From bass fishing on inland lakes to salmon charters off the Pacific coast, licensed guides and charter boats offer a wide range of fishing opportunities in Washington State. These licenses are required by law in most cases for anyone who accepts fees to take people fishing or operates a vessel from which people fish.
This document describes WDFW license requirements for guides and charter boats. It also notes some additional licenses and inspections required by other agencies, although it does not purport to include all such requirements for local, state and federal jurisdictions. For additional assistance with WDFW licensing requirements please call (360) 902-2464 (select option 4).
To acquire an application for a non-salmon charter or guide license please contact a customer service representative at WDFW headquarters in Olympia:
||(360) 902-2464 (select option 4)
||WDFW – Commercial License Sales
600 Capitol Way N -- Olympia WA 98501
||1111 Washington St SE -- Olympia WA
Applicant must be at least 16 years of age.
A current copy of vessel documentation or registration is required when a vessel is being designated on a license.
A Salmon Charter* license is required if you accept a fee to take a person fishing for salmon, food fish or shellfish in Marine Areas 1 through 13 (including 2-1 Willapa Bay, 2-2 Grays Harbor, 8-1 and 8-2), Lake Washington, or the Columbia River downstream of the Longview Bridge.
An Oregon charter boat license is equivalent to a Washington charter boat license in the concurrent waters of the Columbia River below the bridge at Longview, provided that passengers are not picked up or dropped off from any point in Washington. Similarly, Oregon guide licenses are equivalent to a Washington guide fishing guide license on the Columbia River upstream of the bridge at Longview, and downstream of the Oregon boundary in Lake Wallula. The same passenger boarding and dropping off restrictions are in place for Oregon charter boats.
Vessel designation required: YES
Resident renewal: $620 Non-resident renewal: $925
*No new Washington salmon charter licenses or angler permits will be issued due to a moratorium on these licenses. However, salmon charter licenses and angler permits can be transferred from one person to another, or bought and sold on the open market.
An Angler Permit shall specify the maximum number of persons that may fish from the charter boat per trip. Only a person who holds a salmon charter license may hold an angler permit.
A Non-Salmon Charter license is required if you accept a fee to take a person fishing for food fish other than salmon, albacore tuna or shellfish in Marine Areas 1 through 13 (including 2-1 Willapa Bay, 2-2 Grays Harbor, 8-1 and 8-2), Lake Washington, or the Columbia River downstream of the Longview Bridge.
Vessel designation required: YES
Residents $330 Non residents $480
A Food Fish Guide license is required if you accept a fee to take a person fishing for salmon, sturgeon or other food fish species in freshwater rivers and streams, except Lake Washington, and the Columbia River downstream of the Longview Bridge, which requires a charter license.
Vessel designation required: NO
Residents $220 Non residents $800
A Game Fish Guide license is required if you accept a fee to take a person fishing for game fish in any state water.
Vessel designation required: NO
Residents $250 Non residents $670
Charter Stamps are available to licensed Charters and Guides. Additional information can be obtained by calling WDFW at (866) 334-9453
A federal permit is required for guides operating on the last ten miles of the Klickitat River, on the Columbia River Gorge. For more information call (541) 308-1700.
Engaging in business activities on Rufus Woods Lake requires a Department of the Army license. Additional information can be obtained by contacting Laura Beauregard via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Chief Joseph Dam and Rufus Woods Lake
Attn: Laura Beauregard
PO Box 1120
Bridgeport WA 98813
If you use a motorboat in your business to carry passengers for hire on federally navigable waters you must be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard and meet certain safety requirements.
Federally navigable waters include many rivers and lakes, such as the Columbia River, Lake Washington, the Skagit River, and others. Puget Sound and all coastal waters are also navigable waters of the United States. Additional information on U.S. Coast Guard Operator’s licenses can be obtained by contacting the U.S. Coast Guard Office in Seattle at (888) 427-5662 or http://www.uscg.mil/nmc
If you use a motorboat in your business to carry more than 6 passengers for hire on waters within the jurisdiction of the state of Washington that are not federally navigable waters, your boat must be inspected annually and the boat operator must be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard or by L&I. Additional information on inspections and operator’s licenses can be obtained by contacting L&I at (360) 902-4956.
A Whitewater River Outfitter License is required for businesses carrying, or advertising to carry, for-hire passengers on whitewater sections of Washington rivers. Additional information on Whitewater River Outfitter License can be obtained by contacting Department of Licensing at (360) 664-1400 or http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/whitewaterriveroutfitter.htmlWashington Department of Fish and Wildlife does not regulate whitewater river guides.
Although not specifically defined by rule, in general, “guide” means a person who, for compensation, offers services to transport, or accompany people in their fishing activities, and instructs them by sharing fishing techniques, expertise and knowledge of the fish and waters being fished. Washington has two categories of guides. Game fish guides can operate statewide, but are limited to offering services relating only to fishing for game fish. Food fish guides offer services relating only to food fish, in freshwater areas, except they may not provide services in Lake Washington or the Columbia River downstream of the Longview Bridge.
"Charter boat" means a vessel from which persons may, for a fee, fish for food fish or shellfish for personal use in those waters to include: the Columbia River below the bridge at Longview, Lake Washington, Puget Sound, Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and Pacific Ocean waters. Applicable waters also include offshore waters and waters of other states.
Food fish include salmon, sturgeon, halibut, bottomfish (such as rockfish and lingcod), forage fish (such as anchovy, herring and sardine), common carp, shad, tuna, mackerel, and others.
Game fish include bass, burbot, catfish, crappie, grayling, perch, northern pike, tiger musky, suckers, sunfish, trout (including steelhead), landlocked salmon (such as chinook and coho salmon, and kokanee in designated waters listed in the Sport Fishing Pamphlet), walleye, whitefish and others.
Shellfish include crab, clams, oysters, mussels, shrimp and others.
More complete lists are available in the Fishing in Washington, Sport Fishing Pamphlet.
Yes, if the class includes on-the-water instruction with gear capable of catching fish.
No. Only a game fish guide may guide for these species.
In either location, you need a limited entry salmon charter license and angler permit.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife does not require insurance, demonstrated competence with a boat, first aid, or CPR training. However, a guide or charter operator will be able to show proof of insurance, current first aid and CPR cards, and if using a motorized vessel, a U.S. Coast Guard license. Passengers are putting their lives in the guides’ hands and should feel free to ask to see his/her qualifications.
In areas where a saltwater fishing license is valid, each fisher aboard a vessel may continue to fish until the daily limit of food fish or shellfish for all licensed anglers and juvenile anglers aboard has been retained. In areas where only a freshwater fishing license is valid, you may not continue to fish for salmon after you have retained a daily limit of adult salmon. However, you may continue to fish for game fish if you have a valid fishing license and catch record card (if necessary) and the guide has a valid game fish guide license.
Yes, as long as you and other person have a valid fishing license and, if required, a valid catch record card.
For salmon caught on charter boats, the roe (eggs) is the property of the angler until the roe is given to the skipper or crew member. The skipper or crew member must notify the angler of this fact.
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Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way N.
Olympia, WA 98501-1091
ATTN: License Division