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Statewide General Rules

See below for Freshwater-specific rules and pages Marine Area Rules & Definitions for Marine Area-specific rules.

Harvest and Possession Rules

You May:

  • Clean or portion fish or shellfish while in the field with the following exceptions: It is unlawful for an angler to fail to retain proof of compliance with species, size, number, weight, sex, or wild or hatchery origin restriction, if such restrictions apply, until the angler is ashore and has finished fishing for the day. For all rockfish species and for fish with a length restriction, anglers must retain the fish carcass until coming ashore to comply with the above rule. This does not apply if the catch is in the process of being prepared for immediate consumption.
  • Use a rodholder.
  • Leave your rod in a rodholder while playing or landing a fish if the rod can be easily removed from the holder.
  • Use an electric powered reel attached to a pole.
  • Use a downrigger if the line releases from the downrigger while playing or landing the fish.

You May Not:

  • Fish in closed waters.
  • Retain wild steelhead.
  • Retain Dolly Varden/bull trout except where specially authorized in the special rules.
  • Take, fish for, or possess Pacific lamprey, western brook lamprey, or river lamprey, or use any species of lamprey for bait.
  • Harvest in freshwater any fish not classified as a Food Fish or Game Fish except for Northern pike.
  • Fish for, retain, or possess canary rockfish (except in Marine Areas 1-3 and 4 West of Bonilla-Tatoosh line), green sturgeon, yelloweye rockfish, sixgill, sevengill, or thresher sharks, pygmy whitefish, margined sculpin, or Olympic mudminnow.
  • Fish for, retain, or possess eulachon (Columbia River Smelt) unless specifically open under emergency regulation.
  • Fish for, or harvest fish or shellfish in an area with catch in your possession that does not meet the rules of that area. However, you may pass through such an area without stopping to fish. Also, you may catch fish in one area and land them at a port in a different area even if that different area is closed or has different rules, with the exception of landing halibut in a closed area, or landing bottomfish caught in Oregon (Statewide General Rules). Additionally, see Fish and Shellfish caught in Canada (Statewide General Rules).
  • Intentionally waste fish or shellfish. This includes: The intentional killing of fish and shellfish and then returning to the water. The removing of claws from live crab, or mutilating or clipping fins from live fish (such as dogfish) and then returning the fish or shellfish to the water.
  • Use salmon, herring, or halibut for anything other than human consumption or fishing bait.
  • Continue to fish for salmon after the adult portion of the daily limit has been retained.
  • Fish for (unless authorized by Special Rules) or harass fish within 400 feet downstream of a man-made dam, fish ladder, or other obstruction, or in rearing, holding, or passage facilities.
  • Harvest any part of another person’s daily limit, except for persons who possess a Designated Harvester Companion Card unless otherwise specified.
  • Chum (broadcast feed) to attract Game Fish unless authorized by Special Rules.
  • Remove eggs from a salmon to use or preserve them for bait without retaining the carcass from which the eggs were removed.
  • Transport live fish or relocate shellfish or shells into state waters without a permit.
  • Possess fish or shellfish that do not meet the minimum and maximum size limits, weight limits, or sex restrictions, or that are in excess of the daily or possession limit.
  • Possess sturgeon eggs in the field without having retained the intact carcass of the fish from which the eggs were removed.

You May Not:

  • Possess Dolly Varden/bull trout in the field in such condition that the species and total length cannot be determined.
  • Possess another person’s Food Fish, Game Fish, or shellfish unless it is accompanied by a statement showing the name, address, license number, date, county, and area where it was taken, and the signature of the angler who harvested it.
  • Hold recreationally-caught fish or shellfish in storage by a custom canner, hotel or restaurant, or a cold storage plant without tags listing the name and address of the owner of the fish or shellfish.
  • Trespass on private property (which often includes the bed of a stream) regardless of whether there is an open season.

You are Required to:

  • Cooperate with data collection or other sampling of fish, shellfish or seaweed upon request of Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel. This includes relinquishing any part of a salmon, steelhead, or other species of fish containing coded-wire tags.
  • Stop at mandatory check stations established by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Show fish, shellfish, and seaweed in your possession and required licenses, Catch Record Cards, and gear being used, upon request of a Fish and Wildlife officer.
  • Fill out your Catch Record Card immediately upon retaining salmon, steelhead, halibut, or sturgeon. For Puget Sound Dungeness crab, fill out immediately when fishing from a boat or dock, or upon returning to shore when wading or diving.
  • Return your Catch Record Card when you are done fishing or by the date printed on your card, even if nothing was caught.

Gear Rules

You May Not:

  • Snag or attempt to snag fish.
  • Use a net, except when using a dip net to land legally-hooked fish, a forage fish dip net to harvest forage fish, or a forage fish cast net to harvest sardine and or anchovy (within Marine Areas 1-4 only).
  • Use drugs, explosives, or poison that may kill or injure fish and wildlife.
  • Use any type of chemical irritant to harvest fish, or shellfish unless a special exception has been made by the Director.
  • Fish with a rod not under your immediate control, or leave your gear unattended.
  • Fish for Game Fish, salmon, sturgeon, shad, octopus, crab, or other shellfish with bow and arrow, spear, or spearfishing gear unless authorized by Special Rules.
  • Use a gaff hook, except to land lingcod (in Marine Areas 1-3 and 4 West of Bonilla-Tatoosh line), halibut, tuna, or dogfish shark that will be retained.
  • Use a crossbow to harvest fish or shellfish.

Buying and Selling Fish & Shellfish

You may not offer any recreationally-caught fish or Shellfish for sale or barter.

In order to buy, sell, or possess steelhead, sea-run cutthroat, or Dolly Varden/bull trout lawfully taken by a treaty Indian member: the fish must be accompanied by a written statement showing taker’s name, address, tribal affiliation, and treaty fish identification card number, number of fish, date, and location where taken. This rule does not apply to treaty members nor to Game Fish purchased from a fish buyer licensed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Fishing in Oregon Waters

May not retain, possess, or land bottomfish from Oregon that do not comply with the regulations for the area where the fish are landed. See bottomfish definition on Definitions.

Fishing in Canadian Waters

In determining the location of the U.S./Canada border, U.S. (not Canadian) navigation charts apply to anglers fishing from vessels registered in the State of Washington.

Canadian Salmon Trip Notification

Anglers who plan to fish for salmon in Canadian marine waters and return in their boats with their catch to Washington are required to notify the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) before leaving state waters by completing the form at

Fish and Shellfish Caught in Canada

It is lawful to possess Canadian-origin fish or shellfish if you have a Canadian license and salmon conservation stamp (for salmon), except it is unlawful to possess Canadian-origin yelloweye or canary rockfish.

There are special rules for Canadian halibut and salmon. If you only fish in Canada, contact the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) or visit their website at for updated Canadian regulations. If you fish for halibut in Washington, the daily limit is one halibut, and the possession limit is two halibut, regardless of where they are taken. No more than one daily limit of halibut may be possessed aboard the fishing vessel.

You may not land both a Canadian and a Washington limit of salmon on the same day (one or the other, but not both).

It is unlawful to possess in marine waters, or deliver into Washington, any fresh salmon taken for personal use from Canadian waters, unless such salmon meet current regulations for the waters of the applicable Washington Catch Record Card area. However, anglers aboard a vessel may deliver Canadian-origin salmon into Washington that are lawfully taken in Canada, regardless of whether the salmon meet the current regulations for the area where delivered, provided anglers meet trip notification requirements. See Fishing in Canadian Waters (same page).

Anglers are subject to WDFW Enforcement and dockside sampling inspection when landing Canadian catch in Washington waters.

Get The Lead Out

Lead is a toxic metal that has adverse effects on the nervous and reproductive systems of animals. Commonly found in fishing weights and lures, this metal is poisoning wildlife such as loons and eagles.

Many anglers are now using fishing tackle made from non-toxic materials such as tin, bismuth, steel, and tungsten. As lead alternatives are becoming more available, WDFW encourages anglers to try them to help protect our fish, wildlife, and fragile ecosystems.

Non-toxic alternatives:

Tungsten, bismuth, steel, tin, glass, stone, metal composite

Gear Rules

You May Not:

Fishing & Shellfishing Rules in State and National Parks, Federal Lands, Indian Reservations and Canada

Contact Olympic National Park at (360) 565-3000 or, Gifford Pinchot National Forest at (360) 891-5000 or, Mt. Rainier National Park at (360) 569-2211, or North Cascades National Park at (360) 854-7200. For rules and other information that apply within State Parks call (360) 902-8500.

State licenses and rules apply on National Forest lands.

Before fishing on Indian reservations, contact the tribe for the necessary permits and rules. Quinault Indian Nation (360) 276-8211; Colville Confederated Tribes (509) 634-2110; Puyallap Tribe of Indians (253) 845-7747; Puyallup Tribal shellfish permits and rules (253) 573-7909; Yakama Nation (509) 865-5121; Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (360) 466-3163; Makah Tribe (360) 645-2201; Kalispell Tribe (509) 445-1147; Quileute Tribe: (360) 374-2248.

An access permit is required to fish waters on the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Reservation. For fishing Nisqually River on base, call: (253) 967-6277. For fishing waters on McChord field call (253) 982-2206 or (253) 967-7744.

General inquiries about Canadian fishing regulations and licensing, call (604) 666-0384 or fax (604) 666-1847.