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Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP)

How to Register

The Virginia Fisherman Identification Program is a state program to register saltwater anglers every year without charge.

Anglers can register online or by calling toll-free 1-800-723-2728. Registration is quick, easy, and free. Yes, it's free.


Important Note: the FIP registration process is only for anglers fishing in VA tidal waters that are exempt from Virginia saltwater license requirements. The most common license exemptions for saltwater fishing in VA tidal waters include fishing from a licensed public fishing pier, a non-license holder fishing from a private boat with a VA or PRFC saltwater boat license, fishing from the angler's private property/pier, fishing in VA with a reciprocal MD saltwater license, or fishing if the angler is 65 or older; for all five of these license exemptions a license is not required, but a no-cost FIP registration is required before fishing. Effective 7/1/13 there is a $5 optional lifetime saltwater fishing license for VA resident anglers 65 or older, if a person has purchased this optional license they do not need to register in FIP.

The free FIP registration is not a substitute for a license when the angler is required by law to purchase and hold a saltwater license. A saltwater license must be purchased if the angler is 16 or older and younger than 65, and does not meet one of the license exemptions. If you buy, or plan to buy a license before fishing, you do not need to register in the FIP. Please use the FAQ below and the following links for more information:  [Saltwater Licensing Requirements] [Buy a Saltwater License] [Fisherman Identification Program Regulation]

Fisherman Identification Program Logo

Who Needs to Register

The intent is to create a Virginia-wide ďphone bookĒ of saltwater anglers with their contact information.

This phone book will be given to the National Marine Fisheries Service in order to improve fishing effort surveys, and to exempt Virginia anglers from having to sign up with the National Saltwater Angler Registry and pay the annual federal registration fee.

The free Virginia Fisherman Identification Program is effective as of Jan. 1, 2011.

Here is a general rule of thumb: As of Jan. 1, 2011, virtually every adult saltwater angler (16 and older) in Virginia will need either a valid saltwater fishing license or to register with the Fisherman Identification Program every year.

So, if you have an annual Virginia saltwater fishing license of any type, or an annual Potomac River Fisheries Sport Fishing License, you DO NOT have to register with the state FIP. You will be automatically registered when you buy a license and give your contact information.

Anglers under the age of 16, lifetime license holders, and paying customers on a licensed charter or head boat also DO NOT have to register with the state FIP.

Registration with the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program is required for anglers age 16 and older who are exempt under state law from having to buy a saltwater fishing license (such as those who fish on a boat licensed to cover all anglers; from a commercial pier or private property; or who are age 65 and older).  Effective 7/1/13 there is a $5 optional lifetime saltwater fishing license for VA resident anglers 65 or older, if a person has purchased this optional license they do not need to register in FIP.

Registration also is required of anglers who fish in tidal freshwater for anadromous species such as striped bass or other marine species.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Whatís this all about?

A. This is part of a nationwide effort to collect contact information annually for everyone who fishes recreationally in the countryís saltwaters. Doing so will help federal fishing effort surveyors improve their ability to contact anglers periodically and ask them how often they go fishing, where in general they go fishing and what they caught. 

Q. I have a valid annual Virginia saltwater fishing license or a Potomac River Fisheries Sport Fishing License. Do I need to register?

A. Nope. Youíre good to go. You provided your contact information when you bought your license. Have fun. Stay safe on the water.

Q. I donít have to buy a saltwater fishing license under state law. What must I do?

A. You must register with the Fisherman Identification Program every year. Itís free. To do so, register online or call toll-free 800-723-2728. Itíll only take a minute or two.  Youíll be asked to provide your name, phone number, address, email address, date of birth, and where, in general, you go fishing. Youíll be given an identification number to carry with you to prove you registered, as required by state law.  Please make sure you provide an accurate email address, if you have one. This will allow us to send you an automatic reminder every year when it is time for you to register again.  We would prefer if youíd register online, instead of over the phone. This reduces our program costs, and allows us to spend more money on recreational fishing programs.  Donít know if you are exempt from having to buy a license? You can find a complete list of exemptions here http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/regulations/recfishh&l_licensing.shtm

Q.) Are you saying I may actually have to sign up to go fishing? Seriously? Why?

A.) Itís true you may have to register every year before you go fishing, but there are good reasons for it and it benefits you, the angler. Hereís why:  Having an accurate Virginia ďphone bookĒ of all recreational saltwater anglers will provide a better picture of how many people go fishing and what they catch. This will result in a better understanding of the impact of recreational fishing on fish stocks, and will lead to better fishery management decisions to create and maintain sustainable saltwater fisheries.  Hundreds of thousands of Virginians are exempt by law from having to buy a saltwater fishing license. Without their contact information, there is no way to do more than make an educated guess how often they go fishing and how many fish they catch. Thatís a problem. Bottom line: This registration program will help us to ensure fish are out there to catch when you, your children or grandchildren go fishing.  Besides, this free program exempts all Virginia anglers from having to register with the federal saltwater fishing registry, known as the National Saltwater Angler Registry, and pay a federal registration charge every year.

Q.) Will the online FIP registration and toll-free number be available around-the-clock and year-round?

A. You bet. We want to this to be as easy and user friendly as possible.  Please make sure you provide an accurate email address, if you have one. Then we can send you an automatic email reminder every year when it is time for you to register again.  Also, if you can, please register online instead of over the phone. This reduces our program costs, and allows us to spend more money on recreational fishing programs that benefit anglers, such as boat ramps and artificial reefs (theyíre fish magnets!).

Q.) Do I get a card with my FIP number?

A.) No, you donít. If you register online, you can print out the final form that shows your registration information and your FIP number. Otherwise, just write down the number and keep it with you when you go fishing. Everyone gets a unique, counterfeit-proof number. 

Q.) What happens if I lose my FIP number ? What should I do?

A.) You can print it out again off the registration website. There is a menu option on the left of the FIP registration screen to ďReprint or Update FIP.Ē Enter your first name, date of birth and telephone number to look up your registration information.  Or you can call the Virginia Marine Resources Commission at (757) 247-2200 and weíll do essentially the same thing for you.  Please donít call the toll-free registration number for this.  The registration phone operators can only take registrations. They cannot look up FIP information or answer program questions.

Q.) What happens if my contact data changes after I register or I have an error in my FIP data ? What should I do?

A.) You can correct it yourself on the registration website. There is a menu option on the left of the FIP registration screen to ďReprint or Update FIP.Ē Enter your first name, date of birth and telephone number to look up your registration information.  Or you can call the Virginia Marine Resources Commission at (757) 247-2200 and weíll do essentially the same thing for you.  Please donít call the toll-free registration number for this.  The registration phone operators can only take registrations. They cannot look up or correct FIP information or answer program questions.

Q.) Can I do the FIP registration for someone else?

A. Sure. All you need to do is provide accurate contact information for each specific person when you register them online or through the toll-free number. Each angler will need their specific registration number with them while fishing to prove registration.

Q.) Do I also have to sign up with the National Saltwater Angler Registry, which went into effect in January 2010 and charges a registration fee?

A.) No. We created the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program to collect angler contact information required under federal law, and so Virginia anglers donít have to register directly with the federal government and pay a federal registration fee.  Because of the FIP, the National Saltwater Angler Registry no longer applies to anglers in Virginia. Forget about it.  Our program will collect the angler contact information necessary to maintain Virginiaís exemption, but we need your help. To keep Virginia exempt from the national registry, it is critical that anglers do their part and register with us if required to do so. Itíll only take a minute.

Q.) Do those of us who fish in freshwater need to register too?

A.) No, you do not except if you fish in freshwater for anadromous species, such as striped bass (rockfish), shad or other tidal species that live in saltwater but spawn in freshwater. If that is the case, you need to register with the Fisherman Identification Program every year.  Think of it this way: If youíre fishing for, or may catch, a saltwater fish such as a striper anywhere in Virginiaís tidal waters, youíll need either a Virginia saltwater fishing license or to register with the FIP.

Q.) Iím a senior citizen. I donít need a license. What does any of this have to do with me?

A.) If you are 65 or older you donít need a license to saltwater fish in Virginia, but you still need to register with the FIP starting January 1 unless you plan to fish exclusively on a licensed charter boat or effective 7/1/13, there is a $5 optional lifetime license for VA resident anglers 65 or older, if a person has purchased this optional license they do not need to register in FIP.

Q.) Iím just going fishing on my dock. Do I have to register too?

A.) Yes. If you donít have a license to fish in Virginia, you need to register with the FIP unless youíre under the age of 16.

Q.) I bought a Virginia lifetime saltwater fishing license years ago. I donít need to register, do I?

A.) Nope. But if youíve changed your contact information since you bought that license, please let us know. We need to supply accurate angler contact information annually to the federal surveyors.  Please call our Fisheries Management Division at (757) 247-2069 or email Erik.Barth@mrc.virginia.gov.  We will get your contact information updated.

Q.) I fish on a friendís boat. Itís licensed to cover everyone on board. What about me?

A.) If you donít need a license to fish in Virginia, you need to register with the FIP unless youíre under the age of 16.

Q.) I have family and friends coming to visit and they want to saltwater fish. What do I need to do?

A. If they buy one of our inexpensive non-resident or temporary licenses, theyíre good to go. Theyíll give their contact information when they buy a license and donít need to register with the FIP.  If they donít need to buy a license, say if theyíre on your dock or on a boat licensed to cover everyone on board, theyíll need to register with the FIP.  Remember the general rule of thumb: As of Jan. 1, 2011, virtually every adult saltwater angler (16 and older) in Virginia will need either a valid saltwater fishing license or to register with the Fisherman Identification Program every year.  Here is where you can find all the licenses we have for sale, both resident and non-resident, and the prices. They are quite a bargain.  http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/regulations/recfishh&l_licensing.shtm

Q.) I pay to fish on a commercially licensed pier, so I donít need a fishing license. Do I need to register?

A.) If you donít need a valid Virginia fishing license, you need to register with the FIP unless youíre under the age of 16. 

Q.) Iím booked on a licensed charter or head boat. Do I need to register?

A.) No. Paying customers on a licensed charter or head boat fishing in Virginiaís saltwaters do not have to register with the FIP.

Q.) Does the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program registration apply to commercial fishermen?

A.) It depends. Commercial fishermen have commercial fishing licenses, and fill out extensive mandatory harvest reports. We know who you are, and what you catch. The Virginia Fishermen Identification Program is only for those who fish for fun, not as a business.  However, a commercial fisherman fishing in tidal waters recreationally must follow all the recreational fishing rules and either have a recreational saltwater license or, if exempt, register with the FIP.

Q.) I have a federal highly migratory species permit, such as a tuna permit. Do I have to register?

A.) Yes, if youíre going to fish in Virginiaís tidal waters and donít have a Virginia saltwater fishing license. Itíll only take a minute. Itís free. 

Q.) What if I have a saltwater fishing license from Maryland? Virginia honors our licenses.

A. This gets a little tricky. Maryland is the only state with a reciprocity agreement with Virginia. We honor their fishing licenses and they honor ours. That said, licensed Marylanders who fish in Virginia will need to register with the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program. Hereís why: We need the contact information for everyone who fishes in Virginia waters. We canít collect that information through Marylandís fishing license system. Thereís just no way to tell which Maryland license-holders will fish in Virginia. Conversely, Virginians should check with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to determine if they need to register with Maryland in order to fish in Maryland waters with a valid Virginia saltwater fishing license. Hereís where to sign up for the Maryland Saltwater Angler Registry Ö http://www.dnr.state.md.us/swregistry.asp

Q.) I tried to renew my FIP registration, but could not because the old registration had not expired, why is that ?

A.) Our FIP registration system is set up to only allow renewal within two months of expiration of the previous registration.  Although somewhat arbitrary this just allows us reduce the number of registration transactions.  Please just wait until your expiration date is closer before you renew.  Keep in mind too that if you provide an email address at the time of registration we will email you a reminder 30 days before expiration and on the day of expiration.

Q.) My question isnít answered here and now Iím really confused. Help!

A.) Remember the general rule of thumb: As of Jan. 1, 2011, virtually every adult saltwater angler (16 and older) in Virginia will need either a valid saltwater fishing license or to register with the Fisherman Identification Program every year if exempt under state law from buying a license. If that doesnít help, please call Director of Public Relations John Bull. He can be reached at (757) 247-2269.


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