The Washington State Sport Catch Report was first published in 1967. The report originally provided salmon catch estimates, which were and still are based on data from catch record cards (punch cards). In 1975, marine fish sport harvest estimates were added to the report, followed by shellfish estimates in 1976. Marine fish and intertidal shellfish sport harvest estimates are based on field and creel surveys. In 1994, with the merger of the departments of Fisheries and Wildlife, steelhead sport harvest estimates were added to the report. Now, catch record card data are collected for salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, Dungeness crab and halibut. The card data is supplemented with field or creel survey data or telephone surveys where available to improve recreational harvest estimate accuracy. The sport harvest estimates for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, marine fish and shellfish are produced at varying times of each year.
The 2015 sport estimates reflect harvest from April 1, 2015, through March 31, 2016. Historically, salmon, sturgeon, halibut, marine fish and shellfish estimates were made on a calendar year basis from January 1 through December 31. Steelhead estimates were summarized from May 1 through the next April 30 to better capture the results of steelhead "run years". Effective January 1, 1999, the sport license system adopted an April 1 to March 31 license year for all species. To adjust to the new reporting time frames, the 1999 sport report included 15 months of salmon and sturgeon catch and 11 months of steelhead catch (May 1, 1999 – March 31, 2000). When comparing past years' sport harvest estimate tables, please note the changes in the license structure and reporting year as described above.
In 2015, the following licenses and catch record cards were required to fish in Washington:
- Saltwater license: Required for saltwater fishing, for all anglers aged sixteen and over. Available for residents, resident seniors (70 and older), and non-residents. Catch record cards required for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and halibut, for anglers of all ages.
- Freshwater license: Required for freshwater fishing, for all anglers aged sixteen and over. Available for residents, resident seniors (70 and older), and non-residents. Catch record cards required for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon, for anglers of all ages.
- Shellfish/seaweed license: Required for harvesters aged sixteen and over. Available for residents, resident seniors (70 and older), and non-residents. Allows the holder to harvest clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, crab, squid, other shellfish, and seaweed. In addition, a Puget Sound crab endorsement and catch record card was required to harvest Dungeness crab in Marine Areas 5-13.
- Combination license: Allows anglers to fish in both saltwater and freshwater and to harvest shellfish and seaweed. Available for both residents and non-residents aged fifteen and over.
Fish catch record cards were required for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and halibut. Each species group could be issued as a separate card, or included together on one card. Separate catch record cards were required for recording Dungeness crab in Puget Sound. Separate crab cards were required for the summer and fall/winter seasons.
In 2001 WDFW implemented the Washington Interactive Licensing Data (WILD) system to electronically capture recreational license issuance information at the point of sale. The catch record card remained the same paper document distributed by sport license vendors, but demographic data about persons receiving the cards became available almost immediately.
Table 1 lists license sales for the license year which ran from April 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016. Table 2 provides counts for the numbers of fish and crab catch cards issued going back to 1971. Table 3 shows the return rate, expansion factor, and non-response bias correction factors for the 2015-2016 cards.