WINCHESTER — Out-of-state youths age 16 and younger will soon be able to fish in Virginia without a license,

House Bill 1151, sponsored by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, passed the General Assembly this month. The legislation is designed to encourage anglers and their families to visit Virginia by loosening fishing license requirements for children. Tourism and outdoors experts say this will make the state more appealing as a destination for camping and fishing.

“The bill should be a boost to tourism,” Tom Guess, a legislative and policy leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), said in a news release. “It helps us recruit and retain anglers.”

Gooditis added: “This bill will make it so families don’t have to jump through awkward hoops to enjoy angling here in Virginia. We want families from across the region and the country to come and enjoy our the great natural beauty of the commonwealth. I was happy to work with my colleagues across the aisle to ensure we could get this bill passed.”

The legislation, pending Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature, will become law July 1.

Once in effect, out-of-state youths age 16 and younger will be allowed to fish without a fishing license when accompanied by a person possessing a valid license to fish in Virginia. Out-of-state youths also will be allowed to fish for trout without a license.

Under current state law, out-of-state youths age 12 and younger are allowed to fish without a license, but they must have a license when fishing for trout in designated waters.

Jerry Mounts, owner of Jake’s Bait and Tackle in Frederick County, praised the legislation.

“I think it’s good because it will enable youth from other states to fish without buying a license,” Mounts said. “I think anytime you can make it easier to fish, the better off we are, as far as business goes.”

While Mounts doesn’t sell many nonresidential fishing licenses to children, he said he has encountered a few issues when families from out of state had to buy a fishing license for each member.

VDGIF states that all fishing licenses sold are valid for one year from the date of purchase. An annual resident state freshwater fishing license costs $23. A nonresident license is $47. Other increments also are available for purchase.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

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