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Download a PDF version of the Gold and Fish Pamphlet


Gold and Fish
Rules for Mineral Prospecting and Placer Mining

Gold and Fish:
Mineral Prospecting & Placer Mining Rules

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

Mineral prospecting and placer mining have been popular in Washington state since territorial days. If not conducted properly, however, these activities can be detrimental to fish and their habitat.

Since 1980, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has regulated most freshwater mineral prospecting and placer mining activities through the Gold and Fish pamphlet, which can be printed directly from this page. 

The pamphlet, a type of Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA), serves as your permit for the freshwater and ocean beach mineral prospecting and mining activities described in it. No application or fees are required, although you must follow the rules outlined in the pamphlet and in some cases carry it with you in the field.

Basic steps for using the Gold and Fish pamphlet

  • Print out the pamphlet from this website or request one from a WDFW office.
  • Decide where you want to prospect or mine.
  • Decide what type of equipment you want to use.
  • Find the waterbody in the work time table to see when the location is open for work and if you need a separate, written HPA.
  • See if you need to work under “Mineral Prospecting Without Timing Restrictions”, “Mineral Prospecting With Timing Restrictions” or “Mineral Prospecting on Ocean Beaches”.
  • Obtain any additional permits you may need from other agencies before starting work.
  • Follow the provisions in the pamphlet.

Obtaining landowners’ permission, other permits
Be aware that the Gold and Fish pamphlet satisfies only WDFW’s requirements to conduct mineral prospecting or placer mining operations. It does not, however,  relieve you of the responsibility of obtaining landowners’ permission before prospecting on their property.

In addition, other federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies may have their own requirements that must be met before you can legally prospect or mine in areas under their jurisdiction.

The Gold and Fish pamphlet includes contact information for local jurisdictions and tribal governments that may require permits. Additional information is available from the Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance at (800) 917-0043.

Alternative types of HPAs
If you want to conduct mineral prospecting or mining activities at different times or locations, or with different equipment than allowed in this pamphlet, you must apply for a separate, written HPA. The same is true for mineral prospecting or mining activities in marine waters.

You will receive an HPA if WDFW can determine that your proposed activity does not harm fish life. In that case, you must follow the provisions in your HPA and obtain any permits you may need from other agencies before starting work.

Information about required permits other than HPAs is available from the Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance at (800) 917-0043 or send an email to help@ora.wa.gov.