Freshwater Fishing Seasons in Virginia

In Virginia, there is a continuous, year-round season for all freshwater fish, with exceptions outlined below:

Trout Seasons

  • Special Times and Limited Closures: Trout fishing in designated stocked trout waters, youth-only stocked trout waters, trout heritage waters, urban program waters, Blue Ridge Parkway, and fee fishing trout waters have specific times and limited closures as per regulations. Anglers should refer to the Trout Fishing Guide for details.

Special Methods for Nongame Fish

  • Certain seasons apply for special methods to take nongame fish. Details can be found in the Nongame Fish, Reptile, Amphibian & Invertebrates regulations.

Anadromous Striped Bass, Alewife, Blueback Herring

  • Regulations for anadromous striped bass, alewife, and blueback herring above and below the fall line in tidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay are set by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. For more information, contact (757) 247-2200 or visit

Anadromous American Shad, Hickory Shad, and Saltwater Fish

  • Regulations for anadromous American shad, hickory shad, and all other saltwater fish below the fall line in tidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay are also set by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Contact information and online resources are available for further details.

Fish Bait Information in Virginia

Here's a breakdown of bait types, possession limits, and important notes for anglers in Virginia:

Bait Type Possession Limits Notes

  1. Minnows, Chubs, Madtoms - 50 total, aggregate with other bait
  2. Crayfish - 20 total, aggregate with other bait
  3. Hellgrammites - 50 total, aggregate with other bait
  4. Salamanders - No possession allowed
  5. Shad (Gizzard, Threadfin, Herring) - Unlimited, restrictions apply in certain waters
  6. Trout - Unlimited, only artificially raised trout allowed as bait
  7. Virginia Game Fish - See Creel & Length Limits, specific regulations apply
  8. Fathead Minnows, Golden Shiners, Goldfish - Unlimited, legally purchased bait
  9. Other Legally Purchased Fish Bait - Unlimited, receipt needed specifying quantity and species


  • Minnows, chubs, madtoms, crayfish, and hellgrammites are limited to 50 total for all species combined (aggregate).
  • Collection of minnows and chubs for sale is prohibited, but allowed for personal use.
  • Crayfish collected for bait must be used only in the water where they were captured.
  • Restrictions apply to the use of shad in certain waters, with specific geographical limitations for herring.
  • Only artificially raised trout may be used as bait, with documentation required for purchase.
  • Any legally possessed game fish may be used as bait when fished whole, with compliance to creel and length limits.
  • Bluegill, sunfish, and bream can be used as cut bait, but altering other game fish is prohibited.

Legal Methods for Capturing Nongame Bait in Virginia

Anglers in Virginia can use the following legal methods for capturing nongame bait:

  1. Seine: A seine not exceeding 4 feet in depth by 10 feet in length.
  2. Minnow Traps: Traps with throat openings no larger than 1 inch in diameter.
  3. Angling: Captured by angling with hook and line.
  4. Cast Net: A cast net for capturing baitfish.
  5. Hand-Held Bow Nets: Nets with a diameter no larger than 20 inches and handle length not to exceed 8 feet.
  6. Umbrella-Type Net: Nets not exceeding 5 by 5 feet square.
  7. Dip Nets: Used to take shad, herring, mullet, and suckers only. However, they may not be used in waters where anadromous (American) shad and herring cannot be possessed.

Restricted Areas for Fishing in Virginia

Certain areas are restricted for fishing in Virginia. Here are the details:

  1. Designated Stocked Trout Waters: Fishing is restricted between October 1 and June 15.

  2. Department-Owned Lakes: Unless otherwise posted, fishing is restricted.

  3. Specific Streams and Tributaries:

    • 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 flowing into Hungry Mother Lake in Smyth County
    • Susong Branch and Mumpower Creek in Washington County and the City of Bristol
    • Timbertree Branch in Scott County
  4. Restricted Net Use:

    • Nets other than cast nets (throw nets) are prohibited for bait collection in the Roanoke (Staunton) and Dan Rivers in Campbell, Charlotte, Halifax, and Pittsylvania counties, and in the City of Danville.
    • Cast nets are allowed for bait collection in these rivers.
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.