Inland Fishing Regulations

When engaging in fishing activities in inland waters in Vermont, it's crucial to abide by specific regulations to ensure responsible angling practices and the preservation of aquatic ecosystems. Here's what you need to know:

Fishing Methods

  • Angling Only: Fishing in inland waters must be conducted using a hook and line or rod and reel, except for exceptions outlined for nongame fish.

Licensing Requirements

  • Freshwater Fishing License: All fishing on inland waters necessitates a freshwater fishing license, unless exempted.

Equipment Usage

  • Hand Landing Net: Legally hooked fish can be landed using a hand landing net in all waters.

Creel Limits

  • Daily Creel Limit: It's unlawful to possess more than the daily creel limit of any fish while afield or on the waters. Live possession of fish counts towards the daily creel limit.

Permission for Fishing on Private Property

  • Landowner's Permission: Fishing on another person's property requires the landowner's permission, except on designated stocked trout waters with signage indicating public fishing access.

Fish Handling

  • Altered Game Fish: It's illegal to alter the appearance of game fish with daily creel or size limits to obscure their species or make it impracticable to measure their original length. Possession or transportation of altered game fish is prohibited unless prepared for immediate use as food or for lawful commercial purposes.

Environmental Protection

  • Prohibited Substances: Using lime, dynamite, or other substances to destroy fish, allowing noxious matter to enter watercourses, or depositing trash in streams or lakes is unlawful.

  • SCUBA Gear: It's illegal to use SCUBA gear to take or attempt to take fish.

  • Removal of Gear: Trotlines, juglines, or set poles must be removed from public waters when not in use.

Tagging Fish

  • Permission Requirement: Marking fish with tagging equipment for personal information or research purposes necessitates agency permission.

Commercial Fishing

  • Sale Prohibition: Taking fish, freshwater mussels, or mollusks in inland waters for sale is unlawful, except under special permits provided by law.

Protection of Threatened or Endangered Species

  • Conservation Measures: It's illegal to take, kill, capture, or possess any threatened or endangered species.

Virginia Game Fish

Virginia is home to a diverse range of game fish species, each offering unique angling opportunities and contributing to the state's rich fishing heritage. Key game fish in Virginia include:


Trout fishing is popular in Virginia, with various species found in both native habitats and stocked waters.

Bass Species

  • Largemouth Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Spotted Bass
  • Rock Bass
  • Roanoke Bass


Panfish, including bream, bluegill, and crappie, provide enjoyable angling experiences for fishermen of all skill levels.

Predatory Fish

Predatory species such as walleye, sauger, saugeye, chain pickerel, muskellunge, northern pike, striped bass, and white bass offer thrilling challenges for anglers seeking larger catches.

Stocking Fish Regulations

Stocking fish in Virginia's inland waters is subject to specific regulations:

Approval Requirement

Obtaining written approval from the Department is mandatory before stocking any fish species into inland waters, with exceptions for private ponds.

Prohibited Species

Certain species, including blue catfish, spotted bass, Alabama bass, and Northern snakehead, cannot be stocked in privately owned ponds and lakes.

Trout Bait Regulations

Regulations regarding the use of trout as bait in Virginia:

Authorized Use

Artificially raised rainbow trout can be sold as bait for specific waters, excluding designated stocked trout waters and Lake Moomaw.

Documentation Requirement

Persons possessing purchased rainbow trout for bait must have a valid invoice or bill of sale specifying relevant purchase details.

Special Regulations for Certain Waters

Specific waters in Virginia are subject to special regulations:

Lick Creek

Bear Creek

Susong Branch

Mumpower Creek

Timbertree Branch

Streams and Tributaries Flowing into Hungry Mother Lake

Regulations may include restrictions on bait use and fishing methods like seines, nets, or traps.

Dam Regulations

Regulations surrounding dams in Virginia are crucial for safety and environmental preservation. Here are the specific regulations for notable dams:

Buggs Island Dam

  • Restriction: Mechanical lure launchers are prohibited within 600 yards below Buggs Island Dam.

Walkers Dam

  • Permitted Methods: Only rod and reel and hand lines are allowed within 500 yards below Walkers Dam.
  • Snagging Prohibition: It is illegal to snag fish at Walkers Dam.

Leesville Dam

  • Regulation: Fishing, assisting others in fishing, or collecting bait while wading or operating any vessel in the waters of the Roanoke River from Leesville Dam downstream 840 feet to a permanent overhead cable is prohibited.
  • Closure: The Leesville Tailrace Bank Fishing Area is closed until further notice, with no fishing or trespassing allowed in this area. However, the canoe launch downstream remains open for use.


  • Prohibition Period: Fishing or bait collection is prohibited from March 1 through June 15 within 300 feet of Boshers Dam Fishway on the north bank of the James River.

Department-owned Lakes, Ponds, Streams, or Boat Access Sites

Motors and Boats

  • Restriction: Unless otherwise posted, the use of boats propelled by gasoline motors or sail is prohibited. Gasoline motors may be used if turned off at all times, including during launch and retrieval.

Method of Fishing

  • Requirement: Fishing must be conducted using attended poles with hook and line attached unless otherwise posted.

Hours for Fishing

  • Availability: Fishing is permitted 24 hours a day unless otherwise posted.

Compliance with Regulations

  • Conformity Requirement: Fishing seasons, hours, methods, size and creel limits, as well as hunting and trapping regulations, must adhere to the posted rules or regulations of the board.

Other Uses

  • Prohibitions: Overnight camping, fires (except in designated areas), swimming, or wading (except by anglers, hunters, and trappers) are prohibited in Department-owned lakes, ponds, or streams unless otherwise posted.

Fishing Tournaments & Boat Ramp Special Use

  • Permit Requirement: A boat ramp special use permit is necessary to organize fishing tournaments, rodeos, or other fishing events on department-owned waters where prizes are offered based on fish size or numbers.
  • Immediate Release Requirement: Fish caught during permitted events must be immediately released at the capture site.

Fish Consumption Advisories

Ensuring the safety of fish consumption is paramount for anglers. Here's what you need to know about fish consumption advisories:

Monitoring and Warnings

  • Monitoring Process: Fish in Virginia waters are regularly monitored for contaminants by the Department of Environmental Quality.
  • Advisory Issuance: When potentially harmful levels of chemicals are detected, the Department of Health issues warnings for affected bodies of water.
  • Accessing Advisories: For the latest fish consumption advisories, visit the Health Department website at or call 804-864-8182.

Angler Awareness

  • Continued Fishing: Despite advisories, anglers can still fish in these waters and enjoy recreational fishing with caution.
  • Fish Preparation Tips: The following section provides guidance on cleaning and cooking fish to reduce contamination levels.

Cleaning and Cooking Your Fish

To minimize exposure to contaminants while enjoying your catch, follow these recommendations:

  • Contaminant Build-up: PCBs and most organic contaminants accumulate in a fish's fat deposits and under the skin.
  • Preparation Tips:
    • Remove the skin, fat from the belly and top, and internal organs before cooking.
    • Opt for baking, broiling, or grilling on an open rack to allow fats to drain, rather than pan frying.
    • Discard cooked-out fat and minimize the use of fish drippings to flavor meals.
    • Reduce consumption of deep-fried fish, as frying seals contaminants into fatty tissue.

Meal Advice

  • Youthful Fish Preference: Younger fish generally have lower contaminant levels compared to older, larger counterparts.
  • Portion Size Consideration: Eating smaller, younger fish and avoiding fatty species can help limit exposure to contaminants.
  • Safety Reminder: Ensure proper cleaning, trimming, and cooking of fish to mitigate potential health risks associated with contamination.

Best Practices for Catch-and-Release Fishing

For anglers practicing catch-and-release fishing, following these best practices is crucial for the well-being of fish populations:

Handling Precautions

  • Wet Hands: Always wet your hands before handling a fish to avoid removing its protective slime coating, which is essential for its health.
  • Use of Net: Employ a large net to keep the fish wet while removing the hook and for quick photographs. Opt for soft rubber nets to minimize injury.
  • Quick Photography: Minimize handling time for photographs and return the fish to the water promptly to reduce stress.

Safe Handling Techniques

  • Avoid Surface Contact: Prevent contact with boat surfaces, such as carpet and metal, to prevent injury to the fish's delicate scales and skin.
  • Proper Tools: Carry long pliers for unhooking, wire cutters for toothy species, and jaw spreaders for difficult hook removals.
  • Deep Hook Removal: If a hook is deeply embedded, cut the line close to the hook eye to minimize stress on the fish.

Respectful Fish Handling

  • Mindful Handling: When handling a fish out of the water, avoid touching the gills and gill arches, and refrain from holding it tightly or by the eyeball sockets.
  • Allow Recovery: Allow the fish to recover on its own terms before releasing it. Revive the fish by holding it upright and gently moving it forward to facilitate water flow over the gills.

Considerations for Sustainable Fishing

  • Appropriate Gear: Use the correct size rod and reel for the targeted species to minimize fight time and stress on the fish.
  • Water Temperature Awareness: Consider water temperatures, especially when targeting cold-water species in warmer months, and fish in cooler morning hours.
  • Tournament Practices: Tournament anglers should ensure proper livewell management, including oxygenation and temperature control, to minimize stress on fish.

Conservation-minded Options

  • Fiberglass Mounts: Consider fiberglass mounts for trophy fish, which require only a photo and measurements, offering a longer-lasting and more realistic alternative to traditional skin mounts.
Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.