Each day in July, hundreds of anglers ply the waters of Brewster Pool of the Upper Columbia River for sockeye salmon. As of Friday, July 12, the count at Bonneville Dam, located near the mouth of the Columbia River, was 721,730 sockeye, surpassing the previous modern-day record of 663,253 set in 2022, and a majority of these fish are destined for the Okanogan River. (Photo by Mark Yuasa)

NEW blog — “The Salmon Fishing Current” provides salmon updates this season

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The Columbia River sockeye count at Bonneville Dam has soared past 700,000, breaking the previous record of 663,253 set in 2022

Washington’s salmon season setting process is one of the most complex fishery management systems in the world, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fishery managers work hard to keep the public informed on sport fishing-related regulations.

The annual salmon season setting process known as North of Falcon is a series of more than a dozen public meetings WDFW hosts. This two-plus month-long process to set the 2024–25 salmon fishing seasons concluded in mid-April with a final fishing package approved in early June. North of Falcon refers to waters north of Oregon’s Cape Falcon and marks the southern border of management of the state’s salmon stocks, including Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Columbia River, and coastal areas.

The work by WDFW fishery managers doesn’t end once the salmon seasons are approved, and the continued efforts to provide marine and freshwater fishing opportunities and in-season updates span nearly every day of the year.

As part of the ongoing summer and fall salmon fishing season, WDFW has created the “The Salmon Fishing Current” blog. This blog is a way to keep anglers informed of any in-season fishing rule changes, emergency closures or other related developments in Puget Sound, the coast and Columbia River. We share your frustration when opportunities for upcoming scheduled seasons change or close sooner than expected, and we hope this blog provides a better understanding of why those changes could occur.

WDFW favors transparency by keeping an open door when it comes to public expectations. We listen closely to the input of everyone, and we take that feedback seriously to help inform and find solutions to our current and future management strategies that best serve the wide array of interested participants, and to the best extent possible, seek win-win outcomes for everyone.

Often, the in-season changes are needed to ensure that conservation goals that aid the recovery of salmon and steelhead are met, including keeping the fishery impacts within the constraints under the Endangered Species Act. We are committed to keeping the public abreast of the rationale.

We hope this increased public interaction that started with our first-ever Town Hall meeting on Jan. 30 along with the Salmon Daily Digest blog during the North of Falcon process and this new blog, can provide information to keep anglers up to date. Visit the WDFW North of Falcon FAQs and Glossary Information for helpful key terms and suggested resources. You can also read more about understanding Puget Sound fisheries management on the WDFW blog. If you have any other ideas to build on our communication in future years, please let us know.

You can follow key developments in the posts below.

This year’s Columbia River sockeye run is one for the record books; Skagit River sockeye fishery also extended through July 24

The 2024 Columbia River sockeye run has officially made history with more sockeye passing Bonneville Dam than in any year since it began operations in 1938. As of Friday, July 12, the count at the dam, located near the mouth of the Columbia River, was 721,730 sockeye, surpassing the previous modern-day record of 663,253 set in 2022.

The lingering question is just how monumental this year’s run will prove to be.

Based on the latest data and projections from multiple Bonneville Dam passage models, the U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has adjusted the expected return of Columbia River sockeye to the river’s mouth to 757,000 fish. This updated figure is more than double the 10-year average of 329,630 sockeye and significantly exceeds this year’s preseason forecast of 401,700. In 2023, the Columbia River sockeye run was 327,600.

With sockeye still being counted at the dam, TAC will meet again Monday, July 15, and is expected to provide further updates on the current run size.

A record run, but concerns remain

Most of the Columbia River sockeye on any given year are comprised of Okanogan Basin sockeye, followed by Lake Wenatchee sockeye. These fish are on a beeline for the upper Columbia River, with nearly 500,000 fish counted at Priest Rapids Dam, the first dam upstream of the Snake River confluence. As of Friday, July 12, 161,479 sockeye have been counted at Wells Dam, their final hydropower hurdle before reaching their spawning grounds in the Okanogan River.

While the upper Columbia River sockeye returns have been robust, concerns remain for Snake River sockeye, a federally listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Preseason forecasts expected a return of nearly 4,000 sockeye, yet as of early July, only 250 fish have been counted at the Snake River’s Lower Granite Dam.

Before the turn of the 20th century, an estimated 150,000 sockeye returned annually to the Snake River basin. However, the populations began declining, leading to the ESA-listing of the species in 1991. The decline was attributed to overfishing, irrigation diversions, migration obstacles, and ongoing threats from hydropower development and water withdrawal.

To protect the vulnerable Snake River sockeye population, fishery managers from Oregon and Washington took joint state action on June 28 to close the retention of sockeye in the Columbia River downstream of the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco. This decision was made after the recreational allocation had been met and to help keep the summer steelhead fishery open. Since the Snake River sockeye is a listed species, non-treaty fisheries are limited to impacting only 1% of the run size. Policies in both Oregon and Washington allocate 70% of this limit to the recreational fishery.

Protecting these ESA-listed fish remains a priority for conservation efforts, highlighting the delicate balance between maintaining robust sockeye numbers and ensuring the survival of vulnerable populations.

Fishing for Columbia River sockeye

Over the coming weeks, sockeye fishing in the upper Columbia River and connected watersheds will heat up, with many fisheries opened as of July 1.

The “Brewster Pool” in north-central Washington is a prime location for sockeye fishing in July. After passing Wells Dam, sockeye gather in the pool near the mouth of the Okanogan River before continuing their journey to spawn in Canada.

Another excellent sockeye fishery is Lake Wenatchee, which is expected to see a return of up to 97,000 fish based on preseason forecasts. Typically open in late July or early August depending on run size, Lake Wenatchee offers clear waters and scenic surroundings that make for an enjoyable fishing experience.

Now you know where to go, but how do you catch them? Best practices will vary from angler to angler, but the information below is a standard sockeye setup:

  • Gear: Using light gear, such as a light-action, steelhead baitcasting rod measuring 8- to 10-feet in length with 20- to 30-pound monofilament or 30-pound test braided line. Sockeye have soft mouths, so a lighter setup helps avoid tearing out the hook.
  • Leaders: Tie your leaders with 20- to 25-pound test and keep them relatively short, typically 12- to 18-inches. A rule of thumb for leaders is one and a half times the length of your dodger.
  • Lures and dodgers: Sockeye are known to bite on small, bright-colored lures such as pink, red, purple, or chartreuse hoochies or spinners with mylar or metal blades, or sockeye flies. Tipping your lure with a whole or small piece of shrimp can also increase your chances of a bite. There’s no need to get fancy with your dodgers — try a 6- to 8-inch metal dodger in silver, pink, or chartreuse.
  • Weight: Getting your gear down to the correct depth is key. Using 2- to 6-ounce weights or downriggers is the easiest way to get your gear down. Sockeye are typically present between 20 to 60 feet depending on the water temperature and time of day.
  • Trolling: While bank fishing for sockeye is possible, the most effective method to catch sockeye is to troll in a boat or kayak. Trolling at slow speeds, around 0.7 to 1.2 mph, is highly effective for sockeye.
  • Timing: Early morning is the best time to fish for sockeye, as they tend to be more active during the coolest part of the day. The best bite typically requires being on the water by 4 or 5 a.m.

Skagit River sockeye fishery extended

The Skagit River sockeye season fishery will remain open from July 16–24 from Skagit River from Highway 536 Bridge (Memorial Highway Bridge) in Mt. Vernon to the Dalles Bridge at Concrete, WDFW fishery managers announced.

“Given the consistent trap numbers observed over the recent week, we see opportunity in this year’s return to continue our in-river recreational fishery, which is great news for anglers that enjoy the river fishery,” said Mickey Agha, WDFW salmon science and policy analyst. “We will continue monitoring the run closely to ensure we meet our co-manager designed conservation goals.”

As of Thursday, July 11, 7,490 sockeye have been transferred to Baker Lake and in-season abundance assessments indicate a return that reflects the strong pre-season forecast.

In the Skagit River section open for sockeye fishing, the salmon minimum size is 12 inches. Daily limit is four sockeye. Release all salmon other than sockeye. Night closure in effect. Selective gear rules are not in effect for salmon.

Anglers should review the 2024–25 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet of Fish Washington app for the water they plan to fish, as well as check the emergency rule changes before heading out. Regulations may be modified in-season as returns materialize.

Four marine areas within Puget Sound open July 18–20 for hatchery Chinook fishing. WDFW will assess Chinook catch and/or encounter information after the initial three-day openers to see if additional Chinook openings may occur based on available quota for each marine area. (Photo by Chase Gunnell)

July 12, 2024 — Four marine areas in Puget Sound open July 18–20 for hatchery Chinook fishing; Chinook daily limit to increase in Marine Areas 4 and 3 beginning July 13

WDFW salmon fishery managers have aligned four Puget Sound summer Chinook fisheries to open July 18–20. They are the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7), northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (Marine Area 9), central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10) and southcentral Puget Sound (Marine Area 11). WDFW will assess Chinook catch and/or encounter information after the initial three-day openers to see if additional Chinook openings may occur based on available quota for each marine area.

· Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) is closed in July for all salmon fishing except July 18–20 when it is open for hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho. The Chinook minimum size is 22 inches. Other salmon species have no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon including no more than one hatchery Chinook. Release all chum, sockeye, wild coho, and wild Chinook. The Chinook catch quota is set at 2,181 (2,181 in 2023), total unmarked encounters is 3,845 (4,258 in 2023), and total sub-legal encounters — Chinook under the 22-inch minimum “keeper” size limit — is 2,141 (2,544 in 2023).

Marine Area 7 is open daily beginning Aug. 1–31 for hatchery coho (no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon. Release all Chinook, chum, sockeye, and wild coho); and Sept. 1–29 for a nonselective coho directed fishery (no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon. Release all Chinook, sockeye, and chum).

· Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) is closed in July for all salmon fishing except July 18–20 when it is open for hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho. The Chinook minimum size is 22 inches. Other salmon species have no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon including no more than one hatchery Chinook. Release all chum, wild coho, and wild Chinook. The Chinook catch quota is set at 3,900 (4,300 in 2023). The northern Hood Canal Fishery within Marine Area 9 has specific closures and restriction, so refer to the 2024–25 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for details.

Marine Area 9 is then open daily Aug. 1-Sept. 23 for hatchery coho (no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon. Release all Chinook, chum, and wild coho); and Sept. 24–30 for a nonselective coho directed fishery (no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon. Release all Chinook and chum).

· Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton Area) is open for hatchery Chinook fishing on July 18–20 only. The Chinook minimum size is 22 inches. Other salmon species have no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon including no more than one hatchery Chinook. Release all chum and wild Chinook. The Chinook catch quota is set at 3,166 (3,566 in 2023), and total sub-legal encounters — Chinook under the 22-inch minimum “keeper” size limit — is 6,477 (7,748 in 2023). There are some pockets of summertime salmon fishing closures within Marine Area 10 and refer to the 2024–25 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for details. Inner-Elliott Bay is also open for Chinook fishing from Aug. 2 through Aug. 5 until 12 p.m. only.

Marine Area 10 is open daily for nonselective coho now through Sept. 30 (no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon. Release all Chinook and chum); and Oct. 1 through Nov. 15 (no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon. Release all Chinook).

· Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) is open for hatchery Chinook fishing on July 18–20 only. The Chinook minimum size is 22 inches. Other salmon species have no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon including no more than one hatchery Chinook. Release all chum, wild coho, and wild Chinook. The Chinook catch quota is set at 3,379 (3,379 in 2023), and total sub-legal encounters — Chinook under the 22-inch minimum “keeper” size limit — is 5,907 (3,845 in 2023).

Marine Area 11 is open daily from Aug. 1-Sept. 30 (Chinook retention may close earlier if the quota is attainted. Chinook minimum size is 22 inches. Other salmon species have no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon including no more than one hatchery Chinook. Release all chum and wild Chinook); and Oct. 1-Nov. 15 (no minimum size restriction. Daily limit is two salmon. Release all Chinook).

Other marine areas currently open for hatchery Chinook salmon fishing are:

· Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point) in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca is open through Aug. 15 for retention of hatchery-marked Chinook and coho only. Through July 7, the estimated legal-size encounters are 1,832 (28% of the 6,539 total guideline).

· Marine Area 6 (East Strait of Juan de Fuca) — west of a true north/south line through the #2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook — is open through Aug. 15 for retention of hatchery-marked Chinook and coho. Through July 7, the estimated legal-size encounters are 637 (6% of the 11,173 total guideline).

Chinook daily limit to increase off northern coast

Anglers fishing in Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh boundary line and Marine Area 3 (La Push) will be allowed to retain up to two Chinook as part of their daily limit beginning July 13 through Sept. 15.

Sufficient Chinook guideline remains in Marine Areas 4 and 3 to expand Chinook retention without risking early fishery closure. Both areas opened for recreational salmon fishing for all species on June 22.

In Marine Area 4, 2,371 (25%) of the 9,430 Chinook guideline and 800 (10%) of the 8,300 hatchery-marked coho quota have been landed through July 7. The total catch per angler trip is 0.52 for all salmon, and 0.44 for Chinook and 0.07 for hatchery-marked coho.

In Marine Area 3, 148 (9%) of the 1,630 Chinook guideline and 87 (4%) of the 2,070 hatchery-marked coho quota have been landed through July 7. The total catch per angler trip is 0.85 for all salmon, and 0.54 for Chinook and 0.32 for hatchery-marked coho.

Coastwide, 5,540 (14%) of the 41,000 Chinook guideline and 9,674 (12%) of the 79,800 hatchery-marked coho have been landed through July 7. The total catch per angler trip is 1.20 for all salmon, and 0.37 for Chinook and 0.83 for hatchery-marked coho.

Marine Area 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores) is closed July 12–13 and then open daily July 14 through Sept. 15 for Chinook and hatchery-marked coho. Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) is open daily through Sept. 30 for Chinook and hatchery-marked coho. Both marine areas could close earlier if quotas are met.

Details on coastal salmon fishing regulations can be found by going to the 2024–25 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. For catch information, refer to the ocean sport salmon report, and the seasonal Puget Sound salmon fishery guidelines and quotas, which are usually updated by WDFW once a week. Visit the WDFW North of Falcon FAQs and Glossary Information for helpful key terms and suggested resources.

The Columbia River sockeye run has been upgraded, but retention remains closed in Lower Columbia. Anglers can still retain sockeye this summer in several sections of the Upper Columbia including the popular Brewster Pool. (Photo by Mark Yuasa)

July 2, 2024 — Sockeye run upgraded, but retention remains closed in Lower Columbia River

Favorable fishing conditions and a strong run of sockeye in the Lower Columbia River provided excellent opportunity for anglers in June. However, despite the increasing number of sockeye counted at Bonneville Dam, sockeye fishing was closed June 28 in the stretch of river downstream of the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco.

The decision to close the sockeye fishery was primarily driven by regulatory constraints and conservation efforts. Specifically, the Columbia River sockeye run includes Snake River sockeye, which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and must not be overharvested. The goal is to protect the vulnerable Snake River sockeye while still allowing some level of fishing activity for other sockeye populations. The listing restricts the non-treaty fisheries’ impact on the sockeye population to 1% of the run size, with concurrency between Oregon and Washington policy allocating 70% to the recreational fishery.

Although the U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) upgraded the Columbia River sockeye run forecast from 401,700 to 568,000 sockeye on June 27, this increase, while significant, did not translate into extended fishing opportunities. As of June 23, the recreational fishery accounted for 3,263 sockeye mortalities, exceeding its initial allocation of 2,812. The recent run size upgrade increased the recreational allocation to 3,976 sockeye, but projected catches from June 24–27 were expected to eclipse the adjusted recreational allocation.

The sockeye fishing closure in the Lower Columbia River was also influenced by the need to manage other fisheries effectively. For instance, keeping steelhead fishing open through July 31 is a priority, and limiting sockeye catches is necessary to achieve this. Balancing multiple fisheries within the constraints of ESA regulations and allocation limits requires careful planning and timely closures to avoid overharvesting fish.

There are several sections of the Upper Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Brewster that are open for sockeye and/or hatchery Chinook fishing. For more information on sections open for salmon fishing and regulations, refer to the 2024–25 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington, in coordination with TAC, will continue to monitor the Columbia River sockeye run to determine if additional opportunity can be considered. To receive updates including emergency rule changes and Columbia River Compact fishery notices, subscribe to our mailing lists.

TAC will meet on July 8 and anticipates updating the sockeye and Upper Columbia River summer Chinook run sizes at that time.

Salmon anglers fishing in front of Sekiu in Marine Area 5, with fog over Slip Point in the background. (Photo by Chase Gunnell)

June 28, 2024 — Marine Areas 5 and 6 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca open for salmon fishing July 1

Anglers can make plans to fish in two marine areas along the Strait of Juan de Fuca that open for salmon fishing starting July 1.

Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point) in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca will open July 1 through Aug. 15 for retention of hatchery-marked Chinook and coho only, release sockeye, chum, wild coho and wild Chinook (if the Chinook retention fishery closes sooner than expected the area will remain open for hatchery coho only). The daily limit is two salmon including no more than one hatchery Chinook. The hatchery Chinook minimum size is 22 inches.

The Marine Area 5 salmon fishery is also open Aug. 16 through Sept. 26, release Chinook, chum, sockeye, and wild coho; and open Sept. 27 through Oct. 15, release Chinook, chum, and sockeye. The daily limit is two salmon with no minimum size.

The 2024 Chinook retention fishery could close sooner if the legal-size (Chinook longer than the 22-inch minimum size limit) encounter guideline of 6,539 is achieved. In 2023, the legal-size encounter was 7,254 with a full Chinook fishing season from July 1 through Aug. 15.

Marine Area 6 (East Strait of Juan de Fuca) — west of a true north/south line through the #2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook — will open July 1 through Aug. 15 for retention of hatchery-marked Chinook and coho; release sockeye, chum, wild coho and wild Chinook (if the Chinook retention fishery closes sooner than expected the area will remain open for hatchery coho only). The daily limit is two salmon. The hatchery Chinook minimum size is 22 inches.

The Marine Area 6 salmon fishery is also open Aug. 16 through Sept. 26, release Chinook, chum, sockeye, and wild coho; and open Sept. 27 through Oct. 15, release Chinook, chum, and sockeye. The daily limit is two salmon with no minimum size.

The 2024 Chinook retention fishery could close sooner if the legal-size encounter guideline of 11,173 is achieved. In 2023, the legal-size encounter was 11,516 with a full Chinook fishing season from July 1 through Aug. 15.

Marine Area 6 east of a true north/south line through the #2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook is open July 1 through Sept. 26 for retention of hatchery-marked coho only, release Chinook, chum, sockeye, and wild coho; and open Sept. 27 through Oct. 15, release Chinook, chum and sockeye. The daily limit is two salmon with no minimum size.

WDFW fishery managers will monitor the Marine Areas 5 and 6 Chinook retention fisheries and provide updates on the WDFW salmon fishery guidelines and quotas webpage. There are many areas currently open for salmon fishing and others will open later in July. Follow this blog for updates or refer to the WDFW Sport Fishing regulation pamphlet for details.

Salmon anglers fishing for Chinook salmon off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma during the Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) opener on June 5, 2024. (Photo by Mark Yuasa)

June 20, 2024 — Additional Marine Area 11 salmon fishing opportunity for remainder of this month and daily limit increases to two hatchery Chinook salmon beginning June 21

Salmon fishing in Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) is open daily for remainder of June and anglers may keep two hatchery Chinook salmon as part of their daily salmon limit beginning June 21.

Estimates of the catch through June 23, indicate the fishery has reached 39% of the hatchery Chinook quota (562 of 1,423), 16% of the total unmarked wild fish encounter (148 of 910) and 2% of the sublegal fish encounter (49 of 2,608) agreed to in the List of Agreed Fisheries.

Between June 5–23 (10 total fishing days), 2,380 boats with 4,650 anglers retained 562 Chinook, and released 133 hatchery Chinook and 143 wild Chinook.

The June season was originally scheduled to be open Wednesdays through Saturdays only from June 5–30, but slower catch rates will allow for additional days of fishing in June. The daily limit is two salmon, and anglers may retain up to two hatchery Chinook. Chinook minimum size limit is 22 inches. Release chum and wild Chinook. In Marine Areas 5 through 13, it is illegal to bring salmon aboard a vessel if it is unlawful to retain that salmon. “Aboard a vessel” is defined as inside the gunwale (upper edge of the side of a boat) and is to reduce further stress or possible mortality.

In 2023, the Marine Area 11 June fishery was open eight days — June 1–4 and June 8–11 — and had exceeded the unmarked “wild” Chinook encounter limit (1,036 of 901) by 15%. The closure was necessary despite remaining under the harvest quota by 69% (988 of 1.423) and 67% of total sublegal encounter limit (1,130 of 1,697).

The 2024 hatchery Chinook retention fishery in Marine Area 11 — from the northern tip of Vashon Island to the northernmost part of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge — is split into two distinct seasons to allow for additional summer fishing.

Salmon fishing in Marine Area 11 will reopen July 18–20. The allowable catch quota during the second half of the season is 3,379 hatchery-marked Chinook and a total sublegal encounter limit of 5,907 fish. WDFW will assess the Chinook catch after the initial three-day opener. Additional Chinook openings in Marine Area 11 may occur in late July based on available quota and it is planned to open for Chinook on Aug. 1.

State fishery managers indicate the two summer segments were modeled separately due to the stock composition found in Marine Area 11 during June and the July to September time frames. This allowed fishery managers to meet all management objectives for stocks of concern and add time on the water. This type of management planning for summer fisheries also occurs in other marine areas. To view the Puget Sound salmon fishery guidelines and quotas, visit WDFW webpage.

State fishery managers indicate the two summer segments were modeled separately due to the stock composition found in Marine Area 11 during June and the July to September time frames. This allowed fishery managers to meet all management objectives for stocks of concern and add time on the water. This type of management planning for summer fisheries also occurs in other marine areas. To view the Puget Sound salmon fishery guidelines and quotas, visit WDFW webpage.

Puget Sound salmon seasons are a result of an annual collaborative state and tribal salmon season-setting process known as North of Falcon and information can be found on the WDFW North of Falcon webpage.

Several other marine areas are currently open for salmon fishing including Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), the Tulalip Terminal Area Fishery (open Fridays through noon Mondays only), Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound) and sections of the Skagit and Cascade rivers. The ocean salmon fishing season opens Saturday, June 22, at Neah Bay, La Push, and Ilwaco (Marine Areas 4, 3, and 1), and June 30 at Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2). Refer to the WDFW webpage or the 2024–25 WDFW regulation pamphlet for additional salmon season details.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.