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What to catch

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From Puget Sound shrimp to mighty Columbia River sturgeon, Washington fishers have a wide range of choices. Although there are dozens of fish and shellfish species to choose from, beginning fishers are likely to find the best chance of success with these species:

  • Trout:  Lake fishing for trout is Washington’s most popular kind of angling. Rainbow trout are most common, but many lakes also contain other species such as cutthroat trout and brown trout. With more than 7,000 lakes statewide, anglers are likely to find one or more fishing spots close to home.  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) stocks lakes with millions of hatchery-reared trout each year, so the chances of coming home with fish are good.  Check WDFW’s fish stocking plans  (also known as “fish plants”) to see which waters are due to receive fish. 

  • “Warmwater” fish: Species of freshwater fish that bite best when the water warms up, warmwater fish include perch, bass, burbot, crappie and sunfish. Warmwater fishing is available in various areas of the state, and is particularly popular in eastern Washington. Warmwater fishing is open year-round on most rivers and lakes, but these scrappy fish generally start biting in late spring as the weather warms up. The best fishing is during summer months.

  • Clams/oysters: Puget Sound’s gravel beaches are home to a variety of clams (Manila, native littlenecks, butter, cockles, eastern softshell, geoduck and horse clams), and two species of oysters (Pacific and Olympia).  Digging opportunities vary depending on the shellfish species and location. Before digging, check the state Department of Health’s shellfish safety information to be sure your intended harvest is safe to eat.  Razor clams are found on Pacific coastal beaches.  Even in winter, as many as 20,000 people may descend on five designated coastal beaches to dig these meaty mollusks.  WDFW announces digging opportunities in advance, after beaches have been tested for marine toxins

  • Saltwater fish: Dozens of public piers and docks provide access to saltwater fishing areas from Bellingham to Ilwaco.  While dock anglers are unlikely to catch a record-breaking salmon or halibut, they do reel in their share of salmon, sole and other fish.  At night, public piers in Puget Sound are an ideal place to jig for squid (known to diners as calamari.).  Crab fishing is also extremely popular in Puget Sound in summer and fall.  Also check out the recreational salmon fishing website for more information.