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New law expands recreational fishing license requirements

by GABRIEL DAVIS
Staff Writer | June 5, 2024 1:30 AM

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee has signed new legislation requiring Washington fishers to possess a recreational fishing license for freshwater smelt, crawfish and carp, according to a Tuesday release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

The law, which removes the fishing license exemption for each species, goes into effect Thursday, according to the announcement. The license requirement aims to improve compliance with fishing regulations, the statement said. 

“As Washington’s population grows and recreational fishing activity increases, we often feel the strain on our natural resources,” WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham said. “A fishing license requirement can help promote sustainable fishing practices while safeguarding endangered species.” 

This requirement will also provide information on appropriate gear, seasons and species-specific limits, particularly in areas where fish listed under the Endangered Species Act or state Species of Greatest Conservation Need are present. 

According to the announcement, Implementing a license requirement aids in the regulation and monitoring of ESA-listed eulachon (Columbia River smelt), increases compliance with rules regarding the retention of native and non-native crawfish and helps enforce regulations against illegal fishing for ESA-listed salmon and steelhead in overlapping fisheries involving carp. 

Washington fishing or shellfishing licenses will be required to fish for freshwater smelt and crawfish. A fishing license is also required to fish for carp, except for Moses Lake and Vancouver Lake, where carp fishing is exempt from this requirement, the statement said. 

Current fishing or shellfishing licenses will be valid and existing license holders will not see any increased costs, according to the announcement. Youth under the age of 15 do not need a fishing license. Visit the WDFW website for more information about fishing license types and fees. 

To learn more about the need for this license requirement as it relates to each species, visit the smelt, crawfish and carp web pages of the WDFW website. According to the statement, additional information will be available in the 2024-2025 annual fishing pamphlet after June 30.