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Who Requires a Fishing License?

Adult Anglers

If you're 15 years or older, possessing a fishing license is mandatory for engaging in angling activities. Additionally, catch record cards (CRC) and specific endorsements relevant to the targeted species and fishing locations are necessary. Refer to the license details below to ascertain the required documentation. Federal and state regulations mandate individuals aged 15 and above to furnish their Social Security Number for license procurement (Federal Law US Code: Title 42, Section 666, Paragraph 13, Section A; and RCW 77.32.014).

Exceptions to License Requirement

You are exempt from needing a fishing license under the following circumstances:

  • Fishing for common carp, crawfish, bullfrogs, smelt (in freshwater), or collecting relic shells.

Youth Anglers

For youths aged 14 and below, a fishing license is not mandatory. However, catch record cards (CRCs) are obligatory for specific species. Explore the details regarding CRCs in the Catch Record Cards & Codes section for more information. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) strongly advocates and encourages youth participation in fishing endeavors. Youth participants must actively engage and demonstrate the ability to handle fishing gear independently. Adherence to all regulations and limitations pertaining to the targeted species or water body is imperative. They are entitled to the same daily catch limits as adults. While adults may assist youth anglers, they are not obligated to possess a license if they refrain from fishing or harvesting themselves. Youth individuals must be present throughout the entire fishing process and actively participate.

Determining Residency Status

Resident Criteria

To be classified as a resident of Washington state, you must satisfy specific requirements outlined in WAC 220-220-050. These include:

  • Possession of a valid Washington state driver’s license or identification card.

  • Maintenance of a permanent residence within the state for a minimum of 90 days before purchasing the license.

  • Absence of residency licenses for hunting or fishing in another state or country.

  • Possession of military identification along with documented orders indicating Washington as your current duty station.

Non-Resident Status

Individuals failing to meet the residency criteria are considered non-residents for licensing purposes.

Eligibility for Reduced Fees or Fishing Assistance

Reduced Fee Eligibility

You may be eligible for reduced fees if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • Resident or Non-Resident Veteran: Possessing a service-connected disability of 30% or more, or aged 65 years or older with any service-connected disability.

  • Resident with Permanent Wheelchair Use: Individuals who permanently use a wheelchair for mobility.

  • Visually Impaired Residents: Those who are blind or visually impaired.

  • Residents with Developmental Disabilities: Individuals with developmental disabilities.

Fishing Assistance

You could qualify for fishing assistance and receive a designated harvester card. To ascertain your eligibility, visit the WDFW Accessibility webpage or contact (360) 902-2464.

Application Process

To avail reduced fees or assistance, an application must be completed by a licensed MD, ARNP, or PA, and subsequently processed by WDFW. For applications and further details, visit WDFW Accessibility or contact (360) 902-2464.

Refund Policy (WAC 220-220-100)

Eligible Refunds

The department will process refunds under the following circumstances:

  • System or Dealer Error: Refunds will be issued if an error occurs within the system or by an authorized dealer.

  • Purchase Made Within 60 Minutes: Refunds are available for purchases made within the last 60 minutes.

  • Duplicate Licenses: If more than one license of the same kind is received in the same year, a refund will be provided.

Ineligible Refunds

The department will not issue refunds under the following conditions:

  • Scheduled Season Participation: Refunds will not be issued for seasons that have been scheduled and in which the licensee could have participated, regardless of actual participation.

Understanding License Types

Annual Licenses

Annual licenses typically include a Catch Record Card (CRC) for salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon. Additionally, they come with a Vehicle Access Pass for access to all WDFW land and boat launches.

Get Outdoors License

This comprehensive license encompasses an Annual Fish Washington License along with various endorsements like Two-pole and Puget Sound Crab. It also covers Deer, Elk, Bear, and Cougar licenses with discounted Small Game License, tags for Deer, Elk, Bear, Cougar, and 2 Turkey tags, along with a Migratory Bird Permit and Migratory Bird Hunt Authorization.

Fish Washington License

Included in this license is an Annual Combination License, covering freshwater, saltwater, and shellfish harvest. It also includes Two-Pole and Puget Sound Dungeness Crab endorsements. Catch record cards for Puget Sound Dungeness crab, salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon are provided. For Halibut fishing, a Catch Record Card + Halibut can be added for an additional fee.

Combination License

This license permits fishing in both freshwater and saltwater, along with shellfish and seaweed harvesting. It typically includes a Catch Record Card for salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon, as well as a Vehicle Access Pass for WDFW land and boat launches.

Freshwater License

Solely allows fishing in freshwater areas.

Saltwater License

Exclusive for fishing in saltwater areas.

Short-Term Combination License

Functions like a Combination License for a limited duration. It includes a CRC but excludes game fish during the 8-day period starting the 4th Saturday in April, except for active-duty resident military personnel. The license must be utilized on consecutive days when purchasing a two or three-day license and does not include a Vehicle Access Pass.

Shellfish/Seaweed License

Permits harvesting various shellfish and seaweed types, including Puget Sound Dungeness crab with the required endorsement. It does not include a CRC except for Puget Sound Dungeness crab and does not offer a Vehicle Access Pass.

Razor Clam License

Available as an annual or three-day short-term license, it specifically allows harvesting razor clams. It's unnecessary if you already possess a shellfish/seaweed or combination license. This license excludes a CRC and does not come with a Vehicle Access Pass.

Understanding Endorsements

Two-Pole Endorsement

Anglers aged 15 and above who wish to fish with two poles must obtain this endorsement. It can be added to any annual or short-term license (excluding shellfish/seaweed or razor clam licenses) for a fee. The endorsement permits the use of two fishing poles in most freshwater lakes, ponds, certain river sections, and select marine areas. However, it's not valid for most rivers and marine areas. Look for the "No Two Pole Endorsement Icon" next to lake listings where two poles are prohibited. This endorsement isn't available for youth anglers and is not required during Free Fishing Weekend.

Puget Sound Dungeness Crab Endorsement

Harvesters intending to catch Puget Sound Dungeness crab within Marine Areas 4 East and 5 through 13 must possess this endorsement. It can be added to an annual or short-term combination or shellfish/seaweed license. Along with the endorsement, you'll receive a complimentary Puget Sound Crab Catch Record Card (CRC) for summer and winter seasons. The CRCs must be obtained at different times for each season. Both the endorsement and CRC must be carried while crab fishing. While there's no fee for youth anglers, they still require the endorsement and CRC. Failure to report catches by the deadline incurs an administrative fee of $10. It's essential to report even if no crab is caught.

Understanding Catch Record Cards

Catch Record Card (CRC)

A Catch Record Card (CRC) is essential for recording harvested salmon, steelhead, Puget Sound Dungeness crab, or sturgeon. It must be carried while fishing, including during Free Fishing Weekend. There's no fee for individuals aged 14 and younger, but they still require a CRC. Refer to the bottom of your CRC for detailed reporting instructions.

Catch Record Card + Halibut

Similar to the CRC, this card includes halibut records. It's issued for a fee when added to an annual Combination or Saltwater fishing license. However, it's only necessary when fishing for halibut. It's provided at no cost with short-term licenses and is mandatory during Free Fishing Weekend, albeit with associated fees.

One-day Charter Stamps and Temporary Catch Record Cards

Licensed charters and guides offer fishing services for a fee. They can issue a 1-day combination license and catch record card for temporary fishing expeditions.

Key Fishing Dates

Free Fishing Weekend

  • Date: June 8-9, 2024
  • Description: Open to everyone, including residents and non-residents. Fishing licenses, endorsements, and parking passes are not required for some fish during this period. However, fish requiring a catch record card (such as sturgeon, salmon, steelhead, and halibut) and all shellfish now require a license to be harvested. All other regulations, including seasons, area restrictions, lure or bait restrictions, size, and catch limits, still apply. Free Fishing Weekend is scheduled annually for the first weekend in June after the first Monday in June.

Lowland Lake Opener

  • Date: Starting April 27, 2024
  • Description: Fishing in lowland lakes commences on this date. However, Short-Term Combination licenses cannot be used for game fish until after May 4, 2024.

Trout Derby

  • Duration: April 27-October 31, 2024
  • Description: Participate in the Trout Derby from April 27 to October 31, 2024. Catch a tagged trout and stand a chance to win exciting prizes. For detailed rules, regulations, and additional information, visit WDFW Trout Derby page.

Parking Passes for State Recreation Lands and Water Access Sites

WDFW Vehicle Access Pass

  • Validity: Exclusively for WDFW land.
  • Inclusion: Most annual hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses provide a complimentary Vehicle Access Pass.
  • Usage: Allows parking at WDFW wildlife areas, boat launches, and other water access sites.
  • Purchase Requirement: If your annual license doesn't include a complimentary pass or if you wish to access WDFW land without purchasing a license, you must buy a Discover Pass.

Discover Pass

  • Validity: Valid for Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and WDFW land.
  • Usage: Required for parking at recreational properties managed by State Parks or DNR.
  • Sole Parking Pass: It's the only parking pass available for State Parks and DNR lands.
  • Dual Usage: While visiting WDFW land or using WDFW water access sites, either a Vehicle Access Pass or Discover Pass is accepted.
  • More Information: Visit the Discover Pass Website for additional details.

Permit

Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit: This permit is required for all boats registered outside of Washington State.

Fishing Contests Regulations

Adult Fishing Contests

  • Definition: Occur when 6 or more licensed anglers aged 15 and above participate competitively for Game Fish.
  • Permit Requirement: A fishing contest permit is mandatory for such events.

Youth Fishing Events

  • Definition: Events involving youth aged 14 or under fishing do not require a permit but need approval from the regional office.

Permit Application

  • Contact Information: For permit application or inquiries, reach out to the WDFW Fish Program at (360) 902-2700.
  • Online Resource: Visit the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/contests/rules for further information.

Permit Cost

  • Fee Structure: The permit cost is $94, comprising a $70 non-refundable application fee and a $24 permit fee.
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Disclaimer:

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.