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Washington Fishing Licenses and Regulations

When anglers think about Fishing in Washington, images of running salmon and huge steelhead come to mind. It can also conjure visions of stripers, largemouth, and smallmouth in the Colombia River. There are all sorts of fish species and awesome fishing spots in Washington.

But it’s all for nothing if you don’t have a Washington Fishing License. You’ll need one to enjoy this little slice of fishing heaven. You’ll also need to know the current Washington fishing regulations to legally fish. Let’s start with some information about fishing licenses.

Types of Washington fishing licenses 

Resident fishing license:

These licenses are offered to legal residents of Washington. To purchase one, you must qualify as resident. Here is a list of who can apply for a resident fishing license in the state of Washington.

There are a variety of fishing licenses for residents. Which one you choose should depend on how much you fish. For example, if you rarely fish, then buying a one-day license would be smart. If you plan on fishing a lot throughout the year, an annual license would be best for you.

Here’s a full list of the types of Washington resident fishing licenses and their prices.

Non-resident fishing license:

If you’re visiting Washington and want to legally fish its waters, you must buy a fishing license. There are various license options for non-resident anglers. Which license you buy will depend on how long you’re staying. You can buy a temporary license that lasts up to three days. If you frequent Washington regularly, then you should consider getting an annual fishing license. They are a better bargain if you’re an avid fisherman.

Saltwater fishing licenses 

If you’re going to fish the northern Pacific, you’ll need a saltwater license. Both residents and non-residents can buy them. You can find specific information about saltwater licenses on the above mentioned full list link.

Freshwater licenses

To fish in ponds, lakes, or rivers, you’ll need a freshwater license. If you’re targeting steelhead and salmon in the Colombia River, you’ll need a special permit.

Freshwater/salt water combination licenses

If you want to kill two birds with one stone, just buy a dual fishing license. They’re more money, but you get a better deal.

Who needs a Washington fishing license? 

If you’re 15 years of age or older, you need a fishing license. If you’re targeting carp, bullfrogs, or crayfish, you don’t need a fishing license.

Washington fishing licenses are valid from April 1 to March 31. You can find a list of nonresident fishing licenses and their prices on the above-mentioned link.

You can buy your Washington fishing license online by clicking here. But, it’s worth noting that if you’re guilty of back child support, you’ll be denied a fishing license.

Now that we’ve covered important fishing license information, let’s dig into the state fishing rules and regulations.

Anti-snagging rules 

To protect the fish, your lures and baits may have only one hook point. The hook can measure no more than 3/4-inch. However, this rule does not apply to topwater lures or while trolling.

Freshwater tackle and bait rules

You may use a hook and line only to catch gamefish. One fishing line with up to three hooks may be used per angler. Fishing gear should be under control at all times. You can use rod holders, but they must be easily manageable. 

You can’t use chum or feed to attract fish. It’s also illegal to use aquatic animals as bait. Exceptions are live shrimp and live forage fish. For an in-depth look at Washington bait rules, click here. 

Daily catch and possession limit

The daily possession limit for all gamefish is two. Certain non-game fish may not have a daily possession limit.

The daily catch limit is the number of fish you can legally catch in a day. For example, whitefish and channel catfish have a 15-per-day limit.

Minimum length limit

To keep certain gamefish, they must be of legal length. For example, walleye must be at least 12 inches long. Certain gamefish like smallmouth bass have no minimum length limit.

Maximum length limit 

Other gamefish must be under a certain length to keep. For instance, you may keep only one largemouth bass weighing over 17 pounds. Non-game fish like perch and crappie have no minimum or maximum size limit.

Trout fishing

Different trout species have different daily catch and size limits. They may also have specific rules. For example, you can keep five brook trout per day, but only two steelhead. The minimum size for steelhead is 20 inches. Cutthroat trout have no set limit.

There are also different seasons to fish for trout. For example, Clearwater River trout season runs from June to September, and from December to April 15.

The rules are different for various bodies of water. For a complete list click here. You will also find rules about catching sturgeon, salmon, and trout in various locations. Some marine fish also have their own set of rules. They can be found on the above link, as well.

Now that you know more about Washington fishing licenses and fishing regulations, you can legally test its waters—both freshwater and saltwater. Just remember to obey the rules, and the fish will come to you!

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Washington Fishing Licenses and Regulations


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