James River - Tidal

Moratorium on Possession of River Herring

It is now illegal for any person fishing tidal rivers to have river herring in their possession - this includes blueback herring and alewife. All river herring inadvertently caught by anglers must be immediately released back into the water. In Virginia, regulations regarding the harvest and possession of river herring are set by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. On January 1st, 2012, VMRC enacted a regulation which makes it unlawful to be in possession of river herring while on tidal waters. Anglers with concerns or questions should contact the Virginia Marine Fisheries Commission (VMRC) in Newport News at 1-800-541-4646. Additional information can be found on the VMRC website (

The tidal James River system supports a nationally recognized largemouth bass fishery, and was the site of previous Bass Master Classics and the 2003 FLW Tour Championship. In 2016, the Priority Fishing Series will hold 6 tournaments out of Osbourne Landing in addition to their 2-day Classic on October 1 & 2. The best bass fishing sites according to biologist reports are the Dutch Gap barge pit, Herring Creek, Powell Creek and the little known Gray's Creek where biologist collected (and released) a 9+ lbs largemouth bass plus several over 5 lbs in the fall of 2015.

In addition to excellent bass fishing, the tidal James supports a nationally recognized trophy blue catfish fishery, with people from around the country, nearby states, and all areas of the Commonwealth traveling to localities near the James (such as Richmond) to "fish for big blue cats in the James". What draws these anglers is the opportunity to catch fish which regularly weigh between 30 and 50 pounds. Hundreds of 30 to 60 pound blue catfish are caught from the tidal James and its tributaries each year.

In recent years, striped bass (rockfish) fishing has been excellent in the tidal James River. During the spring season, fishing for stripers near the fall-line can provide exciting action, particularly using top water lures. During the fall season, striper fishing on the James is generally best downstream of the I-295 Bridge, with stripers also found in many of the larger tidal tributaries from the Appomattox River downstream. Late in the fall season, fishing for stripers is usually best further downstream, below the freshwater-saltwater license line near the "mothball fleet", the James River Bridge, and the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel.

A restoration program for American Shad was initiated in 1992, stocked fish have returned to the James as adults to spawn. In recent years the number of hickory shad in Virginia's rivers has increased. As a result, spring shad fishing has returned to the fall line of the James, and anglers congregate here by the hundreds when the shad are running - the shad run typically peaks from mid April to early May.