New Washington law requires fishing license for smelt, crawfish and carp


Outdoor recreationalists accustomed to pursuing freshwater smelt, crawfish and carp without a fishing license should take note: Gov. Jay Inslee has signed new legislation requiring Washington anglers to acquire a recreational fishing license. 

The law, which removes the fishing license exemption for each species, goes into effect June 6.

According to a news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the license requirement aims to improve fishing regulation compliance. 

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 (ESA) or state “species of greatest conservation need are present, according to WDFW.

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

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 the requirement. Temporary licenses are valid.

Current fishing or shellfishing licenses will be valid, and existing license holders will not see any increased costs. Youth under the age of 15 do not need a fishing license.

Visit for more information about fishing license types and fees.

According to WDFW, implementing a license requirement serves multiple purposes: it aids in regulation and monitoring of ESA-listed eulachon, also known as 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.

Additional information will be available in the 2024-2025 annual fishing pamphlet after June 30.