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Catch-and-Release Regulations for Black Bass

Lakes Designated for Catch-and-Release

In the following lakes, all black bass (including smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth) must be promptly released back into the water upon capture. Anglers are not allowed to have any black bass in their possession while fishing in these designated catch-and-release areas.

List of Lakes:

  • Dunkard Fork
  • Edwards Run Pond
  • Elk Fork
  • Kimsey Run
  • Millers Fork Pond
  • North Bend
  • O’Brien
  • Rockhouse
  • Tuckahoe
  • Upper Mud
  • Woodrum

Streams Subject to Catch-and-Release

The catch-and-release regulation for black bass also applies to certain streams, including:

New River

  • Location: Fayette, Raleigh, and Summers counties
  • 12-mile section from the I-64 bridge at Sandstone downstream to NPS Grandview Sandbar access site near Quinnimont.
  • Access via state Route 41 at Quinnimont and state Route 20 at Sandstone.

South Branch of Potomac River

  • Area 1: 8-mile section in Hardy County from 3 miles east of Petersburg at the routes 28, 55, and 220 bridge (Petersburg Gap bridge) downstream to the county Route 13 bridge (Fisher bridge).
  • Area 2: 9.5-mile section in Hampshire County from the routes 28 and 50 bridge (Romney bridge) downstream to the state Route 28 bridge (Blue Beach bridge).

Slot Limit Regulations

New River

  • Black bass (smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth) measuring between 14 to 22 inches must be released immediately.
  • Daily creel limit of six black bass, with only one exceeding 22 inches.

South Mill Creek Lake and Parker Hollow Lake

  • Black bass (smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth) between 12 to 16 inches long must be returned to the water immediately.
  • Harvest of black bass must adhere to the daily creel limit regulation.

Greenbrier River

  • Location: Greenbrier County
  • 6-mile section from the U.S. Route 60 bridge near Caldwell extending downstream to the U.S. Route 219 bridge at Ronceverte.
  • Black bass (smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth) measuring between 12 to 20 inches must be released.
  • Daily creel limit of one black bass over 20 inches within the slot limit area. Harvest of black bass under 12 inches is permitted.

Minimum Size Limit Regulations

Stonewall Jackson Lake

  • Daily creel limit of one black bass (smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth) measuring 18 inches or longer.
  • Harvest of black bass under 18 inches is permitted.

Registered bass tournament anglers participating in DNR-permitted tournaments are exempt from this regulation.

Additional Catch-and-Release Regulations

For the following waters, all black bass (smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth) measuring under 12 inches must be released immediately:

Lakes

  • Barboursville
  • Beech Fork
  • Chief Logan
  • Conaway Run

Streams

  • Wheeling Creek: Marshall and Ohio counties (Entire length)
  • Ohio River: Entire length from the mouth of Mill Creek, Hancock County, downstream to the mouth of the Big Sandy River, Wayne County. This regulation applies to all waters included in the Ohio River Reciprocal Agreement with the State of Ohio.

Best Practices for Fish Handling and Release

Quick and Gentle Release

When practicing catch-and-release fishing, prioritize the survival of the released fish by adhering to these straightforward guidelines:

  1. Swift Action: Minimize stress on the fish by playing and releasing it as swiftly as possible. Prolonged fights can exhaust the fish, reducing its chances of survival upon release.

  2. Keep in Water: While handling the fish, keep it submerged in the water as much as possible. Utilize forceps or needle-nosed pliers to safely remove the hook, minimizing the time the fish spends out of its natural habitat.

  3. Gentle Handling: Handle the fish with bare, wet hands to avoid damaging its delicate skin. Refrain from squeezing the fish excessively or inserting fingers into its eyes or gills, which can cause harm or scale loss.

  4. Patient Release: Once the hook is removed, hold the fish gently in the water until it shows signs of readiness to swim away independently. This ensures the fish has sufficient time to recover from the encounter before venturing back into its environment.

  5. Capture Memories: While it's acceptable to snap a quick photo of your catch, prioritize the well-being of the fish over prolonged handling for photography purposes.

  6. Dealing with Deep Hooks: In cases where the fish is deeply hooked or gill-hooked, consider cutting the line approximately 5 to 6 inches above the lure. This method allows the fish to swim freely while minimizing potential injury from attempting to remove the hook.

Special Fishing Regulations for Children and Individuals with Disabilities

During specific periods, designated areas are subject to special regulations catering to children aged 14 and under and individuals with disabilities holding a Class Q permit. Here are the key provisions:

  • Regulated Period: March to May
  • Restrictions: Fishing is limited to children aged 14 and under and individuals with disabilities holding a Class Q permit.
  • Fishing Hours: Daylight hours only.
  • Creel Limit: Four trout per angler.
  • Assistance Allowed: Another person may assist with baiting hooks and removing fish.

Lakes

Baker Lake – Ohio County

  • 3-acre lake situated in Bear Rock Lakes WMA.
  • Accessible via county Route 41/6.

Bishop Knob Pond – Webster County

  • 2-acre lake located between Cranberry and Williams rivers.
  • Accessible by Forest Road 101.

Coonskin Park Pond – Kanawha County

  • 2.7-acre pond nestled in Coonskin Park.
  • Accessible off I-77, Exit 1, U.S. Route 119 north to Henry Shores Drive.

Handley Pond – Pocahontas County

  • 5-acre pond situated in the Handley WMA.
  • Accessible via county Routes 17 and 17/1 intersecting U.S. Route 219 at Edray, north of Marlinton.

Logan County Airport Pond

  • 1-acre pond.
  • Accessible by county Route 119/8 off state Route 17.

Millers Fork Pond – Wayne County

  • 5-acre pond within the Beech Fork Lake WMA.
  • Accessible by county Route 22 off county Route 17.

Raleigh County Airport Pond

  • 1-acre pond located at the entrance to the Raleigh County Airport.
  • Accessible by county Route 9/9 off I-64 at Airport Exit 125-B.

Underwood Lake – Cabell County

  • 1-acre pond situated on Huntington YMCA property.
  • Accessible by state Route 2.

Westover Park Pond – Monongalia County

  • 1-acre pond situated at Westover Park, just off U.S. Route 19 approximately 0.5 miles east of I-79 Westover exit.

Streams

Davis Creek - Kanawha County

  • Extends from the Route 23 bridge near the entrance of Kanawha State Forest upstream, including all tributaries (17.2 miles).

Laurel Fork – Wyoming County

  • 300-yard section within Gilliand Park in Oceana.
  • Accessible via Route 10.

Mash Fork of Camp Creek – Mercer County

  • 100-yard section within Camp Creek State Park/ State Forest at Mash Fork Waterfalls.
  • Accessible by county Route 19/5 from I-77, exit 20.

Catch-and-Release Regulations for All Species

Dixon Lake (Pedlar Wildlife Management Area)

  • Catch-and-Release Policy: All species of fish caught must be promptly returned to the water upon capture.
  • Possession Limit: Anglers are prohibited from possessing any fish (creel limit 0) while fishing in designated catch-and-release lakes and streams.
  • Live Minnow Prohibition: Use of live minnows as bait is strictly prohibited.
  • Barbed Hook Prohibition: Anglers are prohibited from using barbed hooks while fishing in Dixon Lake.

Catfish Regulations and Hand-Fishing Guidelines

Daily Creel Limits for Flathead and Blue Catfish

Flathead Catfish:

  • Daily creel limit of four flathead catfish.
  • Only one catfish may exceed 35 inches in length.
  • Possession limit of eight flathead catfish.

Blue Catfish on Kanawha and Ohio Rivers:

  • Daily creel limit of four blue catfish.
  • Minimum size of 25 inches for blue catfish.
  • Only one blue catfish may exceed 35 inches.
  • Possession limit of eight blue catfish, with only two exceeding 35 inches.

Designated Waterways

Kanawha River:

  • From the mouth of the Kanawha River upstream to the confluence of the New and Gauley rivers.

Monongahela River:

  • Entire length from the Pennsylvania state line to the confluence of the Tygart Valley and West Fork rivers (flathead catfish only).

Ohio River:

  • Entire length from the mouth of Mill Creek, Hancock County, downstream to the mouth of the Big Sandy River, Wayne County. This regulation applies to all waters included in the Ohio River Reciprocal Agreement with the state of Ohio.

Hand-Fishing Season and Regulations

Season: June 15 through Aug. 31, with fishing permitted from sunrise until sunset.

Permitted Waters: Hand-fishing is allowed in Stonecoal, Hawks Nest, Mt. Storm, Cheat, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes.

Daily Creel Limit and Size Restrictions:

  • Daily creel limit of four total catfish caught by hand-fishing.
  • Only one fish allowed to exceed 35 inches.
  • Maximum of two blue catfish, with a minimum length of 24 inches.
  • In waters with special regulations, adhere to the more restrictive guidelines.
  • The daily creel limit for hand-fishing counts toward any daily limit for hook and line fishing.

Prohibited Practices:

  • Use of hooks, gaffs, spears, or any other tools besides hands.
  • Use of bait or fish attractors.
  • Artificial cavities and nesting boxes for hand-fishing.
  • Use of SCUBA gear or artificial breathing apparatus.

Muskellunge Catch-and-Release Regulations

Catch-and-Release Policy

  • All Waters Listed Below: Muskellunge caught must be promptly released back into the water.
  • Possession Limit: Anglers are prohibited from possessing any muskellunge while fishing on designated catch-and-release stream sections.

Designated Streams

Buckhannon River – Upshur County

  • 6.5-mile section starting at the City of Buckhannon’s water supply dam and extending upstream to the first riffle. This includes the section of French Creek from its mouth to the first riffle, commonly known as Buckhannon Pool.

Middle Island Creek – Tyler County

  • 6-mile section starting at the state Route 18 bridge near Centerville and flowing downstream to the low water bridge near the Jug WMA. This includes sections of Indian Creek and McElroy Creek from their mouths to their first riffles.

Minimum Size Limit

North Bend Lake

  • Muskellunge under 40 inches long must be released back into the water immediately.
  • Daily creel limit of one muskellunge.

Stonewall Jackson Lake (Including entire drainage upstream of the lake)

  • Muskellunge under 52 inches long must be returned to the water immediately.
  • Daily creel limit of one muskellunge.

North Fork Hughes River – Ritchie County

  • 1.3-mile section extending from North Bend Lake Dam downstream to the CR 809 bridge near the North Bend State Park campground.
  • Muskellunge under 40 inches long must be released back into the water immediately.
  • Daily creel limit of one muskellunge.

Sunfish Regulations for Mason Lake and Teter Creek Lake

Size Limit and Creel Limit

  • Lakes Covered: Mason Lake (Monongalia County) and Teter Creek Lake (Barbour County)
  • Daily Creel Limit: Anglers are allowed to catch and keep up to 10 sunfish per day.
  • Size Restrictions: Of the 10 sunfish, only five may be 8 inches or longer, applicable to bluegill and all other sunfish species combined (e.g., pumpkinseed, green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, etc.).

Trout Catch-and-Release Regulations

General Guidelines

  • Catch-and-Release Policy: All trout caught must be immediately returned to the water.
  • Daylight Fishing: Fishing is permitted during daylight hours only.
  • Artificial Flies and Lures: Only artificial flies and lures made of metal, wood, feathers, hair, or synthetic material are allowed.
  • Barbless Hooks: Multiple hook lures must have barbless hooks, except on the North Branch of the Potomac River Catch & Release areas.
  • Possession Limit: Anglers are prohibited from possessing any trout while on designated catch-and-release stream sections.
  • Prohibited Bait: Powerbait, Gulp, and other manufactured scented baits are illegal and may not be used or possessed on catch-and-release streams.

Specific Stream Regulations

Buckhannon River – Webster County

  • 4-mile section starting 2 miles upstream from Webster Springs.

Barkers Creek of Guyandotte River – Wyoming County

  • From the mouth of Barkers Creek upstream, covering a total of 88 stream miles.

Blackwater River – Tucker County

  • 3.5-mile section from the county Route 29/1 bridge in Blackwater Falls State Park downstream to the mouth of the North Fork.

Bluestone River – Summers County

  • 1-mile section from the mouth of Mountain Creek downstream to a stream gauge station within Pipestem State Park.

Cranberry River – Webster, Pocahontas, and Nicholas counties

  • 4.3-mile section from the junction of the North and South forks downstream to the low water bridge at Dogway Fork.

Elkhorn Creek – McDowell County

  • Entire drainage area, totaling 171 stream miles, from the mouth of Elkhorn Creek upstream.

Elk River – Randolph County

  • 2-mile section from the Elk Springs Campground downstream to Rose Run bridge.

Glade Creek of New River – Raleigh County

  • 3-mile section from the mouth upstream to the National Park Service foot bridge.

Guyandotte River – Wyoming and Raleigh counties

  • Entire drainage upstream of railroad bridge in Mullens, totaling 101 miles.

Middle Fork of Williams River and tributaries – Webster/Pocahontas counties

  • Full coverage of Middle Fork of Williams River and its tributaries.

Mill Creek – Randolph County

  • Entire length within Kumbrabow State Forest.

North Fork of Cherry River – Nicholas County

  • 1.8-mile section extending upstream from Richwood’s water supply dam to first state Route 39 bridge.

North Fork of Cranberry River – Pocahontas County

  • 0.25-mile section from the mouth upstream to the limestone treatment dam.

North Fork of the South Branch – Pendleton County

  • 0.75-mile section at the mouth of Seneca Creek near Seneca Rocks Visitors Center.

Otter Creek and tributaries – Randolph/Tucker counties

  • Full coverage of Otter Creek and its tributaries.

Red Creek and tributaries – Tucker County

  • Upstream of county Route 45 bridge.

Seneca Creek – Pendleton County

  • 0.20-mile section from the mouth extending upstream to the Route 28 bridge.

Slatyfork section of Elk River – Pocahontas County

  • 4.6-mile section from the junction of Big Spring and Old Field forks downstream to the mouth of Dry Branch.

South Branch of the Potomac River – Pendleton County

  • 1-mile section beginning 2 miles below U.S. Route 220 at Eagle Rock and extending downstream.

Tea Creek and tributaries – Pocahontas County

  • Upstream of Tea Creek Campground.

Delayed Harvest Streams

  • Catch-and-Release Season: November 1 – May 15.
  • General Regulations Season: May 16 – October 31.

Clear Fork of the Guyandotte River – Wyoming County

  • 1-mile section from the R.D. Bailey WMA manager’s residence downstream to the state Route 6 bridge.

Middle Wheeling Creek – Ohio County

  • 1.2-mile section from just above the upper limits of Middle Wheeling Creek Lake upstream to mouth of Gillespie Run.

Paint Creek - Fayette and Kanawha counties

  • From Ash Branch upstream 12.5 miles to the mouth of Milburn Creek.

Shavers Fork River - Randolph County

  • 5.5-mile section extending from the mouth of Whitmeadow Run downstream to the mouth of McGee Run.

Williams River - Pocahontas County

  • From a signed location approximately 2 miles downstream of Tea Creek extending 2 miles downstream.

Fly Fishing Only Streams

  • Daylight Fishing: Fishing permitted during daylight hours only.
  • Artificial Flies and Streamers: Only artificial flies and streamers are allowed.
  • Conventional Tackle Prohibited: Open-face and closed-face spinning or spincast reels are prohibited.

Dogway Fork of the Cranberry – Webster, Pocahontas, and Greenbrier counties

  • Main stream and all tributaries of Dogway Fork.

Edwards Run – Hampshire County

  • Upstream of the Edwards Run Pond 1.25 miles to the upstream boundary of Edwards Run WMA.

Milligan Creek – Greenbrier County

  • Marked area about 1 mile north of U.S. Route 60 from the county Route 60/15 bridge extending downstream about .33-mile to a fence crossing.

Red Run of Dry Fork – Tucker County

  • Main stream and all tributaries of Red Run.

Second Creek – Greenbrier and Monroe counties

  • Marked 2.4-mile section on the Monroe/Greenbrier county line at Rodgers Mill.

Spring Run – Grant County

  • Marked one mile section along Spring Run Road near Dorcas.

Thorn Creek – Pendleton County

  • Marked .5-mile section beginning approximately 3 miles above the mouth.

Reduced Creel Limit

Stephens Lake - Raleigh County

  • Daily creel limit of two trout.

Walleye Regulations

Minimum Size Limit

Monongahela River, Tygart River, West Fork River, Burnsville Lake, Stephens Lake, Stonecoal Lake

  • Walleye under 15 inches long must be released back into the water.
  • Daily creel limit of eight walleye.

Ohio River and Kanawha River (upstream to Winfield Lock and Dam)

  • Walleye under 18 inches long must be released back into the water.
  • Daily creel limit of two walleye.

Catch-and-Release

New River (5-mile section from Meadow Creek public access site upstream to base of Sandstone Falls), Charles Fork Lake, Dog Run Lake

  • All walleye caught must be released back into the water immediately.
  • No walleye allowed in angler's possession while on these waters.

Slot Limit

Bluestone River, Coal River, Elk River (including Sutton Lake), Greenbrier River, Gauley River (excluding Summersville Lake-Summersville Dam upstream to mouth of Persinger Creek), Kanawha River (upstream of Winfield Locks and Dam), New River (excluding no-harvest area near Sandstone), including all tributaries

  • Walleye from 20 to 30 inches long must be released back into the water.
  • Daily creel limit of two walleye, with only one allowed over 30 inches long.

Summersville Lake (Summersville Dam upstream to mouth of Persinger Creek), Cheat Lake, Cheat River (entire length)

  • Walleye from 20 to 30 inches long must be released back into the water.
  • Daily creel limit of eight walleye, with only one allowed over 30 inches long.

West Virginia Fishing Regulations

Ohio River Fishing Regulations

General Guidelines

  • License Requirement: Anglers with valid Ohio or West Virginia resident fishing licenses may fish on the Ohio River, its embayments, or from either bank.
  • Reciprocal Agreement: Embayment and tributary reciprocal boundaries are defined for each state, allowing anglers to fish in designated areas based on landmark locations or GPS coordinates provided in the agreement.
  • West Virginia Regulations: West Virginia fishing laws apply while fishing on the Ohio River proper, from West Virginia banks, or in West Virginia embayments.
  • Ohio Regulations: Ohio fishing laws and Ohio River fishing regulations for the Eastern Unit must be followed while fishing from Ohio banks or in embayments or tributaries within Ohio boundaries.

Accessing Regulations

Jurisdiction

  • West Virginia: Fishing laws apply on the Ohio River proper, from West Virginia banks, and in West Virginia embayments.
  • Ohio: Ohio fishing laws and regulations apply while fishing from Ohio banks or in embayments and tributaries within Ohio boundaries.

Note

  • Tributaries of the Ohio River above embayments, in both states, are not included as part of this agreement.

Potomac River Fishing Regulations

West Virginia Residents

  • License Requirement: West Virginia residents with valid West Virginia fishing licenses may angle in the waters of the Potomac River, including the North Branch and Jennings Randolph Lake.
  • Cross-Border Fishing: West Virginia residents may also fish from the Maryland shore of the Potomac River without obtaining a Maryland fishing license.
  • Maryland Laws: While fishing from the Maryland shore, West Virginia residents must adhere to all Maryland laws, rules, and regulations applicable to fishing.

Maryland Residents

  • License Requirement: Maryland residents with valid Maryland fishing licenses may angle in the waters of Jennings Randolph Lake, including areas opposite both Maryland and West Virginia shores.
  • Cross-Border Fishing: Maryland residents may also fish from the West Virginia shore of the Potomac River, including the North Branch and Jennings Randolph Lake, without obtaining a West Virginia fishing license.
  • West Virginia Laws: While fishing from the West Virginia shore, Maryland residents must adhere to all West Virginia fishing laws, rules, and regulations applicable to fishing.

Agreement Details

  • This agreement is limited to the Potomac River, including the North Branch and Jennings Randolph Lake, and does not extend to any of their tributaries.
  • Joint Law Enforcement: Both the State of West Virginia and the State of Maryland have joint law enforcement jurisdiction on Jennings Randolph Lake.

Big Sandy and Tug Fork Rivers Fishing Regulations

Eligibility

  • Residents: West Virginia or Kentucky residents with valid resident fishing licenses may fish the entire main stem of the Big Sandy and Tug Fork rivers.
  • Geographical Scope: Fishing is permitted from the confluence of the Ohio and Big Sandy rivers upstream to the Virginia state line.

Fishing Methods

  • Boat or Bank Fishing: Residents with valid fishing licenses from their respective state of residence can fish from a boat or from either bank within the designated sections.

Compliance Guidelines

  • Watercraft Fishing: Anglers fishing from a watercraft must adhere to the laws, rules, and regulations of the state in which their fishing license is issued.
  • Bank Fishing: Anglers fishing from the bank must abide by the laws, rules, and regulations of the state in which they are fishing.

Note

  • It's essential for anglers to comply with the regulations of the state they are licensed in when fishing from a watercraft and with the regulations of the state they are fishing in when fishing from the bank.

NOTE: Baitfish regulation 2 (see below) applies to the shaded areas illustrated on the maps above.

NOTE: Baitfish regulation 2 (see below) applies to the shaded areas illustrated on the maps above.

Baitfish Regulations in West Virginia

1. Darter Regulation

  • Illegal Possession: It is illegal to possess any darter in West Virginia.
  • Identification: Darters are small fishes belonging to the perch family, similar to yellow perch and walleye. They typically measure 1–5" in length and have two separate dorsal fins of approximately equal length.
  • Inspection Advice: Anglers collecting live baitfish should inspect their catch for darters. Darters often remain at the bottom of the bait bucket and do not swim freely in the water column. Any fish displaying this behavior and possessing two dorsal fins should be immediately returned to the water or destroyed.
  • Appearance: Darters exhibit a range of colorations from brightly colored to drab brown. For reference, examples of regional darter species can be found here.
  • Precaution: When in doubt, it is recommended to discard any fish suspected to be a darter.

2. Non-Game Fish Regulation

  • Zero Possession Limit: There is a zero possession limit for all non-game fishes, including their collection for any use.
  • Restricted Use as Bait: No fish, including dead or packaged minnows, may be used as bait in specific waters, including:
    • East and West Forks of the Greenbrier River and all tributaries.
    • Gauley River upstream of the Route 55/20 bridge, including certain tributaries.
    • Camp Creek (Mercer County) and all tributaries.
    • Manns Creek, including Glade Creek in Babcock State Park, and all tributaries.

3. Release Regulation

  • Prohibition on Release: It is illegal to release any fish into public waters other than the location where it was captured.
  • Disposal Advice: Unused baitfish should not be released into public waters.

Other Protected Species Regulations

Diamond Darter

  • Description: The diamond darter is a small fish belonging to the perch family.
  • Protected Status: It is protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
  • Regulatory Action: For more information, anglers are advised to visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) website at fws.gov/species/search.

Paddlefish and Sturgeon

  • Regulation: All paddlefish and sturgeon must be returned to the water immediately upon capture.

Mussels

  • Regulation: It is illegal to possess mussels or any parts thereof.
  • Compliance Note: Anglers should refrain from possessing any mussel species and ensure immediate release if encountered while fishing.

Turtle, Frog, Toad, and Salamander Regulations

Turtles

  • Species Allowed: Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and Spiny softshell (Apalone s. spinifera).
  • Season: Turtles may be taken by gigging, snagging, or snaring from January 1 through May 15 and from July 15 through December 31.
  • Daily Creel Limit: 10 turtles, with a possession limit of 20.

Frogs and Toads

  • Species Allowed: American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) and Green frog (Lithobates clamitans).
  • Season: Frog season opens at 9 p.m. on the Saturday nearest to June 15 and closes at midnight on July 31.
  • Daily Creel Limit: 10 frogs, with a possession limit of 20.

Salamanders

  • Species Allowed: Northern dusky salamander, Seal salamander, Allegheny dusky salamander, Black-bellied salamander, Black Mountain salamander, Northern spring salamander, Kentucky spring salamander, Northern two-lined salamander, Southern two-lined salamander, and Eastern long-tailed salamander.
  • Season: Open year-round for use as fishing bait.
  • Possession Limit: 10 in aggregate.
  • Licensed Bait Dealers: May possess up to 250 salamanders in total aggregate from the listed species.
  • Purchase Limit: Individuals may possess up to 50 salamanders purchased from a licensed dealer and accompanied by a bill of sale.

Crayfish Regulations

  • A fishing license is required to catch or use crayfish from public lands as fishing bait.
  • Licensed anglers may take or possess up to 50 crayfish for use as fishing bait.
  • Crayfish may be obtained using a seine, throw net, or minnow trap, provided they meet certain specifications.
  • It is illegal to dig crayfish out of their burrow or place of refuge for use as fishing bait.
  • Crayfish may be taken by hand for use as fishing bait from the stream where they were captured.
  • It is illegal to release any aquatic organism, including crayfish, alive or dead, into public waters other than where they were captured.
  • It is illegal to take fish by any means other than by rod, line, and hooks.

Prohibited Actions:

  1. Use of Firearms or Explosives:

    • Using a firearm, crossbow, dynamite, or any explosive to kill or take fish, frogs, aquatic turtles, or other aquatic life is prohibited.
  2. Jug Fishing:

    • Deploying a hook and line with a free-floating device (jug fishing) is prohibited.
  3. Multiple Lines/Poles:

    • Fishing with more than two lines or poles in an impoundment stocked with trout by the WVDNR is prohibited from January 1 to May 31.
  4. Fish Stocking:

    • Stocking fish in West Virginia waters is illegal. Unused bait should not be released into West Virginia waters.
  5. Commercial Sales:

    • Selling fish for profit or giving fish caught in public waters to a pay pond is prohibited.
  6. Disposal of Bow-Fished Fish:

    • Improperly disposing of fish taken while bow fishing, such as leaving them on a bank or in the water, is prohibited.
  7. Proximity to Stocking Personnel:

    • Fishing within 200 feet of Division of Natural Resources personnel who are stocking fish in public waters is prohibited.

Bow Fishing Regulations Overview

Permitted Species and Restrictions

Bow fishing enthusiasts must adhere to specific regulations governing the targeted species and permitted methods. Game fish are off-limits for bow fishing, as indicated in the comprehensive list available on the regulations' back cover. While game fish cannot be targeted, certain species such as common carp, bighead carp, silver carp, and grass carp are fair game year-round. It's crucial to note that smallmouth buffalo, despite their similarity to carp, cannot be pursued with a bow throughout the year. Additionally, other nongame fish are open for bow fishing except during May and June.

Licensing Requirements

Prior to engaging in bow fishing activities, it's mandatory for all participants to possess a valid fishing license. This regulatory measure ensures compliance with established fishing guidelines and promotes responsible angling practices.

Compliance Obligations

Bow fishers must strictly adhere to all applicable fishing regulations to maintain legal compliance and safeguard aquatic ecosystems. Understanding and abiding by these regulations are essential to ensure sustainable fishing practices and conservation efforts.

Disposal Guidelines

Fish caught through bow fishing methods cannot be reintroduced into the water or left on the banks. Proper disposal methods are imperative to mitigate potential environmental impacts and maintain the ecological balance of aquatic environments.

Illegal Weaponry Usage

Engaging in bow fishing activities using arrows equipped with explosive heads or shafts, or arrows coated with poison or other chemicals, is strictly prohibited by law. Such practices pose significant safety hazards and environmental risks, warranting stringent regulatory measures to prevent their occurrence.

Please Note: Failure to comply with bow fishing regulations may result in legal repercussions and penalties. It's incumbent upon all participants to uphold ethical fishing practices and respect regulatory guidelines to ensure the sustainability of aquatic ecosystems.

Dipping

Dipping for nongame fish is legal year-round with a valid West Virginia fishing license. A dip net may not exceed 36 square feet in overall area, and its mesh may not be smaller than one-fourth (1/4) inch.

Regulations on Gigging, Snagging, and Snaring

Permissible Species and Timeframes

The practice of snaring is permissible throughout the year for species including suckers, carp, fallfish, and creek chubs. For nongame fish, specific turtles, and eels, gigging, snagging, or snaring are allowed from January 1 to May 15 and from July 15 to December 31. It's important to refer to the Turtles, Frogs, Toads, and Salamander Regulations on page 11 for further details on permitted species.

Prohibited Areas and Game Fish

While gigging, snagging, and snaring are permitted within certain timeframes, certain restrictions apply. These methods are prohibited within 100 feet of all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Locks and Dams and their associated structures. Additionally, it's crucial to note that snagging of game fish is strictly prohibited under these regulations.

Note: Compliance with these regulations is essential to ensure sustainable harvesting practices and the preservation of aquatic habitats. Violation of these guidelines may result in legal consequences and environmental harm.

Hand-Fishing Regulations for Catfish

Seasonal Allowance

Hand-fishing, colloquially known as "noodling," is exclusively permitted for catfish in West Virginia public waters during a specified timeframe. From June 15 to August 31, enthusiasts can engage in hand-fishing activities within the designated period, from sunrise to sunset. Detailed information can be found on page 5 of the regulations for further clarity.

Hatchery Fish Removal

Legal Restrictions

It is strictly illegal to remove fish, frogs, aquatic turtles, or any other aquatic life from a state fish hatchery. These regulatory measures are in place to safeguard hatchery populations and maintain their integrity for stocking and conservation purposes.

Ice Fishing Guidelines

Hole Size Limitation

Ice fishing enthusiasts must adhere to regulations concerning hole size to ensure responsible angling practices. Holes cut for ice fishing purposes should not exceed 10 inches in diameter. This requirement applies to public waters where ice fishing activities are permitted.

Regulations on Seining for Minnows and Minnow Traps

Prohibited Target Species

The seining or trapping of game fish is strictly prohibited under West Virginia regulations. These measures are in place to protect game fish populations and ensure their sustainable management.

Seining Specifications

The use of a seine for obtaining minnows as bait is permissible, provided that the seine does not exceed eight feet in length or four feet in depth. These specifications aim to regulate the size of seines used for minnow harvesting, promoting responsible angling practices.

Thrownet Usage

Enthusiasts may utilize thrownets for minnow acquisition, with specific guidelines to ensure sustainable harvesting practices. The radius of the thrownet must not exceed 12 feet, and the mesh size should not surpass one inch in diameter. These restrictions aim to mitigate the impact on minnow populations and maintain ecological balance.

Minnow Trap Regulations

Minnow traps are permitted for capturing minnows, subject to certain limitations. The openings of the traps must not exceed one inch in diameter, aiming to regulate the size of captured minnows and minimize bycatch.

Possession Limits and Licensing Requirements

Individuals are restricted to a possession limit of no more than 50 minnows or a total of 100 aquatic animal life, as outlined in the Turtles, Frogs, Toads, and Salamander Regulations. Exceptions are granted for acquisitions from licensed dealers, provided a valid bill of sale is presented. It's mandatory to possess a valid West Virginia fishing license for the collection of minnows and other aquatic life.

Tagging and Inspection Obligations

Minnow traps must be appropriately tagged with a waterproof, legible tag bearing either the owner's name and address or their WVDNR identification number. Additionally, traps must be inspected at least once every 24 hours to ensure compliance with regulatory standards and prevent undue harm to captured specimens.

Regulations on Trotlines and Droplines

Attachment Requirements

Trotlines and droplines utilized for fishing activities must be securely attached to the bank or a tree present on the shoreline. Additionally, these lines must feature a legible and waterproof identification tag for proper identification. It is mandatory to attend to trotlines and droplines every 24 hours to ensure responsible angling practices.

Identification Tag Specifications

The identification tag affixed to trotlines and droplines must display either the owner's name and address or their WVDNR identification number. This measure facilitates traceability and accountability for fishing equipment deployed in West Virginia waters.

Prohibited Gear

The use of wire or cable lines and hooks equipped with more than one point is strictly prohibited under state regulations. These restrictions aim to mitigate the risk of environmental damage and ensure the ethical treatment of aquatic life.

Prohibited Locations and Impoundments

Fishing with trotlines and droplines is restricted in state-managed impoundments, except for specific locations such as Stonecoal, Hawks Nest, Mt. Storm, Cheat, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. Furthermore, attaching trotlines to public piers and docks or within 50 feet of dam appurtenances is illegal under these regulations.

Dropline Restrictions on Certain Rivers

The use of droplines is prohibited on designated waterways, including the Elk River, Hughes River, Little Kanawha River, Middle Island Creek, and South Fork of Hughes River. These regulatory measures are implemented to safeguard sensitive aquatic habitats and ensure the preservation of fish populations.

Regulations on Spearfishing and Diving

Spearfishing Season and Target Species

Spearfishing for nongame fish is permitted from July 1 to September 30, restricted to daylight hours only. It's important to note that gamefish cannot be targeted while spearfishing. Anglers are encouraged to consult the comprehensive list of gamefish provided on the back cover of the regulations for clarity.

Restricted Locations

Spearfishing activities are prohibited in specific areas to ensure the conservation of aquatic resources and the safety of divers. Prohibited locations include the Elk River from Sutton Dam downstream to the U.S. Route 19 bridge at Sutton, as well as the New River from Bluestone Dam downstream to the lower bridge at Hinton.

Speargun Usage

Spearguns may only be discharged beneath the surface of the water, adhering to safety protocols and minimizing the risk of accidents. Additionally, the use of bolts with explosive heads or shafts, or those coated with poison or chemicals, is strictly prohibited under state regulations.

Conduct Regulations for Divers

Divers engaging in spearfishing activities must conduct themselves responsibly to avoid interference with other anglers and ensure safety on the water. Spearfishing is prohibited in heavily trafficked boat lanes, marked swimming areas, or designated waterskiing zones.

Diver Down Flag Requirements

The "diver down flag" serves as a crucial safety marker to alert boaters of the presence of divers underwater. It must consist of a red field with dimensions not less than 10 inches by 10 inches, featuring a white diagonal stripe at least 1.5 inches wide running from upper left to lower right. The flag should be affixed to a separate flotation device and displayed at all times during diving activities. Boaters are required to maintain a minimum distance of 100 feet from the marker flag to ensure diver safety.

Disposal Guidelines

Fish caught through spearfishing methods cannot be returned to the water or left on the bank. Proper disposal measures must be followed to minimize environmental impact and uphold responsible angling practices.

West Virginia Fishing Regulations

Wanton Waste Regulations

Prohibited Actions

It is unlawful for any individual to allow any edible portion of a game fish to go to waste unnecessarily, whether due to carelessness, neglect, or any other reason. The edible portion is defined as the fillet meat extending from the gill plate to the tail fin. However, it's crucial to note that edible meat does not include bones, sinew, viscera, meat from the head or neck, meat rendered inedible by the method of taking, or meat lost during boning or close trimming of bones.

Legal Consequences

Violation of this regulation constitutes a misdemeanor offense. Upon conviction, individuals may face penalties including a fine ranging from $100 to $500, confinement in jail for a period between 10 to 100 days, or both. Furthermore, the offender's hunting and fishing licenses may be suspended for a duration of two years. Additional forfeiture and replacement provisions may also apply as outlined in Chapter 20, Article 2, Section 5a of the code.

Trout Stocking Schedule for Lakes and Ponds

Monthly Stockings

  • January:

    • Anderson (Kanawha) - BA
    • Deegan Lake (Harrison) - MJ
    • Jimmy Lewis (Mercer) - BA
    • Newburg (Preston) - M
  • February:

    • Barboursville (Cabell) - BA
    • Bear Rock Lakes (Ohio) - BW
    • Big Run (Marion) - Y
    • Buffalo Fork (Pocahontas) - BW
    • Castleman Run (Brooke, Ohio) - BW
    • Chief Cornstalk (Mason) - BA
    • French Creek (Upshur) - BW
    • Huey Run (Marion) - BA
    • Indian Rocks Lake (Nicholas) - M
    • Little Beaver (Raleigh) - MJ
    • Mill Creek (Barbour) - M
    • New Creek Dam 14 (Grant) - BW-F
    • South Mill Creek (Grant) - BW
    • Turkey Run (Jackson) - BA
    • Watoga (Pocahontas) - W-F
  • March:

    • Brandywine (Pendleton) - BW-F
    • Buffalo Fork (Pocahontas) - BW-F
    • Cedar Creek (Gilmer) - BA
    • Coopers Rock (Monongalia) - BW-F
    • Edwards Run (Hampshire) - BW
    • Kimsey Run (Hardy) - BW
    • Middle Wheeling Creek (Ohio) - BW
    • Poorhouse (Berkeley) - M
    • Raleigh County Airport (Raleigh) - Q
    • Rollins (Jackson) - MJ
    • Summit (Greenbrier) - W-F
    • Tracy (Ritchie) - BA
    • Westover Park (Monongalia) - Q
  • April:

    • Baker (Ohio) - Q
    • Berkeley Springs (Morgan) - W-F
    • Boley (Fayette) - M
    • Brushy Fork (Pendleton) - BW
    • Chief Logan (Logan) - MJ
    • Conaway Run (Tyler) - MJ
    • Curtisville (Marion) - MJ
    • Dog Run (Harrison) - MJ
    • Fitzpatrick (Raleigh) - MJ
    • Fort Ashby (Mineral) - BW
    • Handley (Pocahontas) - Q
    • James P. Bailey (Mercer) - M
    • Little Beaver (Raleigh) - MJ
    • Mason Lake (Monongalia) - M
    • Millers Fork (Wayne) - M
    • Pennsboro W. S. Reservoir (Ritchie) - MJ-F
    • Pipestem (Summers) - M
    • Ridenour (Kanawha) - Q
    • Rockhouse (Logan) - XBW-F
    • Seneca (Pocahontas) - BW-F
    • Tomlinson Run (Hancock) - MJ
    • Tuckahoe (Greenbrier) - M
    • Warden (Hardy) - BW
    • Wayne Dam (Wayne) - W-F
  • May:

    • Coopers Rock (Monongalia) - BW-F
    • New Creek Dam 14 (Grant) - BW-F
    • Pipestem (Summers) - M
    • Thomas Park (Tucker) - BW-F
  • October:

    • Indian Rocks Lake (Nicholas) - F

Trout Stocking Streams

Weekly Stockings

  • W: Bullskin Run (Jefferson)
  • W: East Fork of the Greenbrier River (Pocahontas)
  • W: Elk River (Randolph, Webster)
  • W: Evitts Run (Jefferson)
  • W: Glady Fork (Randolph)
  • W: Little Clear Creek (Greenbrier)
  • W: North River (Hardy)
  • W: Paint Creek (Fayette, Kanawha)
  • W: Paw Paw Creek (Marion)
  • W: Rocky Marsh Run (Jefferson)
  • W: Shavers Fork (Lower Section) (Randolph)
  • W: South Branch (C & R) (Pendleton)
  • W: South Fork of Cherry River (Greenbrier, Nicholas)
  • W: Sugar Creek (Webster)
  • W: Twelvepole Creek (Wayne)
  • W: Waites Run (Hardy)

Monthly Stockings

  • M: Back Fork of Elk River (Webster)
  • M: Big Sandy Creek (Preston)
  • M: Buffalo Creek (Clay)
  • M: Buffalo Creek (Logan)
  • M: Camp Creek (Mercer)
  • M: Clear Fork (McDowell)
  • M: Cow Run (Hardy)
  • M: East Fork of the Greenbrier River (Pocahontas)
  • M: Glade Creek of New River (Raleigh)
  • M: Glady Fork (Randolph)
  • M: Greenbrier River (Cass) (Pocahontas)
  • M: Hills Creek (Pocahontas)
  • M: Hopkins Fork (Boone)
  • M: Indian Creek of New River (Summers)
  • M: Knapps Creek (Pocahontas)
  • M: Laurel Creek (Fayette)
  • M: Laurel Creek (Greenbrier, Nicholas)
  • M: Left Fork of Buckhannon River (Upshur)
  • M: Little Kanawha River (Headwaters) (Upshur)
  • M: Mash Fork (Mercer)
  • M: Meadow Creek (Greenbrier)
  • M: Meadow Creek (Summers)
  • M: Middle Creek (Berkeley)
  • M: North Fork of Cherry River (Greenbrier, Nicholas)
  • M: North Fork of Lunice Creek (Grant)
  • M: Panther Creek (McDowell)
  • M: Potts Creek (Monroe)
  • M: Right Fork of Buckhannon River (Upshur)
  • M: Right Fork of Middle Fork (Upshur)
  • M: Right Fork of Little Kanawha River (Upshur, Webster)
  • M: Second Creek (C & R) (Greenbrier, Monroe)
  • M: South Fork of Cranberry River (Pocahontas)
  • M: South Fork of Fishing Creek (Wetzel)
  • M: Spruce Laurel Fork (Boone)
  • M: Tygart Lake (Tailwaters) (Taylor)
  • M: West Fork of Greenbrier River (Pocahontas)
  • M: Williams River (Pocahontas, Webster)

Other Stockings

  • Q: Anthony Creek (Greenbrier)
  • BW-F: Back Fork of Elk River (C & R) (Webster)
  • M-F: Buckhannon River (Upshur)
  • CR: Blackwater River (C & R) (Tucker)
  • BW-F: Buffalo Creek (Brooke) (BW)
  • BW-F: Buffalo Creek (Brooke) (BW)
  • CR: Cranberry River (Pocahontas, Webster) (CR)
  • MJ-F: Elk River (C & R) (Randolph)
  • MJ-F: Glade Creek (Babcock) (Fayette)
  • DH: Clear Fork (C & R) (Wyoming)
  • MJ-F: Cranberry River (Pocahontas, Webster) (CR)
  • MJ-F: Shavers Fork (C & R) (Randolph)
  • W-F: Shavers Fork (Lower C & R) (Randolph)
  • W-F: Shavers Fork (Upper Section) (Randolph)
  • W-F: South Branch (Franklin Section) (Pendleton)
  • W-F: South Branch (Smoke Hole Section) (Pendleton)
  • CR: South Branch (C & R) (Pendleton)
  • W-F: Williams River (Pocahontas, Webster) (W-F)

Public Lakes and Ponds

Here's a key to understand the features and activities available or permitted at the listed lakes and ponds in West Virginia:

Accessibility

  • C: Only accessible to registered campers.
  • P: Permit required for access.
  • L: Limited primitive camping available.

Use of Live Minnows

  • : Live minnows are permitted.
  • (blank): Live minnows are not allowed.

Night Fishing

  • : Night fishing is allowed.
  • (blank): Night fishing is not permitted.

Camping

  • P: Permit required for camping.
  • L: Limited primitive camping available.

Boating

  • NV: No vessels allowed.
  • NM: No motor boats allowed.
  • E: Only electric motors allowed.
  • U: Unlimited horsepower allowed.
  • 5: Maximum 5 horsepower allowed.
  • 10: Maximum 10 horsepower allowed (larger motors must have props removed or tilted to the maximum limit).
  • f: Fee charged for private boats (applies May 30 to Labor Day).
  • ***: Contains no-wake zones, speed zones, and/or other restricted areas.

Other

  • Rental Boats: Check with individual facilities for rental options.
  • USCG Approved Life Preserver: Required for each occupant of all boats.
  • Boats Propelled by Machinery: Must be licensed.

Note: National Forest Stamp required for some lakes.

Lake

or Pond

County

Accessibility

Acres

Use of
Live Minnows
Night
Fishing
Camping Boating

Airport Pond

Raleigh

1

NV

Anawalt

McDowell

6

NV

Anderson

Kanawha

5

NV

Baker

Ohio

2

NV

Barboursville

Cabell

14

P

NV

Bear Rock Lakes

Ohio

10

E

Beech Fork COE

Wayne

720

P

10*

Berwind

McDowell

17

P

E

Big Ditch

Webster

65

E

Big Run

Marion

7

E

Bluestone COE

Summers

2,040

P

U*

Boley

Fayette

17

P

E

Brandywine*

Pendleton

9

P

E

Brushy Fork

Pendleton

23

E

Buffalo Fork*

Pocahontas

22

E

Burnsville COE

Braxton

968

P

U*

Cacapon

Morgan

12

NMf

Cameron

Marshall

7

NV

Camp Run*

Pendleton

9

E

Castleman Run

Brooke, Ohio

14

E

Cedar Creek

Gilmer

10

P

NV

Charles Fork

Roane

65

E

Cheat Lake

Monongalia

1,730

U*

Chief Cornstalk

Mason

4

P

E

Chief Logan

Logan

6

NV

Conaway Run

Tyler

31

P

E

Coonskin Park

Kanawha

2

NV

Coopers Rock

Monongalia

5

P

NV

Curtisville

Marion

29

P

E

Deegan

Harrison

15

E

Dents Run

Marion

29

E

Dixon

Monongalia

6

NV

Doe Run

Taylor

18

P

E

Dog Run

Harrison

23

E

Dunkard Fork

Marshall

30

E

East Lynn COE

Wayne

1,005

P

U*

Edwards Run

Hampshire

1

L

NV

Elk Fork

Jackson

209

10

Elk Two Mile (Site12)

Kanawha

2

NV

Elk Two Mile (Site13)

Kanawha

3

NV

Elk Two Mile (Site14)

Kanawha

3

NV

Elkwater Fork

Randolph

50

U

Fairfax

Preston

47

E

Fitzpatrick

Raleigh

5

P

P

NV

Flat Run

Marion

5

E

Ft. Ashby

Mineral

15

E

French Creek

Upshur

2

NV

Frozencamp Left Fork

Jackson

16

E

Frozencamp Right Fork

Jackson

19

E

Handley Pond

Pocahontas

6

P

E

Hawks Nest

Fayette

234

U*

Hinkle

Harrison

6

E

Horse Creek

Wyoming

8

E

Huey Run

Marion

18

E

Hurricane W.S. Reservoir

Putnam

13

NV

Indian Rock

Nicholas

3

NV

James P. Bailey

Mercer

28

NV

Jennings Randolph COE

Mineral

952

P

U*

Jimmy Lewis

Mercer

13

E

Kee Reservoir

Mercer

62

E

Kimsey Run

Hardy

47

E

Krodel

Mason

21

P

E

Larenim

Mineral

9

NM

Laurel

Mingo

22

E

Lick Creek

Wayne

4

NV

Lake or Pond

County

Accessibility

Acres

Use of
Live Minnows
Night
Fishing
Camping Boating

Little Beaver

Raleigh

18

P

E

Logan County Airport

Logan

1

NV

Mason Lake

Monongalia

9

E

McClintic Ponds

Mason

211

P

E

Middle Wheeling Creek

Ohio

12

E

Miletree

Roane

10

E

Mill Creek

Barbour

9

E

Millers Fork

Wayne

5

NV

Moncove

Monroe

93

P

5

Mount Storm

Grant

1,170

U*

Mountain Valley

Summers

38

E

Mountwood

Wood

41

P

E

Newburg Lake

Preston

6

NV

New Creek Dam 14

Grant

39

E

North Bend Lake

Ritchie

235

P

10

North Bend SP Pond

Ritchie

1.5

C

P

NV

O’Brien

Jackson

197

10

Parker Hollow

Hardy

34

E

Pendleton

Tucker

10

P

NM

Pennsboro W.S. Reservoir

Ritchie

9

E

Pettigrew

Kanawha

5

NM

Pipestem

Summers

18

P

E

Plum Orchard

Fayette

175

P

U*

Poorhouse Pond

Berkeley

3

NV

R.D. Bailey COE

Mingo, Wyoming

630

P

U*

Raleigh County Airport

Raleigh

2

NV

Ridenour

Kanawha

23

NM

Rock Cliff*

Hardy

12

C

P

E

Rockhouse

Logan

11

E

Rollins

Jackson

41

E

Salt Lick Pond 9

Braxton

15

E

Seneca

Pocahontas

6

P

E

Sherwood*

Greenbrier

161

P

P

E

Silcott Fork

Roane

17

NV

Sleepy Creek

Berkeley

209

P

E

South Mill Creek

Grant

40

E

Spruce Knob*

Randolph

26

P

E

Stephens

Raleigh

276

P

U*

Stonecoal

Lewis, Upshur

539

P

10*

Stonewall Jackson COE

Lewis

2,650

P

U*

Summersville COE

Nicholas

2,790

P

U*

Summit*

Greenbrier

37

P

E

Sutton COE

Braxton

1,440

P

U*

Teter Creek

Barbour

36

P

E

Thomas Park

Tucker

22

L

E

Tomlinson Run

Hancock

23

P

E

Tracy

Ritchie

12

L

E

Trout Pond

Hardy

1

P

NV

Tuckahoe

Greenbrier

43

E

Turkey Run

Jackson

24

E

Turkey Run

Marshall

15

E

Tygart COE

Taylor

1,750

P

U*

Tygart River Backwaters

Randolph

58

E

Underwood Lake

Cabell

1

NV

Upper Cover Run

Hardy

6

E

Upper Deckers

Preston

10

E

Upper Mud

Lincoln

237

U*

Wallback

Clay

14

E

Warden

Hardy

46

E

Watoga

Pocahontas

12

P

E

Westover Park

Monongalia

1

NV

Whetstone

Marion

8

E

Wolf Run

Marshall

17

E

Woodrum

Jackson

237

10

 

Guidelines for Public Use of West Virginia Fishing and Boating Access Sites

Overview of Regulations

In compliance with Article 1, Section 7, Chapter 20 of the Code of West Virginia, 1961, as amended, the Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Section, enforces the following regulations for the utilization of fishing and boating access sites.

Mandatory Requirements and Prohibitions

  1. Authorized Usage: The designated purpose of public boating and fishing access facilities is exclusively for launching and retrieving watercraft or for shoreline fishing. Engaging in fishing from courtesy docks or ramps is strictly prohibited.

  2. Parking Regulations: Upon launching, vehicles must be parked in designated parking spaces to ensure orderly usage of the area.

  3. Law Enforcement Authority: Any law enforcement officer, duly authorized, reserves the right to prohibit an individual from launching a watercraft at any public boating and fishing access site.

  4. Prohibited Activities: The following activities are strictly prohibited at fishing and boating access sites:

    • Consumption of alcoholic beverages or possession of open containers of alcohol.
    • Swimming or bathing.
    • Camping.
    • Open fires.
    • Disposal of trash, except in designated receptacles.
    • Discharge of firearms, fireworks, and explosives.
    • Leaving watercraft unattended.
    • Commercial use, unless authorized by the Director.
    • Parking vehicles or mooring watercraft in a manner that obstructs ingress or egress routes, except for launching purposes.

Enforcement and Consequences

Violations of the established rules and regulations will result in appropriate punitive measures in accordance with Chapter 20 of the Code of West Virginia and other pertinent laws.

Equal Access Policy

The Division of Natural Resources upholds a policy of inclusivity, providing its facilities, accommodations, services, and programs to all individuals regardless of sex, race, age, religion, national origin or ancestry, disability, or other protected group status. Moreover, the Division is committed to fostering an environment of equal opportunity in its employment practices.

Boating and Water Safety

Boating Education Requirement

Anglers using boats must obey boating laws. In West Virginia, anyone born on or after December 31, 1986, must successfully complete a NASBLA-approved Boating Education Course before operating a motorboat.

Contact a Natural Resources Police Officer for an available course near you. You can also take the online Boating Education Course available at WVdnr.gov. Click on boating under the Law Enforcement heading.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Most boating fatalities are the result of a boat capsizing or passenger falling overboard. Nearly 80 percent of those who died in boating accidents were NOT wearing a PFD.

If you are fishing from a vessel, West Virginia law requires that you have a PFD (life jacket) that is in good condition, properly sized and readily available for each person on board. Any child under the age of 13, including infants, must wear a PFD while the vessel is underway. Vessels 16 feet and over must have a throwable Type IV PFD ring or cushion on board that can be thrown to a person

in the water in addition to the previously stated PFDs. Tygart and Stonewall Jackson lakes have a federal regulation requiring

mandatory wearing of PFDs regardless of age on all vessels under 16 feet, including kayaks and paddleboards.

Courtesy on the Boat Ramp

Boat ramp traffic jams can be prevented if everyone practices common courtesy at the ramp. Be sure you observe these simple courtesies.

  • • Prepare your vessel for launching or for the drive home well away from the ramp.
  • • Use at least two experienced people to launch and retrieve the vessel (one to drive the towing vehicle and one to operate the vessel).
  • Never block a ramp with an unattended vessel or vehicle.
  • • Move the vessel away from the launch lane immediately after removing it from the trailer. Return briefly to pick up the vehicle driver once he or she has parked the vehicle and is back at the ramp.
  • • When retrieving, do not pull your vessel into a launch lane until the towing vehicle is at the ramp. The line is formed by vehicles with trailers, not by vessels in the water. Drop off the vehicle driver, and wait offshore and clear of the ramp until he or she arrives with the trailer.

Learn more about boating safety at www.register-ed.com or take an online course at WVdnr.gov.

Safe Boating Rules

Boating accidents usually result from a collision with another boat or an object in the water such as rocks or pilings. A little boating knowledge, common sense and courtesy could prevent most accidents.

Don’t operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Don’t overload the boat.
  • Don’t sit on the edge of the boat.
  • If you must stand up, do so carefully away from the sides.
  • Drive at a safe speed.
  • Use navigation lights at night.
  • Keep a lookout for other boats and follow the rules of navigation.
  • • Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Don’t fish during a thunderstorm.

Every vessel or watercraft must carry the proper safety equipment. A vessel means every description of watercraft, other than seaplane on the water, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water. Examples of watercraft include kayaks, canoes, inflatable pontoon boats and other vessels.

Check the weather conditions before you leave. Lightning, strong wind and high waves create hazardous conditions. If caught on a lake in a strong storm, put all fishing gear in the bottom of the boat, stay low in the boat and get off the water as soon as possible. In high waves, the best way to keep from capsizing is to steer the boat at a slight angle into the waves.

ALCOHOL AND DRUGS

Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs creates the same risks and carries the same penalties as DUI. Intoxication affects your balance, which is already challenged by being in a boat. It also affects your coordination, vision and thinking ability. Alcohol also causes you to lose body heat faster should you fall into the water, increasing the risk of hypothermia. A blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or above qualifiesas legally intoxicated.

COMMERCIAL RIVER TRAFFIC

While boating on the major rivers of West Virginia, always be alert for large commercial vessels. Large vessels always have the right-of-way because of long stopping distances and blind spots around them. Also, turbulent water around the large vessel could capsize a small boat easily.

Stay out of danger zones and restricted areas around locks and dams.

Person in the Water

Fishing in Cold Weather

Reach-Throw-Row-Go is a method of rescuing a person who is in trouble in water. If the person is close to you, REACH out with a long object such as an oar or tree limb to pull the person into shore or the boat.

If you can’t reach the person, then THROW them a life-saving device. If possible, it should be tied to the end of a line so you can pull the person to you. An inflatable ball or foam cooler can be used if the proper device is not available.

If there is nothing to throw, ROW a boat to the person in trouble. The person should be pulled in over the stern, or back, of the boat if possible to prevent the boat from tipping over. If the boat has a motor, it must be shut off before you get to the person in the water.

GO (swim) to the person ONLY as a last resort and only if you have had life-saving training. People who are drowning often panic and injure or drown someone trying to rescue them.

Safety with Fishing Equipment

Fishing hooks can be dangerous if not handled properly. Look behind you before you cast to make sure your hook will not be caught on a power line, a tree or a person. Do not leave fishing tackle lying loose on the ground. Someone can trip on it and fall or step on a hook.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a condition in which your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Without treatment, your life is in danger. Exposure to the cold along with wind, wetness and exhaustion causes hypothermia. A common misconception is that the air or water temperature must be below freezing before you can become hypothermic. Actually, many cases of hypothermia develop in air temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees. And because water takes away body heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, any water colder than 70 degrees can cause hypothermia.

Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, fumbling hands, slow speech, confusion and exhaustion. To treat hypothermia, get the victim out of the cold, give warm drinks, keep the person awake, remove all wet clothing and get the victim into dry clothes.

To stay warm, wear several layers of clothing. Air trapped between the layers serves as insulation. A wool hat prevents heat loss from your head. Fishing is difficult with most gloves, but lightweight rubber gloves, gloves without fingertips, and gloves that have a flap to expose your fingers allow greater manual dexterity.

Ice fishing

West Virginia doesn’t possess numerous ice fishing opportunities and in some ways, that makes the sport a little riskier. Anglers may be tempted to venture out on a frozen lake or river before checking the thickness of the ice. Ice should be at least four inches thick before it is considered safe. Due to variations in ice thickness on a waterbody, extreme caution should be exercised.

Wading

There are several rules you should follow for safe wading.

Wade with a fishing buddy.

  • Wear your PFD.
  • Find out whether the bottom is rocky or muddy.
  • Shuffle your feet or probe with a stick along the bottom to avoid holes.
  • Study how swiftly the water is moving.
  • Wear appropriate footwear (considering water temperature and bottom substrate).

Aquatic Invasive Species

Aquatic invasive species are an ever-increasing threat to aquatic ecosystems across the country and in West Virginia waters.

Species such as Asian carp, northern snakehead, rusty crayfish, zebra mussels, didymo and hydrilla have had impacts on and are threatening native fishes of not only West Virginia waters but the Great Lakes, and Ohio and Mississippi River basins. Recreational impacts and economic costs associated with invasive species can be substantial if invasive species do become a problem. Informing

anglers of these threats and how they can help are our best and first line of defense to guard against invasive species.

What anglers can do:

  • NEVER move fish from one body of water to another.
  • Drain live wells thoroughly before leaving an access area.
  • Allow all equipment to dry completely before moving

between waterbodies.

  • • Dispose of ALL unwanted bait into a trash receptacle; do not release bait into lakes or streams.
  • Do not release aquarium fish into West Virginia’s waters.
  •  Report sightings. Take a picture, note the location and report new sightings to ais@wv.gov or WVdnr.gov.

By following these simple steps, anglers can help ensure

West Virginia’s good fishing for future generations. For more information on aquatic invasive species, please visit: WVdnr.gov/Fishing/Invasive_Species.shtm

Anglers are reminded that it is unlawful to release any fish or aquatic organism, alive or dead, or any part, nest or egg thereof into public waters of this State except as permitted by a stocking permit authorized by the Director of the Division of Natural Resources.

ASIAN CARP

Some species of Asian carp (bighead and silver carp) pose a particularly serious threat to West Virginia waters. Native to Asia, they were introduced to the United States in the 1970s for use in the aquaculture industry and have since escaped into the Mississippi River basin. Due to their large size, voracious appetite, and reproductive capabilities, they are regarded as highly invasive and have been expanding their range up the Mississippi and Ohio river basins at an alarming rate. Asian carp eat plankton, which puts them in direct competition with native mussels, other filter feeders such as Paddlefish and Smallmouth Buffalo and other forage fishes such as Gizzard shad and Emerald shiner. Nearly all of our native fish species feed on plankton at some point in their lifecycle, thus there is potential for adverse effects of Asian carp on all fishes. In states where they have become established, Asian carp can comprise up to 90 percent of the fish community.

Learn to identify bighead and silver carp:

  • Low set eyes, below midline of body
  • Large, upturned mouth lacking barbels
  • Silver in color with small scales
  • Keel along the abdomen

NORTHERN SNAKEHEAD

The Northern snakehead is a species of predatory fish native to southeast Asia. Snakeheads were introduced to the United States for the aquarium trade and sold to live food markets and have since been introduced to public waterways. Northern snakeheads are voracious predators preying on and competing withnative fishes for forage. They are known to reduce forage availability in some waters. Snakeheads are also facultative air breathers meaning they can breathe air when oxygen levels in the water are low allowing them to survive in stressful conditions, where a native species may not. Currently, there have

been no live reports of northern snakeheads in West Virginia waters, but they are present in the Potomac drainage, so it is important to continue to be vigilant and monitor their expansion.

Learn to identify a northern snakehead:

  • Body somewhat elongated with flattened head
  • Dark, irregular blotches along their sides
  • Long dorsal and anal fins
  • Pelvic fins located beneath the pectorals
  • No spot at base of tail

How to Properly Disinfect Recreational Equipment

DISINFECTION PROCEDURES

Disinfect boats and personal watercraft prior to moving to another waterbody, watershed, or upstream site.

There are a number of disinfection techniques that will kill most aquatic invasive species and fish and wildlife pathogens, including whirling disease and Didymo. Solutions of bleach or

dishwashing detergent product are suggested as they provide the best combination of availability, cost and effectiveness against these species. It is recommended that all disinfected equipment be rinsed on dry land, away from state waters. It is preferable to drain used solutions into treated wastewater (e.g. sinks, tubs, etc.)

SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES

Non-absorbent items (boats, canoes, rubber waders, etc.)

  • Dishwashing Detergent: soak and scrub for at least one minute with a 5 percent solution.
  •  Bleach: soak or spray all surfaces for a least one minute in a 2 percent solution of household bleach.
  •  Hot Water: soak for at least one minute in very hot water (above 140°F - hotter than most tap water) or for 20 minutes in water kept at 120°F (hot tap water, uncomfortable to touch).
  •  Drying: Drying will kill most aquatic pathogens, but slightly moist environments will support some organisms for months. This approach should only be used for gear that can be left in the sun for extended periods of time.
    • Freeze: Place item in freezer until solid.

 

Absorbent items (felt-soled waders, clothing, wetsuits, sandals, etc.)

  • These items require longer soaking times to allow thorough penetration into the materials. The thicker and denser the material, the longer it will require for adequate disinfection.
  • Bleach solutions are not recommended for absorbent materials.
  •  Hot Water: Soak items for at least 40 minutes in very hot water kept above 140°F (hotter than most tap water).
  •  Dishwashing Detergent and Hot Water: soak for 30 minutes in a hot 5 percent detergent/water solution kept above 120°F.

Health Benefits of Eating Fish

Fish are nutritious and good to eat. When properly prepared, fish provide numerous health benefits, especially for the heart. The American Heart Association recommends eating two to three fish meals each week.

THE BENEFITS OF EATING FISH INCLUDE:
  • Fish offer high-quality protein with fewer calories than a similar- sized portion of meat. Example: Both catfish and ground beef are about 18 percent protein. But, for an 8-ounce meal, the catfish will have only about 232 calories, while the regular ground beef will have about 640calories.
  • • Fish are low in sodium and are good sources of potassium, vitamins and other minerals.
  • • Fish are generally low in cholesterol and saturated fats, which have been associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • • While the benefits of fish on nutrition are still being studied, much of the current research is focused on various kinds of beneficial fats in fish, particularly a kind of omega-3 fatty acids which are in some fish and fish oils. Some studies have indicated that eating these fatty acids have favorable effects on health conditions such as reducing blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.

Keeping and Cleaning Fresh Fish

KEEPING YOUR CATCH FRESH

The two best ways of keeping fish fresh on a fishing trip are to keep them alive or chill them. Since keeping fish alive is not always possible, a practicalsolution to the problem is an ice chest. Keep the drain open on the chest, because dead fish left in water will soon lose their flavor.

Although not as effective as an ice cooler, fish stringers are often used out of necessity, especially when wade fishing.

CLEANING

The fresher the fish, the easier it is to clean. Do not freeze the fish whole or put the job off until the skin is dry and brittle. Scaling the fish can bedone in a variety of ways. Fish scalers, which can be purchased from most tackle shops, do an adequate job.

When skinning catfish, drive a nail through the head into a board, with the fish’s belly down. Cut completely through the skin around the back of the head and pull the skin off with pliers. Then, remove the head and entrails. Larger catfish are best filleted after they have been skinned and huge ones may be staked − leaving the backbone in and cutting crosswise in one-inch steaks.

For frying small panfish such as bluegill or crappie whole in a skillet, make a cut down each side of the dorsal and anal fins, then pull the fins out bythe “roots.” After scaling, make a diagonal cut through the fish, thus removing the head, entrails and rib cage in one operation. Leave the tails on.When fried crisp, they make delicious “crunchies.”

Fish Consumption Advisories

The West Virginia Fish Consumption Advisories are presented in the following pages. These recommendations are intended to allow you to receive the nutritional benefits from eating fish while keeping the level of contaminants from fish at levels in your body where health problems are not likely. Fish advisories are not intended to discourage you from eating fish, but should be used as a guide to eating fish in the proper amounts so as not to adversely impact your health. You can reduce your risks by eating fish less likely to contain contaminants, cleaning and cooking them properly, and eating portions that correspond to your body weight.

CONTAMINANTS IN FISH

Some fish take in contaminants (PCBs, for example) from the water they live in and the food they eat. These contaminants build up in the fish over time. Eating contaminated fish can result in a buildup of these chemicals in your body, so it is important to keep your exposure as low as possible. The meal advisory on the following pages is intended to protect people, especially pregnant and nursing women, women who may become pregnant in the next few years, and small children from potential health problems from eating contaminants in fish.

The Statewide Consumption Advisories listed on the following pages are based on analysis of fish collected from waters across the state.

Mercury levels drive the majority of the consumption advisories, with PCBs being much less widespread. Selenium has been measured from certain waters at low levels that do not require consumption restrictions beyond those in place for other contaminants.

Which fish are less likely to contain contaminants?

Some fish such as sunfish, crappie and trout eat insects and other aquatic life and are less likely to contain contaminants at levels that might affect your health. If you eat walleye, bass, and other predatory fish, eat the smaller, younger fish that are less likely to contain contaminants. Eat fewer fish that feed on the bottom of lakes and rivers (for example, carp) and are more likely to contain contaminants.

How should I prepare and cook fish to reduce the amount of contaminants in the fish?

PCBs and Dioxin are contaminants that usually build up in a fish’s fat deposits and just underneath the skin. By removing the skin and fat before cooking, you can reduce the levels of these chemicals.

Mercury and Selenium collect in the fish’s muscle and cannot be reduced by cleaning and cooking methods.

To reduce PCBs and Dioxin contaminants:

  • Fillet fish and throw away the fat, skin and internal organs (where contaminants are most likely to accumulate) before you cook them. Fat is concentrated on the belly, the middle of the back, the line along the sides, and under the skin.
  • Cooking does not destroy the contaminants, but heat from cooking melts some of the fat and allows some of the contaminated fat to drain away. Broil, grill or bake the trimmed, skinned fish on a rack so the fat drips away. Throw away the fat that comes from cooking fish.
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Disclaimer:

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.