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 (http://www.mrc.state.va.us/regulations/fr1260.shtm).

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.

Maps & Directions

Public boat access in the freshwater fishing section the tidal James River is available at:

  • Ancarrow Landing, in Richmond
  • Osborne Landing in Henrico County
  • Dutch Gap in Chesterfield County
  • Deep Bottom in Henrico County
  • Chickahominy Riverfront Park in James City County
  • Lawnes Creek Landing in Surry County

Private (fee) ramps are available at:

  • the Hopewell Marina in Hopewell, Jordan Point Marina downstream of Hopewell at the Benjamin Harrison Bridge, as well as several smaller private marinas and landings

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 � 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 � 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.

Biologist Reports

Regulations

Largemouth Bass

  • 5 per day
  • No length limit

Striped Bass, Shad and Herring

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

Catfish

(Blue)

  • No creel limit for Blue Catfish less than 32 inches
  • Only 1 Blue Catfish larger than 32 inches per person per day

Anadromous Species

  • 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

 

Facilities

Public boat access in the freshwater fishing section the tidal James River is available at the following locations:

  • Ancarrow Landing in Richmond
  • Osborne Landing in Henrico County
  • Dutch Gap in Chesterfield County
  • Deep Bottom in Henrico County
  • Chickahominy Riverfront Park (formerly Powhatan Resort) inside the mouth of the Chickahominy River in James City County
  • Lawnes Creek Landing in Surry County

Private (fee) ramps are available at:

  • Jordan Point Marina downstream of Hopewell at the Benjamin Harrison Bridge, as well as several smaller private marinas and landings

More Information

For More Information about the Tidal James River, contact:
VDGIF
3801 John Tyler Memorial Highway
Charles City, VA 23030
Phone: (804) 829-6580
Ask to speak with a Fisheries Biologist.