Rules for mineral prospecting and placer mining

Mineral prospecting and placer mining activities in or near water qualify as hydraulic projects and require a permit to protect fish (Chapter 77.55 RCW). The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) regulates most of these activities through the Gold and Fish pamphlet. Those methods that are not authorized through the pamphlet require an individual Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA).

New suction dredging requirements: individual HPA and annual reporting 

Effective November 1, 2019, suction dredging will no longer be approved through the Gold and Fish pamphlet. New rules require that all types of suction dredging may only be conducted after prospectors are issued an individual HPA. Beginning 2021, suction dredgers must submit an annual report to WDFW documenting the previous years’ suction dredging activities by February 1st.

By November 1, 2019, we will have further information about how to apply for suction dredging HPAs under the new rules. 

Activities not approved through the Gold and Fish pamphlet

As with suction dredging, if you want to work at times or locations, or with equipment, not allowed in the pamphlet you must first get an individual HPA. We will work with you to ensure your proposed activity does not harm fish. You must then follow the provisions in your individual HPA to ensure compliance with the law. Learn more about the HPA application process.

Download the Gold and Fish pamphlet

Download a PDF copy of the 2018 Gold and Fish pamphlet (valid through November 1, 2019).

How to use the Gold and Fish pamphlet

  • Save or print the pamphlet or request one from a WDFW office.
  • Decide where you want to prospect or mine.
  • Review the rules that cover your work:
    • Mineral Prospecting in Freshwater Without Timing Restrictions.
    • Mineral Prospecting in Freshwater With Timing Restrictions.
    • Mineral Prospecting on Ocean Beaches.
  • Obtain any additional permits from other agencies before starting work.
  • Follow pamphlet rules.

Other permissions and permits


You must get permission from landowners before prospecting on their property.

Other agencies with an interest in mineral prospecting

Several other federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies may have their own requirements pertaining to water rights, mining claims, etc. The Gold and Fish pamphlet explains other agencies' interest in prospecting and placer mining and provides contact information.

Learn about other required permits from the Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance.