The Ultimate Guide to West Virginia Non-Resident Fishing Licenses in 2024

Are you an avid angler looking to explore the bountiful waters of West Virginia? As a non-resident, obtaining the proper fishing license is crucial to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about West Virginia non-resident fishing licenses in 2024, from the types of licenses available to the best fishing spots and guided tours. Get ready to cast your line and immerse yourself in the rich fishing culture of the Mountain State!

Why Fish in West Virginia as a Non-Resident

West Virginia is a true paradise for fishing enthusiasts, offering a diverse array of opportunities for both novice and experienced anglers alike. Here are some compelling reasons why you should consider fishing in West Virginia:

Diverse Fish Species

The state’s waters are home to an impressive variety of fish species, catering to every angler’s preferences. From the elusive brook trout in the mountain streams to the mighty muskellunge in the lakes, West Virginia has something for everyone. Other popular species include:

  • Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass: These hard-fighting fish are abundant in many of West Virginia’s lakes and rivers, providing exciting action on a variety of lures and techniques.
  • Rainbow and Brown Trout: Stocked in numerous streams and lakes throughout the state, these beautiful trout species offer both challenge and reward for fly fishing enthusiasts and spin anglers alike.
  • Walleye: Known for their delicious fillets and challenging pursuit, walleye can be found in larger rivers and reservoirs, testing anglers’ skills and patience.
  • Channel and Flathead Catfish: These whiskered giants lurk in the depths of rivers and lakes, ready to give anglers a thrilling battle and a tasty meal.
  • Bluegill and Crappie: Perfect for beginners and experienced anglers seeking a relaxing day on the water, these panfish are plentiful and eager to bite.

With such a wide range of fish to target, you’ll never run out of exciting challenges and rewarding catches.

Rich Fishing Culture

Fishing is deeply ingrained in West Virginia’s heritage, with generations of anglers passing down their knowledge and passion for the sport. The state’s fishing community is known for its warmth and camaraderie, making it easy for non-residents to feel welcome and connect with fellow enthusiasts.

When you fish in West Virginia, you become part of a rich tapestry of angling traditions. From the time-honored techniques of fly fishing for native brook trout to the modern tactics used to target trophy muskellunge, you’ll find a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw from. Local anglers are often happy to share their insights and favorite fishing spots, fostering a sense of belonging and shared passion for the sport.

Whether you’re seeking advice on the best fishing techniques or simply want to swap stories over a campfire, you’ll find a supportive and friendly atmosphere among West Virginia’s anglers. Fishing clubs, online forums, and local bait shops provide opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals and tap into the collective wisdom of the community.

Abundant Public Fishing Areas

West Virginia boasts an extensive network of public fishing areas, ensuring that non-residents have ample opportunities to access prime fishing spots. The state is home to:

  • 20,000+ miles of streams and rivers: From the mighty Ohio River to the pristine mountain streams of the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia’s flowing waters offer endless opportunities for adventure and discovery. Notable rivers include the New River, Kanawha River, Elk River, and Greenbrier River, each with its own unique character and fishing potential.
  • 100+ public lakes and reservoirs: West Virginia’s lakes and reservoirs range from sprawling impoundments to tranquil mountain gems, providing diverse habitats for a wide range of fish species. Some of the most popular lakes include Summersville Lake, Stonewall Jackson Lake, Tygart Lake, and Bluestone Lake, all of which offer excellent fishing and stunning scenery.
  • 1.5 million acres of national forests: The Monongahela National Forest and George Washington and Jefferson National Forests encompass vast tracts of unspoiled wilderness, dotted with countless streams, rivers, and lakes. These public lands provide a true backcountry fishing experience, allowing anglers to escape the crowds and immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.

These diverse fishing destinations offer a range of experiences, from serene fly fishing in secluded mountain streams to thrilling battles with trophy-sized game fish in expansive lakes. With so many options to choose from, non-resident anglers can tailor their fishing adventures to their preferences and skill levels.

Scenic Natural Beauty

Fishing in West Virginia is not just about the catch; it’s also about immersing yourself in the state’s breathtaking natural beauty. Picture yourself casting your line against a backdrop of majestic mountains, lush forests, and pristine waterways. The state’s stunning landscapes provide a picturesque setting for your fishing adventures, allowing you to unwind, reconnect with nature, and create lasting memories.

From the rugged peaks of the Appalachian Mountains to the rolling hills of the Ohio River Valley, West Virginia’s diverse geography offers a feast for the senses. As you fish, you’ll be surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors, from the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze to the melodic songs of native birds.

The state’s parks and forests provide ample opportunities for wildlife viewing, hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities, allowing you to make the most of your fishing trip. Many of these areas feature well-maintained trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas, providing the perfect setting for a family fishing vacation or a solo retreat.

Whether you’re watching the mist rise off a serene mountain lake at dawn or witnessing the fiery hues of a sunset over the Ohio River, the natural beauty of West Virginia will leave an indelible mark on your fishing memories.

Types of West Virginia Non-Resident Fishing Licenses

To fish legally in West Virginia as a non-resident, you must obtain the appropriate fishing license. The state offers several options to accommodate different fishing preferences and durations:

Non-Resident Annual Fishing License

  • Cost: $37 (as of 2024)
  • Validity: Valid for one year from the date of purchase
  • Coverage: Allows fishing in all public waters statewide

The non-resident annual fishing license is the most comprehensive option for anglers who plan to fish in West Virginia multiple times throughout the year or for extended periods. With a full year of access to all public waters, this license provides the flexibility and value for those who want to explore the state’s diverse fishing opportunities.

Whether you’re planning a series of weekend trips to target trophy muskellunge or an extended summer vacation to fish for trout in the mountains, the annual license has you covered. It’s also a great choice for anglers who own property in West Virginia but maintain their primary residence in another state.

Non-Resident 1-Day Fishing License

  • Cost: $3 (as of 2024)
  • Validity: Valid for one calendar day
  • Coverage: Allows fishing in all public waters statewide

Perfect for spontaneous day trips or those with limited time, the 1-day license offers flexibility for short fishing excursions. This option is ideal for anglers passing through the state who want to take advantage of a few hours of fishing or for those who are visiting friends or family and want to enjoy a day on the water.

With the 1-day license, you can make the most of your brief time in West Virginia, whether you’re targeting panfish in a local pond or casting for bass in one of the state’s many rivers.

Non-Resident 3-Day Fishing License

  • Cost: $19 (as of 2024)
  • Validity: Valid for three consecutive calendar days
  • Coverage: Allows fishing in all public waters statewide

If you’re planning a weekend getaway or a short fishing trip, the 3-day license provides a cost-effective option. This license is perfect for anglers who want to dedicate a few days to exploring West Virginia’s waters without committing to a longer stay.

With three consecutive days of fishing access, you can plan a focused trip to target a specific species or explore multiple waterways in a particular region. The 3-day license is also a popular choice for anglers participating in fishing tournaments or special events.

Non-Resident 6-Day Fishing License

  • Cost: $24 (as of 2024)
  • Validity: Valid for six consecutive calendar days
  • Coverage: Allows fishing in all public waters statewide

The 6-day license is suitable for longer fishing vacations or for those who want to dedicate a full week to exploring West Virginia’s waters. This option provides a balance between the flexibility of the shorter licenses and the value of the annual license.

With six consecutive days of fishing access, you can plan a more immersive fishing experience, allowing time to explore different regions, techniques, and species. The 6-day license is a great choice for anglers who want to combine fishing with other outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, or sightseeing.

Special Licenses for Disabled Individuals

West Virginia offers discounted fishing licenses for non-residents with disabilities. To qualify, individuals must meet specific criteria set by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR). These criteria include:

  • Permanent Disability: Individuals who have a permanent disability that substantially limits one or more life activities, as certified by a licensed physician, may qualify for a discounted license.
  • Disabled Veterans: Veterans who have a service-connected disability rating of 100% or who are permanently and totally disabled as a result of military service may be eligible for a free fishing license.

To apply for a special disability license, non-residents must submit the appropriate application form, along with the required medical documentation, to the WVDNR. The application process may take several weeks, so it’s important to plan ahead and allow sufficient time for processing.

By offering these special licenses, West Virginia ensures that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the state’s fishing opportunities and can enjoy the many benefits of outdoor recreation.

How to Purchase a Non-Resident Fishing License

Obtaining your West Virginia non-resident fishing license is a simple and convenient process. You have several options:

Online Purchase

The easiest and most efficient way to purchase your license is through the WVDNR’s online licensing system. To buy your license online, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the WVDNR’s online licensing website.
  2. Click on the “Buy a License” button.
  3. Select “Fishing” from the list of license types.
  4. Choose the appropriate non-resident license option based on your needs (annual, 1-day, 3-day, or 6-day).
  5. Provide the required personal information, including your name, address, date of birth, and driver’s license or identification number.
  6. Pay the license fee using a credit card or electronic check.
  7. Print your license immediately or save a digital copy on your mobile device.

The online licensing system is available 24/7, making it convenient for non-residents to purchase their licenses from anywhere with an internet connection.

In-Person Purchase at Authorized License Agents

If you prefer to purchase your license in person, you can visit any of the 180+ authorized license agents located throughout West Virginia. These agents include:

  • Sporting Goods Stores: Many outdoor retailers, such as Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and local hunting and fishing shops, sell West Virginia fishing licenses.
  • Bait and Tackle Shops: Local bait and tackle shops often serve as license agents, providing a convenient option for anglers who are stocking up on supplies.
  • Convenience Stores: Some convenience stores and gas stations, particularly those located near popular fishing destinations, may also sell fishing licenses.

To find a license agent near you, use the WVDNR’s license agent locator. Simply enter your zip code or city to see a list of nearby agents.

When purchasing your license in person, be sure to bring a valid form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, and cash or a credit card for payment.

Purchase by Phone

You can also purchase your non-resident fishing license by calling the WVDNR’s licensing hotline at 1-844-WVHunt1 (1-844-984-8681). To buy your license by phone, follow these steps:

  1. Call the licensing hotline during regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM Eastern Time).
  2. Provide the customer service representative with your personal information, including your name, address, date of birth, and driver’s license or identification number.
  3. Specify the type of non-resident license you wish to purchase (annual, 1-day, 3-day, or 6-day).
  4. Pay the license fee using a credit card.
  5. Your license will be mailed to the address you provide, or you may be given a temporary authorization number to use until your physical license arrives.

Purchasing your license by phone is a good option if you have questions or need assistance with the licensing process.

Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to purchase your non-resident fishing license before fishing in West Virginia’s waters. Failure to possess a valid license can result in fines and legal penalties, as well as the loss of fishing privileges.

Fishing Regulations for Non-Residents

To ensure responsible and sustainable fishing practices, non-residents must adhere to West Virginia’s fishing regulations. These regulations are designed to protect fish populations, maintain fair access for all anglers, and preserve the state’s aquatic resources for future generations.

Fishing Seasons and Catch Limits

West Virginia has specific seasons and daily catch limits for various fish species. These regulations vary depending on the type of water (rivers, lakes, or streams), the specific location, and the time of year. Some key points to keep in mind include:

  • Trout: The general trout season runs from the last Saturday in March through the last day of February. During this time, anglers can keep up to 6 trout per day, with a minimum size of 7 inches. However, some waters have special regulations, such as catch-and-release only or a reduced creel limit.
  • Black Bass (Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass): The general season for black bass is open year-round, with a daily limit of 5 fish and a minimum size of 12 inches. Some waters have special regulations, such as slot limits or a reduced creel limit.
  • Walleye: The general walleye season is open year-round, with a daily limit of 5 fish and a minimum size of 15 inches. Some waters, particularly rivers, have special regulations, such as a reduced creel limit or a slot limit.
  • Muskellunge: The muskellunge season runs from the third Saturday in April through the last day of February. Anglers can keep 1 muskellunge per day, with a minimum size of 30 inches.

Before heading out, consult the WVDNR’s fishing regulations guide for the most up-to-date information on seasons and catch limits. The guide is available online and in print at license agents and WVDNR offices.

Special Regulations for Certain Waters

Some waters in West Virginia have special regulations that differ from statewide rules. These regulations are designed to protect sensitive fish populations, provide unique angling experiences, or manage heavily fished waters. Examples of special regulations include:

  • Catch-and-Release Only: In these areas, anglers must immediately release all fish caught, using artificial lures with single, barbless hooks.
  • Fly Fishing Only: Some streams, particularly those managed for wild trout, are designated as fly fishing only. In these waters, anglers must use fly fishing tackle and techniques.
  • Slot Limits: Slot limits protect fish within a specific size range, typically to allow them to grow larger or to maintain a balanced population structure. For example, a slot limit may require anglers to release all fish between 12 and 16 inches.
  • Trophy Fish Regulations: Some waters have special regulations designed to promote the growth of trophy-sized fish. These may include increased minimum size limits, reduced creel limits, or catch-and-release only for fish over a certain size.

When planning your fishing trip, be sure to check for any special regulations that apply to the waters you intend to fish. Special regulations are listed in the WVDNR’s fishing regulations guide and are often posted at access points and boat launches.

Trout Stamps and Permits

If you plan to fish for trout in West Virginia’s stocked streams and lakes, you may need to purchase a trout stamp in addition to your non-resident fishing license. The trout stamp is required for anglers age 15 and older who fish in designated stocked trout waters during the stocking season (January through May).

As of 2024, the non-resident trout stamp costs $16. The stamp is not required for fishing in wild trout streams or for children under 15 years old.

In addition to the trout stamp, some special regulation areas, such as catch-and-release fly fishing only streams, may require a separate permit. These permits are typically available through the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) and can be obtained online, by phone, or at WVDNR offices and license agents.

When planning your fishing trip, be sure to research any special permits that may be required for your desired fishing location. The WVDNR provides detailed information on special regulation areas and their associated permit requirements on their website and in the annual fishing regulations guide.

It’s important to note that these special permits are in addition to the regular fishing license and trout stamp, and they are specific to the designated area. Failure to obtain the necessary permits can result in fines and legal consequences.

Top Fishing Destinations for Non-Residents

West Virginia offers countless prime fishing spots for non-residents to explore. Here are some of the most popular destinations:

New River Gorge

Renowned for its stunning scenery and world-class fishing, the New River Gorge is a must-visit for any angler. The New River is home to an abundance of smallmouth bass, as well as walleye, catfish, and muskellunge. With over 50 miles of accessible water within the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, you’ll find endless opportunities for unforgettable fishing adventures.

The New River Gorge offers a diverse range of fishing experiences, from serene pools and gentle riffles to powerful rapids and deep runs. The upper section of the river, known as the “Upper Gorge,” features calmer waters and is ideal for wading and float fishing. The “Lower Gorge,” with its rugged terrain and challenging whitewater, is best suited for experienced anglers and guided fishing trips.

When fishing the New River Gorge, be sure to familiarize yourself with the park’s regulations and any special permits that may be required. The National Park Service works closely with the WVDNR to manage the fishery and ensure its long-term health and sustainability.

Summersville Lake

Known as the “Little Bahamas of the East,” Summersville Lake boasts crystal-clear waters and a thriving population of game fish. The lake is particularly famous for its exceptional bass fishing, with largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass all available. Other species include walleye, crappie, and trout.

Summersville Lake’s unique geology, with its towering sandstone cliffs and submerged boulders, creates a diverse underwater habitat that attracts and supports a wide variety of fish. The lake’s numerous coves, points, and drop-offs provide endless structure for anglers to explore and dissect.

In addition to its excellent fishing, Summersville Lake is renowned for its stunning natural beauty. The lake’s clear turquoise waters and dramatic rock formations create a breathtaking backdrop for your fishing adventures. When not fishing, visitors can enjoy swimming, boating, rock climbing, and hiking in the surrounding Summersville Lake Wildlife Management Area.

Elk River

The Elk River is a hidden gem among West Virginia’s fishing destinations. This scenic waterway is known for its excellent smallmouth bass and muskie fishing, as well as its healthy populations of rock bass, walleye, and catfish. The river’s remote setting and pristine waters offer a tranquil and immersive fishing experience, allowing you to escape the crowds and connect with nature.

The Elk River flows through a picturesque landscape of forested hills, rolling farmland, and dramatic limestone cliffs. The river’s varied habitat, with its deep pools, swift riffles, and submerged timber, provides ample opportunities for both power fishing and finesse techniques.

One of the most popular sections of the Elk River for fishing is the “catch-and-release” area near the town of Sutton. This 1.5-mile stretch is managed under special regulations to promote the growth of trophy-sized smallmouth bass and muskellunge. Anglers in this section must use artificial lures and release all fish caught, ensuring a high-quality, sustainable fishery.

Ohio River

Forming the northwestern border of West Virginia, the mighty Ohio River presents a unique fishing opportunity for non-residents. The river is home to an impressive variety of fish species, including sauger, walleye, hybrid striped bass, catfish, and white bass. With numerous public access points and a vast expanse of water to explore, the Ohio River is a premier destination for both shore and boat fishing.

The Ohio River’s diverse habitat, influenced by its numerous tributaries and lock-and-dam system, creates a dynamic fishery that offers something for every angler. The river’s tailwaters, riprap banks, and submerged structure are prime locations for targeting game fish, while its expansive flats and backwaters provide excellent opportunities for panfish and catfish.

When fishing the Ohio River, be aware of the river’s powerful current and commercial barge traffic. Always exercise caution and follow boating safety guidelines. Additionally, be sure to familiarize yourself with any reciprocal licensing agreements between West Virginia and the bordering states of Ohio and Kentucky, as fishing regulations may vary depending on your location on the river.

Monongahela National Forest

For those seeking a more secluded and adventurous fishing experience, the Monongahela National Forest is a true paradise. With over 900 miles of streams and numerous lakes nestled within its boundaries, the forest offers endless opportunities for backcountry fishing. The cold, clear waters are home to native brook trout, as well as stocked rainbow and brown trout.

The Monongahela National Forest encompasses a vast wilderness of rugged mountains, deep valleys, and pristine waterways. The forest’s remote setting and challenging terrain provide a true test of an angler’s skills and determination, rewarding those who venture off the beaten path with solitude and untouched fishing grounds.

Some of the most notable fishing destinations within the Monongahela National Forest include:

  • Shavers Fork: This iconic trout stream is known for its scenic beauty and exceptional fishing for native brook trout and stocked rainbow and brown trout.
  • Cranberry River: Flowing through the heart of the Cranberry Wilderness, this pristine river offers excellent fishing for native brook trout and stocked trout species.
  • Tea Creek: This secluded stream is a favorite among fly anglers seeking solitude and the challenge of catching wild brook trout in a remote setting.

When fishing in the Monongahela National Forest, be prepared for rugged conditions and variable weather. Many of the forest’s streams and lakes require hiking or backpacking to access, so be sure to pack accordingly and follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.

Guided Fishing Trips and Charter Services for Non-Residents

To make the most of your fishing experience in West Virginia, consider booking a guided fishing trip or charter service. These professional outfitters offer a range of benefits for non-residents:

Local Expertise

Guided trips are led by experienced local anglers who possess intimate knowledge of West Virginia’s waters. They can take you to the most productive fishing spots, share insights on the best techniques and lures, and help you navigate the state’s diverse fishing opportunities.

Your guide will have a deep understanding of the local aquatic ecosystems, fish behavior, and seasonal patterns, allowing them to adapt to changing conditions and consistently put you on fish. They can also provide valuable information on the history, geology, and wildlife of the area, enriching your overall experience.

Access to Prime Fishing Locations

Many guides and charter services have exclusive access to private waters or remote areas that are difficult to reach on your own. By booking a guided trip, you can unlock access to some of West Virginia’s most sought-after fishing destinations.

These exclusive access points may include:

  • Private Land: Some guides have agreements with landowners to fish on private stretches of rivers or streams that are otherwise inaccessible to the public.
  • Remote Waters: Guides often have the local knowledge and equipment necessary to safely access remote lakes, streams, and rivers that are far from the beaten path.
  • Restricted Areas: Certain areas, such as catch-and-release sections or fly-fishing-only zones, may have limited access or require special permits. Guides can help you navigate these restrictions and ensure compliance with regulations.

By tapping into a guide’s local knowledge and exclusive access, you can experience the best fishing West Virginia has to offer and escape the crowds to find solitude and untouched waters.

Professional Instruction and Guidance

Whether you’re a beginner looking to learn the basics or an experienced angler seeking to refine your skills, guided trips offer valuable instruction and guidance. Your guide can provide personalized tips and techniques to help you improve your casting, presentation, and fish-fighting abilities.

Guides are skilled educators who can break down complex concepts and tailor their instruction to your individual needs and learning style. They can help you:

  • Master New Techniques: Learn advanced presentation strategies, such as dry-dropper rigs, streamer fishing, or Euro-nymphing, under the watchful eye of a professional.
  • Refine Your Cast: Improve your casting accuracy, distance, and efficiency with personalized coaching and real-time feedback.
  • Read the Water: Develop your ability to interpret current, structure, and fish behavior to locate and catch more fish.
  • Select the Right Gear: Get advice on choosing the appropriate rods, reels, lines, and lures for different fishing situations and target species.

By investing in a guided trip, you can accelerate your learning curve, build confidence, and develop skills that will serve you well on future fishing adventures.

Quality Equipment Provided

Most guided trips and charter services provide top-quality fishing equipment, saving you the hassle of bringing your own gear. From rods and reels to lures and bait, your guide will ensure that you have the right tools for a successful and enjoyable fishing experience.

Using professional-grade equipment can enhance your fishing performance and increase your chances of landing fish. Guides often use:

  • High-Performance Rods and Reels: Designed for sensitivity, durability, and optimal casting performance.
  • Premium Lines and Leaders: Engineered for strength, abrasion resistance, and minimal visibility underwater.
  • Proven Lures and Flies: Carefully selected based on local conditions, fish preferences, and seasonal patterns.
  • Quality Waders and Boots: Providing comfort, support, and traction for long days on the water.

In addition to the equipment itself, guides can provide valuable insights on gear selection, rigging techniques, and equipment maintenance, helping you make informed decisions when building your own fishing arsenal.

Camaraderie and Learning Opportunities

Fishing with a guide or joining a charter trip is a great way to connect with fellow anglers and learn from their experiences. You’ll have the opportunity to share stories, exchange tips, and forge new friendships with like-minded individuals who share your passion for fishing.

Guided trips often attract anglers from diverse backgrounds and skill levels, creating a rich learning environment where you can:

  • Learn from Others: Observe different techniques, approaches, and perspectives from your fellow anglers, broadening your own fishing knowledge.
  • Share Knowledge: Contribute your own insights and experiences to the group, helping others grow and learn.
  • Build a Network: Connect with fishing enthusiasts from around the country, opening doors to future fishing opportunities and friendships.
  • Create Lasting Memories: Share the joys of fishing with others, creating shared experiences and stories that will last a lifetime.

By embracing the social aspect of guided fishing trips, you can enhance your own learning, contribute to the growth of others, and build a sense of community around your shared love of the sport.

When choosing a guide or charter service, be sure to research their reputation, read reviews from previous clients, and inquire about their specific offerings and rates. The WVDNR maintains a list of licensed fishing guides and outfitters to help you find a reputable provider.

Conclusion

Fishing in West Virginia as a non-resident is an unforgettable experience that combines the thrill of the catch with the beauty of the state’s natural wonders. By obtaining the appropriate fishing license, familiarizing yourself with the regulations, and exploring the top fishing destinations, you’ll be well-prepared for an incredible angling adventure in the Mountain State.

Remember to practice responsible fishing, respect the environment, and support local businesses during your visit. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time visitor, West Virginia’s waters hold the promise of exciting challenges, memorable moments, and the opportunity to connect with nature in a truly profound way.

So, gather your gear, secure your non-resident fishing license, and get ready to cast your line in the magnificent waters of West Virginia. The fish are waiting, and the adventure of a lifetime awaits!

For more information and updates on West Virginia fishing licenses, regulations, and opportunities, visit the official website of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

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