UPDATED: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announces an unprecedented temporary statewide fishing closure to begin at midnight on March 25 19

Mar 25, 2020 by Mark Yuasa

We are living life in a moment where change seems to happen by the minute and this newly implemented ruling will turn the statewide sport fishing world upside down for the time being.

It was just a few weeks ago when many anglers were making spring fishing plans for a last chance winter chinook or booking trips for upcoming lingcod, halibut, trout and spot shrimp fishing openers.

Now all that has changed in response to Governor Jay Inslee’s order to ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ where the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today announced it will temporarily close all recreational fishing and shellfishing statewide.

This is likely the first such measure implemented by a state in order to limit the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19 in the country and is unprecedented as far back as sport fishing history goes.

The closures will begin at midnight Wednesday, March 25 and last until at least 5 p.m. on April 8. WDFW will re-evaluate on April 6 whether the closure may need to be extended.

“This is not a decision we take lightly, but it’s the right thing to do for the health and well-being of Washington’s families,” WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said in a news release. “Monday’s extraordinary order for the residents of our state to stay home requires all of us to work together to ensure these measures have the intended effect.”

Fishery managers have reported that some anglers have been seen crowding banks like the Cowlitz River as concerns over coronavirus have continued.

“We’ve seen an uptick in outdoor recreation at some locations in recent weeks as people have looked for ways to get outside,” WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham said in a news release. “We’ve had reports of crowded boat ramps and busy fishing on some rivers, which runs counter to the governor’s direction to stay home and practice social distancing.”

The news release went on to say, in addition, many salmon and steelhead fisheries require regular monitoring under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which includes conducting angler interviews at access sites surrounding the state’s marine waters. The on-site, face-to-face nature of angler interviews puts people at potential risk of transmitting the coronavirus. Without such monitoring, these recreational fisheries must close to ensure ESA protections.

WDFW and other state agencies previously closed all of their water access sites, including boat launches, and other public lands where people may gather. Local and tribal governments are taking similar actions across Washington.

WDFW Enforcement officers remain on duty and will be enforcing these new closures.

The lowland lakes opening day for trout remains scheduled for April 25; halibut fishing is supposed to open in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and most of Puget Sound on April 16, and the western Strait, Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay on April 30; many Puget Sound salmon fisheries were supposed to remain open through either April 15 or April 30; many parts of Puget Sound were supposed to open May for lingcod; and the spot shrimp fisheries were planned to open in early May.

In other related news reported on Thursday (March 26) that anglers at Sekiu, Port Angeles, Bellingham or the San Juan Island region (any US territory) planning to cross the border into Canada in their boats which is still open for fishing and then come back into US waters is a no-no. Fisheries and Oceans Canada enacted a ruling on March 21 and will be in place for 30 days that all non-essential travel across borders including by water is prohibited to limit the further spread of COVID-19. Once the 30 day time line is reached it will be reviewed by both parties (US and Canada). Canadian border patrol will have boats on the water enforcing this rule.

These are tough times we live in if you’re an angler in Washington, but always keep in mind we need to follow these extreme safety measures to ensure one day we’ll eventually be able to get back on the water.

And hopefully sooner than later. Be safe…


Bradley on Mar 28, 2020 at 7:05 pm said:

I want my fishing license fees refunded! You have gone to far with our money and never done this state any good.

Patricia on Mar 28, 2020 at 2:55 pm said:

This is B.S. some of us fish for food to feed our family fresh! I'd rather be on my boat catching my own dinner than have to go shopping with strangers that may be infected! Are they going to close hunting season too? SHMD wake up people!

Patricia on Mar 28, 2020 at 2:51 pm said:

This is not Ok! Some of us fish for food, and right now durring this crisis I'd rather be fishing in my own boat than shopping with strangers! What's next? They close hunting season too? Smdh Wake up people!

Matthew on Mar 27, 2020 at 8:27 pm said:

I think it is about time we start boycotting WDFW and license sales in this state. Time to take the only thing they care about away $$$$$$. I can not think of a better way to practice social distancing than to climb on a boat with your family and enjoy the outdoors.

Rick on Mar 26, 2020 at 10:27 pm said:

Ridiculous, I demand a complete refund of my paid fishing licence I only fish for spring chinook and have invested hard earned money now you've closed it ...

Gary on Mar 26, 2020 at 6:16 pm said:

More fish for the Indians. Who haven’t closed the casinos.

Caleb on Mar 26, 2020 at 5:19 pm said:

Can we still fish off our property banks’?

Robert on Mar 26, 2020 at 2:13 pm said:

This is bull shit

John on Mar 26, 2020 at 12:05 pm said:

I had a wild life officer Fish Commission Young boy harass me on the river about my 2019 license. He put his hand on his gun because he was so afraid and commented that I was a very nice person so it was only giving me $167 fine. This was just a few days ago so me and the wife just wanted to go fishing alone and not be harassed. This child got in our face and then demanded our driver's license which he did not have gloves and he did not have a mask but he took bar licenses handed them back to what it was about a foot away from us the whole time. We are going to sue that department and get rid of that child's badge and gun getting a fine for not having the right year license is ridiculous at this time where would I buy one? We don't have a printer in the woods. Plus they didn't stock and I paid for all those fish last year with my 2019 license. Thought the license when from fishing season to fishing season. December to December. No warning he just gave us a fine acting like Mister tough guy then when running after a bunch of children fishing. The president literally just finished telling everyone we need money in the hands of the people in this child gives us a fine what a loser

Scott on Mar 26, 2020 at 5:24 am said:

So Mark does this include private docks? I live on on fish in Chelan county.... ice just came off and fishing been great....

Tim on Mar 26, 2020 at 4:42 am said:

Has to be the stupidest think I've ever heard of!!

Jerry on Mar 26, 2020 at 3:41 am said:

WDFW are assholes! People have the right to fish and get food to eat. It has nothing to do with the virus!

Dale on Mar 26, 2020 at 2:47 am said:

If the boat ramps and rivers are too busy then shut them down but not the entire state. Some boats are in the water and fishing the wide open salt water areas. This state is insane. No sense in buying a new license here.

Ronald on Mar 26, 2020 at 2:09 am said:

Stupid is as stupid does.

Bradley on Mar 26, 2020 at 2:09 am said:

What about the commercial gillnet fishery? Is that closed also?

Dean on Mar 26, 2020 at 1:48 am said:

So you can’t go fishing by yourself because?????....

Pissed off on Mar 26, 2020 at 12:47 am said:

It's ok to play golf but not to fish. That's unfair bullshit for sure.

peter on Mar 26, 2020 at 12:46 am said:

I don't get it, is this april 1st fool' day

Mark Reynolds on Mar 26, 2020 at 12:42 am said:

With this recreational fishing closure , the fees for the new 2020 combo fishing licenses should be waived?


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