Saltwater Fishing Regulations
The protection and management of Virginia’s marine fish, shellfish and marine habitat that occur in the tidal waters inside the State’s boundaries and extending into the Atlantic Ocean three nautical miles is entrusted to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). Authority to manage fish caught beyond 3 nautical miles out to 200 nautical miles is vested with the Federal government.
Fish rarely respect arbitrary state borders, so the VMRC works with other states to develop joint management initiatives. Virginia actively participates in the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on joint fishery management plans for state waters along the entire Atlantic Coast, in the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council on plans for federal waters and federal fisheries, and with Maryland, the District of Columbia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission for Chesapeake Bay fisheries.
Saltwater Fishing License
Beginning on January 1, 1993, anglers fishing in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal, saltwater tributaries were required to obtain a saltwater recreational fishing license. On January 1, 2003, the licensing requirement was expanded to include the coastal waters comprising Virginia’s territorial sea (ocean waters out to the three mile limit line). Monies collected from the sale of saltwater fishing licenses are dedicated to the improvement of recreational fisheries. More than $25 million dollars has been spent on projects, including the construction of new artificial reefs, boat ramps, game fish tagging, the Virginia Citation program, sea grass restoration, and various scientific studies.
A saltwater fishing license is required for anyone fishing with a rod-and-reel, handline, cast net, spear or gig in Virginia’s marine waters. The cost for an individual license is $12.50, but persons under the age of 16 and those 65 years of age and older are exempted. Currently, Virginia offers anglers the opportunity to purchase a boat license that covers everyone fishing on that boat, but this boat or “blanket license” is being reviewed. The cost for a boat license is $38.00 annually. All annual licenses are valid for 365 consecutive days from date of purchase. If you decide to fish on a charterboat or headboat, you will not need a license; they purchase annual licenses that cover all of their paying customers.
Licenses can be purchased in one of three ways: on-line at www.dgif.virginia.gov; toll-free by telephone from the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries at 1-866-721-6911; or from any one of nearly 500 license agents located throughout the state. The list of license agents includes many tackle shops, marinas and major sporting goods retailers.
Virginia has recreational fishing regulations covering more than 20 species of fish. Regulations usually take the form of size limits, possession limits, and seasonal closures. In addition, waters off the Virginia coast (outside the Three Mile Line) are subject to regulations set by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and administered by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Special rules established by international treaty affect offshore pelagic species, such as tunas and billfish, and require the purchase of a federal permit. Regardless of whether a fish was caught in federal or other state jurisdictional waters, anglers entering Virginia’s waters are subject to the state’s season, size and possession limits.
Saltwater fishing regulations are subject to review and change throughout the year, which is the reason actual regulations are not listed in the Hampton Roads Fishing Guide. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission maintains up-to-date information on saltwater fishing regulations at its website, www.mrc.virginia.gov. Regulatory information also may be obtained from the Commission by calling 757-247-2200 or by contacting the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament by telephone at 757-491-5160 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Cards with current saltwater fishing regulations are available at most tackle shops, marinas, and sporting goods retailers.
Information on federal offshore fisheries and highly migratory species permits may be obtained from the National Marine Fisheries Service. For permits and highly migratory species information call 888-872-8862 or obtain a permit on-line at www.nmfspermits.com. Check the websites for the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, www.mafmc.org, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, www.nmfs.noaa.gov, for updated federal regulations.
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