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Virginia's Trout Fishing Landscape

Virginia boasts an extensive network of trout streams, comprising over 3,500 miles, along with various ponds, small lakes, and reservoirs. Within this expanse, there are over 2,900 miles of wild trout streams and approximately 600 miles of water populated with stocked trout. This diversity in trout habitat provides anglers with a plethora of fishing opportunities.

Trout Management Programs

Trout management in Virginia operates through three main programs:

  1. Catchable Trout Stocking Program: This program, renowned and widely favored, involves stocking "Designated Stocked Trout Waters" with catchable-sized trout from October to May. Anglers can refer to the Catchable Trout Stocking Plan for details on stocked streams, lakes, and their stocking schedules.

  2. Wild Trout Program: Focused on preserving reproducing populations of brook, rainbow, and brown trout, this program emphasizes habitat conservation and appropriate regulations to safeguard spawning stocks.

  3. Fingerling Trout Stocking Program: Though the smallest of the three, this program is significant for stocking sublegal trout into waters with cold summer temperatures and abundant food sources. Many high-quality, special regulation trout fishing waters fall under this program.

Trout Fishing Regulations

Virginia's trout season remains open year-round, with general statewide limits set at 6 trout per day, with none less than 7 inches. Exceptions exist for specific areas and waters, such as heritage, urban, special area, special regulation, and fee fishing waters. Anglers are advised to review the regulations for fishing times, dates, and limits tailored to these areas.

Seasonal Considerations

Trout fishing success is typically high during the spring, fall, and mild winter seasons. However, challenges arise from June through September due to low stream flows and rising water temperatures, making trout fishing more demanding. Nonetheless, seasoned anglers can still capitalize on good trout fishing opportunities year-round.

Updates to Virginia's Trout Fishing Regulations

Here are the latest changes and updates regarding trout fishing in Virginia:

  1. Free Fishing Days: A trout license is not required to fish designated stocked trout waters during Free Fishing Days. However, anglers must still obtain a permit to fish at Clinch Mountain, Crooked Creek, and Douthat State Park Fee Fishing Areas.

  2. Swift Run Reopening: Swift Run in Greene County is now reopened as a Category B Designated Stocked Trout Water. Anglers can find access information on signage along the stream.

  3. Nonresident License Fee Reduction: The cost for a nonresident trout license to fish in designated stocked trout waters has been reduced to match the price of a resident trout license, now priced at $23.00.

  4. Urban Stocked Trout Waters Stocking Dates: Stocking dates for Urban Stocked Trout Waters will now be posted the week prior to stocking on the Department’s trout stocking information page, as well as on the trout stocking telephone line.

  5. Delayed Harvest Section Reopening: The Delayed Harvest section of Passage Creek in Warren County will be reopened and stocked for this season.

  6. Expansion of Stocked Trout Program: Two additional sections of the Middle Fork Holston River in Smyth County, flowing through the Town of Marion, will now be stocked. The first section includes the portion of the river in front of Marion’s Carl Taylor Public Pool, while the second encompasses the section flowing through the Wilderness Road Garden Club Park operated by the Town of Marion’s Parks and Recreation Department.

  7. New Section Added: A new section of Elk Creek in Grayson County will be added to the stocked trout program, replacing the Clito Road section lost to public access last year. The new section runs along Carsonville Road (Route 660) from near the intersection with Route 696 to approximately 0.5 miles below the Route 654 bridge.

Regulations for Designated Stocked Trout Waters

Here are the regulations governing fishing in designated stocked trout waters in Virginia:

Definition and Season

"Designated Stocked Trout Waters" are those bodies of water stocked with catchable-sized trout, listed in the annual Trout Stocking Plan. These waters are considered designated stocked trout waters from October 1 through June 15, requiring a trout license. However, from June 16 through September 30, a trout license is not required. Angling hours are from 5:00 am until one hour after sunset.

Exceptions

Exceptions exist for Trout Heritage Waters, Urban Program Waters, and Fee Fishing Areas, which are listed separately in the regulations.

Enforcement and Restrictions

  1. Posting: Designated stocked trout waters are clearly marked by the Department with appropriate "stocked trout waters" signs.

  2. Creel Limits: It is unlawful to fish in designated stocked trout waters after reaching the daily creel limit of trout or during closed hours for taking trout.

  3. Creel Limit Management: Once a trout is placed in a creel (basket, bucket, stringer, cooler, etc.), it becomes part of the daily creel limit and cannot be released (culled).

  4. Prohibited Activities: It is unlawful to feed, bait, or snag trout in designated stocked trout waters.

  5. Equipment Restrictions: Only one rod, one line, and one baited hook (treble hook counted as one) are allowed per person fishing in designated stocked trout waters. However, any combination of artificial lures is permitted.

  6. Seines and Nets: It is unlawful to use seines and nets in designated stocked waters, except for a hand-landing net to land legally hooked fish, which is permitted in all waters.

Regulations for Kids Fishing Events

Here are the regulations governing kids fishing events held on designated stocked trout waters in Virginia:

Event Closure to Adults

Kids fishing events sponsored by the Department and conducted on designated stocked trout waters will be closed to adults (anglers over 15 years of age) from noon the day before the event until the conclusion of the special event. This closure applies only to the posted section where the event is taking place.

Accompanying Children

Any person over the age of 15 who accompanies a child incapable of hooking and landing a fish unassisted must be properly licensed to fish in designated stocked trout waters.

Regulations for Urban Program Waters

Here are the regulations governing Urban Program Waters in Virginia:

Season and Licensing

Waters in the Urban Fishing Program are designated stocked trout waters from November 1 through April 30, requiring a trout license during this period. However, from May 1 through October 31, a trout license is not required.

Creel Limits

Trout may be creeled from Urban Program Waters year-round. The trout creel limit is set at 4 per day, with no fish less than 7 inches.

Creel Limit Management

Once a trout is taken into possession by placing it in a creel (basket, bucket, stringer, cooler, etc.), it counts towards the daily creel limit and may not be released (culled).

Stocking Information

Stocking dates for Urban Program Waters will be posted the week prior to stocking on the Department’s trout stocking information page and trout stocking telephone line.

Regulations for Special Trout Areas

Here are the regulations for special trout areas, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia:

Blue Ridge Parkway

  • Fishing Hours: Fishing is prohibited from one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise.
  • Bait Restrictions: No live or dead fish or fish eggs may be used as bait. Digging for worms is also prohibited.
  • Special Creel Limits: Special creel limits and other regulations may be posted for Parkway waters.

Shenandoah National Park

  • Lure Restrictions: Only single-point hook artificial lures may be used; bait is not allowed.
  • Creel Limits: On streams open to harvest, the creel limit is 6 trout per day, with a minimum size of 9 inches for brook trout and 7 inches for brown and rainbow trout.
  • Catch and Release Regulations: On streams not open to harvest, catch and release regulations apply.
  • Brown Trout Regulations: The release of any brown trout back into any Park stream is prohibited. Brown trout less than 7 inches must be disposed of within the Park but away from Park streams, roads, or trails to limit their impact on native brook trout populations.
  • Contact Information: For the annual list of streams open to harvest, contact the Shenandoah National Park at 540-999-3500.

Youth-Only Stocked Trout Program

Here are the details regarding the Youth-Only Stocked Trout Program in Virginia:

Program Details

  • Designation: The waters listed below are designated as Youth-Only Stocked Trout Waters from April 1 through June 15.
  • Participant Age: Only youth age 15 and under are allowed to fish during this time period.
  • Adult Assistance: Adults can assist youth by baiting the hook, casting, and removing the fish from the hook. However, adults cannot assist with setting the hook or retrieving the fish.
  • Creel Limit: The daily creel limit is set at 3 trout for participants.
  • Licensing: Adults assisting youth are not required to have a fishing license or a trout license.
  • Parking Fees: Parking or access fees may be required at some locations.

Stocking Information

  • Stocking Frequency: Youth-Only Waters will be stocked three times between April 1 and June 1.
  • Stocking Times: Stocking times may vary depending on the distance from the hatchery to the receiving water. Efforts will be made to stock between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
  • Stocking Events: The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) reserves the right to postpone or change the date of any stocking events due to circumstances compromising the resource or public safety.

Stocked Waters and Dates

  1. Northern Fauquier Community Park Pond (Marshall), 4155 Monroe Parkway

    • Stocking Dates: April 2; April 15; April 26
  2. South River – Basic Park (Waynesboro), 1405 Genicom Drive

    • Stocking Dates: April 1; April 19; May 10
  3. Cave Mountain Lake (Natural Bridge), 811 Cave Mountain Lake Road

    • Stocking Dates: April 3; April 18; May 3
  4. Glen Alton Pond (Giles Co.), Route 635/Glen Alton Road

    • Stocking Dates: April 1; April 17; May 2
  5. Franklin County Park Pond (Rocky Mount), 2150 Sontag Road

    • Stocking Dates: April 1; April 11; April 16
  6. Ivy Creek – Peaks View Park (Lynchburg), 1205 Ardmore Drive

    • Stocking Dates: April 1; April 15; May 6
  7. South Fork Clinch River – Dunford Park (Tazewell), 137 Riverview Lane

    • Stocking Dates: April 6; April 27; May 11
  8. Two Ponds (Smyth Co.) – Mount Rogers NRA office, 3714 VA-16

    • Stocking Dates: April 1; April 17; May 2

Pre-Announced Stocked Trout Waters

Here are the pre-announced stocked trout waters and their stocking dates in Virginia:

Stocking Information

  • Stocking Times: Stocking times may vary but generally occur between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
  • Closures: There will be no temporary stream or lake closures associated with these stocking events.
  • Event Changes: The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) reserves the right to postpone or change the date of any stocking events due to circumstances affecting the resource or public safety.

Stocked Waters and Dates

  1. Lake Thompson (Fauquier Co.)

    • Stocking Date: April 12
  2. South River - Ridgeview Park & Grottoes Park (Augusta/Rockingham Co.)

    • Stocking Date: March 27
  3. Jackson River – Hidden Valley (Bath Co.)

    • Stocking Date: April 4
  4. North River – Upper & Gorge (Augusta Co.)

    • Stocking Date: March 29
  5. Mint Springs Lake (Albemarle Co.)

    • Stocking Date: March 15
  6. Rural Retreat Pond (Wythe Co.)

    • Stocking Date: April 13
  7. Barbour’s Creek (Craig Co.)

    • Stocking Date: April 19
  8. Middle Fork Holston River (Smyth Co.)

    • Stocking Date: May 25
  9. South Fork Powell River (Wise Co.)

    • Stocking Date: May 4
  10. Roanoke River (Roanoke City)

    • Stocking Date: May 3
  11. Pigg River (Franklin Co.)

    • Stocking Date: March 15
  12. Liberty Lake (Bedford Co.)

    • Stocking Date: March 22
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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.