Cast a Line for Virginia’s Cold Water Catches

Whether it’s the brilliant fall foliage or the crisp beauty of winter, cold water and cool temps equal the perfect time to drop a line and reel in some fish.

Fortunately, Virginia allows year ’round game and nongame fishing with only a few exceptions. Per the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, game fish are defined as trout, sunfish (largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rock bass, bream, bluegill, and crappie), walleye, white bass, chain pickerel, muskellunge, northern pike, and striped bass.



Winter Rainbow Trout at Rose River Farm in Syria, VA.

Winter Rainbow Trout at Rose River Farm in Syria, VA.

Virginia has more than 2,800 miles of trout streams.




The Fall Line, courtesy Radford University

Click the enlarge. Courtesy of Radford University

Certain species’ creel and length limit are regulated by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. These regulations are in relation to the fall line and into Chesapeake Bay tributary rivers.  Additionally, certain species are catch-and-release only, depending on the catch location.

  • Above the Fall Line Catch-and-Release Only; No Possession:
    • American shad
    • Hickory shad
  • Regulated Above the Fall Line
    • Coastal striped bass
  • Regulated Below the Fall Line into the Chesapeake Bay:
    • American shad
    • Hickory shad
    • All saltwater fish
  • Catch-and-Release Only; No Possession
    • Alewife
    • Blueback Herring
    • Grass Carp
    • Threatened and Endangered Species
  • Download the Creel and Length Limits




North Creek Fishing. Photo by Sam Dean.

North Creek Fishing. Photo by Sam Dean.

Anyone may fish, however, a license is generally required. Exceptions include but are not limited to landowners and their guests, persons who are legally blind, residents of Virginia under the age of 16, and nonresident children under the age of 12.

License Regulations & Fees | Buy Online | VIDEOS: Learn to Fish




Virginia Beach is known as the “Striped Bass Capital of the World” thanks to the thriving striped bass (rockfish) that inhabit the waters December through February. Additional cool weather biters are stripers, flounder, king mackerel, tautog, sea bass, atlantic mackrel, bluefish, red drum, and spanish mackerel.

  • Coastal seasons are January 1 – March 31 and May 16 – December 31.
  • Chesapeake Bay seasons are May 16 – June 15 and October 4 – December 31.
  • Trophy season for coastal is May 1-15 and Chesapeake Bay is May 1 – June 15.
  • Charter Fishing
  • You Catch, They Prepare Restaurants




Fish Caught in Smith Mountain Lake.

Fish Caught in Smith Mountain Lake. includes Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston and Lake Anna State Park in Spotyslyvania among their Top 100 Family Fishing and Boating Spots.

The IGFA World Record blue catfish was caught on June 18, 2011 in Buggs Island Lake/John H. Kerr Reservoir in Clarksville. The cat weighed 143 pounds and was 57 inches long; 13 pounds heavier than the previous record holder.

The IGFA World Record northern snakehead fish was caught in June 2013 on Aquia Creek, a tributary of the Potomac in Spotsylvania. At more than 17 pounds, the snakehead weighs just two ounces more than the previous record holder caught in Japan in 2004.

See the chart of Virginia State Record Fish.

Use the Fish Virginia First Fishing Spot Finder to nail down what’s biting where and when.


© Casey for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2015. |

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Casey Higgins

We are FUN! We are RVA! We support local business and charities! Life is good!