Pamunkey 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 (

From the confluence of the North Anna River and South Anna River downstream to below Hanovertown, the Pamunkey is a narrow steep banked meandering stream with no upstream tidal flow (continuous downstream flow as opposed to ebb and flood flow). Although, as you move closer to the Route 360 Bridge you may experience small fluctuations in river levels during periods of low flow due to tidal influences. For those floating or bank fishing this secluded section of river, a diverse angling experience is provided by: black crappie, blue and channel catfish, redbreast sunfish, striped bass, three species of black bass (largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass), yellow perch, and spring runs of American, hickory shad, and river herring. Public access on the upper Pamunkey is limited.

From the Route 360 crossing downstream to Putneys Mill, the Pamunkey is a fairly constricted tidal river with forested swamps adjacent to the main channel. In this section of the river largemouth bass dominate the black bass assemblage, and fishing for blue catfish picks up, particularly in the deeps bends.
Below Putneys Mill, the river begins to take on more of the characteristics of a tidal estuary, with broad tidal marshes replacing forested swamps, and a channel that quickly increases in width as one moves downstream.

The Pamunkey River provides excellent spawning and nursery habitat for several anadromous fish species including river herring (both alewife and blueback herring), shad (American and hickory) and striped bass.