West Virginia Fishing License: The Complete Guide

May 23, 2024 | 7 minute read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Are you planning to get knee-deep in the cool streams of the Monongahela National Forest? Maybe you’re dreaming of reeling in a hefty Catfish from the Ohio River‘s waters. Or perhaps battling a feisty Smallmouth Bass on Summersville Lake is on your bucket list. Whatever your fishing style, the Mountain State promises the adventure of a lifetime. But you’ll need a West Virginia fishing license to get started!

The flag of West Virginia flying from a flagpole against a background of a clear blue sky

Let’s be honest, West Virginia is an angler’s paradise. From the thrill of chasing Trout in clear mountain streams to the challenge of hooking Musky, this state has it all. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting your feet wet, there’s something here for everyone. Read on to find out exactly what you need to hook your next big catch!

Who needs a WV fishing license?

If you’re 15 or older, you’ll need a valid WV fishing license to fish legally. These permits are valid for the entire calendar year, so you can buy them in January and fish until December 31. When you’re out on the water, make sure to carry a valid ID along with your license – it’s a must.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) offers a variety of licenses tailored for both locals and visitors. Options range from single-day permits to annual licenses and even lifetime choices, and you can even find combo licenses that cover hunting, trapping, and fishing. 

If you’re planning to catch some Trout, don’t forget to add a Trout Stamp to your license. And here’s a tip for those who turned 65 after December 31, 2011 – you can opt for the Senior Lifetime License, which includes this privilege.

Who doesn’t need a WV fishing license?

As with every rule, there’s an exception – or a few – to it. In West Virginia, certain groups can enjoy fishing without the need for a license. Here’s who:

  • Totally blind residents with a physician’s statement or certificate. 
  • West Virginia residents who turned 65 before January 1, 2012, if they carry their driver’s license or a photo ID card issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles.
  • Residents on active duty in the US armed forces while on military leave, provided they carry their leave number.
  • Resident landowners and their immediate family members* can fish on their own land during open seasons without a license, following all other laws and regulations.
  • Residents honorably discharged from the armed forces with a total permanent service-connected disability.
  • Former prisoners of war as determined by the Veterans Administration.
  • Resident disabled veterans who qualify under West Virginia Code 17A-10-8 and carry a card issued by the DNR.
  • Residents or in-patients of state mental hospitals or benevolent institutions under proper supervision, carrying a written statement or certificate signed by the superintendent of the institution. 
  • Developmentally disabled residents with a DDFL card issued by the DNR. 

*Resident children, parents, or bona fide resident tenants

Additionally, West Virginia offers a special hunting and fishing license for those with a life-threatening condition (Class DT), free for anglers aged 20 or younger. 

What about the Trout Stamp?

Naturally, there are also special rules for Trout Stamps. You don’t need one if you fall into one of these categories:

  • Residents who turned 65 before January 1, 2012.
  • Anglers under 15 years of age.
  • WV disabled veterans with a 100% permanent service-connected disability and former POWs.
  • West Virginians on active duty in the US armed forces while on military leave, carrying their leave number.
  • Senior Lifetime license (XS) holders.

Information for Residents

An aerial view looking down a river towards a few fly anglers in West Virginia on a clear day

So by now, you see there are significant benefits to getting a fishing license if you’re a resident of West Virginia. But what makes one a West Virginian? Well, you’re considered a West Virginia resident if you:

  • Have been living in West Virginia for at least 30 consecutive days.
  • Are on active duty in the US armed forces and were a West Virginia resident when you enlisted.
  • Are a full-time student at a West Virginia college or university but claim residency outside the state.
  • Live in another state but hold a valid West Virginia lifetime license and are buying additional stamps.

West Virginians have a variety of license options to fit every angler’s needs. The standard annual license, known as Class B, lets you fish all year long. If you’re just planning a quick trip, the 5-day permit, Class L, is perfect for a short stint. And if Trout fishing is your game, don’t forget to snag a Class O Trout Stamp.

For those who love a mix of outdoor activities, Combination packages are the way to go. The Sportsman hunting, fishing, and trapping license (Class X) covers all three activities and is ideal for residents aged 18–64. To make things even easier, the Sportsman Plus (Class XP) includes a Trout Stamp. And for those who are in it for a longer haul, the 3-year versions (Class X3 and XP3) have you covered.

Young anglers aged 15–17 can dive into the sport with the Junior Sportsman License (Class XJ), designed to encourage the next generation of fishermen. For seasoned pros, senior residents aged 65 and older can grab the senior hunting, fishing, and trapping license (Class XS), which includes a Trout Stamp.

West Virginia Lifetime Licenses

If you’re serious about fishing in West Virginia, a lifetime license might be your best catch. Imagine never having to worry about renewing your fishing license again – just pure, uninterrupted fishing fun. Sounds pretty great, right?

Resident seniors who have previously purchased licenses can upgrade to a senior lifetime license online. Full-time non-resident students at any West Virginia college or university can also reel in these permits.

Here’s a tip: if you have a Lifetime License and turned 65 after December 31, 2011, opt for the senior lifetime license, which already includes Trout Stamp privileges. 

Information for Non-Residents

An aerial view of the New River in West Virginia, as it winds through a gorge, with a large bridge visible in the middle of the image on a clear day

Visitors, you’re in luck! West Virginia makes it easy for you to enjoy its fantastic fishing opportunities. The Class F non-resident license is your go-to for all legal fish, except Trout, and even lets you take frogs in all counties, unless otherwise restricted. 

If Trout is what you’re after, you’ll need to add a Class OO Trout Stamp to your Class F license. The best part? This base license doesn’t require any prerequisites, so you can jump right into the action.

If you have a young angler in the family, aged 8–17, they can get the Junior Sportsman hunting, fishing, and trapping license (Class XXJ). For those aged 15–17, the Apprentice Junior license (Class AAHJ), offers similar privileges and is a great way to get started.

If you’re planning to fish in a national forest, you’ll need a National Forest permit (Class I). And don’t forget that all licensed non-resident anglers must have a Conservation/Law Enforcement Stamp (Class CS/LE) to ensure you’re fishing legally and responsibly.

WV Fishing License Cost

That may seem like a lot to process, so let’s break it down for you. Here, we’ll go through all the available license types and their costs, along with a brief description of each permit: 

TypeResident FeeNon-resident FeeNotes
1-day (Class LL)N/A$3One-day fishing license for non-residents.
5-day (Class L)$8N/A5-day fishing license for residents.
Annual (Class B)$19$37Standard annual fishing license.
Sportsman (Class X)$35N/ACombo license for residents aged 18–64.
Sportsman Plus (Class XP)$45N/ACombo license with Trout Stamp for residents.
3-year Sportsman (Class X3)$105N/A3-year combo license for residents.
3-year Sportsman Plus (Class XP3)$135N/A3-year combo license with Trout stamp for residents.
Junior Sportsman (Class XJ/XXJ)$16$16Combo license for resident juniors aged 15–17 and non-resident juniors aged 8–17.
Apprentice Junior (Class AHJ/AAHJ)$16$16Apprentice junior combo licenses for ages 15–17.
National Forest (Class I)$2$2Required in national forests in addition to other licenses.
Trout Stamp (Class O)$10$16Required for Trout anglers.
Conservation/Law Enforcement Stamp (Class CS/LE)$5$13

Resident Lifetime Licenses 

As we already mentioned, there’s the possibility of gaining a lifetime license if you’re a resident of West Virginia. There are lifetime fishing licenses, Trout Stamps, and combo hunting and fishing permits. These vary in price depending on the age of the applicant, with significant discounts for infants and babies, along with seniors. If you want to get your little ones hooked from birth, there’s no better gift! Check out all the relevant information on the WVDNR website.

Where to Buy Your WV Fishing License

An infographic featuring the flag of West Virginia above text that says "West Virginia fishing licence, where to get yours," along with an illustration of a boat underneath against a blue background

Getting your West Virginia fishing license is as smooth as a calm day on the water. You’ve got a few options:

  • In-person. With over 160 locations throughout the state and designated county clerk offices, it’s easy to find a place near you. The issuing fee is $3 for your first purchase and $1 for any subsequent purchases.
  • Online. There’s a $2 fee per transaction, but it’s the quickest way to get your license.
  • By phone at (304) 558-2758. There’s a $2 fee per transaction.

Both residents and non-residents can enroll, pay, and print their licenses through the Electronic Licensing & Game Check System. If you already have an account, just log in with your username and password. If you’re new to the system, click “Enroll Today” and follow the instructions. The good news is that, if you’ve purchased a hunting or fishing license since 2015 or hold a lifetime permit, your account is already set up, so there’s no need to enroll again.

And if you’re looking to lock in those long-term fishing benefits, you can apply for a lifetime license at DNR offices, through license agents, or online. It’s as simple as landing a Trout on a calm morning!

What if I lose my license?

If you lose your WV fishing license, you can easily obtain a replacement through your user profile on the DNR website. Additionally, any licensing agent can issue a replacement for a small fee. For further assistance, contact the WV DNR Hunting and Fishing License Unit directly at (304) 558-2758 or [email protected].

Grab Your WV Fishing License And Start Exploring!

So, whether you’re planning a quick trip or looking to make West Virginia your regular fishing haven, there’s a license tailored just for you. With your gear ready and your West Virginia fishing license in hand, you’re all set. From casting at dawn to joining a guided trip, angling here promises unforgettable experiences. Don’t wait – the fish are biting and an adventure is calling!

Hopefully, we covered all your questions about getting a WV fishing license. If you still need more info, feel free to contact the Mountain State’s authorities directly. If you’re all good, go ahead and get your license. Then, you can find a fishing charter near you and get in on the fun!

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Lisa traded the lecture hall for the vast expanse of the world's waters, transforming her love of teaching into an insatiable passion for angling and storytelling. She would sail through oceans, lakes, and rivers, reeling in the world’s fish stories one catch at a time.

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