Virginia Fishing License Exemptions: Who Qualifies for an Exemption?

Who is Exempt from Virginia Fishing License?

The Importance of a Fishing License

Fishing is undoubtedly one of the most popular recreational activities in Virginia. Whether you’re casting a line into the pristine waters of a local lake or heading out on an adventurous deep-sea fishing trip, having a valid fishing license is essential. It not only ensures compliance with state regulations but also contributes to fisheries management and conservation efforts. However, there are certain exemptions that allow individuals to fish without obtaining a license legally.

Virginia State Residents

If you’re lucky enough to call Virginia your permanent residence, you may be eligible for exemption from needing a fishing license. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), residents who meet specific criteria can enjoy recreational fishing without purchasing an annual or short-term fishing permit.

Criteria for Resident Exemption:

– You must be domiciled in Virginia.
– You should maintain your primary home within the state’s borders.
– You must not claim residency elsewhere for any other purpose.
– Your driver’s license or identification card should reflect your current residential address in Virginia.

It’s important to note that even if you fall under these exemptions, certain special licenses may still be required when targeting specific species like trout or saltwater fishes.

Military Personnel

The men and women serving in the military sacrifice their time and effort for our safety and well-being. Recognizing this dedication, the state of Virginia offers exemptions from fishing licenses for active-duty military personnel stationed within its boundaries.

To qualify for this exemption:
1. The individual must provide proof of being on active duty by showing their military identification card.
2. They need to carry orders indicating they are currently stationed in Virginia.

This provision extends not only to members of the U.S. Armed Forces but also applies to members of the National Guard and Reserves.

Children and Disabled Individuals

The state of Virginia also acknowledges that fishing can be a valuable recreational activity for children and disabled individuals. As such, specific exemptions are in place to make fishing more accessible to these groups.


According to DGIF regulations, any person under the age of 16 is not required to obtain a fishing license when angling for personal enjoyment. It is important, however, that they adhere to all other applicable rules and regulations while fishing.

Disabled Individuals:

Virginia recognizes the therapeutic benefits that fishing can provide for disabled individuals. Therefore, those with disabilities who engage in recreational or therapeutic catch-and-release activities are exempt from obtaining a resident or non-resident freshwater or saltwater fishing license.

To qualify as an individual with disabilities:
– You need certification from either the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or Social Security Administration (SSA) documenting your disability status.
– The exemption applies only if you’re engaging in catch-and-release activities without retaining any fish.

It’s worth noting that caregiver aides assisting disabled anglers must hold valid licenses unless they possess their own qualifying exemption status.


While it’s crucial for most people to have a valid Virginia fishing license before casting their lines into its abundant waters, several exemptions exist. State residents meeting specific criteria, active-duty military personnel stationed within Virginia, children under 16 years old enjoying recreational angling pursuits, and disabled individuals partaking in catch-and-release activities can all legally fish without obtaining licenses. However, certain species-specific permits may still be necessary even for exempted individuals; therefore, always ensure compliance with relevant regulations before embarking on your next exciting fishing adventure in beautiful Virginia!