(This page relates to recreational fishing by means other than hook and line; for information on hook and line fishing click here.)Licensing Information
Any person desiring to take or catch finfish or shellfish for recreational purposes in the tidal waters of Virginia must first obtain the appropriate gear license (See Exemptions and Annual License Fees below).
Gear licenses can be purchased from any Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC)
licensing agent. Crab pound/trap licenses must be pre-authorized by the district marine police officer.
All licenses are valid for a calendar year and expire December 31 in the year issued.
License tags for boats using crab pots and/or trotlines must be fastened at a conspicuous place on the starboard side of the boat or on the boat's mast; for crab pounds, the tags must be fastened to one of the offshore stakes [Code 28.2-225, 28.2-226.1, 28.2-234, 28.2-300,
Regulation 4 VAC 20-60-20].
Any license to recreationally fish or crab shall be issued to an individual for his/her exclusive use and shall not be transferable. No person shall be issued more than one recreational gill net license, more than one recreational crab pot license, more than one recreational crab pound/trap license, nor more than one recreational eel pot license [Code 28.2-226.1, Regulation 4 VAC 20-670-20].
1. Taking by dip net, hand line, or two crab pots as much as one bushel of hard crabs and two dozen peeler crabs in any one day for personal use aboard any vessel. If crabbing occurs from shore (crabs are not possessed on a vessel) the possession limit is one bushel and two dozen peeler crabs per person per day.
2. Taking a maximum of one bushel of oysters in any one day for personal use, when taken by hand or with ordinary tongs during the oyster season from open rocks.
3. Taking a maximum of 250 clams in any one day for personal use, when taken by hand or with ordinary tongs from open areas.
4. Using one tank or float no greater than 4 feet in width and 8 feet in length for shedding crabs for personal use.
5. Harvest of oysters or clams from a private lease by the leaseholder, or the person authorized or employed by a leaseholder. (Other no-cost permits may be required.)
6. Taking minnows, menhaden, or mullet for personal use as bait with a cast net; fish may not be sold, traded or bartered.
Annual License Fees
|For a recreational gill net up to 300 feet||$9.00||Recreational crab pound or trap||$6.00|
|For a recreational fish cast net||$10.00||Ordinary crab trot line up to 300 feet||$10.00|
|For a recreational fish dip net||$7.00||Up to 5 recreational crab pots with excluder||$36.00|
|For up to 2 recreational eel pots||$10.00||Up to 5 recreational crab pots without excluder||$46.00|
|[4 VAC 20-670-30, 4 VAC 20-1090-30]|
The licenses listed above can be purchased at the following locations: [MRC Licensing Agents], [Operations & MPO field offices] [DGIF agents except for the crab trap licenses)]; mail-in purchase can be arranged by calling (757) 247-2265.
Note that saltwater recreational fishing license holders may also use a cast net or two eel pots to keep other species of fish for personal use without buying an additional cast net or two eel pot license. Code of Virginia § 28.2-302.1 says the recreational saltwater license may be used for recreational, non-commercial use of a rod-and-reel (hook and line), handline, spear or gig, cast net, or up to two eel pots. You can buy the H&L licenses online at https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/licenses/. Note too that if you have purchased a saltwater H&L license, the DGIF license sales system will not allow the sale of an additional cast net or eel pot license. If a fisherman wants to buy the additional cast net license or two eel pot license, although it is not required if the licensee has the H&L license, the licenses can be purchased at a MRC License Agent.
* Click here for more on recreational
saltwater hook & line fishing license information
* Any person licensed to use a recreational gill net must stay within 100 yards of such net when it is overboard
[4 VAC 20-670-30].
* In areas located upriver of lines defined in 4 VAC 20-430-45: recreational gill nets may not exceed 110 feet in length; both ends of a recerational gill net must be marked by a floating buoy of at least 3 ½" in diameter and floats and buoys of the gill net must be painted blaze or flourescent orange; and must be removed from the water no longet than 1 hour after being set.
* It is unlawful for any person to use more than five crab pots recreationally, or more than two eel pots when licensed for recreational purposes [4 VAC 20-670-30].
* Any law or regulation applying to the setting or fishing of commercial gill nets, fish cast nets, fish dip nets, crab pound/traps or crab trot lines shall also apply to such gear when set or fished for recreational purposes [4 VAC 20-670-30].
* It is unlawful for any person to place, set, or fish or knowingly leave any hard crab pot or peeler pot in any Virginia tidal waters from December 1 through March 16 [4 VAC 20-270-40].
* It is unlawful for any person to conduct recreational crabbing within Virginia Blue Crab Sanctuary Area 1A from June 1 through September 15, in Sanctuary Area 1B from May 16 through September 15, and in Sanctuary Area 3 from May 9 through September 15. [4 VAC 20-752-30].* A recreational crab pot must have at least two unobstructed cull rings at least 23/8 inches inside diameter cullrings located one each in opposite exterior side panels of the upper chamber of the pot; except on seaside of Accomack & Northampton Counties where each pot must have two cull rings: one cull ring at least 2 5/16 inches inside diameter and another at least 2 3/16 inches inside diameter located one each in opposite exterior side panels of the upper chamber of the pot [4 VAC 20-700-20]. Beginning 7/1/16, recreational crab pots could be licensed with or without turtle excluders, visit the link for more information.
Gear Marking and Reporting Requirements
Buoys of any crab pot, eel pot, gill net or ordinary crab trotline, and an offshore stake of any crab trap, used for recreational purposes, shall be marked legibly with the licensee's last 4 numbers of his/her social security number or driver's license number, preceded with the letter "R"; these figures must be at least 1 inch in height. [4 VAC 20-670-40]. Any person catching finfish or shellfish using a recreational gillnet, cast net, dip net, crab pot, crab trap, crab trotline, eel pot, or any other recreational license established by Regulation 4-VAC-20-670 must report annually on forms provided by the Commission: the weight and species harvested, location of harvest, days fished and amount of gear used [4 VAC 20-670-50].
* Minimum size limits: 5 inches for male hard crabs (jimmies) and immature female hard crabs, 3 ¼ inches for peeler crabs caught from March 17 through July 15 and 3 ½ inches from July 16 until November 30 in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries; 3 ¼ inches for peeler crabs caught on the seaside of the Eastern Shore; and 3 1/2 inches for softshell crabs measured from tip to tip of the longest spikes. No size limits exist for adult female hard crabs (sooks) [Code 28.2-708, Regulation 4 VAC 20-270-55].
* Dark sponge (brown through black coloration) crabs must be returned to the water alive and not altered or destroyed in any manner during the period of March 17 thru June 15; however, a tolerance of 10 dark sponge crabs per bushel is allowed [4 VAC 20-370-20].
* It is unlawful for any person fishing with recreational hook & line, rod & reel, spear, gig or other recreational gear to possess more than 25 eels [4 VAC 20-500-55].
* Any person licensed to use a recreational crab trotline license (300’ maximum), recreational 5-Crab Pot License, or a recreational crab pound/trap is limited to one bushel of hard crabs and two dozen peeler crabs in any one day for personal use [4 VAC 20-670-25].
* For finfish size, season and possession limits (rules described above may supercede limits described for recreational hook & line fishing) call (757) 247-2200.
"Jimmy" means a male hard crab with a narrow apron on the abdomen.
"Sook" means a mature female hard crab with a semicircular apron.
"She-crab" means an immature female hard crab with a triangular apron.
"Sponge crab" means an adult female hard crab which has extruded her eggs on the abdomen or abdominal flap. The egg mass or "Sponge" may contain about 2 million eggs.
"Peeler crab" means any crab with a soft shell fully developed under the hard shell. A white, pink, or red line on the outer section of the "backfin" is an indicator.
"Backfin" means the last leg of the crab, flattened to aid in swimming. Also known as the swimmer or paddle fin.
"Buster" means a crab that has begun to back out of its old shell.
"Softshell crab” means a crab which has recently emerged from its old shell. The new shell is soft and tender.
"Papershell" means a softshell crab whose shell has begun to harden. The shell stiffens and becomes tougher - usually within 12 hours after shedding the old shell.
"Doubler" means a male crab carrying a female crab prior to or after
mating. Usually the females are peelers or softshells.
VMRC LAW ENFORCEMENT FIELD OFFICES
All information provided above
is summarized from the Code of Virginia and VMRC Regulations. Please
refer to the Code sections and Regulations cited for legal
documentation. All regulations are subject to change. Call (757)
247-2200 for the most current regulations.