Rules for mineral prospecting and placer mining

Download the new 2019 Gold and Fish pamphlet

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

Suction dredging is no longer 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.

You may apply for a maximum of five sites within the same watershed, per application. A site is defined as:

  • The length of a registered mining claim, or
  • 1,300 linear feet of stream if the project is not conducted on a registered claim

All suction dredge equipment that has been used in waters outside of Washington State must be inspected for the presence of aquatic invasive species by an authorized WDFW employee or agent before being used in waters of the state. The location of available check stations may be determined by calling the Aquatic Invasive Species Hotline at 1-888-933-9247 or by emailing

Learn more about the HPA application process.

Annual reporting 

Beginning 2021, suction dredgers must submit an annual report to WDFW documenting the previous years’ suction dredging activities by February 1st. Download the Annual Report form (PDF or Excel).

Activities not approved through 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.

Other permissions and permits


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

Other agencies 

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.