Getting a Virginia Fishing License: A Simple Guide
Jun 11, 2021 | 5 minute read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Commonwealth of Virginia has a lot to offer, but hardly anything beats a fishing adventure here. Within an hour’s drive from anywhere in the state, you’ll find many angling opportunities. River fishing, a day on one of Virginia’s many lakes, an Atlantic deep sea fishing trip… There’s something here for everyone. All you need is a Virginia fishing license!

Virginia state flag on a flagpole

So, you’ve decided to explore some of the fisheries that the “Mother of States” has to offer. But you have no idea what you need to make sure you’re fishing within the law. Fear not, we’ve got you covered! In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about getting the relevant fishing licenses.

Looking for info on neighboring states, or around the US in general? Check out our full list of licensing guides here.

Who needs a fishing license in Virginia?

An infographic showing the distribution of freshwater and saltwater fishing licenses in the state of Virginia

The short answer is: everyone who’s 16 or older. The long answer is, well, more complicated. First of all, there’s a difference in fees between residents and non-residents. Furthermore, there are some exceptions where Virginia residents can fish without a fishing license. We’ll cover these in the next section.

Who can fish license-free?

Let’s first take a look at who can fish the waters of Virginia without a license. You don’t need to get one if you are:

  • Fishing on saltwater charter boats
  • Fishing on private lands that you own, or have the owner’s permission to fish on
  • Under 16 years old
  • A resident, active-duty member of the armed forces on official leave.
  • Legally blind
  • A Native American living on a reservation, or a resident member of a recognized tribe fishing in freshwater
  • Older than 65 fishing in saltwater
  • Aiding a disabled license holder

Information for Residents

The first thing you need to know is that anyone who’s required to have a fishing license in Virginia must have it on them. You can have an electronic copy, printed paper, or annual hard card, and you need to show it to any officer who requires to see it.

Who’s considered a Virginia resident?

You qualify as a resident if you are:

  • A bonafide resident of the state for six consecutive months;
  • A permanent resident of the state for at least two months;
  • A legal voter in Virginia;
  • A member of the US armed forces residing in Virginia on active duty or stationed in the state;
  • A student enrolled in a bonafide Virginia school;
  • An unnaturalized person who owns real estate and has lived in Virginia for at least five years.

Costs for Residents

There are different license types you can choose from if you’re a Virginia resident. The license you need will depend on what you’re looking for. Whether it’s a day of saltwater angling or a lifetime of access to freshwater fisheries, there’s an option for everyone. The cost depends on the length and type of license.

Resident License Type Cost
5-Day Freshwater Fishing
Not valid in designated stocked Trout waters
5-Day Fresh/Saltwater Fishing
Not valid in designated stocked Trout waters
10-Day Saltwater Fishing $10.00
State Freshwater Fishing (1-year) $23.00
Saltwater Fishing License (1 year) $17.50
State Freshwater Fishing (2-year) $44.00
State Freshwater Fishing (3-year) $65.00
State Freshwater Fishing (4-year) $86.00

There is a variety of special fishing licenses that you can buy in Virginia, depending on your circumstances. A Sportsman’s License will allow you to hunt and fish in freshwater, while a South Holston Reservoir License will let you fish in both Tennessee and Virginia waters of South Holston Reservoir upstream of the dam.

Resident License Type Cost
Sportsman’s License (1 year) $100.00
County/City Freshwater Fishing (1 year) $16.00
State Fresh/Saltwater Fishing (1 year) $39.50
South Holston Reservoir Fishing License (1 year) $21.00
Tidal Boat Sportfishing (1 year) $126.00
65 and Over Freshwater Fishing (1 year) $9.00
Trout Fishing (October 1–June 15)
Required in addition to other resident licenses if fishing in stocked waters.

A Tidal Boat Sportfishing license is what you need if you own a boat. It will allow you to fish in the fresh and saltwater of Virginia from your boat, and it covers all passengers on board in saltwater and tidal waters (to river Fall Lines).

Information for Non-Residents

If you’re visiting Virginian waters and looking for the best way to spend your vacation, you have many options. However, you’ll need a non-resident license in order to fish here – unless you’re under the age of 16.

What’s different when you’re not a resident? Well, not that much. For example, if you’re planning on doing both hunting and fishing, you’ll need to buy these licenses separately, as the combination license is reserved only for residents.

Costs for Non-Residents

When it comes to non-resident licenses, it’s pretty much the same deal as for residents – prices differ depending on the length and type:

Non-Resident License Type Cost
Non-Resident 1-Day Freshwater Fishing $8.00
Non-Resident 5-Day Freshwater Fishing $21.00
Non-Resident 5-Day Fresh/Saltwater Fishing $31.00
Non-Resident 10-Day Saltwater Fishing $10.00
Non-Resident State Freshwater Fishing (1 year) $47.00
Non-Resident Saltwater Fishing (1 year) $25.00
Non-Resident State Fresh/Saltwater Fishing (1 year) $71.00
Non-Resident Tidal Boat Sportfishing (1 year) $201.00
Non-Resident Trout Fishing (October 1–June 15)
Required in addition to other non-resident licenses if fishing in stocked waters.

Lifetime Licenses

For those of you who plan on spending a long time fishing the waters of Virginia, a lifetime license might be a good choice. There are different lifetime licenses to choose from depending on whether you’re a resident or a non-resident.

You can apply for your own lifetime license by filling out the appropriate form on the DWR Virginia website.

Additional Fees

If you have a special type of adventure in mind, check out if it involves any sort of additional fees. When fishing on National Forest lands, you’ll need to get a National Forest Permit ($4) in addition to your fishing license. If you plan on fishing in a state forest, you’ll need a State Forest Use Permit ($16).

Note that you’ll need a County Dip Net Permit ($4.50) in order to take shad, herring, and mullet. Fishing at Clinch Mountain, Crooked Creek, and Douthat State Park will require you to get a Daily Permit ($8) in addition to your license.

Where to Buy a Virginia Fishing License

An infographic with the state flag of Virginia and text that reads: "Buying a Virginia Fishing License"

There are different ways of getting a Virginia fishing license, whether you’re a resident or a non-resident. You can do it online, by phone, or in person. Just use one of the simple ways below and you’re all set:

  • Online: You can get a Virginia fishing license online on the GoOutdoorsVirginia website. It’s a quick and easy process – just create your customer account and you’ll see all license types that fit your age and residency status.
  • By Phone: You can get a license by calling (804) 367-1000 during regular business hours. However, you can also do it by using your GoOutdoorsVirginia mobile app.
  • In-Person: If you prefer getting your license in person, you can get it from some clerks of the Circuit Court. Also, there are hundreds of license agents around the state.

What happens if I lose my license?

Not to worry! If you lose your license, you can easily replace it in a few steps. Just head over to the GoOutdoorsVirginia website, select “Manage Your Account” and reprint it. It’s that easy! Another way to do it is by visiting a retail license agent, and you can always call the Headquarters office at (804) 367-1000.

We’ve tried to cover all the information you’ll need. However, if you still have questions about getting your Virginia fishing license, get in touch with your local DNR office. Also, feel free to drop us a comment below. Otherwise, get your license, find a guide near you, and start your Virginia fishing adventure!

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