Getting a Virginia Fishing License: A Simple Guide
Feb 10, 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. All you need is a Virginia fishing license. 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.

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.

Who needs a fishing license in 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, so there’s no need to worry!

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

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:

  • Landowners or family members of a landowner on your own lands and inland waters.
  • Under 16 years old (you don’t need a Trout license either).
  • A resident, active-duty member of the armed forces on official leave. However, when Trout fishing you must have a copy of your Military Orders on you.
  • A tenant fishing on the land you rent and occupy with the written permission of the landowner.
  • A guest fishing in individually-owned private ponds.
  • Legally blind.
  • A Native American living on a reservation, or a resident member of a recognized tribe fishing in freshwater.
  • A stockholder with over 50 percent of stocks of any domestic corporation that owns land in Virginia on land owned by the corporation.
  • Older than 65 fishing in saltwater.
  • Not fishing but aiding a disabled license holder.

Planning on charter fishing?

Are you thinking of doing some charter fishing? Well, if you’re casting a line from a licensed head or charter boat, you don’t need a saltwater fishing license. The boat license covers the captain, the mate, and the passengers in this case.

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. You need to show it to any officer who requires to see it, as well as any owner, lessee, or representative of land you’re fishing on.

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
Sportsman’s License
Includes hunting license, bear license, deer/turkey license (valid July 1– June 30), archery license, muzzleloader license, freshwater fishing license and Trout license
County/City Freshwater Fishing
For county or city of residence only
State Freshwater Fishing (1-year)* $23.00
State Freshwater Fishing (2-year)* $44.00
State Freshwater Fishing (3-year)* $65.00
State Freshwater Fishing (4-year)* $86.00
State Fresh/Saltwater Fishing* $39.50
Saltwater Fishing License $17.50
South Holston Reservoir Fishing License
Allows fishing in both Tennessee and Virginia waters of South Holston Reservoir upstream of the dam. A valid resident fishing license is also required.
5-Day Freshwater Fishing (5 consecutive days)
Not valid in designated stocked Trout waters
5-Day Fresh/Saltwater Fishing(5 consecutive days)
Not valid in designated stocked Trout waters
10-Day Saltwater Fishing (10 consecutive days) $10.00
Tidal Boat Sportfishing $126.00
65 and Over Freshwater Fishing (Annual)* $9.00
Trout Fishing (October 1–June 15)
Required in addition to other resident licenses if fishing in stocked waters.

*A valid Trout license is required in addition to other resident licenses only if you are fishing in designated stocked Trout waters (October 1–June 15)

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, you won’t be able to get a lifetime fishing license. Another perk you’ll be missing out on is getting a fishing/hunting combination license. So if you’re planning on doing both, you’ll need to buy them separately.

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

*A valid non-resident Trout license ($47.00 annual or $555.00 lifetime) is required in addition to other non-resident licenses only if you are fishing in designated stocked Trout waters (October 1–June 15)

Additional Fees

If you have a special type of adventure in mind, check out if it involves any sort of additional fees. For example, you may need a special license for certain areas of the state. Also, if you’re heading out on your own boat, there’s a special Tidal Boat License for that! You can find all of them on the GoOutdoorsVirginia website.

Where to Buy a Virginia Fishing License

Signage signaling the sale of bait, tackle, and fishing licenses.

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 at 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. You can find them on the License Agent Locator.

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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