A recreational fishing license in Virginia is required for most fishing activities in the state. A sport fishing license permits you to take game fish and some non-game fish from Virginia waters. The license is available to residents and nonresidents of most ages. You should apply for a game fishing license if you want to take bass and trout from freshwater or species such as flounder and redfish from saltwater areas, although these require separate licenses.

A commercial fishing license is also available in Virginia for those who fish for monetary exchange. A commercial fishing license allows you to take aquatic life for the purpose of selling it for a profit. In many cases, you will also need special permits or endorsements along with a general license in order to fish for certain types of aquatic life.

Who needs a fishing license in Virginia?

A freshwater fishing license is necessary for anyone 16 years of age or older to legally fish in Virginia’s freshwater areas. The need for a saltwater fishing license in salty waters is the same. However, a recreational fishing license may not be required in the following cases:

  • If you are a landowner with a body of water within the boundaries of your land.
  • If you are younger than 16 years old and a resident.
  • If you are younger than 12 and a nonresident (and are accompanied by a licensed adult).
  • If you are a military member who is a Virginia resident and are on official leave (with leave papers).
  • If you are renting land with fishing waters on it and you have the permission of the landowner.

Virginia Fishing License Requirements

In order to purchase a resident freshwater fishing license, you must be able to prove your residency. Residents may purchase a discounted sport fishing license if they have resided in Virginia for at least six straight months immediately before applying. Registration to vote in VA, being stationed as a military member in VA or being enrolled in a school or university in VA are also enough to qualify you for a resident license.

Types of Fishing Licenses in Virginia

To obtain a freshwater or saltwater fishing license in Virginia, you will need to determine which type of license is right for you. The recreational fishing license comes in many varieties, but the following are the most common types:

Resident

  • County/city freshwater license
  • State freshwater license
  • State saltwater license
  • Fresh/saltwater license
  • Tidal boat sport fishing license
  • Trout fishing license
  • Short-term licenses
  • Sportsman’s license (fishing, hunting and more)

Nonresident

  • State freshwater license
  • State saltwater license
  • Fresh/saltwater license
  • Tidal boat sport fishing license
  • Trout fishing license
  • Short-term licenses

You can also get a commercial fishing license in these common types:

  • Commercial fishing license
  • Senior commercial fishing license (70+)

What types of fish can I catch with fishing licenses in Virginia?

With a Virginia sport fishing license, you can catch many types of freshwater game fish such as the following:

  • Trout (may require special license)
  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Spotted bass
  • Rock bass
  • Roanoke bass
  • Bream
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Walleye
  • Sauger
  • White bass
  • Chain pickerel
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern pike
  • Striped bass
  • Saugeye
A saltwater fishing license allows you to catch many oceanic and other saltwater types of life such as flounder. However, no fishing license in VA permits you to take river herring (including blueback and alewife). This is illegal in the state.

 

 

 

 

What types of fish require special fishing permits or tags in Virginia?

You must have a special fishing license in order to fish for trout in waters stocked with them. The cost is $23 for residents and $47 for nonresidents, in addition to regular saltwater or freshwater licenses. You will also need a special freshwater fishing permit to take shad and mullet.

Commercial fishing permits are necessary to take blue crabs, horseshoe crabs, oysters, clams, conches, finfish and certain other aquatic life for economic benefit.

How long is a fishing license valid in Virginia?

A regular game fishing license lasts one year from the date of purchase. However, there are other recreational and commercial fishing licenses available for five days, 10 days, 2-4 years or a lifetime (residents) or one day, five days, 10 days, 2-4 years or a lifetime (for non-residents).

How much does a Virginia fishing license cost?

The freshwater fishing license cost is different from that of saltwater licenses. Even within each license, there are many different factors that determine the total cost. The following chart shows how expensive Virginia fishing licenses are:

Resident

  • County/city freshwater license – $16
  • State freshwater license –
    • $23 (one year)
    • $44 (two years)
    • $65 (three years)
    • $86 (four years)
  • State saltwater license – $17.50
  • Fresh/saltwater license – $39.50
  • Tidal boat sport fishing license – $126
  • Trout fishing license (Oct. 1-June. 15) – $23
  • Five-day freshwater license – $14
  • Five-day fresh/saltwater license – $24
  • 10-day saltwater license – $10
  • Sportsman’s license – $133
  • Lifetime freshwater –
    • $260 (ages 2-44)
    • $210 (ages 45-50)
    • $160 (ages 51-55)
    • $110 (ages 56-60)
    • $60 (ages 61-64)
    • $20 (ages 65+)

Nonresident

  • State freshwater license – $47
  • State saltwater license – $25
  • Fresh/saltwater license – $71
  • Tidal boat sport fishing license – $201
  • Trout fishing license – $47
  • One-day freshwater license – $8
  • Five-day freshwater license – $21
  • Five-day fresh/saltwater license – $31
  • 10-day saltwater license – $10
  • Lifetime freshwater – $555

The commercial fishing license price of the main license varieties can also be found below:

  • Commercial fishing license – $190
    • Non-residents, $444 harvester’s license
  • Senior commercial fishing license (70+) – $90

Related Guides

Are fishing license discounts available in Virginia?

Game fishing license discounts are available for seniors and disabled persons and are free for permanently disabled veterans. There is also a legacy lifetime discount for kids under two ($125 resident or $250 non-resident).

Where can I get a fishing license in Virginia?

You can buy a recreational fishing license online, in person or by phone.

How can I replace my Virginia fishing license?

If you bought your VA fishing license from a retail store, visit the store for a replacement. Otherwise, you can do so by phone.