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Definitions

Fishing Regulations Icon Washington Fishing

Adult Salmon In freshwater and Marine Areas 2-1 and 2-2, Chinook 24″ or more in length; coho 20″ or more in length; and pink, chum, and sockeye salmon 12″ or more in length, are adults.

Angling (Hook & Line Fishing) Fishing for personal use (not for sale or barter) with a line attached to a pole capable of being held in hand while landing fish, or a hand-operated line without a rod or reel.

Annual Limit The number of fish that may be taken, statewide, during the license year
(April 1-March 31).

Anti-Snagging Rule Except when fishing with a buoyant lure (with no weights added to the line or lure), or trolling from a vessel or floating device, terminal fishing gear is restricted to a lure or bait with one single-point hook. Hooks must measure ¾” or less from point to shank, and must be attached to or below the lure or bait. Weights may not be attached below or less than 12″ above the lure or bait.

Bait Any substance which attracts fish by scent or flavors, including any lure which uses scent or flavoring to attract fish.

Bass Means largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Bottomfish Includes Pacific cod, Pacific tomcod, Pacific hake, walleye pollock, lingcod, ratfish, sablefish, cabezon, buffalo sculpin, great sculpin, red Irish lord, brown Irish lord, Pacific staghorn sculpin, wolf-eel, giant wry mouth, plainfin midshipman, North Pacific spiny dogfish, sixgill shark, tope shark, and all species of skate, dab, sole, flounder (except Pacific halibut), greenling, shark, rockfish, rattail, and surfperch (except shiner perch).

Buoyant Lure A lure that floats on the surface of fresh water when no additional weight is applied to the line or lure, and when not being retrieved by a line.

BowandArrow Fishing Any method of taking, or attempting to take, fish by the use of an arrow equipped with a barbed head and a line attached, and propelled by a bow, as in the sport of archery, while the fisher is above the surface of the water.

Catch-and-Release Fishing A type of fishing where all of the fish caught are immediately released back into the water.

Chumming To broadcast, feed, or distribute into freshwater any bait or other substance capable of attracting fish.

Closed Waters All or part of a lake, river, stream, or other body of water, where fishing or harvesting is prohibited.

Daily Limit The maximum number or pounds of fish, shellfish, or seaweed of the required size of a given species or combination of species which a person may retain in a single day.

Descending Device A fish recompression device capable of rapidly returning fish to depth of capture. Must be onboard vessels, and rigged for immediate use, when fishing for or possessing halibut or bottomfish.

Designated Harvester Companion Is a licensed person who only assists with that physical function the harvester with a disability is unable to perform during his or her harvesting activity. The harvester companion card issued by the department must be in the possession of the licensed harvester companion assisting or acting on the behalf of the harvester with a disability while engaged in fishing or harvesting activities.

Emergency Rule (rcw 34.05.350) A rule filed by an agency when the agency determines that immediate action is necessary to change a permanent rule.

Fathom Line (20 or 30) It is unlawful to fish for or possess bottomfish or lingcod seaward of a line approximating 20 or 30 fathoms when fathom restrictions are in place.

Flatfish Includes all species of dabs, sole and flounders (except Pacific halibut).

Fly A lure on which thread, feathers, hackle, foam, rubber, or yarn cover a minimum of half the shank of the hook. Metallic colored tape, metal wire, metal tape, tinsel, mylar, or beadeyes may be used as an integral part of the design of the fly pattern.

Fly Fishing Only In “Fly Fishing Only” waters, anglers may use only the following gear: up to 2 flies, each with a barbless single-point hook, not to exceed ½” from point to shank, knotless nets, and conventional fly line or a conventional “Tenkara” fly line. Other line can be used for backing or leader if attached to conventional “Tenkara” fly line or at least 25 feet of conventional fly line. Anglers may not use: fixed spool reels, bait, or weights.

Food Fish Includes forage fish, halibut, bottomfish, common carp, shad, tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sturgeon.

Forage Fish Includes anchovy, sand lance, herring, sardine, and all species of smelt.

Forage Fish Cast Net A section of netting (maximum mesh size is 1″) no larger than 10’ in diameter with retrieval cord. May only be used in Marine Areas 1-4 for harvesting anchovy and sardine.

Forage Fish Dip Net A section of net not exceeding 36″ across the bag frame with a maximum mesh size of 5⁄8″ (when stretched) and attached to a rigid handle. May only be used for harvesting forage fish or squid.

Forage Fish Jig Gear Up to 3 treble hooks or 9 single-point hooks, not exceeding 3⁄8″ between point and shank. May only be used for harvesting forage fish or squid.

Frozen Fish or shellfish that are hard frozen throughout.

Fresh Fish or shellfish that are refrigerated, iced, salted, or surface glazed.

Freshwater Area Those waters within any freshwater river, lake, stream, or pond. On the bank or within 10 yards of any freshwater river, lake, stream, or pond. On or within any boat launch, ramp, or parking facility associated with any freshwater river, lake, stream, or pond.

Gaffing Attempting to take fish by impaling fish with a hook attached directly to a pole or other device.

Game Fish Includes steelhead, bass, burbot (freshwater ling), catfish, crappie, grayling, northern pikeminnow, peamouth chub, yellow perch, tiger muskie, sucker, sunfish, grass carp, trout (including kokanee, and Dolly Varden/bull trout), walleye, whitefish, and when landlocked salmon rules apply, Chinook, coho or Atlantic salmon.

Hatchery Salmon Means a Chinook or coho with a clipped adipose fin and having a healed scar at the location of the fin.

Hatchery Steelhead or Trout Means a steelhead or trout with a clipped adipose or ventral fin and a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin.

Head of a Fish Forward of the rear margin of the gill plate.

Hook A hook may be single-point, double, or treble. See Freshwater or Marine Area gear rules for limitations.

  • Barbless A hook from which all barbs have been deleted when manufactured, filed off, or pinched down.
  • Single-Point A hook with only one point.
  • Double A hook with two points on a common shank.
  • Treble A hook with three points on a common shank.

In the Field or In Transit Any place other than at the ordinary residence of the harvester. An ordinary residence is a residential dwelling where a person normally lives, with associated features such as address, telephone number, utility account, etc. A motor home or camper parked at a campsite or a vessel are not considered to be an ordinary residence.

Internal Combustion Motors Prohibited Fishing from a floating device with an internal combustion motor attached is not allowed regardless of whether the motor is in the water or not.

Jack Salmon Chinook and coho salmon that return at a younger age than most members of their species. For freshwater and in Willapa Bay (area 2-1) and Grays Harbor (area 2-2), a jack salmon is a Chinook less than 24″ in length or a coho less than 20″ in length.

Juvenile Only Waters open for fishing only to youth under 15 years of age.

Kokanee Freshwater resident sockeye salmon.

Landlocked Salmon Rules Where landlocked salmon rules apply, no sport catch record card is required for salmon, the season, daily limit, and size and gear restriction rules for salmon are the same as trout rules. The angler’s combined catch of landlocked salmon and trout applies toward the trout limit.

Length The shortest distance between the tip of the tail and tip of the snout or jaw, whichever extends the farthest, measured while the fish is lying in a prone and normal position, except: fork length means the distance from the extreme tip of the snout to the center of the fork of the tail.

License Year April 1-March 31 both dates inclusive.

Lure A manufactured article, complete with hooks, constructed of feathers, hair, fiber, wood, metal, glass, cork, leather, rubber, or plastic, which does not use scent and/or flavoring to attract fish.

Marine Area Those waters contained within the boundaries of Washington State, within Puget Sound, Hood Canal, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Georgia, and the Pacific Ocean, including estuaries seaward of the river or stream mouth (see Mouth definition).

Maximum Size (max. size) The largest size of fish or shellfish that may be kept. For fish, the maximum size refers to the length.

Minimum Size (min. size) The smallest size of fish or shellfish that may be kept. For fish, the minimum size refers to the length.

Motors Prohibited Fishing from a floating device with a motor attached is not allowed regardless of whether the motor is in the water or not.

Mouth Unless otherwise defined, waters of any river or stream, including sloughs and tributaries, upstream and inside of a line projected between the outermost uplands at the mouth. Outermost uplands are lands not covered by water during an ordinary high water.

Night Closure Closed to fishing from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise.

Other Food Fish Refers to species which occur in our waters irregularly, usually in coastal areas during the summer months and includes opah, swordfish, striped marlin, dolphinfish, barracuda, white sea bass, bonito, California yellowtail, and pomfret.

Possession Limit The number of daily limits allowed to be kept in the field or in transit.

Processed Fish or shellfish that have been subjected to heat (including kippering, smoking, canning, and boiling).

Puget Sound All saltwater areas east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line, outside the mouth of any river or stream, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Georgia, Hood Canal, and all bays and inlets.

Relic Shell A relic (dead) shell from an animal which died of natural causes and contains no meat or soft parts. A relic shell may be from a classified species of shellfish or from an unclassified freshwater or marine invertebrate. Oyster Shells are not relic shells and are unlawful to remove.

Resident A person who has maintained a permanent place of abode within the state for at least 90 days preceding license purchase, who has established by formal evidence (e.g., a driver’s license and voter registration) an intent to continue residing in the state, and who is not licensed to hunt or fish as a resident in another state.

Salmon Includes Chinook, coho, sockeye, chum, pink, and Atlantic salmon.

Salmon, Trout, and Steelhead Handling Rules:

  • Freshwater: It is unlawful to totally or partially remove oversize sturgeon from the water.It is unlawful to totally remove a salmon, steelhead, Dolly Varden/bull trout from the water if it is unlawful to retain or if the angler subsequently releases the fish, except within the Columbia River downstream from a line between Rocky Point and Tongue Point.
  • Marine Area 2-2: East of the Buoy 13 line, salmon required to be released may not be totally removed from the water, except anglers fishing from vessels 30 feet or longer as shown on their state registration or Coast Guard documentation are exempt.
  • Marine Areas 5-13: It is unlawful to bring wild salmon or a species of salmon aboard a vessel if it is unlawful to retain that salmon. For purposes of this subsection, “aboard” means inside the gunnel of a vessel.

Seaweed Marine aquatic plant species that are dependent upon the marine aquatic or tidal environment, and exist in either an attached or free floating form, and includes but is not limited to marine aquatic plants in the classes Chlorophyta, Phaeophyta, and Rhodophyta.

Selective Gear Rules Gear is limited to artificial flies with barbless single hooks or lures with barbless single hooks and bait is prohibited. Up to 3 hooks may be used. Only knotless nets may be used to land fish.

Shellfish Includes Dungeness, red rock, king, and box crab; razor clams, and all other marine clams existing in a wild state; oysters, geoducks, shrimp, California sea cucumbers, sea urchins, scallops, goose barnacles, cockles, mussels, squid, octopus, and crawfish.

Shoreline Fishing Fishing from shore or a structure affixed to the shore or by wading in the water.

Snagging An effort to take fish with a hook and line in a manner that the fish does not take the hook or hooks voluntarily in its mouth.

Spear Fishing Attempting to take fish by impaling the fish on a shaft, arrow, or other device.

Stationary Gear Restriction The line, weight, lure, or bait must be moving (not stationary) while in the water.

Steelhead A sea run rainbow trout over 20″ in length.

Stretch Measure The distance between the inside of one knot to the outside of the opposite vertical knot of one mesh when the mesh is stretched vertically.

Trolling Fishing from a vessel or floating device that is underway and under power.

Trout Brown trout, bull trout, cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden, Eastern brook trout, golden trout, grayling, lake trout, rainbow trout (except steelhead), and tiger trout, and from waters designated as Landlocked Salmon Rules Apply Chinook, coho, and Atlantic salmon are included.

Unclassified Marine Invertebrates Invertebrates not classified as shellfish such as snails, nudibranchs, shore crabs, graceful crabs, sand dollars, starfish, white and red sea cucumbers, limpets, chitons, etc.

Unclassified Marine Fish Fish that have not been classified as Food Fish or Game Fish.

WDFW An abbreviation for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Whitefish Gear Rules Fishing gear is restricted to one single hook, maximum hook size 3/16″ point to shank (hook size 14), and bait is allowed. All species: Release all fish except whitefish.

Wild Chinook and Coho Wild Chinook and coho have an unclipped adipose fin.

Wild Steelhead and Trout Wild steelhead and trout have unclipped adipose or ventral fins.