Fishing in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia

With its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay has always attracted a high number of fishermen to the area. There are a lot of great fishing opportunities in Virginia-owned waters of the Chesapeake Bay alone, including lobster fishing and crab fishing, which can even be a profitable commercial business.

  1. History

    • The Chesapeake Bay, which translates to "Great Shellfish Bays" in Powhatan dialect, has been a popular area for fishing ever since it was discovered by the original Powhatan Indians in the region. Vincente Gonzalez, a Spanish explorer, made several failed attempts at creating a settlement around the Chesapeake Bay, but it wasn't until 1607 that the first permanent settlement in America was established at Jamestown, Virginia.


    • The rules and regulations of fishing in the Virginia tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay vary depending on the species of fish you are catching. For example, Virginia allows recreational anglers to catch up to 25 black sea bass per day, while only three red drum fish are allowed per person. It's these types of differences you need to be aware of before casting your reel in the Chesapeake Bay.

    Licensing Requirements

    • A valid saltwater fishing license is required by all anglers between the ages of 16 and 65 who want to fish in the Chesapeake Bay. There are various types of saltwater fishing licenses available in the state of Virginia, including a five-day temporary, 10-day temporary and a lifetime license. People under the age of 16 and those who are over the age of 65 are not required to have a fishing license in Virginia. Those who have lawful access to fishing on private property and those who are guests on a charter boat are also exempt from Virginia state licensing requirements.

    Species of Fish

    • There are several different species of fish that can be found in the Virginia tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay. This includes black bass, striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, walleye, American eel, sea trout, perch, spadefish, king mackerel and bluefish. Lobster, clams and oysters can also be harvested from the Chesapeake Bay. Some species in the bay, such as sturgeon and American shad, are illegal to possess.

    Commercial Fishing

    • Commercial fishing and crabbing is also allowed in the Chesapeake Bay. Unless otherwise exempt, all commercial vessels in the Chesapeake Bay must have a valid Virginia Marine Resource Commission seafood landing license in order to land seafood commercially in the state of Virginia. Depending on the type of fish you are after, other licenses may also be required. This includes a black drum harvesting and selling permit for black drumfish and a Virginia black sea bass directed fishery permit for black sea bass in the Chesapeake Bay.

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  • Photo Credit fishing image by Greg Pickens from

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