As its nickname “Almost Heaven” suggests, West Virginia is a beautiful destination, particularly for outdoor lovers. The Almost Heaven state is known for its unique outdoor adventures, from skiing to whitewater rafting, and last but not least, fishing and hunting. So if you love the outdoors, then you will love West Virginia; it has everything to offer.
With perfect destinations like Jennings Randolph Lake, Cheat Lake, Summersville Lake, and North Bend Lake, why wouldn’t you visit the Almost Heaven state? Jennings Randolph Lake has been on my bucket list for over a decade.
This lake has been stocked with walleye since the 1980s, making it a perfect destination for trophy-size walleye. So if you love fighting these fish, your next fishing trip should be to West Virginia.
But before leaving your hometown, you need to understand that every state has its own fishing rules and fishing licenses that vary in price. So after doing some research, I compiled the following guide on the cost of fishing licenses in West Virginia and more. So let’s dive right in.
- Resident lifetime fishing, trapping, and hunting licenses (class AB-L): $570.00
- Non-residents Annual fishing license (class F): $35.00
- One-day fishing license Non-residents: $3.00
- Resident junior sportsman fishing/hunting/trapping (15-17 years): $15.00
Here’s a link to the West Virginia website to learn more about fishing in West Virginia.
Guide Pro Tip: Download the FREE fishing regulations for West Virginia 👉 West Virginia Fishing Regulations PDF
Yes, West Virginia does have a free fishing weekend. The free fishing days are usually the second Saturday and Sunday of June every year, and in 2023 the free fishing weekend will be on June 12 and 13. This weekend, everyone is allowed to participate in different water sports, including fishing, without a license. But you have to adhere to the strict fishing rules and regulations.
Yes, like in all the American states with free fishing days, the Almost Heaven state’s waters are open to everyone, including non-residents, during this weekend. Therefore, it can provide an excellent opportunity to try this state’s beautiful waters before investing in a fishing permit.
Guide Pro Tip: Check out my complete guide to tossing a fly in West Virginia Virginia 👉 Where to Fly Fish in West Virginia
Types of Fishing License in West Virginia
West Virginia is home to some of the world’s best fishing waters; the state does everything possible to maintain the fish population. Therefore, the state government has set some fishing regulations, which include fishing licenses. The fishing department has created licenses for everyone as per their age group, disability, and duration of fishing.
There are several short-term licenses and annual ones for both residents and non-residents. To help you pick the right ones, here are some of the most common West Virginia licenses include:
The outdoor licenses group into different classes, with the Annual fishing licenses grouped under class B. But if you want a trapping, fishing, and hunting license, you may have to go for the Class X license for outdoors people between 18 and 64. The youth between 15 and 17 years have a Class XJ license that lets them fish, trap, and hunt all year round. (source)
For non-residents, West Virginia has an annual fishing license that lets them only fish under Class F. Unfortunately; they don’t have a combo fishing/trapping and hunting license for non-residents, so you may have to get a separate license.
If you’re visiting the state for a few days, you can opt for a one-day fishing license and an extension if you need more days. But if you love fishing here, you can opt for the annual non-resident permit.
With this license, persons with life-threatening conditions can fish for free. This license is available for both non-residents and residents. You won’t need additional stamps and licenses to cast your line in West Virginia.
The state also has lifetime licenses for fishing, trapping, and hunting. These licenses are issued at the license agents, the DNR offices, and online. The senior residents who bought their licenses at the DNR office or through an agent can get their senior lifetime licenses online.
The non-resident full-time students of all the universities and colleges in West Virginia can also apply for lifetime licenses.
Besides the regular fishing licenses, you need some stamps to cast your line in West Virginia. And one of the must-have stamps for trout anglers is the trout stamp. All adults, including the lifetime license holder who turned 65 after 2011, need a trout stamp. Some of the individuals that don’t require a trout stamp to fish in West Virginia include:
- Residents who turned 65 years old before the beginning of 2012.
- Non-residents and residents under 15 years anglers.
- Senior lifetime license owners
- Disabled resident veterans receiving 100% permanent-service linked disability. (source)
Table of fishing license costs in West Virginia.
|Annual Fishing license||$19.00||$37.00|
|Sportsman fishing/hunting/trapping (18 to 64 years)||$35.00||N/A|
|Sportsman trapping/ fishing/hunting, (3 years)||$105||N/A|
|Sportsman trapping/ fishing/hunting license annual||$45.00||n/a|
|5-day fishing license||$8.00||N/A|
|Trout fishing stamp||$10.00||$16.00|
|Apprentice junior fishing/trapping/hunting license||$16.00||$16.00|
|Junior sportsman hunting/trapping/fishing license||$16.00||$16.00|
|Lifetime fishing license combination fishing, trapping, and hunting (senior)||$25.00||N/A|
|Lifetime fishing license combination fishing, trapping, and hunting (10 to 15 years)||$724.50||N/A|
|Lifetime fishing license combination fishing, trapping, and hunting (5 to 10 years)||$603.75||N/A|
|Lifetime fishing license combination fishing, trapping, and hunting (1 to 5 years)||$322.00||N/A|
Generally, there are three ways you can get your fishing license in West Virginia. You can purchase it online at the DNR offices or the many authorized licensing agents. Fortunately, the DNR does have a list of all their authorized dealers on their official website. You must visit this link, look for the agent near you, and purchase your license. You can even call them and find out if they’re open before leaving your home.
You can also visit the local DNR offices and purchase your license there. But if that’s not an option, you can buy your license online using the following link. If you already have an account, you can log in and go to the tile labeled purchase a permit, tag or license. Go through the available list and add the ones you need to the cart by clicking the “ADD” icon.
After selecting your products, you can check out and pay using MasterCard or Visa. After making your payment, you can see the list of your licenses on the checkout page with a button labeled “Print Active License .” Make sure you print your licenses since you’ll need to present them when fishing.
The resident Walmart fishing license in West Virginia annually goes for $19, while the short-term option of 5 days is $8. On the other hand, the annual fishing license for non-residents is $37, while the one-day license will cost you $3. But make sure you carry your state ID to prove your residency when visiting the Outdoor section at Walmart.
Even with a license and the proper stamps, you still need to follow the rules and regulations set by the state. Remember, breaking these rules can result in a hefty fine or even jail term in the worst-case scenario. So before leaving your home, you should visit the following link and download the fishing regulations.
The rules and regulations will show you when some of the best fishing spots are open to the public. Plus, you will also learn more about the legal fishing methods and types of bait.
Everyone over 15 years (residents and non-residents) requires a license to fish in West Virginia. The youth between 15 and 17 years can apply for the junior sportsperson fishing license, while the adults between the ages of 18 and 64 can purchase the sportsperson fishing license.
All licenses and permits in West Virginia are valid for an entire calendar year. Therefore all annual fishing licenses expire at midnight of December 31 every year. On the other hand, short-term permits come with a deadline. For instance, the 5-day license will expire midnight on the fifth day.
Learn where West Virginia stocks fish at this recourse 👉 West Virginia Fish Stocking
Other than during the free fishing days, everyone over 15 years old requires a license to fish in West Virginia. Kids below 15 years of age can also fish without a license in this state. Other people that don’t require a fishing license in West Virginia include:
- Locals who are 100% blind will be required to carry a physician’s certificate or statement. They also don’t need a trout stamp.
- Senior anglers who turned 65 years old on January 1, 2012, must carry their diver licenses or the photo ID issued by the DMV.
- Resident US army while on leave. But they must carry their leave number while fishing.
- Residents honorably discharged from the military and receiving disability benefits or former prisoners of war residing in West Virginia.
- In-patients or residents of any state’s mental hospital or benevolent institution. But they have to be under proper supervision when fishing.
- A developmentally disabled resident, but you have to carry your DDFL card. These individuals also don’t need a trout stamp. (source)
Resident landowners, their kids, and tenants can fish on private land without a license. But they have to follow the rules and regulations enacted by the state. But suppose the land is designated wildlife preserve or refuge. In that case, you will require a license to operate, even on private land. (source)
Fishing without a license is considered a misdemeanor, and when convicted, you may face fines between $100 and $500. You can also face between 10 and 100 days of jail time. But in the worst-case scenario, you can be fined and jailed. (source)
General fishing is open all year round to both residents and non-residents. Therefore, you can always find somewhere to fish in West Virginia, even at night or in winter. After all, if the roads are accessible, then you’re good to go. You can also rent a kayak or canoe, look for a beautiful off-shore fishing spot, and cast your line.
Unfortunately, the fishing season for some species is not open all year round. At the same time, you can only practice catch and release with some. Some of these species include:
You can find catfish in the Ohio River and the Kanawha River. At Kanawha river, you can fish from the mouth of this river to the confluence of the Gauley and New rivers. So if you love hand fishing, you can practice it between June 15 and August 31. This fishing technique is not allowed in most state-managed water bodies except Cheat, Mt. Storm, Hawks, Nest, Stonecoal, and the American Army Corps of Engineer lakes.
Trout fishing is open in West Virginia all-year round; unfortunately, you can only practice catch and release for the better part of the year. So if you plan to catch your fish and release it, you can visit the state any time of the year. But if you want to harvest a few, you should visit the trout lakes between June 1 and September 30.
Remember, authorities complete stocking between February and May. On the other hand, delayed harvesting of trout can happen at the Guyandotte River’s clear fork and the Middle Wheeling Creek. Trout fishing at the Middle Wheeling Creek in Ohio County is between November 1 and May 15. The Guyandotte clear fork river in the county of Wyoming is open to only catch and release of trout. (source)
The black bass, which includes spotted, smallmouth, and largemouth bass, is open all year-round. (source)
There are several protected species in West Virginia, the common ones being diamond darter, sturgeon, paddlefish, and mussel species. Therefore, you should release them as soon as you catch them. Possessing the mussel species is considered illegal in this state.
|Fish||Opening date||Closing date|
|General fishing||January 1||December 31|
|Trout||January 1||December 31|
|Catfish||June 15||August 31|
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When it comes to angling, the Almost Heaven state has a lot of water bodies to choose from, giving you many options. West Virginia has over 100 fishing lakes, over 2,000 miles of rivers and streams (300 creeks and rivers), and hundreds of private ponds. Therefore, you’re bound to find a fishing spot to park your RV and camp overnight.
West Virginia private ponds hold many records, including a 12.28 pounds Largemouth bass caught in Grant County in 1994. Another unique record is held by Fayette County when an angler caught a 13.75 inches long bluegill in 1964. So you’re bound to catch a trophy fish in this state; some of the best places to fish include:
In Mineral County, this lake is known for trophy-sized fishes, including walleye. The Jennings Randolph Lake occupies an area of about 952 acres and resides around River Potomac’s northern branch. Catching walleyes can be pretty challenging, but if you find a great spot in this lake, you’re bound to have fun with your family members and friends.
These rivers have been popular among anglers for decades thanks to their high population of walleye, largemouth bass, and tiger muskie. The southern tributary of Potomac has some of the best fly fishing in the United States.
Situated in central West Virginia, Elk River is a 172 miles long branch of River Kanawha that gives anglers plenty of opportunities. In fact, Elk River is home to some of the best smallmouth bass, walleye, and muskie fishing experiences. But what stands out among angles is trout fishing. Some of the top fishing spots on this river include Mill Pool, Clay Banks, and Sulphur Run.
Please check out this shortcut link with details on the Best Places to Fly Fish in West Virginia.
Night fishing is allowed in several places in West Virginia, but you must prepare for the weather. Remember, it tends to be very cold at night, so you must be dressed warmly for the night’s fishing. Using a boat, ensure it’s well-illuminated for night boating with the proper lights. But night fishing is prohibited in some of the best fishing spots in the state. Some of these places include:
- Coonskin and Anderson Lake (Kanawha County)
- Edwards Run (the County of Hampshire)
- Dent’s Run (Marion County)
For more details on places where night fishing is prohibited, click here.
In West Virginia, you can legally use a maximum of two poles.
Yes, everyone over 65 years of age must purchase a license to be allowed to fish in West Virginia waters.
- West Virginia DNR staff, Licenses 2021 fishing fees, https://wvdnr.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/license-3.pdf/ accessed January 25, 2023.
- West Virginia DNR staff, Fishing Regulations Summary 2023, https://wvdnr.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/2023.01.20-Fishing-Regulations-Summary.pdf/ accessed January 25, 2023.
- West Virginia DNR staff, Authorized West Virginia Hunting and Fishing License Agents, https://wvdnr.gov/authorized-hunting-and-fishing-license-agents/ accessed January 25, 2023.
- West Virginia DNR staff, Licensing and game check system, https://www.wvhunt.com/login/ accessed January 25, 2023.
- West Virginia Code, https://www.wvlegislature.gov/wvcode/chapterentire.cfm?chap=20&art=2§ion=28/ accessed January 26, 2023.
- http://www.wvlegislature.gov/wvcode/Code.cfm?chap=20&art=2/ accessed January 26, 2023.
W. Va. Code R. & 58-60-4, https://casetext.com/regulation/west-virginia-administrative-code/agency-58-natural-resources/title-58-legislative-exempt-rule-bureau-of-commerce-division-of-natural-resources/series-58-60-fishing-regulations/section-58-60-4-opening-and-closing-dates/ accessed January 26, 2023.