ELKINS — You can fish anywhere in West Virginia this weekend without a license.
The annual free fishing weekend is Saturday and Sunday, and includes West Virginia residents as well as non-residents.
“Free fishing days is a national campaign. Many states have a free fishing day,” said Jim Hedrick, Hatchery Programs manager for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “[In] West Virginia we have two days where other states may only have one, but most states participate trying to encourage people to get out and fish.”
The aim of the annual event is to encourage everybody to take up a rod and reel and enjoy the feel of a fish tugging on the other end of the line. Some may have never fished before, while others may have fished when they were young but haven’t been in a long time since life became too busy.
“We all get busy with our jobs,” said Hedrick. “People simply haven’t prioritized fishing as an event to do with the kids and family. Secondly, I think there’s a perception there’s no fish out there.”
Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Hedrick. In fact, the case could easily be made fishing in West Virginia has never been better. Improvement in water quality has caused a rebound in a number of species. More scientific management practices have enhanced fish growth and in some cases species like musky have rebounded beyond what anybody thought was possible three decades ago.
“We’ve just about completed our summer catfish stocking, so a large number of lakes have received adult catfish,” said Hedrick. “We do that in anticipation of Free Fishing Weekend.”
“Saturday and Sunday you’ll not have to have a license. You’ll not have to have a trout stamp if you choose to go trout fishing,” said Hedrick. “I would encourage everybody to get a copy of the regulations because all other regulations still apply, including creel limits.”
The hope of the DNR is adults and their children will have such a good time, they’ll want to go fishing again and next time will buy the license and become regular anglers at the lakes and rivers around the state.