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Virginians can fish for free this weekend, no recreational license required

Photo by Paul Bibeau. Erik Dborub, vacationing from New York City, fishes with his dad at Little Island Park.
Paul Bibeau, WHRO News
Erik Dborub, vacationing from New York City, fishes with his dad at Little Island Park.

This story was reported and written by our media partner the Virginia Mercury

Starting Friday, some anglers in Virginia will be able to cast their fishing lines into salt waters at the cost everyone can afford: free.

From June 7-9, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission will lift the saltwater recreational fishing license requirement, which typically costs Virginia residents $17.50 to obtain.

The effort is intended to encourage the public’s participation in fishing, while still adhering to other regulations and conservation measures, and allow people to enjoy the state’s marine resources, which can be home to a smattering of species including pompano, red drum and the iconic striped bass, or rockfish.

“This initiative provides a wonderful opportunity for Virginians and visitors alike to experience the joy of fishing without the barrier of license fees,” stated VMRC Commissioner Jamie Green. “We encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity while also respecting our marine ecosystems and regulations.”

For those going after striped bass, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissions, the regional authority regulating fisheries along the East Coast, earlier this month imposed a one-fish catch limit for recreational anglers. In the Chesapeake Bay, the catches must be between 19 and 24 inches, and along the Atlantic Coast, hauls must be between 28 inches and 31 inches.

The conservation measures were put in place following research that found a continual decline in the number of baby striped bass.

“What has everyone worried is that there are hardly any smaller striped bass growing up for anglers to catch in future years,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Chris Moore, in a statement following ASMFC’s action. “The last time the Chesapeake saw a strong group of young striped bass was back in 2015.”

Moore said big fish need to stay in the water,“to reproduce and rebuild the striped bass population so that they’ll be around in the future.”

Head boats, charter boats, rental boats, or fishing piers that typically charge a fee are excluded from the free fishing waiver. More information on Free Fishing Days and fishing regulations in Virginia can be found at www.mrc.virginia.gov.

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