Fishing in WV? Don’t Leave Home Without Your License!

As an avid angler, having the proper fishing license is essential for legally casting your line in West Virginia’s abundant rivers, lakes, and streams. But with frequent regulation changes, new license products, and exceptions for certain groups, the licensing requirements can be confusing. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know before reeling in your next catch in the Mountain State.

Who Needs a West Virginia Fishing License?

If you are 15 years of age or older, you need a valid West Virginia fishing license to fish in any public waters within the state. This includes both residents and non-residents. The only exceptions are for qualifying seniors and disabled veterans, who may be eligible for free lifetime licenses.

Children under 15 can fish without a license, but they must observe all other regulations. Once they turn 15, even by just one day, they must purchase a license before wetting their lines.

Types of West Virginia Fishing Licenses

West Virginia offers both annual and multi-year fishing licenses to suit different needs:

Resident Licenses:

  • Annual License – $19
  • 3 Year License – $51
  • 5 Year License – $85
  • Lifetime License (age 65+) – $25

Non-Resident Licenses:

  • Annual License – $45
  • 7 Day License – $28

In addition, combination hunting and fishing licenses bundle both privileges at a discounted rate. Other special rates exist for active duty military, veterans, and more.

New for 2024 are digital gift certificates and collectible license cards for the perfect angler’s gift.

When Do I Need My 2024 License?

West Virginia fishing licenses are good for 365 days from the date of purchase. So if you plan to fish at all in 2024, it’s essential to have a valid license.

The 2024 licenses first went on sale on December 1, 2023. So licenses purchased on or after this date will carry you well into 2024 and beyond.

If you still have an active annual 2023 license, that is valid until its expiration date in 2023. But you will need to purchase a new 2024 license once the old one expires.

Where Can I Get My License?

West Virginia offers several convenient license purchasing options:


The WVDNR licensing portal allows you to securely purchase and print your license from home. Both resident and non-resident licenses may be obtained online.

Authorized Agents

More than 300 retailers statewide sell licenses over the counter. Look for authorized DNR license agents including select sporting goods stores, bait & tackle shops, convenience stores and more.

DNR District Offices

You can also visit any of the six DNR district offices during business hours to purchase your license in person.

Are There Any License Discounts?

Yes! Special discount opportunities exist for:

  • Senior citizens (age 65+) – lifetime license only $25
  • Veterans with disability of 30% or more – free lifetime license
  • Active duty military personnel – $1 annual license
  • Resident landowners – discounted rates
  • Non-resident landowners – discounted rates
  • Residents who register boats – combo licenses $5 off

Eligible groups should provide appropriate documentation when purchasing discounted licenses.

What About License Exceptions?

While most anglers need a license, there are some exceptions. People who qualify for a free lifetime fishing license include:

  • Resident seniors age 65+
  • Resident disabled veterans with 100% disability
  • Resident former POWs
  • Resident Class Q permit holders

Proper documentation must be carried while fishing under these lifetime license exemptions.

In addition, during special fishing events like National Fishing and Boating Week in June, short-term license exemptions or discounts may be offered.

Key 2024 Regulation Changes

Before casting your line in 2024, be sure you’re up to date on the latest fishing regulations in West Virginia. Key changes that took effect January 1st include:

  • New sauger limits – 2 fish daily creel limit, with only 1 fish >= 18 inches
  • Catfish restrictions – No more than 1 blue catfish >= 35 inches daily
  • Sunfish limits – Combined creel limit of 25 fish, only 5 of which can be ≥ 9 inches
  • 5 new state record fish categories added

See the full 2024 fishing regulations for complete size, creel, and tackle restrictions by species. Know your limits!

Don’t Forget A Trout Stamp

Anglers pursuing trout will need not only a fishing license, but also a valid trout stamp. This additional $10 stamp is required to fish for or possess trout. Make sure to carry both license and stamp for compliance.

License Fines and Penalties

Fishing without a proper West Virginia license brings hefty fines. Penalties start at $100 for a first offense, rising to $500 for subsequent violations. Multiple offenses can also lead to confiscation of gear and suspension of fishing privileges.

Don’t take the risk! Purchasing a license is a small price to pay for the outstanding fishing opportunities found across West Virginia.

Key Takeaways

  • Anyone 15+ needs a WV fishing license to fish public waters
  • Multiple license types and discounts available
  • 2024 regulation changes now in effect
  • Special trout stamp required for trout fishing
  • Significant fines for fishing without a license

As we look forward to another great year of fishing in the Mountain State, be sure to purchase your 2024 license before heading out. Don’t leave home without it!

More West Virginia Fishing Resources

For additional information on West Virginia fishing licenses, regulations, record fish, stocking schedules, and more, check out these helpful DNR resources:

Fishing Regulations

License Information

Record Fish

Trout Stocking Schedules

Fishing Events Calendar

Let me know if you have any other questions!

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