Fishing in Washington

How Much Is a Fishing License in Washington? (Regulations and More)

The Pacific Northwest is a perfect destination for tourism thanks to its tall mountains, but anglers love it even more, thanks to its iconic fishing spots. After all, the long Pacific Ocean shoreline does offer exceptional fishing opportunities for anglers worldwide. And one of the states in the region that has always been on my bucket list is the state of Washington, particularly Puget Sound.

A beautiful cutthroat trout caught in Washington
A beautiful cutthroat trout caught in Washington

Puget Sound has one of the world’s longest fjord coastlines, and I was lucky enough to visit the region while in college. That was the first time I tried saltwater fishing, and since then, I have been yearning for the fight King Salmon gave me that day.

So if you love salt and freshwater fishing, you should include Washington’s best fishing spots on your list. But before you leave your hometown, you need to know the price of Washington’s fishing licenses, so let’s dive right in.

  • Annual resident freshwater fishing license (aged 16-69): $29.50
  • Non-resident yearly freshwater fishing license: $84.50
  • Annual resident saltwater fishing license: $30.05
  • Annual non-resident saltwater fishing license: $59.75
  • Annual senior freshwater resident fishing license: $7.50
  • Senior resident saltwater fishing license: $8.50

For more details, here’s a link to Washington’s official website. (source)

Guide Pro Tip: Download a copy of the Washington’s Fishing Regulations onto your phone and double check just to be sure you know. Here’s a Shortcut Link to the Regs. PDF 👉 Washington Fishing Regulations PDF

Does Washington Have Free Fishing?

Yes, the free fishing weekend in Washington is usually the weekend after the first Monday of June every year. And in 2023, the free fishing weekend will be between the 10 and 11 of June. During this weekend, everyone in Washington can take part in all the water sports and fishing without a license. On this day, you don’t require the following:

  • Two pole endorsement
  • Discover pass isn’t necessary on DNR, WDFW, and the State Park water
  • Vehicle access Pass

While you don’t require a license during the Free Fishing Weekend, you must adhere to the fishing rules and regulations. Some of the rules you have to follow include bag limits and size limits. (source)

Can Non-residents Fish for Free on Free Fishing Days?

Yes, anyone can fish for free in all the public waters of the state of Washington. Therefore, you can fish for free before purchasing a Washington fishing license and enjoying the rest of the week.

Guide Pro Tip: Looking for some directions for casting a fly in Washington? Look no further than this article 👉 Where to Fly Fish in Washington

TYpes of Fishing Licenses in Washington

Fishing in Washington - have a license
Fishing in Washington – have a license

Like all Pacific Northwest, Washington has a wide array of fresh and saltwater fishing licenses. So if you plan on doing both, you may have to pay more. Remember, they vary in price depending on the duration and the applicant’s age. For residents, you have to meet the following criteria to apply for a fishing license in Washington:

  • You must maintain a permanent place in the state for at least 90 days before applying for your license.
  • Washington identification card
  • Washington driver’s license
  • Military ID, with a copy of orders indicating that you’re home-based in Washington.

Some of the most popular fishing licenses in Washington include:

Combination Fishing License

If you love saltwater and freshwater fishing and have packed the right fishing gear for both, you should purchase a combination license. This license can even let you collect shellfish and is cheaper than getting two licenses.

Unlike in some states, the combination license of Oregon is available for both residents and non-residents. Anyone over 16 can get an annual combo license, but the price varies with age group and duration.

Saltwater Fishing License

Besides the saltwater state park, Washington State has more than enough opportunities for saltwater anglers. The Puget Sound is one of the country’s biggest saltwater Inlets linked to the Pacific Ocean by the Admiralty Inlet and Juan de Fuca Strait. Therefore, if you want a great fight, you should get a saltwater fishing license.

A saltwater license for adults is $30.05; for senior citizens, it’s $7.50. The non-residents have to pay $84.50 per annum. 

Freshwater Fishing License

Freshwater anglers can reduce expenses by purchasing this option instead of a combination fishing license. The freshwater fishing license for adult residents is $29.50, and for seniors is $7.50. Non-residents have to pay $59.75. With this license, you can explore all the freshwater bodies in Washington, but you may need some validations and endorsement to have more fun with your family members.

Seaweed/Shellfish License

This license lets you harvest squid, clam, sea cucumber, red rock crab, razor clams, octopus, shrimp, sea urchins, and goose barnacles. With this license, you don’t have to worry about a catch record card; you can use it with your fishing license. You can purchase this license together with your freshwater or saltwater fishing license.

Two Pole Endorsement

Together with your fishing license, you may have to purchase this endorsement if you plan on using two-pole while fishing. This endorsement lets you use two fishing poles in certain freshwater ponds, lakes, and parts of some rivers. But you must first get a fishing license before being allowed to get the 2-pole endorsement.

Remember, anglers are allowed to use only one rod at a time, and if found with more than one and you don’t have an endorsement, you could be penalized. You may have to pay a fine; in the worst-case scenario, you could lose your license. Fortunately, you can use two poles in over 90 lakes, and you will need it except during the free fishing weekend. (8)

Puget-Sound-Dungeness-Crab Endorsements

You can add this permit to your combo or seaweed/shellfish license at an additional cost of $8.75. But it does let you harvest these crabs. You will also require catch record cards with this permit.

The table of fishing license costs in Washington. (source)

License typesResidentsNon-resident
Annual Freshwater$29.50$84.50
Annual saltwater$30.05$59.75
Annual combo fishing/ shellfish$55.35$124.65
1-day Combination fishing license$11.35$20.15
2-day combination fishing license$15.75$28.95
3-day combination fishing license$19.05$35.55

Where Can I Buy a Fishing License in Washington?

Biggest King Salmon
Biggest King Salmon

Generally, there are three ways you can get a fishing license, whether you’re in Washington or not. First and foremost, you can purchase one online from the department of fish and wildlife’s official website. (source) All you need are your login details, ID, and credit card details. But you have to create an account first.

Once logged in, you can pick the license you want and checkout and pay using your debit or credit card. After paying for your fishing license, you can print it and carry it with you when fishing. Remember, you must have it on you when fishing.

If you’re already in Washington, you can get your fishing license from the local fish and wildlife department offices. Another option is from the many authorized vendors all over the state. To find the vendor near you, you must click here (source) and find a dealer near you. But remember, you may have to pay a processing and printing fee when you deal with an authorized agent.

How Much Is a Washington Fishing License at Walmart?

Generally, a fishing license will cost the same at Walmart as at any authorized issuing office in the United States. But you may have to pay an issuance or processing fee of about 50 cents. So you will pay $30.00 for the annual resident freshwater fishing license (aged 16-69) and $30.55 for an annual resident saltwater fishing license.

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Where Can I Get the Fishing Regulations in Washington?

Washington has set some unique rules and regulations to maintain all the available species. For instance, most fishing spots are closed to the public for part of the year. And if they are, then you may have to practice catch and release at some point.

Therefore, before leaving the house, you should visit the official site of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. (source) And download the rules and regulations and go through them. (source). For the latest regulations, you can download the Fish Washington app. (source)

What Is the Fishing License Age Requirement for Washington?

Generally, anyone over 15 years needs a fishing license in Washington’s state-operated fishing spots. For residents, the state has a seniors fishing license that anyone over 70 years old can purchase. The senior’s fishing license is cheaper than the one for adults between 16 and 69 years old.

Unfortunately, they don’t have anything for senior non-resident anglers. Therefore, they have to purchase an annual adult fishing license.

When Does Washington’s Fishing License Expire?

All the licenses purchased in Washington State expire on March 31 of the following year. So the fishing licenses purchased in 2022 are valid until March 31, 2023. If you’re planning your 2023 fishing calendar, then you should buy your license as soon as April 1. (source)

A beautiful brown trout fly fishing
A beautiful brown trout fly fishing

Can You Fish Without a License in Washington?

Yes, anyone over 15 can fish for free on the free fishing weekend but must follow the set fishing rules and regulations. But kids below 14 years of age can fish for free all year round, but they need an experienced adult while fishing.

Can You Fish on Private Property Without a License?

Like most American states, you don’t need a fishing license on privately owned land. On the other hand, you need a license to fish on private land under contract. Remember, private lands under contract are limited to endemic wildlife and fish species. But most importantly, you must get written permission from the land owner or supervisor.

You may face prosecution without permission and adhering to the landowner’s rules. My advice is to get permission in writing. I carry a simple pre-printed template that I can amend on the fly (no pun intended). 

What Is the Fine for Fishing Without a License in Washington State?

In this state, most fishing violations don’t have fines anymore and are considered criminal. So you may end up paying a hefty penalty or serve jail time. But how do you know if it’s a crime or an infraction? It becomes a crime when you catch a prohibited species or fish without a license. If you get a ticket from the official, you should look at the amount on the ticket and pay it.

The fine for an infraction is usually about $100, which you can pay. But if you don’t pay and end up with several tickets, you lose the right to purchase a fishing license. If the ticket doesn’t have an amount on it and the officer tells you they’ll send you something in the mail, that means that it’s a crime, and you may need to get a good lawyer.

Fishing without a license is considered a first-degree offense, ordinarily punishable by a jail term of up to 365 days or a fine of over $5000. But for a simple misdemeanor, you can get jailed for 90 days. (source)

What Is the Fishing Season in Washington State?

Generally, the fishing season is open all year round in Washington. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you can catch any species you want at any given time of the year you choose.

You may be surprised to find some fishing spots closed at specific parts of the year, or fishing for certain species may be closed in some water bodies. Therefore, before leaving your house, you should find out which species is in season.

Coho Fishing Season

If you love coho salmon, you should visit some of the best Washington saltwater, rivers, and lakes. Coho salmon river fishing takes place between September and October. On the other hand, saltwater anglers can visit the state in July and October.

Sockeye Fishing Season

Generally, Reds, also known as Sockeye salmon, are freshwater-only fish, especially in the Washington rivers and lakes in the summer months. The peak seasons are in August and July.

Kokanee Fishing Season

The silver trout are landlocked sockeye salmon that you can catch in the fall every year. The best fishing months for Kokanee are between March and June.

Pink Salmon Fishing Season

The Pink Salmon, also known as humpy or humpback, is a common species in Puget Sound rivers and waters. Remember, they’re migratory fishes whose seasons occur in a very odd year, but you should expect to find them in Puget Sound river in September and August.

Steelhead Season

Another common fish species that you can find in several rivers and lakes in Washington is the steelhead. Fortunately, Washington experiences two steelhead runs annually. In summer, you will discover steelhead in June and July. In winter, you can catch them from November to February.

Bottomfish Season

Bottomfish refers to fish species like lingcod, halibut, and several rockfish varieties. In Washington, they can be found along its coasts, with the Halibut season from April to June. You can catch Lingcod in May and June.

Fish SpeciesOpening dateClosed date
Coho salmonSeptemberOctober
Sockeye salmonJulyAugust
Kokanee troutMarchJune
SteelheadJune NovemberJuly February
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Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Fish in Washington?

The state of Washington is a perfect destination for anglers, with thousands of alpine and lowland lakes. It also has hundreds of miles-long coastlines that can guarantee saltwater anglers a memorable weekend. The Pacific Ocean feds several streams and rivers in the region, creating a perfect destination. Some of the best destinations for anglers in Washington include:

Lake Washington

Between Bellevue and Seattle, Lake Washington offers excellent fishing opportunities year-round to fly and traditional anglers. Lake Washington is home to dozen of species, including perch, bass, and rainbow trout. You can also get some seasonal opportunities for fishing steelhead and coho salmon.

You can fish here all year round, but the best months for exploring the lake are for trout and bass during the summer months. Fortunately, several piers on the banks make the lake easy to access.

Guide Pro Tip: Looking for some directions for casting a fly in Washington? Look no further than this article 👉 Where to Fly Fish in Washington

Columbia River and Its Branches

It’s a known fact that there is nothing as picturesque or exhilarating as catching king salmons out of the Columbia. And thanks to the enormous salmons in the region, you have a high likelihood of catching a trophy fish every time you cast your line. Some of its branches, like the Kalama and Cowlitz rivers, can also be a great option risk takers, right below the Bonneville Dam. And if you’re lucky, you may catch a white sturgeon.

Lake Roosevelt

Lake Roosevelt is an artificial 130 miles long lake created after the Grand Coulee dam construction occurred. After all, this dam is a perfect paradise for anyone planning on fishing in eastern Washington. It has over 35 NPS recreational areas along its 660 miles long coastline. Therefore, you can search for your trophy bass, walleye, or Kokanee.

Besides the many fish species, the region is a great tourist gem with unique forest scenery and beautiful mountains.

For more details on where to fish in Washington, please click here. (source)

Can I Fish at Night in Washington?

Generally, if there is no night closure, there are no regulations or rules against it. Therefore, if the river or lake is not closed at night, you can proceed and enjoy night fishing. But make sure your vessel is well-lit and you have the right gear for night fishing. Fortunately, several places are open to the public for 24 hours, and you can easily access them at night.

How Many Fishing Poles Can I Have?

You can use only one line and rod at a time, especially if you own an annual fishing license. But with a two-rod verification, you can use two lines when fishing in all the state-operated fishing spots.

Do You Need a Fishing License in Washington if You’re Over 65 Years?

Yes, both residents and non-resident seniors need a license to fish in Washington. The non-residents can use the standard annual fishing license. On the other hand, senior residents over 70 can apply for a senior angling fishing license or a senior combo. 

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  1. WDFW staff, Fishing license types, and fees, accessed January 11, 2023.
  2. WDFW staff, Free Fishing Weekend, accessed January 11, 2023.
  3. WDFW staff, License dealers, accessed January 11, 2023.
  4. WDFW, Fishing regulations, accessed January 11, 2023.
  5. Washington sport fishing rules, accessed January 11, 2023.
  6. WDFW staff, License System Updates, accessed January 11, 2023.
  7. YouTube contributor, What is the fine for fishing without a license in Washington state? accessed January 11, 2023.
  8. Nikki Cleveland, These 12 amazing spots in Washington are perfect to go fishing, accessed January 11, 2023.
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