Virginia is a land of profound natural beauty, and that means there are many habitats for fish like trout, bass, and a net full of others! In addition to its lakes, rivers, and streams providing recreational inland fishing, another popular pastime is coastal fishing. The ocean is full of fluke, mackerel, marlin, speckled trout, red drum, tuna, and more.
There are numerous scenic trout streams for fly fishing, and a total of almost three thousand miles of stream in the entire state. The Jackson River is a wonderful fishing location for brown trout, and also in a lesser capacity rainbow trout. Mills Creek Reservoir is a popular brook trout paradise. For lighter colored brown trout try Smith River. If you prefer trout fishing on a lake head to Laurel Bed Lake, especially in the summer.
Trout are one of the more heavily stocked fish within the state. They have many designated stocking waterways, a program to care for wild trout, and another to establish young trout. Virginia loves their trout!
Bass are ever popular, too, and Virginia features some excellent bass fishing in differing habitats – black sea bass and striped bass in the ocean, small and largemouth bass within rivers and lakes. Trophy smallmouth bass can be found on the Shenandoah, New River and James River. The New River is also known for spotted bass (along with flathead and channel catfish). Another region for sizable bass is the Staunton River, which is also home to large walleye and catfish.
For bass fishing in greater waters try the Kerr Reservoir, where largemouth and striped bass are vivid figures in the water (along with excellent catfish and crappie fishing). An equally appealing option is the Smith Mountain Lake for both small and largemouth bass fishing.
Catfish are prominently seen along the rivers of Virginia and in the occasional lake. The Rappahannock River has an impressively diverse population of catfish including blue, white and channel. James River has both color-named varieties. The aforementioned Kerr Reservoir is a catfish paradise, offering waters teaming with blue, white, flathead, and channel catfish, all in one location!
Several lakes feature pike varieties like the northern pike, muskellunge and chain pickerel. The muskellunge is also found in rivers, like the James, New and Shenandoah. For a truly adventurous sounding tale find three pound chain pickerel at Dragon’s Run River. The listing of inland species goes on to includes shad, carp, freshwater drum, and more than can be listed!
Saltwater fishing is a vibrant economy and recreational pleasure along Virginia’s coast. Virginia Beach provides amazing fishing options, especially for trollers seeking Spanish mackerel. There are also a perfect variety of king mackerel, red drum, bluefish, and striped bass, swimming off the beach’s coast.
Nothing beats the experience of catching a marlin, and Virginia is known for blue and white marlin in late summer or early fall. Their coastline features an array of sealife like billfish, dolphinfish, wahoo, baracuda, amberjack, and the occasional opportunity to see a dolphin or shark!
Fluke are popular to fish for off Virginia’s coasts. Around Chincoteague Island, and off the shore of Wachapreague, good fluke fishing can be found (Wachapreague also has many easily accessible public fishing areas). Chesapeake Bay is a popular, multi-season fluke fishing location. Also, where fluke are found in Virginia, often so are bluefish.
All fisherpersons over the age of sixteen need a valid fishing license, unless it is a free fishing day. Saltwater fishing requires separate licensing (Maryland fishing licenses are acceptable for recreational saltwater fishing). Both residents and non-residents can purchase five and ten day licenses, as well as annual and lifetime licenses. Minimum size limits, maximum daily withdrawals, and maximum site allowances vary, and should be checked before you set out with your tackle box!
Whenever you head out fishing to a new place, it's always best to speak to local anglers. Use fishing forums to ask questions and learn about the most accurate and up to date conditions.