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Statewide Freshwater Regulations

Fishing Regulations Icon Washington Fishing

Using Freshwater Rules

  1. Read: The Statewide Freshwater Rules and Statewide Freshwater Species Rules. Determine seasons and general rules applying to the species for which you intend to fish.
  2. Check Special Rules for your location: Special Rules, list areas where the Statewide Rules have been modified. These are divided into multiple areas: Puget Sound and Coastal Rivers, Columbia Basin Rivers, Westside and Eastside lakes. Rivers lists rivers, streams, and beaver ponds. Lakes lists lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. For the purposes of this pamphlet, the Columbia and Snake are rivers (not reservoirs), and any Special Rules that apply are listed in the Columbia Basin section.If a freshwater area is not listed in Special Rules, follow the Statewide Freshwater Rules.
  3. Check for Emergency Rules: Which can be found by calling the WDFW Fishing Hotline at (360) 902-2500, by contacting statewide customer service at (360) 902-2700, or by visiting the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov.

The following Statewide Freshwater Rules and seasons apply unless listed otherwise in the Special Rules.

Areas/Seasons

Areas listed within Special Rules, show all game fish and salmon fishing opportunities for the specific area listed.

All freshwater areas are closed to the harvest of any fish not classified as a food fish or game fish (see Definitions) except for Northern pike.

Freshwater areas are open 24 hours per day when open.

All freshwater areas are closed to fishing for salmon, Dolly Varden/bull trout, lamprey, and grass carp.

Lakes, ponds, and reservoirs are open to fishing for game fish (except Dolly Varden/bull trout and grass carp) year-round.

Rivers, streams and beaver ponds are open the Saturday before Memorial Day through October 31. Beaver ponds located within or connected to streams listed as open to trout and other game fish follow the same rules as the stream.

Tackle

Hook and line angling only. Barbed or barbless hooks may be used, and a hook may be single-point, double, or treble, but not more than one line with up to three hooks per angler may be used.

Single-point barbless hooks are required in areas designated as “fly fishing only” or “selective gear rules.”

All fishing gear must be kept in immediate control and may not be left unattended while fishing. Rodholders may be used, but the rod must be easily removed without delay; rod may be left in holder while playing the fish.

A club or dipnet may be used to assist landing a legal fish taken by legal gear. A gaff hook may not be used.

It is unlawful to possess a fish taken from freshwater that was not hooked inside the mouth or on the head. The head is defined as any portion forward of the rear margin of the gill plate.

Bait Rules

It is unlawful to chum, broadcast, feed, or distribute into freshwater any bait or other substance capable of attracting fish unless specifically authorized in Special Rules.

Where use of bait is prohibited, or where lures or flies are used voluntarily, game fish may be caught and released until the daily limit is retained.

It is unlawful to possess or use live aquatic animals as bait, except:

  1. Live aquatic animals (other than fish) collected from the water being fished.
  2. Live sand shrimp.
  3. Live forage fish in the Columbia River (downstream of Rocky Point/Tongue Point).

Sturgeon

Green Sturgeon may not be retained.

White sturgeon open for catch-and-release fishing during open game fish or salmon seasons.

Catch-and-release fishing only in the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam downstream, and from McNary Dam to Chief Joseph Dam, Snake River from Ice Harbor Dam upstream, coastal and Puget Sound waters including their tributaries.

Annual white sturgeon limit is 2 fish even if the angler holds both a Washington and Oregon license.

Anglers may continue to fish catch-and-release after retaining a daily limit.

After an annual limit has been retained, catch-and-release fishing is allowed in waters open to catch-and-release fishing.

Catch Record Cards are required statewide.

Only one single-point barbless hook and bait is allowed when fishing for sturgeon. In the field, eggs must be retained with intact carcass of fish from which they came. Night closure in effect for all sturgeon. Any sturgeon not to be retained must be released immediately. Sturgeon over 55″ fork length cannot be removed totally or in part from the water.

Tagged sturgeon: Do not remove tags from fish not of legal size or not to be retained, but record: tag number and color, date, location of catch, fish length, your name and address. If fish is retained, remove tag and send with above information to the address below.

WDFW Region 5 Office

5525 S 11th St.

Ridgefield, WA 98642

Special Rules Instructions

The Special Rules, list freshwater areas where the Statewide Rules have been modified.

Unless otherwise listed in the Special Rules, you must follow the Statewide Rules.

Areas listed within Special Rules, show all game fish and salmon fishing opportunities for the specific area listed.

Common regulation terms and definitions can be found on Definitions.

The terms “trout”, “all game fish”, and “other game fish” include the trout and game fish species on Definitions, except Dolly Varden/bull trout and grass carp.

When landlocked salmon rules apply, landlocked Atlantic, coho, and Chinook salmon are regulated as trout. See Definitions.

County references after lakes or streams are noted to make it easier to locate the waters listed, or to differentiate between two places with the same name. They do not mean that the rules apply only to the portion of water in that county.

In Grant, Adams, Okanogan, and Douglas counties, you may fish up to the base of all man-made dams or other obstructions (in listed and unlisted areas), except Zosel Dam.

Lakes with this icon have a public boat ramp.

Lakes with this icon are excluded from the Two-Pole Endorsement.