Residents and non-residents of West Virginia between the ages of 16 and 64 must have a fishing license. Various classes of licenses are available, including one that, once purchased, covers an angler for the rest of his life. Anglers must also have a conservation stamp. Lifetime conservation stamps are available for purchase.
Fishing licenses are not required for residents who are totally blind, residents who turned 65 before January 1, 2012 (they must, instead, carry a valid WV identification), residents and non-residents under the age of 16, some honorably discharged U.S. veterans, military on leave from active duty and developmentally disabled residents with a DDFL card. Resident land owners and their families may fish on their own land without a license during open fishing seasons in accordance with all laws and regulations.
West Virginia has a system that gives anglers points for different fishing violations. An angler who accumulates more than 10 points will lose her license for a two-year span. The following points are given for violations:
10 points for the use of explosives or poison in taking fish
6 points for illegal possession or sale of wildlife
4 points for all other violations
Creel and minimum size limits are set for all game fish species in West Virginia and there are also special area regulations in place as well. For instance, an angler may keep no more than four northern pike per day, and the fish cannot be less than 30 inches long. For a full list of daily creel limits, minimum catch size, possession limits and special regulations for each species, see the West Virginia Fishing Regulations Summary.
Catch and Release
There are certain bodies of water in West Virginia where an angler must practice catch-and-release fishing for species, including walleye, trout, bass and muskellunge. The specifics for each body of water and species of fish are listed in the West Virginia Fishing Regulations Summary.
When practicing catch and release fishing, wildlife officials advise anglers to release the fish as quickly as possible to prevent unnecessary stress. Keep the fish in the water and use a pair of needle nose pliers to release the hook and handle the fish with bare, wet hands, making sure not to squeeze the fish. When you are ready to release the fish, hold it gently in the water until it swims off on its own.
Trotlines and Droplines
Fishing with a trotline or dropline is legal in West Virginia as long as the line is attached to a bank or a tree, has an easily read identification tag that is waterproof and the individual checks the line every day. Wire or cable lines and hooks with more than one point are not allowed.
Anglers are not allowed to fish with trotlines and droplines in state-managed impoundments with the exception of Stonecoal, Hawks Nest, Mt. Storm, Cheat and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. Trotlines should not be attached to public piers or docks or within 50 feet of dam appurtenances and should not be used to jug fish.
Droplines are not allowed on the Elk River, Hughes River, Little Kanawha River, Middle Island Creek and the South Fork of the Hughes River.
It is legal to hand fish, also called "noodling" in public waters in West Virginia from June 15 through August 31 from sunrise to sunset. Hand Fishing is illegal in all state-managed impoundments except Stonecoal, Hawks Nest, Mt. Storm, Cheat and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. Daily creel limits for hand fishing is four total. Only one is allowed to be over 35 inches and only two may be blue catfish.
West Virginia allows bow fishing for carp year-round and lets anglers use a bow and arrow for other fish deemed as non-game species every month, with the exception of May and June. It is illegal to have an arrow with an explosive head or shaft or one dipped or smeared in poisons or chemicals.