Virginia Fishing License: Types, Costs, and How To Buy

The Commonwealth of Virginia is rich with bountiful waters ranging from small lakes to miles of trout streams. 

It has a plethora of ponds, rivers, reservoirs, and regulated areas for pier or boat fishing. Because of its location, you can even access the saltwater of the Atlantic Ocean!

For beginners and experts alike, there is a myriad of both fresh and saltwater species that make for a unique angling experience. Because of this diversity, tens of thousands of anglers visit Virginia every year.

Virginia provides no shortage of truly one-of-a-kind fishing adventures. However, depending on certain factors, it’s necessary to have a Virginia fishing license. 

And with different classifications, requirements, and fees, applying for a license can get pretty confusing! 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the guidelines and process of how to get a Virginia fishing license. We’ll be covering all the essential details and everything you need to know about: 

  • Who needs a fishing license in Virginia
  • Types and costs of fishing licenses in Virginia
  • Special fishing permits in Virginia
  • Where to buy a Virginia fishing license.

Let’s get started!

Contents show

Who Needs a Fishing License in Virginia?

Virginia Fishing License

Fishing licenses in Virginia can be classified as either Resident or Nonresident. Persons who are considered residents need to fall under the following criteria:

Virginia Residency Qualifications:

  • A resident of the state for at least 6 consecutive months immediately preceding license application
  • Any permanent resident of Virginia for at least 2 months
  • Any legal voter in Virginia
  • Members of the United States Armed Forces and immediate family members stationed in the Commonwealth
  • Students enrolled in Virginia schools and boarding on the campus 
  • Unnaturalized persons who own real estate and have resided in Virginia for at least 5 years.

Who needs a license?

Anybody over the age of 16 needs to have a physical print or electronic copy of their Virginia fishing license to show when requested by any officer on duty or any representative of property owners. 

Who is exempt? 

The following people are exempt from holding a license:

  • Persons fishing on their own private property, including guests and tenants
  • Persons under 16 years old 
  • Residents and active-duty members of the United States Armed Forces on leave 
  • Persons who are legally blind
  • Native Americans with valid tribal identification cards fishing in freshwater
  • Anybody over 65 years old fishing in freshwater 
  • Stockholders owning at least 50 percent of stock can fish within the waters owned by the domestic corporation
  • Anybody aiding disabled license holders.

Types and Costs of Fishing Licenses in Virginia

Fishing License in Virginia

Aside from resident and nonresident, the types of fishing licenses in Virginia can be further classified as either saltwater or freshwater. The area and period you plan to apply for have their specific licenses as well. 

If your conditions as a veteran qualify, you are also eligible to apply for certain discounts.

Keep in mind that these fees are collected as a contribution that’s directly put into efforts toward the preservation of these bodies of water.

For information specific to West Virginia fishing licenses, click here.

Resident Fishing Licenses

Sportsman’s License

A Sportsman’s License applies for those 16 years of age or older and includes a hunting license, archery license, muzzleloader license, freshwater fishing license, and trout license. It costs $100.00.

County/City Resident Freshwater Fishing

Applies for the county or city of residence only, and costs $16.00.

Resident State Freshwater Fishing License (1-year, 2-year, 3-year, 4-year)

Applies for those 16 years of age or older. Costs are as follows: 

  • 1-year license: $23.00
  • 2-year license: $44.00
  • 3-year license: $65.00
  • 4-year license: $86.00

Resident State Fresh/Saltwater Fishing


Resident Saltwater Fishing License


South Holston Reservoir Fishing License

Allows for fishing in both Virginia and Tennessee waters of the South Holston Reservoir. It costs $21.00. However, a separate valid resident fishing license will also be required.

Resident 5-Day Freshwater Fishing


Resident 5-Day Fresh/Saltwater Fishing

Applies for 5 consecutive days and is not valid for designated stocked trout waters. It costs $24.00.

Resident 10-Day Saltwater Fishing

Applies for 10 consecutive days and costs $10.00.

Resident Tidal Boat Sport Fishing


Resident 65 and Over Annual Freshwater Fishing


Resident Trout Fishing

Applies only from October 1 to June 15 and is a requirement in addition to other resident licenses if fishing in stocked waters. It costs $23.00.

Nonresident Fishing Licenses

Nonresident State Freshwater Fishing

Applies for those 16 years of age or older and costs $47.00

Nonresident Saltwater Fishing License


Nonresident State Fresh/Saltwater Fishing


Nonresident 1-Day Freshwater Fishing

This is not valid for designated stocked trout waters and costs $8.00

Nonresident 5-Day Freshwater Fishing

Applies for 5 consecutive days and costs $21.00 

Nonresident 10-Day Saltwater Fishing License

Applies for 10 consecutive days and costs $10.00 

Nonresident 5-Day Fresh/Saltwater Fishing

Applies for 5 consecutive days and costs $31.00 

Nonresident Tidal Boat Sport Fishing


Nonresident Annual Fishing License for 70% or Greater Service-Connected Partially Disabled Veterans and Service-Connected Totally and Permanently Disabled Veterans

Nonresident veterans who are rated over 70% or as Total and Permanent Service-Connected by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Administrative Office can apply for a discounted annual fishing license.

Special Fishing Permits in Virginia

Special Fishing Permits in Virginia

Additional permits may also be required when fishing or hunting in certain areas. 

In addition to temporary or annual licenses, you can also opt to apply for a lifetime Virginia fishing license. 

Legacy Lifetime

A Legacy Lifetime license is available to both residents and nonresidents under 2 years old and is valid until their 12th birthday. 

After that, they are required to complete an approved hunter education course. The legacy license will then be converted to a regular lifetime license with no additional charge.


Lifetime licenses are available for both residents and nonresidents. 

Resident Junior Lifetime Hunting license

This license is available for Virginia residents under 12 years old. 

It will expire on their 12th birthday and can be transferred once they submit a Youth Hunter Education Compliance form along with a Hunter Safety certificate.

Senior Combo Lifetime

Available for Virginia residents who are 80 years of age or older. 

Resident Service-Connected Disability Veteran Lifetime

Available for disabled Virginia residents with a 30% or higher service-connected disability rated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Administrative Office. 

Discounted fees will be based on the person’s current disability rating. Also, note that an additional trout license is required when fishing in stocked trout waters.

Tidal Boat License

Available to resident and nonresident boat owners. This license is a combined sportfishing license that is valid for both fresh and saltwater within Virginia. It covers all the passengers on board only when the boat owner is present.

National Forest Permit (exceptions)

All individuals who are not under 16 years old or residents over 65 years old are required to have a National Forest Permit when fishing within National Forest lands, except for:

  • Shenandoah River (North and South Fork)
  • James River
  • Skidmore Lake in Rockingham County
  • North Fork Pound Reservoir
  • Lake Moomaw
  • Jackson River below Gathright Dam
  • Wilson Creek below Douthat Lake in Alleghany and Bath Counties.

State Forest Use Permit

This permit is required for persons over 16 years old to practice these activities in a state forest: 

  • Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Fishing
  • Mountain Biking
  • Horse Riding.

Access Permit

For persons over 17 years old, this permit is a requirement for using any DWR facility or boating access site. 

However, it is not needed for individuals with a valid hunting, trapping, or freshwater fishing license, or certificate of boat registration issued by the DWR. It is not valid for passengers and costs $4.00 (daily) or $23.00 (annual). 

Replacement License

If you need a replacement license, you can reprint it any time by visiting your account on Go Outdoors Virginia.

Where to Buy a Virginia Fishing License

Whether you are a resident or nonresident, there are multiple ways to apply for a Virginia fishing license.


In Person

  • Some Circuit Court clerks are available for you to get a license.
  • There are also many license agents across Virginia that you can reach out to.

By Phone

You can also call (804) 367-1000 during business hours to apply for a license.


When Does the Virginia Fishing License Expire?

Both resident and nonresident fishing licenses in Virginia are valid for up to one year from the date of purchase unless the type of fishing license you carry states otherwise.

Can You Fish on Private Property Without a License?

Yes. If you are either a resident or nonresident landowner in Virginia, you do not need a license to fish within the inland waters of your property. This also applies to guests and immediate family members of the property owner. 

What Is the Fishing License Age Requirement for Virginia?

Both resident and nonresident persons who are 16 years of age or older are required to have a fishing license in Virginia. If you are over 65 years of age, you are also exempt, but can only fish in freshwater.

About Post Author