If you've ever considered a tangle with a fish as a form of therapy or think casting a line is the ultimate stress-relief ritual, you're in the right boat – metaphorically speaking.

For a successful and compliant freshwater fishing experience in Washington State, anglers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with both Statewide Freshwater Rules and Special Rules for their specific location. Additionally, staying informed about Emergency Rules and abiding by angling, areas/seasons, tackle, and bait regulations will contribute to the preservation of aquatic ecosystems and the enjoyment of responsible fishing. Here's a breakdown of what you need to know in 2024.

New This Year

Fish requiring a catch record card (sturgeon, salmon, steelhead, halibut) and all shellfish now require a license to be harvested on Free Fishing Weekend, June 8-9 2024. These species could previously be harvested without a license during Free Fishing Weekend.

Angling Rules and Regulations:

Anglers are advised to adhere to specific rules and regulations to maintain responsible fishing practices. These include tackle regulations, areas/seasons restrictions, and bait rules.

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  • Fishing opportunities for game fish and salmon are detailed within specific areas.
  • Freshwater areas are accessible 24 hours a day when open.
  • Harvesting of fish not classified as food fish or game fish is prohibited, except for Northern pike.
  • Fishing for specific species like salmon, Dolly Varden/bull trout, lamprey, and grass carp is not allowed in all freshwater areas.
  • Lakes, ponds, and reservoirs are open year-round for fishing game fish, excluding Dolly Varden/bull trout and grass carp.
  • Rivers, streams, and beaver ponds are open from the Saturday before Memorial Day through October 31. Beaver ponds connected to streams listed as open to trout and other game fish follow the same rules as the stream.
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Tackle Regulations:

  • Only hook and line angling is permitted.
  • Barbed or barbless hooks may be used, with limitations on the number of lines and hooks per angler.
  • Single-point barbless hooks are mandatory in areas designated as "fly fishing only" or "selective gear rules."
  • Fishing gear must be under immediate control, and rodholders may be used but must allow for easy removal during fish play.
  • The use of a club or dipnet is permitted to assist in landing a legal fish caught using legal gear, but gaff hooks are prohibited.
  • Possession of a fish taken from freshwater that was not hooked inside the mouth or on the head is unlawful.
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Bait Rules:

  • Prohibited activities include chumming, broadcasting, feeding, or distributing bait or substances attracting fish into freshwater unless authorized in Special Rules.
  • In areas where bait use is prohibited or when lures or flies are used voluntarily, anglers may catch and release game fish until the daily limit is reached.
  • The use of live aquatic animals as bait is generally unlawful, except for specific cases mentioned in the regulations.

Game Fish Possession Limits and Specific Regulations:

  • Possession Limit: Anglers are allowed 2 daily limits of game fish in any form.
  • Bass: Specific size and daily limit regulations apply to largemouth and smallmouth bass in different water bodies.
  • Walleye: Minimum size of 12 inches, daily limit of 8, with specific regulations for retaining larger walleye.
  • Channel Catfish: No size limit in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, with a daily limit of 5. In rivers, streams, and beaver ponds, there are no size or daily limits.
  • Burbot (Freshwater Ling): No size limit, daily limit of 5.
  • Other Game Fish: Crappie, Northern Pikeminnow, Peamouth Chub, Perch, Suckers, Sunfish, Catfish (except channel), Rock Bass, Striped Bass - No size limit, no daily limit.
  • Grass Carp: Closed, unless specified in Special Rules.
  • Kokanee: No minimum size, daily limit of 10.
  • Tiger Muskellunge (Tiger Muskie): Minimum size of 50 inches, daily limit of 1.
  • Whitefish: No minimum size, daily limit of 15.
  • Steelhead: Release all wild steelhead, minimum size of 20 inches, daily limit of 2.
  • Trout: Combined daily limit for angler fishing in rivers and lakes is 5 trout, with specific size and limit regulations for different trout species.
  • Common Carp: No license required, no size limit, no daily limit.
  • Shad: No size limit, no daily limit.
  • Salmon: Specific regulations for retaining salmon, with a possession limit of 2 daily limits in fresh form.
  • Forage Fish: No size limit, daily limit is 10 lbs. in aggregate, with possession limits and specific rules for certain fish types.
  • White Sturgeon: Size limits and possession limits for different regions, with an annual limit statewide. Catch-and-release in certain areas.
  • Green Sturgeon: Unlawful to fish for or retain green sturgeon.
  • Lamprey: Unlawful to take, fish for, or possess certain lamprey species.
  • Northern Pike: No size limit, no daily limit, no possession limit.
  • Other Fish Not Classified as Game Fish or Food Fish: Closed.
  • Bullfrogs: No license required, no size limit, no daily limit, specific methods allowed for taking bullfrogs.

A Final Reminder:

Just a heads-up, the info we spilled here is like last week's leftovers—still good, but might not be as fresh as that catch of the day. For the juiciest details on Washington State's freshwater fishing regulations, hook yourself up with the official guidelines. Trust us, the fish aren't the only ones who appreciate the most accurate and up-to-date dish! Happy angling, and may your tales be bigger than the ones that got away!

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