Rules for mineral prospecting and placer mining

Alert: Rule changes are proposed that affect mineral prospecting. Please refer to the HPA Rulemaking web page for more information. 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) regulates most mineral prospecting and placer mining activities through the Gold and Fish pamphlet. These activities qualify as hydraulic projects and require a permit to protect fish (Chapter 77.55 RCW).

Download the Gold and Fish pamphlet

Download a PDF copy of the latest Gold and Fish pamphlet.

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.

Activities outside the Gold and Fish pamphlet

You must apply for an individual HPA to work at times or locations, or with equipment, not allowed in the pamphlet. We will work with you to ensure your proposed activity does not harm fish. You must then follow the provisions in your individual HPA.

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.