New law requires recreational fishing license for freshwater smelt, crawfish, and carp

June 4, 2024

OLYMPIA, WA – Governor Inslee has signed new legislation requiring Washington fishers to possess a recreational fishing license for freshwater smelt, crawfish, and carp. The law, which removes the fishing license exemption for each species, goes into effect June 6, 2024.

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 (SGCN) are present.

“As Washington’s population grows and recreational fishing activity increases, we often feel the strain on our natural resources,” said Kelly Cunningham, Fish Program Director with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “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 this 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 the WDFW website for more information about fishing license types and fees.

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.

To learn more about the need for this license requirement as it relates to each species, please visit the smeltcrawfish, and carp webpages. Additional information will be available in the 2024-2025 annual fishing pamphlet after June 30, 2024.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish, wildlife, and recreational and commercial opportunities.

Fishers must have a current Washington fishing license, appropriate to the fishery. Check the WDFW "Fishing in Washington" rules pamphlet for details on definitions and regulations. Fishing rules are subject to change. Check the WDFW Fishing hotline for the latest rule information at 360-902-2500, press 2 for recreational rules. For the Shellfish Rule Change hotline call toll free 866-880-5431.

Request this information in an alternative format or language at, 833-885-1012, TTY (711), or