Reopening state lands, fishing, and hunting
Tuesday, May 5, is the day many of us have been waiting for, when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reopens fishing, hunting, and public access to wildlife areas and boat ramps. To be as safe as possible, WDFW facilities will only be open for day-use at this time. Washington State Parks and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also reopened their lands that day.
We thank the people of Washington for their patience as we worked to reopen these lands, and encourage you to recreate safely.
Responsible Recreation Guidelines
Before you go
Check what’s open. While many state-managed lands are open for day-use, other local, tribal, and federal land may still be closed. Check first to avoid a wasted trip.
State lands are not open to overnight camping at this time so opt for day trips close to home.
Recreating with people outside of your household can expose you and others to virus transmission. The safest action at this time is to stay with immediate household members only. Fish and recreate with only members of the same household.
You may notice limited restroom services as we work to reopen wildlife areas and water access sites. Come prepared with your own soap, water, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper .
Enjoy the outdoors when healthy. If you have symptoms of fever, coughing, or shortness of breath, stay home and enjoy the outdoors another day.
When you get there
For your own safety and the safety of others, avoid crowds. If you arrive at your destination and it is crowded, go somewhere else or come back another time.
It may be challenging, but practice physical distancing as much as possible. Keep at least 6 feet between you and those outside your immediate household. Launch one boat at a time to give others enough space to launch safely. Leave at least one parking space between your vehicle and the vehicle next to you. Trailer your boat in the same way.
Wash your hands often. Keep up on personal hygiene and bring your own water, soap, and hand sanitizer with you.
As always, pack out what you pack in, but especially disposable gloves and masks.
WDFW offices and fish hatcheries will stay closed to the public to keep staff healthy so they can continue to operate and complete essential functions.
All hunter education in-person classes, outdoor workshops, and other group activities are canceled until further notice.
WDFW wildlife areas and boat access
All state-managed public lands, including state parks, wildlife areas, and Department of Natural Resources recreation land opened May 5. Camping reopened for Phase 2 and Phase 3 counties on June 1.
You will need a Discover Pass to park your vehicle at state recreation lands and water-access sites managed by Washington State Parks and Department of Natural Resources. This includes state parks, water-access points, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, DNR campgrounds, trails and trailheads, and all DNR-managed uplands.
A Discover Pass is also required on WDFW lands — including water access areas and wildlife areas — unless you have a Vehicle Access Pass that was issued when you purchased a hunting or fishing license.
You can report crowding, trash, or other concerns relating to WDFW sites at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/wdfw-lands/report-conditions.
On May 5, WDFW reopened recreational fishing within standard regulations for highland and lowland lakes, rivers and streams (including the Columbia River and tributaries), and Puget Sound (Marine Areas 5–13). For open fisheries, consult the pamphlet or Fish Washington mobile app — as well as the emergency rule changes webpage — before heading out. To limit travel, non-resident fishing licenses are no longer being sold, and you are asked to hunt and fish locally.
Columbia River crabbing reopened May 26.
Many fishing locations at county and city parks remain closed, and beach access is closed in many areas.
Marine Areas 1–3 reopened May 26 for fishing and shellfishing, with the exception of halibut, which is currently tentatively scheduled to open in August. Razor clam seasons also remain closed. Marine Area 4 reopens June 20, though it’s important to note that Neah Bay, located on the Makah Reservation, remains closed to the public. See the news release for additional details.
Puget Sound saltwater fisheries (Marine Areas 5–13) opened under standard regulations May 5. Puget Sound lingcod is managed as a quota fishery and will be open May 5-June 15. Halibut reopened on May 20, with the first shrimp opener scheduled for May 28. Anglers should reference the fishing pamphlet for the latest information about Puget Sound fishing seasons.
Shellfishing seasons: Recreational clam, mussel, and oyster fisheries reopened June 8 on most Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca beaches and the recreational spot shrimp fishery opened May 28 in some Puget Sound areas, and will open June 11 in others.
The Columbia River is included in the waters that returned to permanent rule on May 5. Because Washington co-manages the river with Oregon, Columbia River salmon fisheries are considered through the Columbia River Compact process, and openings are announced as they are determined. Visit our Columbia River Compact webpage for more information. To receive updates on Columbia River fisheries, you can subscribe to emails.
Guides and charters were authorized to resume operations beginning on May 14, though there are a number of new requirements and restrictions that must be followed, including limiting the number of passengers and wearing protective masks. To learn more, visit our blog post.
WDFW staff continue to stock the state’s lakes as it is essential for the health of our fish that we release them when the habitat and fish conditions are just right. This also makes space at hatcheries for continued rearing programs.
Please avoid overcrowding at stocked lakes as this behavior could lead to our inability to safely manage the resource, and potentially lead to future restrictions.
Marking and tagging fish
Marking and tagging fish continues as it is essential in order to allow commercial and recreational fishing in the future. We aim to mark 100% of what we would normally do.
Spring bear and turkey opened for local hunters on May 5. Please hunt close to home.
Spring bear season will be extended to June 30. Current bear tag holders will receive an email from the WDFW email address firstname.lastname@example.org detailing changes to the season and permit holder’s options if they opt not to hunt the spring season.
Spring turkey season will end on May 31, as originally scheduled.
Prorated turkey licenses will not be offered for the days that weren’t available for hunting. Your license is good for the remainder of the spring seasons and upcoming fall season.
You can get a refund or point restoration if you cannot hunt close to home. You must request a refund and/or point restoration for spring bear season by 4:45 p.m. June 30. Call the Wildlife Program Customer Service desk at 360–902–2515 or email@example.com.
Keep in mind that travel guidance may continue to change this spring which could still allow for spring hunting, and that your turkey licenses and tags are also good for the fall season.
While public lands are open, we ask that you stay close to home. We have no official shed-hunting season. Please practice proper social distancing if you are able to participate locally.
Applying for special hunt permits
Instructions and details on applying for special permit hunts are on pages 16–17 of Washington’s 2020 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet. The application deadline is May 18.
All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 must show proof of hunter education course completion before purchasing their first Washington hunting license. A hunter education certificate is required before hunting this year, as every year. You can find information on the online course at https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/requirements/education/basic.
Students older than age 9 can take the online hunter education course and a Virtual Field Day. The Virtual Field Day replaces the in-person Field Skills Evaluation during the COVID-19 emergency. The entire course takes approximately 10 hours to complete. Students can complete the course in multiple sittings.
It isn’t clear at this time when in-person hunter ed courses will be available. We are monitoring the governor’s guidance closely. Currently, the order asks people not to congregate in groups of ten or more. We will re-evaluate as the order changes.