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General Freshwater Fishing Regulations

  • Fishing in inland waters must be by angling with a hook and line or rod and reel. (See exceptions for nongame fish.)
  • A hand landing net may be used to land fish legally hooked in all waters.
  • Any person who fishes on another's property must have the landowner's permission to do so except on designated stocked trout waters along which signs have been placed indicating that the waters are open to public fishing.
  • No species of fish, freshwater mussel, or mollusk may be taken in inland waters to be sold, except under special permits provided by law.
  • It is unlawful to use lime, dynamite, or any other substances to destroy fish, or to cast or allow noxious matter to pass into watercourses that might destroy fish or fish spawn, or to deposit trash in streams or lakes or along their banks.
  • It is illegal to use SCUBA (Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) gear to take or attempt to take fish.
  • It is unlawful to have more than the daily creel limit of any fish in possession while afield or on the waters. The daily creel limit includes live possession of fish.
  • It shall be unlawful for any person, while fishing, to remove the head or tail or otherwise change the appearance of any game fish (except bluegill sunfish and bream of the sunfish family) having a daily creel or size limit so as to obscure its species or render it impracticable to measure its total original length or count the number of such fish in possession. In addition, it shall be unlawful for any person to possess or transport such altered game fish while on the water. However, the prohibition against possession and transportation in the previous sentence shall not apply to the preparation of lawfully obtained fish for immediate use as food or any lawful commercial use of such fish.
  • It is unlawful to take, kill, capture, or possess any threatened or endangered species.

Virginia Game Fish

"Game fish" as defined by the Code of Virginia means and includes trout, all of the sunfish family (including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, rock bass, bream, bluegill and crappie), walleye, white bass, chain pickerel, muskellunge, northern pike, and striped bass.

Stocking Fish

It is unlawful to stock any species of fish into inland waters of the Commonwealth without first obtaining written approval from the Department (private ponds excepted).

Trout as Bait

Artificially raised rainbow trout may be sold as bait for use in the James and New rivers, and in impoundments (ponds, lakes, reservoirs), except impoundments listed as designated stocked trout waters, Lake Moomaw, and Philpott Reservoir. Persons possessing purchased rainbow trout for bait must have a valid invoice or bill of sale, specifying date of purchase, the number of trout purchased, and name of an individual or business permitted to sell trout.

Dam Regulations

Area Regulations
Buggs Island Mechanical lure launchers may not be used within 600 yards below Buggs Island Dam.
Walkers Dam Only rod and reel and hand lines permitted within 500 yards below dam. It is illegal to snag fish at Walkers Dam.
Leesville Dam It shall be unlawful to fish, attempt to fish, assist others in fishing, collect or attempt to collect bait while wading, or operating, or anchoring any vessel in the waters of the Roanoke River from Leesville Dam downstream 840 feet to a permanent overhead cable. However, fishing is permitted from behind safety railings of the Department's Leesville Dam fishing structure.
Fishways It shall be unlawful to fish or to collect bait from March 1 through June 15 within 300 feet of Boshers Dam Fishway on the north bank of the James River or within 150 feet of Harvell Dam Fishway on the south bank of the Appomattox River.

Department-Owned or Controlled Lakes, Ponds, Streams or Boat Access Sites

  1. Motors and boats. Unless otherwise posted, the use of boats or boards propelled by gasoline motors, sail, or mechanically operated paddle wheel is prohibited at Department-owned or controlled lakes, ponds, or streams.
  2. Method of fishing. Taking any fish at any Department-owned or controlled lake, pond, or stream by any means other than by use of one or more attended poles with hook and line attached is prohibited unless otherwise posted, in which case cast nets may be used for collecting nongame fish for use as bait.
  3. Hours for fishing. Fishing is permitted 24 hours a day unless otherwise posted at Department-owned or controlled lakes, ponds, streams, or boat access sites.
  4. Seasons, hours and methods of fishing, size and creel limits, hunting. The open seasons for fishing, as well as fishing hours, methods of taking fish, and the size, possession and creel limits, and hunting and trapping on Department-owned or Department-controlled lakes, ponds, streams, or boat access sites shall conform to the regulations of the board unless otherwise excepted by posted rules by the director or his designee. Such posted rules shall be displayed at each lake, pond, stream, or boat access site, in which case the posted rules shall be in effect. Failure to comply with posted rules concerning seasons, hours, methods of taking, bag limits, and size, possession, and creel limits shall constitute a violation of this regulation
  5. Other uses. Camping overnight or building fires (except in developed and designated areas), swimming, or wading in Department-owned or Department-controlled lakes, ponds, or streams (except by anglers, hunters, and trappers actively engaged in fishing, hunting, or trapping), is prohibited. All other uses shall conform to the regulations of the board unless excepted by posted rules.
  6. Fishing tournaments, etc. It shall be unlawful to organize, conduct, supervise, or solicit entries for fishing tournaments, rodeos, or other fishing events on lakes, ponds, or streams owned by the Department for which prizes are offered, awarded, or accepted based on size or numbers of fish caught, either in money or other valuable considerations. This will not prohibit events approved by the Department which are intended to promote youth fishing or provide instruction, provided no prizes, as defined above, are awarded and no participation fees are charged.

Special Regulations

Lick, Bear and Laurel Creeks

It shall be unlawful to use fish as bait or to use seines, nets, or traps to take fish in Lick Creek in Smyth and Bland counties, Bear Creek in Smyth County, and Laurel Creek in Tazewell and Bland counties.