Mattaponi River

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 (

With little development or industry on the river, the Mattaponi provides a diverse array of scenery and angling opportunity. Beginning as a small, scenic, non-tidal stream draining much of Caroline County and serving as the border between King and Queen and King William counties, the upper Mattaponi has limited public access. Moving downstream from Zoar State Forest towards West Point the river changes character drastically from a small non-tidal stream to a large tidal river lined by vast expanses of marsh.

Zoar State Park - Aylett

A nice float fishing trip can be made by launching from the primitive canoe landing at Zoar State Forest and taking out at the public ramp at Aylett. This section of river is a meandering stream until just upstream of Aylett where tidal influences begin. Black crappie; catfish (blue catfish, channel catfish and white catfish); largemouth bass; redbreast sunfish; yellow perch; and spring runs of anadromous American shad, hickory shad, and striped bass provide fishing opportunities for those wishing to float fish this scenic river.

Aylett - West Point

Downstream from Aylett the Mattaponi increases in width, becoming a fairly sizable tidal river system, with expanses of tidal marshes. Largemouth bass fishing on the Mattaponi is best from Alyett downstream to Melrose Landing. Catfishing, particularly for blue catfish is excellent throughout this section of the Mattaponi.
The Mattaponi River provides excellent spawning and nursery habitat for several species of anadromous migratory fish including river herring (both alewife and blueback herring), shad (American and hickory), and striped bass.