Washington Expands Fishing License Requirements for Smelt, Crawfish, and Carp

Washington Expands Fishing License Requirements for Smelt, Crawfish, and Carp

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Governor Jay Inslee signed new legislation requiring recreational fishers in Washington to possess a fishing license for freshwater smelt, crawfish, and carp, in an effort to promote sustainable fishing practices and safeguard endangered species. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Tuesday that the law, which removes the fishing license exemption for these species, will take effect Thursday.

WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham noted that as Washington's population grows and recreational fishing activity increases, the strain on natural resources becomes more apparent. The license requirement aims to improve compliance with fishing regulations and 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.

The new requirement will aid in the regulation and monitoring of ESA-listed eulachon (Columbia River smelt), increase compliance with rules regarding the retention of native and non-native crawfish, and help enforce regulations against illegal fishing for ESA-listed salmon and steelhead in overlapping fisheries involving carp.

Current fishing or shellfishing licenses will remain valid, and existing license holders will not see any increased costs. A fishing license will be required to fish for carp, except for Moses Lake and Vancouver Lake, where carp fishing is exempt. Youth under the age of 15 are not required to obtain a fishing license.

Additional information about the need for this license requirement as it relates to each species can be found on the WDFW website's smelt, crawfish, and carp web pages, with more details available in the 2024-2025 annual fishing pamphlet after June 30.

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Governor Jay Inslee signed new legislation requiring recreational fishers in Washington to possess a fishing license for freshwater smelt, crawfish, and carp, in an effort to promote sustainable fishing practices and safeguard endangered species. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Tuesday that the law, which removes the fishing license exemption for these species, will take effect Thursday.

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