Jun 7, 2024 - Things to Do

Why Richmond is a "world-class" fishing town

A man with a big fish standing in front of the city skyline

Alex McCrickard with a striped bass he caught downtown on the James last month. Image: Courtesy of Walker Dales

Richmond is something of an awesome fishing town, says Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources' Alex McCrickard.

Why it matters: Virginia's annual Free Fishing Days are back this weekend.

  • That's two days when the Department of Wildlife Resources staffs events across the state with free fishing tutorials, plus rods, reels, bait and tackle for folks to use that day.

State of play: The Richmond-area location to get hooked up with the equipment this year is Dorey Park in Henrico, and DWR will be there Saturday from 9am-3pm.

  • DWR also stocked fish in more than 2,900 miles of Virginia river, streams, ponds, lakes and reservoirs for the weekend, including 1,750 pounds of channel catfish in Dorey Park.
  • The only thing not included is one of those sweet vests.

The big picture: Free Fishing Days is a great way for beginners to learn the basics, but Richmond already has a vibrant angler culture because of the city's position on the Piedmont/Coastal Fall Line, McCrickard tells Axios.

  • Richmond's seven-mile fall line stretch, where the river drops in elevation and starts to get super rocky and rapid, attracts a diversity of fish species, including migratory ones that come up from the Chesapeake Bay to spawn.

Zoom in: Anglers from all over flock to Richmond for the mid-March to early May shad running, when shad and striped bass come up from the Chesapeake Bay for their annual spawning, RVA James River Fishing Report founder Andrew Knight tells Axios.

  • When that happens, 25-to-30-inch striped bass catches are a common occurrence for talented fishers, right in the heart of the city.

What they're saying: "It's world class fishing right here in Richmond," Knight says. "It's truly amazing, you're catching a fish that lives in the ocean in the James River, in the city."

If you fish: Most of the best spots are inside the city limits, especially off and around the Mayo Bridge and along the fall line.

Fun fact: Most of the fish caught in the James, or any Virginia waters, are perfectly safe to eat.

  • The Virginia Department of Health even keeps local fish consumption advisories broken out by body of water, area and fish species.
  • Generally no more than two servings a month of any James River Richmond caught fish is recommended, but definitely don't eat the gizzard shad or big catfish, per VDH (as if we would eat gizzard shad).

The bottom line: Richmond apparently is earning its River City moniker, but maybe it's time for a new one. Fish City, anyone?


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Richmond.

More Richmond stories