Category Archives: Permits

Virginia Saltwater Fishing License








Anglers ages 16 to 64 need a license to fish* in our local waters. If you are 65 and over you do not need a license but you must enroll in the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) FishLittleCatch(read more on FIP here).

The cost for a resident to purchase a license is $17.50.

The cost for license a boat (valid for all anglers on the boat) is $48.00.

There are lifetime passes and short-term licenses, and more details can be found here.

You do NOT need a license if you:

  • Are fishing from your private property/pier (including your guests)
  • Have a reciprocal fishing license from Maryland
  • Are on a private boat with a boat licenseFishing Pier at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
  • Are fishing from a licensed headboat, charterboat or public pier



Where to purchase a license

Apply online through the website here.

Call 1-866-721-6911 (available Monday – Friday)

In person at a local, licensed agent, listed in the following chart.










*the license is for recreational, non-commercial use of a rod-and-reel (hook and line), handline, spear or gig, cast net, or up to two eel pot in Virginia’s tidal saltwater areas including the Atlantic Ocean out to the three mile limit.

Crabbing in Virgina Tidal Waters

Charles Napier Hemy – The Crab Pots, 1904

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission regulates crabbing for recreational and commercial purposes. You can find all the details at this link, but the following is a brief summary for the casual crabber along Dymer Creek.

First, you are EXEMPT from any cCatching Crabs from the Dockrabbing license requirement if you have only two crab pots. You can harvest as much as one bushel of hard crabs and two dozen peeler crabs in any one day for personal use.

Second, if you like to harvest peelers (see definitions below) you are EXEMPT for one tank or float no greater than 4 ft x 8 ft  for shedding crabs for personal use.Measure a Crab


Minimum size limits:  5 inches for male hard crabs and immature female hard crabs.
No size limits exist for adult female hard crabs.

Each crab pot must have at least four unobstructed cull rings of at least 1-1/2 inch inside diameter, located two each under water in the lower portion of two opposite side panels (perpendicular to the shoreline). Most places in this area sell the right kind, but old pots may be short one cull ring. Vinyl coating on the wire helps prolong the life of the crab pot. J & W Seafood in Deltaville sells good crab pots at a good price.

Recreational Gear License

If you want to use up to 5 crab pots, you need a Recreational Gear License – and there are some restrictions.

  • The annual license fee for up to 5 recreational crab pots is $36.00
  • Any person licensed to use a recreational crab pound/trap is now limited to one bushel hard crabs and two dozen peeler crabs in any one day for personal use
  • The season for the Recreational Gear License, up to 5 crab pots, is June 1 through September 15
  • You cannot leave any hard crab pot or peeler pot in any Virginia tidal waters from December 1 through March 16  – this applies to exempt crabbers as well.

Check at the local VMRC field office for how to acquire a recreational crab pot license, and for updates on fees and restrictions:

Northern Area Office
(804) 580-2901
E-mail:  Captain Jim Rose (

6495 Northumberland Highway (street address)
P.O. Box 117 (mailing address)
Heathsville, VA 22473

Mondays & Wednesdays      8:00 A.M. – 12:00 noon & 1 – 4 P.M.
Fridays      8:00 A.M. – 12:00 noon


These come in especially handy when trying to find the right bathroom in local restaurants.

”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.


Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP)

FIP-logoThe Virginia Marine Resources Commission administers a program of mandatory registration for saltwater fishing. This program, called FIP, began in January 2011 and is part of a nationwide effort to collect contact information annually for everyone who fishes recreationally in the country’s saltwaters.

NOTE:  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.

Bottom line: if you are over 16 and drop a line in saltwater, you need to be registered.


According to their website

“Having an accurate Virginia “phone book” 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. That’s 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.” (emphasis added).


Go online here to fill out the form and register. It’s free.

What then?

“Take a number…”    If you register online, 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.