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Your guide to fishing on the James River

The River City offers unique opportunities to fish just steps from downtown — learn how to get started, what species you may see, and what local resources are available to help out fishers of all stripes.

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Richmonders enjoy springtime fishing conditions.

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Fishing may not be the first activity you think of when it comes to the river. But like kayaking, rafting, or even lounging on the rocks, the James provides many opportunities to get involved in the sport.

We talked to some local fishing experts to learn more about the James as a fishing resource, fishing communities in Richmond, and how beginners can get involved.

⭐️ Why the James is special

Richmond was founded on the fall line of the James River, the geographical boundary between the Piedmont to the west and coastal plains to the east. Flowing east, the river drops in elevation and flattens out at the fall line, which is located at 14th Street. Because of that, there’s an abundance of fish just steps from downtown.

Alex McCrickard, Aquatic Education Coordinator at the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, shared his thoughts on what makes fishing on the James unique.

“There is a thriving aquatic ecosystem with so many opportunities, so many different species of fish to target,” McCrickard said. “I think that’s the biggest shock to new anglers — not only can you catch fish in Richmond, you can catch a lot of different types of fish.”

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Alex McCrickard shows off a striped bass caught in downtown Richmond.

Photo by Meghan Marchetti

🌊 Where to fish

Take your pick — there are plenty of places to cast your line. Some popular spots include Huguenot Flatwater, Floodwall Park, Ancarrow’s Landing, and William’s Island.

Andrew Knight founded RVA James River Fishing Report to get Richmonders and visitors excited about fishing on the James. Even for novices, fishing can be a great excuse to get outside and develop an appreciation of the river.

“The river, especially in the summer months, is below four feet a lot,” Knight said. “You can walk all the way across. There’s so many rocks and unique little sections of shallow water that it’s really cool to explore.”

The Fishing Report’s website has spot guides for popular fishing areas which include parking and kayak/canoe launching information.

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An illustration of a group of smallmouth bass.

Photo via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

🐟 Species you’ll see

It depends on where you are — and what season it is. Local species include a variety of catfish including blue, channel, and flathead catfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, bowfin, walleye, and longnose gar.

The fall line also provides a key spawning habitat for the several species. These anadromous fish live in saltwater environments but migrate to freshwater in spring to spawn. These include striped bass, American and hickory shad, blueback herring, and alewife.

“The springtime is really special because you can take advantage of fishing for anadromous species such as hickory shad and striped bass right downtown,” McCrickard said.

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There are many groups that can help novice fishers get on the water.

🎣 Local resources

Before you start fishing, you’ll need a freshwater fishing license — they are required for those ages 16 and up. You should also check for regulations on the VA DWR website.

Here are some more local fishing tips:

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