Fishing in Virginia Beach: The Complete Guide
Mar 12, 2021 | 10 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 10 minutes

For most people, Virginia Beach means sand, sun, sea, and surfing. “Resort City” is one of the East Coast’s top vacation spots, with almost 20 million visitors each year. What many of them don’t realize is that Virginia Beach fishing is out of this world. Huge Cobia, doormat Flounder, monster Marlin – the city’s surrounded by fish.

An aerial view of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront

In this article, we’ll break down the ins and outs of fishing in Virginia Beach. Learn about the area’s top game fish. Find out where to catch them, and how to do it. You can also get info on local fishing tournaments, regulations, and much, much more. It’s your complete guide to wetting a line in VA Beach.

What Makes Virginia Beach Special?

You may be thinking, “There are a lot of places to go fishing on the East Coast, what makes Virginia Beach special?” Well, quite a lot, actually.

For starters, it sits on the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, the country’s largest and most important inshore fishery. The bay is most famous for producing 80–90% of the world’s Striped Bass. That’s just one of hundreds of fish that you can find here, all of which swim within kayaking distance of downtown VA beach as they migrate in and out of the bay.

An aerial view of Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Millions of fish pass under this bridge each year.

Virginia Beach is also the meeting place of the Eastern Seaboard. It’s where warm water fish like Redfish and Cobia meet northern species like Tautog and Stripers. An incredible variety of game fish visit over the course of the year. In fact, it seems like fish enjoy vacationing here as much as people do.

Lastly, there’s Virginia Beach’s deep sea scene. Long ago, ancient rivers cut scars into the edge of the continental shelf. These underwater canyons are now the hunting ground of huge Tuna, Marlin, Swordfish, and Sharks. Closer to town, Mahi Mahi and Sailfish patrol structure that also holds huge Seabass, Tilefish, and Grouper. In short, VA Beach has it all.

Top Fish Species in Virginia Beach

You have so many options here that it can be tough to know where to start. Even limiting yourself to the shallows, you have a dozen game fish to choose between. Head father out, and a whole new cast of characters will take your baits. Then there’s the city’s freshwater bite. To keep things simple, here are a few species that you absolutely have to target while you’re in town.

Striped Bass

Two anglers holding a Striped Bass on a boat

Striped Bass are the superstars of the Virginia Beach winter fishing scene. When most species move south, big “Rockfish” come out of the Chesapeake Bay and line the coast all around town. These are the real trophies, with 40 or even 50 lb fish among them. Enough to warm you up on a cold winter’s morning.

Sadly, Striped Bass numbers have taken a beating over the years. Because of this, Virginia canceled its trophy Striper season in 2019. The good news is that you can still catch as many fish as you like. You just need to release the big ones. Sounds like a small price to pay for protecting these awesome fighters.

Cobia

Two female anglers holding Cobia fish at the back of a charter boat

If there’s one day that’s locked into the Virginia Beach calendar, it’s the Cobia opener. As soon as June rolls around, everybody with a boat or a kayak heads out for a slice of the action. Cobia offer plenty of that. Even small “rats” put up a decent fight. Bigger fish will pull you clean out of the boat if you’re not careful.

Cobia go hand in hand with another, less exciting catch: Rays. If you hook a Ray, get a second line in the water quick – chances are there’s a Cobia nearby. They hide in the Ray’s shadow to sneak up on prey. It almost makes up for all the broken lines and lost lures from Rays stuck to the seafloor.

Flounder

Two men and a woman holding Flounder on a fishing boat out of Virginia Beach

Flounder are the perfect species for family fishing trips. They put up a fun fight but are still easy enough to catch. They get pretty big without being too much to handle. What’s more, they’re delicious. No wonder they’re one of the most popular inshore targets in Virginia Beach!

The largest and most common Flounder species in Virginia Beach is Summer Flounder. Also known as Fluke, these guys can reach five pounds easy – more than enough for a fishy feast. Despite their name, the best time to catch Summer Flounder is actually the fall. This is when the big “doormat” Flounder take to the shallows.

Crab

A man in a white shirt and gloves holding two Blue Crabs

Looking for a low-effort way to maximize your catch on your fishing trip. Drop a pot at the start of the day, then check it whenever you get a moment. By the time you’re done fishing, you’ll have a bushel of delicious Blue Crab to add to your haul. You can even use couple as bait for big Redfish to work your way up the food chain.

The best part about crabbing in Virginia Beach is how darned good Blue Crab taste. The second best part is that you don’t need a license. You can drop a pot and haul in enough Crab for a shellfish feast absolutely license-free. This makes it the ideal backup in case you get skunked with the fishing itself.

Tuna

A group of anglers posing with four Tuna and a Mahi Mahi caught while fishing in Virginia Beach

“What about Virginia Beach’s deep sea fishing?” You ask. Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten the bluewaters. If anything, we saved the best for last. The Tuna fishing Virginia Beach has access to is out of this world. The seas offshore are home to several species of big, tasty Tuna. They’re around all summer and even into the fall.

The main target on Tuna trips is Yellowfin. These guys are every bit as wild as they look. They grow big, fight hard, and taste fantastic. You can also catch Bluefin, Bigeye, and Albacore Tuna out of VA Beach. Bluefin and Bigeye stocks aren’t doing too well, so we’d recommend releasing them if possible. Luckily, Yellowfin and Albacore are both as plentiful as they are delicious.

Marlin

A large Striped Marlin caught on a Virginia Beach fishing trip

The ambitious anglers among you may already have Marlin in your sights. If you’re one of them, Virginia Beach has a serious treat in store for you. Both Blue and White Marlin roam the remote waters around the canyons. Blues over 500 pounds are caught here each year, and even the Whites hit triple digits every so often.

The stars of the show are the Marlin, but you can combine them with a bunch of other species. Think fresh Swordfish steaks or a freezer full of Mahi Mahi and Wahoo. And don’t forget the Tuna. Whatever you do, you’re unlikely to head home empty-handed. That’s lucky, because nothing builds up an appetite like wrestling monster Marlin.

How to Fish around Virginia Beach

So you know the what of Virginia Beach fishing. Now it’s time for the how. The main ways people fish around here are from shore and aboard fishing charters. You can also split the difference and head out on a kayak. Here’s a short summary of the pros and cons of each style of fishing.

From Shore

Two fishing rods set up on a beach, with a group of surf fishers in the distance.

If you’ve got the gear, shore fishing can be a productive way to catch fish on a budget. Spend a few hours relaxing on the beach with the family and head home with some fresh fillets to show for it. Chances are you won’t land any monsters. But if you’re not in a hurry and just want to catch some fish, this is an easy way to do it.

That’s not to say that the bite’s bad. You can catch some amazing fish from shore in Virginia Beach. Cast into the surf for Sharks and Drum. Fish around pilings and bridges for Croaker and Flounder. Head to a fishing pier, and you can find Spanish Mackerel, Sheepshead, and even Cobia. Don’t forget your Crab pots if you’re pier fishing.

On a Kayak or Paddle Board

Two kayak anglers launching into the sea, with more fishing kayaks in the water ahead of them

Fishing on a kayak or a paddle board opens up a whole range of spots that you just can’t hit from shore. It also lets you escape the crowds when the beach gets busy. Renting kayaks and paddle boards is easy in Virginia Beach. If you’re not sure which one you should use, don’t worry. We’ve got a whole article on paddle boards vs kayaks.

So what can you catch? For starters, all the species you’d find fishing from shore. The difference is that you can get out to where the big fish live. On top of that, you’ll also find Spadefish, Stripers, Cobia, and much more around deeper pilings and islands. If you’re skilled enough, you can even venture out in search of bottom fish like Seabass and Tautog.

On a Boat

A marina in Virginia Beach full of large charter fishing boats
There are plenty of charter boats to choose from in VA Beach.

Fishing on a boat is the absolute best way to catch big fish. It’s as simple as that. You can reach remote spots, follow the fish, and use a wider range of techniques to catch them. And of course, you’ll have Virginia Beach’s full range of species in your sights. If you don’t own a boat, you have two main options besides piracy: private fishing charters or shared party boats.

Private charters give you the most flexibility and the biggest catch. The captain will take you to the best spots around and will be on hand to help you throughout the trip. You’ll also get quality tackle and bait to fish with. On party boats, you’ll be given a rod and bait but less help from the crew. They’re a good budget option, though, and can actually be cheaper than renting a kayak.

Virginia Beach Fishing Spots

There are several main fishing areas around Virginia Beach. Some can be fished from shore or easily reached in a kayak. Others require a boat, and sometimes several hours of travel time. We’re not going to ruin anybody’s secret honey holes by posting them online. Instead, here’s a list of the most popular spots in VA Beach and what you can catch there.

Shore Fishing Spots

A view of Virginia Beach Fishing Pier at sunrise
  • Rudee Inlet: A classic shore fishing spot just a stone’s throw from many Oceanfront hotels. It can get pretty crowded, but it’s still a good place to fish. Cast from the rocks banking the inlet for Flounder, Spot, Croaker, and Drum.
  • Chic’s Beach: Chic Beach has something for every angler. Enjoy some of the best surf fishing in Virginia Beach. Cast around the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Either way, expect Sharks, Rays, Drum, Trout, and much more.
  • Fishing Piers: Spanish Mackerel, Red and Black Drum, and even Cobia show up around the piers. Virginia Beach Fishing Pier is the most convenient. Farther away, Sandbridge Pier has just as many fish with fewer people. 

Kayak Fishing Spots

An aerial view of Lesner Bridge and Lynnhaven Bay
  • Lynnhaven Bay: These sprawling marshes are just a short hop from town, but they feel a million miles away. They hold Flounder, Speckled Trout, and “Puppy” Drum. Fish the bay itself or work the pilings around Lesner Bridge in the inlet.
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge: The bridge is fun from shore, but it’s even better from a kayak. As well as your full range of inshore species, experienced ‘yakers can fish deeper spots for Spadefish, Cobia, Sheepshead, Stripers, and more.
  • Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Looking for some freshwater fun? These sheltered waters hold everything from Bluegill and Crappie to Bass, Catfish, and even Gar. It’s also a great place to escape the infamous Resort City crowds.

Boat Fishing Spots

A charter boat returning to port flying Marlin flags
  • Chesapeake Light Tower: This much-loved nearshore spot is synonymous with big Spadefish. Less famous but just as fun are the Bluefish and Bonito that hunt around the tower. You might even hook an Amberjack if you’re lucky.
  • The Triangle Wrecks: And artificial reef 30 miles offshore, centered around a 500′ liberty ship. It holds Bluefish, Seabass, and Flounder, as well as Amberjack in summer. You can catch bigger fish farther out, but it’s a good place to fill the boat without a long journey.
  • Norfolk Canyon: It’s a 70-mile run to get to Norfolk Canyon, but your efforts will be rewarded with Tuna, Marlin, Swordfish, and Sharks. Need a break from the big game? Try deep dropping for monster Grouper and Tilefish.

Fishing Tournaments in Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach has plenty of fishing tournaments for anglers looking for a challenge. The biggest offshore event is the Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament. It’s been going since 2003 and now sees hundreds of anglers fight for over half a million dollars in prizes. Needless to say, only the best stand a chance of winning.

If that sounds a little extreme for you, try the Monarch Cobia Classic, a charity event run by Old Dominion University. There’s also the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. In this season-long competition, any citation-size fish can be reported to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Report enough and you’ll get an award at the end.

Virginia Fishing Laws

You’re almost ready to hit the water. Before you go, there are a couple of things to be aware of to make sure you’re fishing by the book. If you’re on a fishing charter, you don’t really have to worry about any of this. But if you’re heading out on your own, it’s best to read up before you go.

Virginia Beach Surf Fishing Rules

A Jetty at Rudee Inlet, Virginia Beach

You’re allowed to fish pretty much anywhere in Virginia Beach, as long as you have a license. Areas where fishing isn’t allowed will be clearly marked. Even though you can technically fish wherever you want, it’s polite to stay away from areas where lifeguards patrol. These tend to be the busiest parts of the beach, anyway.

Getting a Fishing License

You need to buy a fishing license to fish in either salt or freshwater in Virginia. The exceptions to this are if you’re fishing on a licensed charter or party boat, or if you’re on a fishing pier. On top of that, you don’t need a license to go crabbing. The license-free limit is one bushel of hard crabs and two dozen peeler crabs per person per day.

Fishing in Virginia Beach: The Perfect Angling Vacation

A view along the Oceanfront of Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach is one of the most popular vacation spots on the East Coast. It’s called “Resort City” for a reason. If there’s one thing that can make this beautiful coastal spot even better, it’s VA Beach’s endless mix of game fish. Whether you’re a complete beginner, a family with young kids, or a hardcore record-chaser, you’re in for a real treat when you wet a line here.

Have you ever fished in Virginia Beach? Where did you go and what did you catch? Did you fish any of the spots on our list? Drop us your tips and stories in the comments below!

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Comments (41)
  • Adam

    Apr 6, 2021

    Yo that marlin was just a baby
    >.<
    had me fooled thinking you could catch marlin here off the boat or on shore… I would be deeply upset if I hurt a marlin that size…great catch and the best picture you could find but I'd rather not catch one at all. Looks like my line wont be wet. Were is all the inland bass fishing here?!

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      Albert

      Apr 6, 2021

      Hi Adam,

      You definitely can’t catch Marlin on shore around VA Beach, that’s for sure! However, there definitely are some decent fish out at the canyons. The area is better for White Marlin than Blues, but don’t expect any monsters, but it’s still awesome fishing.

      In terms of inland fishing? Well, it’s inland. VA Beach is so surrounded by incredible saltwater fishing that it didn’t make sense to cover freshwater spots. I hope that makes sense.

      Tight lines!

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  • Jared

    Mar 31, 2021

    Can you surf fish by the fishing pier with ocean eddies.. I’ll be down next week.. early April hoping water temps will be in mid 50s.. thanks

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      Albert

      Apr 1, 2021

      Hi Jared,

      Absolutely! The pilings around the local piers are a great place to find fish, as are the the support columns and pilings at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

      Tight lines!

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  • Dan

    Jan 11, 2021

    hi we are coming the second week of February, 2021,, just wondering how the fishing is normally in February,, we were thinking maybe trying some surf fishing from Virginia Beach,.

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  • Joe

    Jan 10, 2021

    Hi! Me and my daughter are trying to find places to surf fish with nearby parking. We’ve never been fishing at Virginia Beach. What are some places we can go right now in Jan-Feb 2021? What is biting and what baits do you recommend this time of year and including spring/summer?
    We are wanting to rent a hotel room and possibly stay a couple nights.

    Thanks!

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      Albert

      Jan 11, 2021

      Hi Joe,

      Parking shouldn’t be too much of a problem this time of year. It’s mainly an issue in the summer when the big tourist crowds arrive.

      The top winter catch around VA Beach is Striper, which run up into in the Chesapeake Bay in winter. Chic’s Beach is an awesome spot to catch them, around the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

      In terms of bait, bloodworms are a good all-rounder, although Striper aren’t exactly picky when it comes to bait.

      I hope this helps. Be sure to let us know how you get on!

      Tight lines!

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  • John Hiner

    Nov 8, 2020

    Heading down next week. My son wants to fish, and I’ve never salt water fished. Was wondering where is the best place to try in November and what kind of fish should we target. I’d like to try to catch some trout.

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      Albert

      Nov 9, 2020

      Hi John,

      If you’re after Trout, you’re coming at the right time! November is awesome for Trout, as well as Striped Bass if you’re after something a little bigger.

      Try heading down to Chic’s Beach and casting live shrimp or minnows around the bridge pilings. Long Bay Pointe Bait & Tackle is pretty close and tends to have a decent selection of bait. Otherwise, You you can pick it up from a few different spots around town.

      If you really want to get your son on fish, my advice would be to head out on a charter. That way, you have everything you need ready and rigged for the day.

      Either way, I hope you and your boy have a great time. Check in and let us know how you get on!

      Tight lines!

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    • Reply icon

      Colin

      Dec 22, 2020

      Any suggestions on Charters? I’m getting my son a fishing trip for Christmas and am looking at their calendars. Looks like April is the earliest we can go. Don’t want to wait for the tourists to show up. Great article!

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    • Reply icon

      Sean

      Dec 23, 2020

      Hi Colin,

      Thanks for reading, I’m glad you liked the article.

      I just informed our customer service team about your inquiry and they’ll be reaching out to you shortly.

      Hope you’ll have a great time – tight lines!

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  • Jose

    Oct 17, 2020

    Great article. Im planning on going fishing at sandbridge pier, is fishbite a great option for bait? thanks

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      Albert

      Oct 19, 2020

      Hi Jose,

      Thanks for getting in touch, I’m glad you liked the article!

      I’ve never used fishbite bait so I couldn’t really say. Let us know how you get on if you do use it.

      Tight lines!

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      Eric Tower

      Oct 31, 2020

      Fishbites are a good bait. Blood worm type work very well for spot and croaker but you can catch other species also. Tight lines,!

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      Albert

      Nov 2, 2020

      Hi Eric,

      Great to know. I’ll have to give them a try.

      All the best!

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      Chris

      Nov 11, 2020

      I literally just caught an 18″ black drum on bloodworm fishbites in Sandbridge last week. Possibly super lucky but just goes to show you CAN catch some good eating with em.

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      Albert

      Nov 11, 2020

      Hi Chris,

      Nice! I’ll definitely give them a try.

      Tight lines!

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  • Brent

    Oct 8, 2020

    Are bait launchers legal in VA for surf fishing?

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      Albert

      Oct 8, 2020

      Hi Brent,

      That’s a good questions – and a new one!

      The answer is that I’m not entirely sure. From what I can gather, air-powered bait cannons should be legal, while combustion-powered ones would be considered a firearm, and potentially a destructive device.

      I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving you an answer one way or the other, so my advice would be to leave it at home if you can fish without it.

      Tight lines!

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  • Dick Wood

    Sep 30, 2020

    The Ocean Venture is a lot further than 20 miles from the oceanfront. It is closer to 60. Otherwise good article.

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      Albert

      Oct 1, 2020

      Hi Dick,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I must have mixed up my spots when writing this somehow – not quite sure how that happened. I’ve updated the list with somewhere a little closer to town.

      Glad you enjoyed the article other than that.

      Tight lines!

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  • Al M

    Jul 26, 2020

    Great article. We are headed down this weekend and planning on doing some pier fishing In VA. Beach. Any advice on what cut bait to get the kids on something bigger than Spot or Mullet? Thanks,

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      Albert

      Jul 28, 2020

      Hi Al,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad you liked the article!

      The best-all rounder is shrimp. Fresh shrimp is the best of the best, but frozen will work fine, too. Squid strips are another good option if you can’t find shrimp.

      I hope you have a great time. Let us know how you get on.

      Tight lines!

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  • Gary

    Jul 13, 2020

    If we are fishing from a dock attached to our rental house is a license needed?

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      Albert

      Jul 14, 2020

      Hi Gary,

      Yes, you still need a saltwater fishing license, even if you’re fishing from a private dock.

      Tight lines!

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  • Dave

    Jun 24, 2020

    Can you recommend any outfitters that might assist with teaching my son to shore fish in sandbridge and freshwater fish in the backbay?

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      Albert

      Jun 25, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Sadly, we don’t have any freshwater or shore fishing guides listed with us in the area right now. There are a few charters offering backcountry fishing, though.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help. I hope you find somebody.

      Tight lines!

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  • James Vandevender

    Jun 22, 2020

    Is July a good time to go shore fishing

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      Albert

      Jun 22, 2020

      Hi James,

      July is an awesome time for shore fishing, with plenty of Flounder, Spot, Croaker, Trout, Sheepshead etc.

      The biggest problem during the summer months is the sheer number of people, so I’d recommend starting early before the beach crowds arrive.

      Tight lines!

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      James Vandevender

      Jul 6, 2020

      Thanks another question what bait should I use

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      Albert

      Jul 6, 2020

      Hi James,

      Short answer, whatever’s fresh. Live shrimp are a great all-rounder, but if you can’t find them go with whatever is freshest.

      Tight lines!

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  • Hudson

    Jun 19, 2020

    I will be going next week, and plan on renting a kayak.
    Are there any lures I can use that are good for a large variety of fish that would work in Lynnhaven or Chesapeake Bay Bridge?

    Thanks for the wonderful article

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      Albert

      Jun 19, 2020

      Hi Hudson,

      If you’re looking for a good all-rounder, you really can’t go wrong with some simple Gulp! soft baits. They mimic fish really well and are pretty cheap, too. Pogies and swimming mullets are both good bets.

      I hope you have a great time. Be sure to let us know how you get on!

      Tight lines!

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  • Holly

    Jun 8, 2020

    Thanks for this article. My family and I are headed to Norfolk next week and renting a house on the beach. Do we need to purchase a license if we are fishing on the beach in front of our rental house?

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      Albert

      Jun 9, 2020

      Hi Holly,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Yes, you’ll need a saltwater fishing license for everyone aged 16 and up.

      Your best option will probably be a 10-day Temporary License, which costs $10.

      You can find out all about license costs and options here.

      I hope that helps!

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  • Mac

    Mar 7, 2020

    I own a 14 foot Jon boat. Can I use it for salt water fishing?

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      Albert

      Mar 9, 2020

      Hi Mac,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      It will be too small to take onto the ocean for sure. However, you should be okay in the sheltered waters of Lynnhaven Bay.

      When are you planning on visiting? Be sure to let us know how you get on!

      Tight lines!

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  • Danny

    Feb 27, 2020

    The article is great. Any advice on equipment for shore fishing. I am use to fishing fresh water.

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      Albert

      Feb 27, 2020

      Hi Danny,

      Are you looking to buy or rent? If you’re renting equipment locally, the staff will usually be able to advise you on what works best (and the options are fairly limited most of the time, anyway).

      If you want to buy a proper setup, I’d recommend checking out this article about shore fishing in Virginia, it includes a ton of useful tackle info.

      I hope that helps. Let us know how you get on and be sure to get in touch if you want to book a charter in VA Beach.

      Tight lines!

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  • Angad Singh Bilochpura

    Nov 13, 2019

    What a wonderful article in such simple and short words. Those points which you have mentioned in this article are very useful. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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      Albert

      Nov 13, 2019

      Hi Angad,

      Thanks for your comment, I’m really glad you enjoyed the article!

      Tight lines.

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