Guide to get started fishing in Washington
Some of the best fishing opportunities in the country are available in Washington. From fly-fishing for bass and trout on freshwater lakes and streams east of the Cascades to trolling for salmon along the coast and inner-marine waterways to crabbing in Puget Sound, Washington offers a diverse and unique outdoor experience. Find the experience that’s right for you — whether you’re a beginner or a long-time angler.
National Hunting and Fishing Day — Sept. 24
Also interested in hunting? Check out our “Hunt Washington” blog to learn how to get started hunting in Washington.
Preparing for a fishing trip
Buy a fishing license
To find the right license for you, visit the Fishing and shellfishing licenses webpage.
Download the Fish Washington mobile app
Whether you are an experienced angler or just getting started, the Fish Washington app should be on your mobile device. The free mobile app is designed to convey up-to-the-minute fishing regulations for every lake, river, stream, and marine area in the state.
Review the rules
Before heading out for your fishing adventure, make sure you download and read the annual fishing pamphlet, which details rules and regulations statewide. And don’t forget to check for any emergency rule changes affecting the species or location you’re fishing. Have questions? Contact our Fish Program customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn angling etiquette
Whether you’re new to fishing or have been doing it for decades, you can help make the most of your time on the water by following guidelines in this blog post.
Review boater safety
Many recreational boaters in Washington are required by law to complete a boating safety course and carry a Washington State Boater Education Card. Whether you cruise, sail, kayak, fish, or do yoga on a stand-up paddleboard, you are responsible to know the laws and basics of boating safety. For more information, visit the State Parks Boater Education website.
Keep invasive species out of Washington waterways
By taking the few extra steps to clean, drain, and dry your boat, jet ski, kayak, or other watercraft, you are helping to reduce the chances of spreading aquatic invasive species (AIS) to lakes and rivers in our state. Learn more about preventing the spread of AIS on the WDFW website.
Know how to report a violation
WDFW encourages any community member who witnesses a fish and wildlife offense to report the violation. Poaching is illegal taking or possession of game animals and fish, non-game, and protected, threatened, or endangered fish and wildlife species. Poaching steals the opportunity from the rest of us that correctly follow legal regulations. People reporting a violation can remain anonymous if they wish.
Salmon and steelhead fishing
Book a fishing charter or guide
Booking a fishing trip can be a daunting task, from deciding what type of trip to finding the right captain and boat. Check out this blog post for tips to have a memorable experience.
Review the Weekender Report
To find current and upcoming salmon and steelhead fishing seasons near you, check out WDFW’s Weekender Report, which provides a regional breakdown of fishing and hunting opportunities each month.
Learn about salmon fishing gear
Check out this blog and video feature to learn best practices for selecting salmon fishing gear.
Release salmon properly
By learning to correctly release salmon, anglers can do their part to recover Washington’s wild fish populations. Read this blog for more details.
Review the beginner’s guide
Check out these tips to have a successful day on the water.
Learn how to fish from the shore
Search year-round lake trout plants
Win a prized trout
If you catch a tagged trout by Oct. 31, you could win a prize! WDFW’s 2022 Trout Derby includes hundreds of lakes across the state and is open to anyone with a valid 2022 fishing license! No entrance fee or registration required.
Reel in a big bass
Read our “Beginner tips for catching bass from the shoreline” blog for tips and tricks to get starting fishing for smallmouth or largemouth bass.
Target yellow perch in lakes
As one of several “panfish”, yellow perch are very popular for anglers to catch across the state and are outstanding eating quality. Read this blog post for more information.
Fish for whitefish in Eastern Washington
In Eastern Washington waterways, including Banks Lake, lake whitefish are fun to catch year-round. In the wintertime, Banks Lake is a great destination for fishing for lake whitefish from the shore. Learn more in this blog post.
Dig for your dinner
Bivalve shellfish such as manila and littleneck clams are a nutritious local source of protein. Read this blog post to learn where and how to gather clams, gear needs, seasons, harvest rules, and cleaning and preparation tips. For recipe ideas, visit our website.
Jig for squid
Try jigging for squid this fall and winter! Squid are relatively easy to catch, and it doesn’t require a lot of gear or a boat. Learn about the gear and tactics to jig for squid in this blog post.
Grab your shovel or clam gun (later this season)
Are you #TeamClamGun or #TeamClamShovel? Regardless of which method you prefer, learn how to dig for razor clams and how to clean and prepare them on the WDFW website. Please note: Razor clam digs are dependent on marine toxin (domoic acid) levels. For the latest information on razor clam seasons, visit our website.
Learn to identify crab species
When crabbing in Washington, it’s important to be able to identify your catch to ensure you’ve caught the correct species. It’s also important to identify whether a crab is soft-shelled — crabbers must release all soft-shell crab.
Fish for crayfish
Crayfish. Crawfish. Crawdad. Even crawdab. Take your pick — these common names are equally acceptable and do not refer to different species. As a small freshwater version of a lobster, crayfish are prized culinary treats in many parts of the world. Learn the basics of fishing for crayfish.
Buying Washington seafood
Fishing, crabbing, and shrimping are part of our state’s heritage. Communities dotting Washington’s coastline play host to a small commercial fleet. If you visit one of the state’s 75 ports, say hello to the people who captain the vessels that put 20,000-plus people to work each year in living-wage jobs. Check out the “Where to buy Washington Seafood” webpage to find sustainable seafood sources near you, and review these recipe ideas!
Fishing supports conservation
See where your money goes
There are roughly 854,000 anglers in Washington who purchase around 963,000 licenses each year. This generated $55.9M in revenue for WDFW between 2019–2021. These license sales plus a federal excise tax on fishing gear (Dingell-Johnson) mean that recreational anglers contribute approximately 15% of WDFW’s budget.
Learn about fish management
WDFW develops management plans for a variety of fisheries in Washington, including the Columbia River and Chinook salmon fishing in the Puget Sound region. Each year, state federal, and tribal fishery managers also gather to plan the Northwest’s recreational and commercial salmon fisheries. This process is called North of Falcon.
Take a virtual tour of a hatchery
For more than a century, WDFW hatcheries have produced fish for harvest. Today, hatcheries provide the foundation for the state’s popular recreational fisheries and the many jobs that depend on them. Learn more about WDFW’s hatchery facilities and go for a virtual tour!
Discard used fishing line
Monofilament line can cause problems throughout the environment when it is lost during fishing or improperly discarded overboard. Learn where you can discard used fishing line.