Fishing in Virginia

Discover Virginia’s rich and diverse fishing opportunities from the Chesapeake Bay to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where every angler can find their perfect catch
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About Virginia

Virginia, the "Old Dominion," is a treasure trove for recreational fishing enthusiasts, offering a remarkable blend of fishing opportunities. Located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, Virginia's unique geography encompasses the vast waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic Ocean coastline, numerous rivers, and scenic mountain lakes. The state’s climate, characterized by four distinct seasons, allows for year-round fishing adventures. Spring and fall are particularly favorable, with mild temperatures and active fish populations making these seasons ideal for most types of fishing. Summers bring warm, sunny days perfect for deep-sea fishing or a relaxing day on the lake, while winters offer unique opportunities for cold-weather fishing in Virginia’s rivers and lakes. Fishing in Virginia is regulated by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), which oversee sustainable fishing practices and conservation efforts. The former is responsible for freshwater, and the latter for saltwater fisheries, with different license requirements and sets of regulations. Possession limits, size limits, and seasonal restrictions for various fish species are in place to protect the fisheries. Always check the latest regulations before your trip, although if you book your fishing tour with a reputable guide or charter, they will normally ensure that you comply with all necessary regulations. Recreational anglers in Virginia can cast their lines into the Chesapeake Bay, one of America’s most productive estuaries, or venture offshore from Virginia Beach or the Eastern Shore and experience the thrill of battling tuna, marlin, and wahoo in the deep waters of the Atlantic. You can explore the serene trout streams of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, or troll the depths of Smith Mountain Lake. Whatever your fishing preference, Virginia promises a diverse and rewarding fishing experience. Plan your fishing adventure in Virginia today and explore the angler’s paradise that awaits in the Old Dominion.

Fishing Types

Virginia offers a diverse range of fishing types that cater to all preferences and skill levels. Coastal fishing along the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean is immensely popular. Many charters and guides offer nearshore and inshore fishing trips, especially around barrier islands, or take their clients to numerous reefs and wrecks. Charter boats from ports like Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore regularly venture offshore to the Gulf Stream, where you can catch the largest pelagic species. As those are located some 50 miles offshore or more, Virginia deep sea fishing trips require a full day, and quite a lot of fuel. Inland, lake fishing is a major attraction in Virginia, with numerous lakes and reservoirs providing ample opportunities for both boat and shore fishing. Smith Mountain Lake, with its deep, clear waters, is a hotspot for striped bass and largemouth bass, while Lake Anna is known for its robust populations of largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish. River fishing is another highlight in Virginia, with the state’s major rivers, including the James, the Potomac, and the New River, being home to healthy populations of smallmouth bass, catfish, and musky, providing challenging and rewarding fishing experiences. An angler can also enjoy some backcountry fishing in the smaller rivers and streams of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Targeted Fish Species

Virginia’s waters are home to a rich and diverse array of fish species, making it a premier destination for anglers. The Chesapeake Bay, one of the largest and most productive estuaries in the United States, is famous for its striped bass, known locally as rockfish, as well as black drum, spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel, weakfish, triggerfish, croaker, and flounder. And the boats that sail off Virginia’s ports can reach the Gulf Stream and catch any of the Western Atlantic Ocean game fish, from grouper to yellowfin and bigeye tuna, mahi-mahi, wahoo, blue and white marlin, swordfish, and various species of shark. Inland, Virginia’s rivers and lakes are equally abundant. Largemouth bass are some of the most sought-after species. Smallmouth, spotted and striped bass also strive in Virginia, while the mountain streams and lakes are renowned for their trout fisheries. Brook trout, the only native trout species in Virginia, can be found in the state’s cold-water streams, while rainbow and brown trout are stocked in many of the state’s rivers and lakes, offering year-round fishing opportunities. Crappie, bluegill, sunfish, rock bass, walleye, sauger, white and yellow perch, chain pickerel, muskellunge, northern pike, blue, channel, flathead and white catfish, shad, bowfin, carp, longnose gar and freshwater drums are also listed among Virginia’s game fish.

Fishing Techniques

The varied aquatic environments in Virginia support a wide range of fishing techniques, each suited to different species and conditions. Trolling is the default method in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, with captains using light or heavy tackle depending on the species targeted. However, they may also resort to bottom fishing and jigging when fishing around reefs and wrecks, or targeting such bottom loving species as the grouper. Trolling is also efficient on the Old Dominion’s bigger rivers and lakes. Fly fishing is a beloved technique in Virginia’s trout streams and rivers, particularly in the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The state’s scenic trout streams, such as the Jackson River and the Rapidan River, offer challenging and rewarding fly fishing opportunities. Spinning, drifting, bottom fishing and bow fishing are also popular and efficient.