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Just a few years ago, anglers fishing the Tidal Potomac River only needed 2 of three licenses. MD residents purchased a MD Tidal Fishing license and Virginia anglers purchased a VA Freshwater License. These MD and VA licenses were reciprocal. To fish in the waters of the District of Columbia, you were required to have a DC Fishing License…and to boat in DC waters required a Coast Guard Approved Safe Boating Course.  In 2010, Potomac River anglers were required by the Federal government to sign up (at no cost) with the National Saltwater Registry. In a span of only 2 years, a lot has changed and has confused anglers.

In addition, for 2011, states were given the option to participate in registry data collection for the National Saltwater Registry…or the Federal Government would create their own database and charge anglers a $15 fee on top of local licenses.

Both Virginia and Maryland legislatures had a year to scramble to enact legislation and develop a data collection process that would exempt their license holders from having to “personally” register with the National Saltwater Registry, avoiding a $15 Federal fee. MD and VA still reciprocate fishing licenses and have complied with the new law…but for Potomac River anglers there’s more!

In Virginia, to fish in the upstream Potomac River and tributaries, anglers must purchase a VA Freshwater License just as before, but now they must additionally register with VA’s Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) every year. It’s free and to keep costs down, VA prefers anglers register online(, but if you have to call…toll-free 800-723-2728. After providing name, phone number, address, email address, date of birth, and where, in general, you fish, you’ll be given an identification number. VA State Law requires carrying this number to prove registration.  If you provide an email address, VA will send an automatic reminder every year to register again. 

Likewise, good news from Maryland’s General Assembly. Lawmakers were busy this session drafting required legislation to come into compliance. Maryland’s Legislature, working with the MD Department of Natural Resources completed the process making the registry a seamless part of the MD Tidal Fishing License system. Through the purchase of a Maryland Tidal Fishing License, Maryland will automatically enroll purchasers in the National Registry at no extra cost. Purchasers of a Maryland or DC license will not be required to register with NOAA.

However, both MD and VA Potomac River anglers must register with the other state to fish across state lines. Holders of a VA fishing license must also register online with MD, MD anglers must register with VA,

To fish in DC…everyone needs a DC license, except those over 65 or under 16, to fish in DC waters....DC is in compliance and you DO NOT need to register elsewhere.

In the course of a fishing day, Potomac River bass anglers can pass through three jurisdictions. VA and MD were challenged to comply and they have. No increased cost to anglers, and it’s fairly painless to register. DC is in compliance, no need to purchase a Federal NOAA license or to register.

Feel free to email questions to me:

DC/VA License

I have DC licenses for sale. the cost is $13 for the annual license for non residents. Contact me to get yours.

For VA licenses, go to :

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