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James River - Tidal - Fishing Opportunities

Black Crappie

Excellent black crappie angling is available for those who know how to locate them, with numerous 12-13 inch crappie weighing 1 to 1 ½ pounds available. In the tidal James system, the best fishing for crappie occurs in tidal tributaries, as well as the James River mainstem near Jones Neck and Turkey Island. To find these tasty fish look for submerged structure such as downed trees and pier pilings in the vicinity of channel drop-offs.

Catfish (Blue)

Tidal River Blue Catfish

The tidal James River provides the best fishing for blue catfish in the state, and recently anglers from around the country have begun to travel to Virginia to fish for the abundant large blue catfish found here. Hundreds of 30 to 60 pound blue catfish are pulled from the tidal James each year, and the current state record (102 ¼ pounds) was caught from the James in 2009. To find these big blue cats, seek out submerged structure such as sunken barges/boats in deep water. Other structure (remnants of old piers, existing piers, or downed trees) adjacent to channel drop-offs, also will hold congregations of blue cats. Although frozen bait can be used, fresh-caught gizzard shad or eels are generally best. During summer most large blue cats are caught at night, other times of the year they are caught anytime - day or night. While most citation-size blue cats from the James are caught between Dutch Gap and Sturgeon Point, opportunities to catch catfish can be found from Hog Island to Richmond. There is a possession limit of one blue catfish larger than 32 inches per person per day. There is no creel limit for blue catfish less than 32 inches in Virginia's tidal rivers.

  • Channel Catfish
  • Channel cats are caught throughout the tidal James system, however the best catches are restricted to the main river and tributaries from the Chickahominy to Hog Point.

  • Flathead Catfish

In the spring many flathead catfish are caught at the head-of-tide, where the falls of the James meet the tidal James, upstream of Ancarrows Landing, in Richmond. Otherwise, flathead catfish in the tidal James are most abundant between Richmond and I295.

Largemouth Bass

Tidal River Largemouth Bass Outlook

Anglers unfamiliar with the tidal James should be aware that some of the best largemouth fishing in this system is found in tidal tributaries from the Appomattox River down to Upper Chippokes Creek - tributaries below this are more likely to be impacted by spikes in salinity. Fishing for largemouth in the mainstem James is best above Hopewell - below this there are only isolated pockets of suitable bass habitat available in the river. The larger tidal creeks between Hopewell and Hog Island provide excellent largemouth habitat, with abundant shoreline structure, such as old pier pilings and downed trees adjacent to channel drop-offs, as well as large expanses of vegetated tidal flats.

Shad (American & Hickory)

Anglers unfamiliar with the tidal James should be aware that some of the best largemouth fishing in this system is found in tidal tributaries from the Appomattox River down to Upper Chippokes Creek - tributaries below this are more likely to be impacted by spikes in salinity. Fishing for largemouth in the mainstem James is best above Hopewell - below this there are only isolated pockets of suitable bass habitat available in the river. The larger tidal creeks between Hopewell and Hog Island provide excellent largemouth habitat, with abundant shoreline structure, such as old pier pilings and downed trees adjacent to channel drop-offs, as well as large expanses of vegetated tidal flats.

  • All seasons and limits set by the Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC)
  • Contact information:VMRC in Newport News at 1-800-541-4646

Striped Bass

Following restoration efforts by VDGIF and other state and federal agencies, striped bass fishing in Virginia waters has been excellent in recent years.

During the spring season, stripers are caught throughout the tidal James, using traditional striper lures. The action, particularly using top water lures, can be extremely exciting in the vicinity of the I-95 Bridge in Richmond.

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 tributary creeks. As water temperatures cool late in the season, typically in mid-December, the best locations for striper fishing are generally further downstream, at the “mothball fleet”, the James River Bridge, and the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel.

  • All seasons and limits set by the Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC)
  • Contact information:VMRC in Newport News at 1-800-541-4646

Other Species

White perch are caught in good numbers throughout the river using plastic grubs, beetle spins, or grass shrimp. Sunfish are generally small, but pockets of hand-sized bluegill may be located in the backwater areas off the mainstem and in tidal creeks. Common carp are abundant from Hog Island upstream to Richmond. In the James carp typically reach 10 pounds, and anglers occasionally take carp up to 30 pounds.