Freshwater Fishing Handling Regulations:

Anglers are prohibited from fully removing salmon, steelhead, or Dolly Varden/bull trout from the water if it's illegal to keep those fish, or if they release them afterward.


  1. Columbia River (Buoy 10 line to Rocky Point/Tongue Point line):
    • Rules apply.
  2. Columbia River (Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to Hwy. 730 OR/WA border):
    • Rules apply only for vessels under 30 feet in length during Feb. 15-June 15.

Marine Areas 5 Through 13:

Bringing wild salmon or any salmon species onto a vessel is prohibited if it's illegal to retain them. ("Aboard" refers to inside the gunwale of a vessel.)

Marine Area 2-2:

Fully removing salmon from the water is illegal if it's against the regulations, except for anglers fishing from boats 30 feet or longer, as indicated on their state or Coast Guard registration.

Best Practices for Releasing Fish

When releasing a fish, follow these guidelines to increase its chances of survival:

  • Minimize Handling: Keep the fish in the water as much as possible to reduce stress.
  • Avoid Using Nets: If netting is necessary, opt for a soft, knotless net or a rubber mesh net. Knotless nets are mandatory in fly-fishing areas and freshwater zones with selective gear rules.
  • Utilize a Hook Remover: If the hook is embedded in the fish's mouth or jaw, use a hook remover (dehooker) to safely extract it.
  • Cut the Leader: If the fish has swallowed the hook deeply, cut the leader to release it without causing further harm.
  • Protect Sensitive Areas: Keep your fingers away from the fish's eyes and gills to prevent injury and stress.

Washington Fish Handling Guidelines & Regulations

Importance of Selective Fishing

Selective fisheries targeting hatchery-produced fish and catch-and-release practices play a vital role in providing recreational fishing opportunities in Washington. To ensure the success of these fisheries, it's crucial for anglers to adhere strictly to regulations and handle the release of unmarked fish with utmost care to maximize their chances of survival. Compliance with regulations and responsible handling practices are essential for sustaining these valuable recreational fishing opportunities.

Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.