If you’ve been thinking about doing some fishing, but you’re not sure you want to spring for a license just to fish for a day or two, well Washington State has a deal for you. This weekend fishing is free. That’s right, on Saturday and Sunday, everyone can fish without a license.
The free fishing program, set up over a decade ago, is the State’s way of trying to get more people to try fishing, or get back into fishing. And every year, thousands of Washingtonians go fishing — legally — without a license on “Free Fishing Weekend.”
According to Ron Warren, assistant director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) fish program, this weekend no license will be required to fish or gather shellfish in any waters open to fishing in Washington State.
“We want everyone to have the opportunity to get outside and enjoy all that Washington’s waters have to offer,” said Warren in a news release. “Free fishing weekend is a time that we welcome anyone who is curious about fishing to give it a try.”
In many lakes around the state two fishing rods are allowed if the angler has a permit. This weekend however, anglers will not need a Two Pole Endorsement to fish with two poles in select waters where fishing is allowed. Also, no vehicle access pass or Discover Pass will be required during Free Fishing Weekend to park at water-access sites maintained by WDFW or Washington State Parks.
Whether it is free fishing weekend or not, anglers should always check the current fishing regulations for the lake or river they are wanting to fish. While no licenses are required on Free Fishing Weekend, other rules such as size limits, bag limits, catch record card requirements and area closures will still be in effect.
Area rivers and creeks are now open and are in decent enough shape to fish. So the Yakima, Naches, Tieton and smaller streams in the area might be a good option for fishing this weekend.
And the higher elevation lakes in the region should also be worth fishing. The always popular Clear Lake is one that comes to mind, along with Dog Lake, both located above Rimrock Lake off of Highway 12 near White Pass.
Speaking of Rimrock, the big reservoir is not nearly as low as it was just two weeks ago, and now should be worth trying for the landlocked sockeye salmon that live there.
Friends and I have made three trips to Riffe Lake near Morton, on the other side of White Pass in the past couple weeks and the fishing for landlocked coho salmon in the lake has been very good.
As the weather warms so do water temperatures in many of the reservoirs around Eastern Washington. That means most fish species get more active and more agreeable to bite.
Walleyes and bass in particular are easier to catch this time of year and reports I have heard from some of the lakes in the Columbia Basin show that fishing for both species is picking up. Walleyes are now starting to bite at the upper end of Banks Lake, at Moses Lake, and at Potholes Reservoir.
There are lots of walleye in the Columbia River too, but this year the high water has made the fishing in the big river a bit more difficult although, anglers working some of the waters down around Paterson have been catching some fish.
There are smallmouth bass in all of the same waters and throwing a Rooster Tail spinner or a plastic grub into the rocky shorelines will almost always catch a bass or 2 or 20.
This is the time of year too that bass fishing on the lower Yakima River can get really good. Cooler temps this weekend should have the river in good fishing shape. There should still be plenty of bass in the lower river, including some big ones that have moved up from the Columbia to spawn.
Drifting the lower Yakima in a drift boat or rubber raft will get you access to several miles of river and if the conditions are right it is not uncommon to catch dozens of bass in a day. The hard fighting smallmouth are tough fighters and incredibly fun to catch.
Another option is to head down to the Columbia River near Goldendale, or even farther downstream below Bonneville Dam, and try for a few of the hundreds of thousands of shad that are now migrating up the river. The fish are now streaming over the dam to the tune of 300,000 fish a day.
While not the greatest of eating fish, the feisty little shad are a blast to catch, especially on light tackle.
So, there are plenty of places to wet a line, with a chance at catching a fish or two, if the hankering strikes. And for a little added incentive, no fishing license is needed this weekend. If you’ve been wanting to get out and haven’t wanted to get a license, here’s your chance.