license requirements, and possessing the South Holston Reservoir License may fish in the Tennessee and Virginia impounded waters of South Holston Reservoir. Virginia residents fishing in South Holston Lake in Tennessee must have a Virginia resident license and South Holston Reservoir Permit (or Tennessee nonresident fishing license); under the age of 13—no license or permit required. The annual cost of the South Holston License is currently $21. The South Holston License is valid in all impounded portions of the reservoir below full pool elevation of 1,730 feet, including the confluence of the Middle Fork and South Fork Holston rivers and the South Fork Holston River upstream to the Route 710 Bridge at Alvarado, Virginia. The South Holston License is not valid for possession of trout.

In addition to the South Holston License, a valid resident Tennessee trout fishing license or a valid resident Virginia trout fishing license is required to fish for trout and to possess trout on South Holston Reservoir. All anglers shall abide by the laws of the state in which they are fishing as to manner and means of taking fish. Size restrictions and creel limits shall be as follows:



Creel (Harvest) Limit

Largemouth & smallmouth bass

No smallmouth less than 15 inches

5 per day

Spotted bass

No minimum size

No daily limit


No walleye less than 18 inches

5 per day


No crappie less than 10 inches

15 per day


No minimum size–only 2 lake trout per day

7 per day

White bass

No harvest–all white bass must be released


Only 1 catfish over 34 inches

20 per day


No minimum size

50 per day

Rock bass

No minimum size

20 per day


100 hooks per angler


50 per angler


15 per angler

*All trotlines, limb-lines, and jugs must be tagged with angler’s name/address or license number.