Rappahannock 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 (

Angling for freshwater species on the tidal Rappahannock is best from the head-of-tide at Fredericksburg downstream to Leedstown. This section of river is characterized by forested shorelines with large river bends cutting through high banks and cliffs, and below Route 301 the river opens up with broad expanses of tidal marsh. Anglers on the tidal Rappahannock can quite easily forget this river is just miles from densely populated sections of northern Virginia and Washington D.C. As a result of its scenic beauty and an abundance of important natural resources, the tidal Rappahannock is home to The Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, one of four refuges comprising the Eastern Virginia Rivers National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The tidal Rappahannock offers an array of species for the freshwater angler to enjoy, including blue catfish, largemouth bass, and migratory anadromous species such as American shad, hickory shad, river herring (alewife and blueback herring), and striped bass.