What’s new in Virginia’s big outdoors

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Licenses: A resident junior bear license (ages 12–15) is now available for $8.50.

Blaze pink may now be worn where there is a blaze colored requirement.

Bear: All areas that had an August or September bear hound training season will have the same season dates. Additionally, the season will begin Tuesday, Aug. 1.

There is a new three-day open (firearms) season in a number of counties in western Virginia. Hunting hours, bag and weight limit, weapon requirements, dog use, and all other open and general bear season regulations apply.

Deer: Muzzle loading either-sex deer hunting days have been changed for several counties west of the Blue Ridge.

Earn A Buck has been established for private lands in Fauquier and Montgomery counties and for all towns and cities in Virginia (except Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach).

Firearms either-sex deer hunting day have been significantly reduced for over a dozen eastern counties and eliminated on most National Forest and Department owned lands west of the Blue Ridge. It is now legal to buy and sell the hair, hide, tail, sinew, skull, antlers, bones, and feet of a legally possessed deer or elk carcass or carcass part, any products made from these carcass parts, and deer or elk mounts. Deer or elk meat (venison), organs, etc. cannot be bought and sold.

Air rifles for deer hunting have been restricted to .35 caliber or larger and their use prohibited for bear and elk hunting.

Charlottesville, Boones Mill, and Victoria have been added to the urban archery deer season(s).

Turkey: Hampton and Newport News are no longer closed for fall firearms turkey season.

Small Game: Sunday hunting for crows has been changed to Monday. The days are now Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Furbearers: Raccoons were added to the list of species that can be hunted with electronic calls.

New River fishing: On the New River upstream from Claytor Lake (Upper New River), abundant young Smallmouth Bass (SMB) will contribute to angler catches in 2017 with good numbers of 7 to 14” fish.

The section from Buck Dam to Allisonia is the best area of the Upper New for SMB with excellent numbers of 14 to 20” bass.

During spring 2016 electrofishing from Buck Dam to Allisonia, 35 percent of SMB collected by biologists over 7” long were also over 14”, and 13 percent were over 17”!  Walleye fishing is best from Fries Dam to Allisonia where the Department concentrates stocking efforts.

Anglers catch good numbers of walleye in this section from February to April with Foster Falls a prime location.  The bulk of walleye catches in spring 2017 will be 14 to 17” fish from the most abundant recent stocking in 2014.  Rock Bass and Redbreast Sunfish provide fun fishing opportunities particularly from Mouth of Wilson to Fries where these sunfish are more numerous.

In pool areas from Ivanhoe to Allisonia, anglers can catch Channel and Flathead catfish which are more numerous upstream from Claytor Lake.

The New River below Claytor Lake should produce good catches of Smallmouth Bass (SMB) up to 15” in 2017 with an opportunity to catch a few larger ones.  Bass fishing should continue to improve during the next few years with above average SMB spawns during four of the last eight years.

Top locations are Whitethorne to Eggleston in Montgomery and Giles counties, and Pembroke to Pearisburg in Giles County.  Good areas for panfish include Claytor Dam and Whitethorne in Montgomery County, and Pembroke to Pearisburg in Giles County.

Muskie fishing in the New River should continue to be fantastic in 2017.  The upper New muskie fishery, from NC to Claytor Lake, is maintained by annual stockings with the goal of developing a naturally reproducing population so that stockings can be curtailed or discontinued.

There are plenty of muskie to be found in the large pools throughout this section.

The lower New, from Claytor Lake to WV, contains a reproducing population of muskie and has not been stocked since 2011.  Muskie over 50” can be caught, but the majority will be between 35 and 42”.  This size group is extremely abundant right now and will continue to offer great fishing for years to come.  A new muskie regulation went into effect on January 1 for the lower New River.  All muskie below 48” must be returned to the river from March 1 through May 31.

During the rest of the year, all muskie between 40 and 48” must be released.  The harvest limit remains one per day.

Please be aware that muskie are not a real hardy fish, and catching one when the river temperature is 80 F or above can lead to death of that fish if not quickly brought to the boat and released.  Many dedicated muskie anglers will not fish for them during summer.

–Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries