Washington truly is a spectacular place not only to live but also to fish. It has high mountain peaks, scenic rivers, and beautiful valleys that run down to the ocean. If you’re considering where to take your next destination fishing trip, then the ‘Evergreen State’ could be the perfect place to go.

In Washington, you’re spoiled for choice, with both freshwater and saltwater angling on the menu, so be sure to bring all your tackle with you. However, before rushing out with your fishing rod and tackle box, it’s essential that you do a little homework. After all, it can save you a lot of time if you already know which areas are worth spending a little time on and where it’s best to avoid.

One great thing about Washington is that it offers fishing year-round thanks to the diverse marine life and fish on offer in the salt and freshwater. In the Washing fishing season guide below, we’ll cover all the different fish species on offer and, most importantly, when the best time to catch them is! There are some great opportunities for angling enthusiasts planning to go fishing in Washington. In the following Washington Fishing Seasons guide, we’ll cover:

If you love fishing, you’ll love this article, Unlocking the Secrets of Perfect Fishing Weather: Best Conditions for a Great Catch, which covers tips and valuable information on when the best time to hit the water is to increase your chances of catching a fish.

Finding yourself a fishing spot in Washington is easy because there are so many, but finding the best fishing spots, such as those secret local hotspots, is a little bit harder. Without intricate local knowledge, you’re up against the odds. Every angler needs a little help if they want to catch some monster fish on their next Washington fishing trip. 

That’s why you’ll need the premium fishing app. Thanks to the Fishbox App, you’ll know the perfect season to plan your destination fishing trip to Washington, including when your target species is most active.

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Expert Opinion on Washington Fishing Seasons

Pierce Latta

16 years fishing experience

“Fishing in the state of Washington has been on my bucket list for a long time. It has one of the most unique fisheries in America and to me is a closer and tamer version of Alaska. Reading this article simply excited me even more and I can’t wait to make the trip there one day. One of the biggest things this article emphasizes is the dual threat nature of Washington in that it has both a fresh and a saltwater fishery. And as an angler that loves to fish both types of water myself, this is a huge benefit. I mean just think (and no offense to the people landlocked in the middle of the country), wouldn’t it be tough to only be able to fish fresh or saltwater in your home state. I feel like I would get bored of one or the other and then I wouldn’t get to see the true beauty of the creation that God has blessed us with. One of the very first things the article touches on is a month-by-month breakdown of the bite of different fish species. Once again, I’ve said this a million times—please don’t take this resource for granted! It wasn’t just pulled out of nowhere; this chart is here due to a substantial amount of research behind the scenes. Use this to figure out what to fish for, when to plan your trips and other things like the gear you should take based on the fish species you want to target at a certain time during the year. I may be a little biased because I’ve gotten to fish for salmon before, but if I can offer you any advice, try and target salmon at least once in your life. Not only are they great table fare, but they also provide an excellent fight, they’re fun to target, and there are plenty of them around. Another cool thing the article looks at is the regulations for fishing in Washington. As someone who has been stopped in another state when fishing, please buy the license. Do me a favor and avoid the dumb tickets and fines. It’s also not like you’re putting money into someone’s pockets when buying a license, instead, it’s going to support conservation efforts to keep the fishery you’re fishing alive and healthy. In the final part of the article, we are provided with a more in-depth look at four species: trout, salmon, halibut, and steelhead. Use this extra information to your advantage when targeting any of these 4 species. The article even provides information about bait, tackle, seasons to fish, and more. And again, you’re probably getting tired of me saying this at this point, but please do your research. This article is great, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t expect to read an article and become an expert immediately. And more importantly, you need time on the water to dial in your skills so you can become the best angler that you can be. I hope this article was helpful to y’all and as always, good luck and tight lines!”

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Washington Fishing Calendar

Below, we have prepared a comprehensive Washington fishing season calendar which will show you when the best month is to fish for your target species. While there is fishing available year-round in Washington there are peak times when your chances of catching a particular species are better.

Be sure to check out the regulations section below to ensure that you have the correct license before you drop a line in the water.

Washington Fish SpeciesJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Chinook SalmonGoodGoodFairFairPoorGoodGreatGreatGoodPoorFairGood
Coho SalmonPoorPoorPoorPoorPoorGoodGreatGreatGreatGoodFairPoor
Sockeye SalmonPoorPoorPoorPoorPoorGoodGoodGoodFairPoorPoorPoor
Steelhead/Rainbow TroutGreatGreatGreatGreatGreatFairFairFairGoodGreatGreatGreat
Cutthroat TroutPoorPoorGoodGreatGreatGoodFairFairGoodGreatGoodFair
SturgeonFairFairFairFairGoodGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatFairFair
BassPoorPoorPoorGreatGreatGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatGoodPoor
WalleyePoorPoorGoodGreatGreatGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatPoorPoor
SquidGreatGoodFairFairFairFairFairFairFairGreatGreatGreat
Dungeness CrabGreatGreatGreatGoodGoodGoodGoodGoodGoodGreatGreatGreat

Planning is key to a successful fishing trip in Washington. While you can catch fish year-round, fishing during the peak season will significantly improve your chances of catching your target species and getting the most out of your destination fishing trip.

Below, we’ll break down each month to give you a clear idea of when the best time is to go fishing in Washington.

January Fishing in Washington

Like most northern states, January is considered the offseason or slow fishing season in Washington. While there are still plenty of fish in the sea and streams, you need to be specific about what fish species you’re targeting and where you plan on fishing.

If you like the idea of trying ice fishing, then some lakes may already be frozen, but always check the ice thickness first or go fishing with someone familiar with the area. There’s some great Trout, Perch, and Crappie action to be had in Roosevelt, Rat, and Molson Lakes.

Squids are popular with local anglers, along with Crabs. If you’re chasing Steelhead, there’s some hot winter Steelhead action in the Skykomish River. However, you can only keep hatchery fish, not wild fish, so look for the clipped fins on the hatchery fish. 

February Fishing in Washington

The ice on the lakes should be thicker, and the winter ice fishing will be in full swing. Small lakes throughout the state offer plenty of great winter angling for Trout, Crappie, Perch, and Kokanee. If you’re chasing Steelhead, the Upper Columbia River is a great destination, along with the Sauk and Skagit Rivers.

If you head out into Puget Sound, you can chase those sea-run Cutthroat Trout, but a lot of the saltwater fishing is on hold due to poor weather and low fish activity.

March Fishing in Washington

March brings with it a lot of changes to the Washington fishing scene. Marine areas 10 and 11 open in Puget Sound for Chinook Salmon on the 1st day of the month. A charter boat is a great way to get into the action, but be sure to book early to avoid missing out on a trip. Bottom fishing for Lingcod, Rockfish, and Flatfish will also be productive.

As the weather gets warmer, insects start hatching, and if you love fly fishing, you’re in luck in March. Yakima River is a great fly-fishing destination for Trout.

April Fishing in Washington

The fishing will start to improve across Washington as the weather warms up. For Trout enthusiasts, that means it’s time to start hitting the lakes, rivers, and streams. If you like Bass, then get out there and start fishing!

In the saltwater, there are Lingcod, Rockfish, and Halibut to be caught in early April. Most of the Puget Sound Marine Areas are still closed for Salmon fishing but keep a close eye on the regulations for opening dates.

May Fishing in Washington

Much like April, there are still some great freshwater angling opportunities in Washington. You can expect some fantastic Trout fishing along with big Bass. Towards the end of the month, you can expect to start seeing Kokanee and Walleye.

Out on the ocean, more Marine Areas open for Salmon, and there’s always bottom fishing for Rockfish and Halibut along with Lingcod.

June Fishing in Washington

The peak fishing season in Washington has finally arrived, and along with it, so has the hot weather. King Salmon, Smallmouth, and Largemouth Bass Walleye are all prowling the water, hungry and aggressive.

Out in Puget Sound, it’s your last month to reel in some giant Halibut, so take advantage while you still can. Salmon are moving, and around June and July, there’s a very small Coho Salmon retention period.

July Fishing in Washington

If you can only plan one fishing trip to Washington, then July is going to be the best month to do it, as it’s the peak fishing month of the year. Chinook Salmon are pouring through Puget Sound, so now is the time to get out after them. A fishing guide is your best bet to find one of these fantastic fish.

Out on the freshwater, Smallmouth Bass are going strong, along with Salmon, Lake Trout, and Rainbow Trout in the deep water. Check local regulations to find out where you can catch a summer Steelhead.

August Fishing in Washington

The fantastic fishing of July continues in August. Sockeye, Chum, Chinook, and Coho Salmon are all running in Puget Sound. Every other year, Pink Salmon also joins the party. Be sure to check which Marine Areas are open or closed. If the Salmon aren’t biting, try some bottom fishing for Rockfish or season Halibut if the quota isn’t fulfilled.

September Fishing in Washington

September is still a great month to get out on the water in Puget Sound and chase those big Salmon. The Chinook Salmon may be gone, but there’s still Coho and Pinks around.

As the temperatures drop, the fly-fishing action starts to pick up, and the Bass will be moving into the shallows. The bigger lakes are your best bet for large Bass, while rivers and streams across Washington are better for Trout.

October Fishing in Washington

If you’re hitting the water in October, it could be your best chance to get some reliable fishing in before the weather starts to mess you around. Washington’s wet season will be in full effect come November, so get out fishing while you still can.

There’s still plenty of Trout and Bass for freshwater anglers, and in the Western part of Washington, you can chase Coho Salmon. 

November Fishing in Washington

There’s a good chance it’s raining in Washington in November, so bring your wet weather gear if you’re going fishing. The large lakes will be less impacted by the rain, so if you’re patient and pick your window, you can still get some great fishing in.

The rain won’t put off large Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout, so get your Trout gear out and get fishing! Winter Steelhead will start to arrive, along with some delicious Squid! Just watch out for that black ink. It stains!

Read also: Fishing After Rain: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Post-Rain Fishing

December Fishing in Washington

Steelhead fishing is the big attraction in Washington in December, as long as you don’t mind the cold and wet weather. Smaller lakes will start to freeze in December if it’s been cold enough, but be sure and check the ice thickness before venturing out onto any unknown frozen lakes.

Key Regulations and Guidelines

Washington offers a variety of fantastic fishing opportunities for residents and non-residents alike. From the deep water of Puget Sound to the many lakes and rivers, there’s a variety of freshwater and saltwater angling opportunities. However, it’s essential that you not only purchase a fishing license but also check local regulations for season openings and closings.

Everyone over the age of 15, residents and non-residents, must have a fishing license before fishing in Washington. 

Before fishing, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife encourages all anglers to follow these three steps:

  1. Download and read the Annual Fishing Pamphlet, which will detail all the regulations and rules for the state of Washington.
  2. Check for any Emergency Rule Changes that could affect the species you are targeting or fishing locations you plan on fishing in.
  3. Download the Fish Washington Mobile App, which will give you up-to-date fishing information and regulations directly to your smartphone or tablet.

If you plan on fishing for Salmon, Sturgeon, Halibut, Steelhead, or Dungeness Crab, then your fishing license will include a catch record that details your harvest. Everyone, including people under the age of fifteen, must carry a catch record with them while fishing. Catch record cards must be returned to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife by the prescribed deadline, even if you didn’t land any fish.

Buying a fishing license in Washington is easy. You can purchase a fishing license online via the online portal or visit a local licensed fishing license retailer. It can take up to 10 days to receive your physical license, but if you link your email address, you will receive a temporary license via email.

If you need your license or physical catch card earlier than ten days, it’s best to purchase your license in person.

When is Salmon Season in Washington?

With so many Salmon fishing opportunities in Washington, anglers really are spoiled for choice and in for some excellent fishing. While you can catch Salmon almost year-round in Washington, King Salmon and Coho Salmon are the two most targeted species in Puget Sound.

The Winter Salmon season typically runs from March through to April, and the Summer Salmon season runs from June through to October.

It’s important to note that the Winter Chinook Salmon season can close early if the quota is caught, so get out on the water early to avoid missing out. If the season does close early, there’s always plenty of other fish species to target, so you’ll never go home empty-handed when you fish in Washington.

One of the best ways to ensure that you really mix it up with the Salmon in Washington is that a charter boat is a great option. With their local experience and knowledge, they’ll be able to give you the best chance of landing a big Salmon. Who knows, you may even catch a state record Salmon and get your name in the record book!

Halibut and Trout Seasons

Halibut is considered by many anglers and diving enthusiasts as one of the best table fish in the world, and if you’re planning a fishing trip to Washington, then you can’t go out after a monster Halibut.

Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, and the Straight of Juan de Fuca are all great places to land one of these impressive fish.

The Halibut fish stocks in Washington are carefully managed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which is a collaboration between USA and Canadian fisheries managers to ensure that these migratory fish are not overfished in any marine waters.

The Halibut season in Washington is designed to give anglers as many fishing days as possible in each area while also sticking to the maximum harvestable quota. Some Marine Areas have a poundage quota for Halibut, and once that quota has been caught, then that Marine Area will be closed to Halibut fishing for the year.

2024 looks like an excellent year for Halibut fishing in Washington in all open marine waters. However, you’ll need to plan your trip carefully in advance and get in early to avoid missing out because the quota has already been filled.

You can check out the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife for more information about Halibut fisheries and quotas.

Halibut Fishing Tips

Below are some great Halibut fishing tips if you’re new to catching these big fish:

  • Familiarize yourself with the area you plan on fishing before you fish. Check maps, currents, and bottom habitat. Be sure to check the WDFW before fishing to ensure the quota hasn’t been filled out, and you have the appropriate license.
  • Fresh bait such as Herring, Salmon Belly, Squid, and Octopus will give you the best chance of success.
  • If one bait or lure isn’t working, try something different to determine what the fish are biting. Just because it worked once doesn’t mean that it’ll work again.
  • Adjust your depths. If one depth isn’t producing any action, try altering where you’re dropping your bait or lure.

Steelhead Fishing Season

Steelhead can be found throughout Washington, in the lakes, rivers, and saltwater areas surrounding the Evergreen State. The Steelhead is the State Fish of Washington, and you can find out more information about the healthy Steelhead fishery by visiting the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife website here

There are two Steelhead runs each year in Washington. The winter Steelhead run goes from November to February. If you prefer fishing in warmer weather, you can chase Steelhead during the summer run in June and July. 

While Steelhead and Rainbow Trout are the same species, Rainbow Trout are a freshwater fish only. On the other hand, Steelhead are anadromous, which means that they transition from freshwater to saltwater. Unlike a lot of Salmon, Steelhead survive their spawning season and often spawn for multiple years.

If you’re new to Steelhead fishing, a bobber or jig bait is a good technique for catching Steelhead. When the floating bobber sinks, you know it’s time to set the hook and get ready for a fight!

Washington Fishing Seasons: Your Comprehensive Guide – Conclusion

Now you’ll have a much clearer idea of the Washington fishing seasons, including our comprehensive Washington fishing calendar, key regulations, and guidelines for fishing in Washington, when Salmon season starts, the perfect time to chase monster Halibut, and even when to plan your Steelhead fishing trip.

Washington has an extremely healthy fishery, and as anglers, we all need to do our best to ensure that it stays that way. When you purchase your Washington fishing license, a percentage of license fees go directly back into preserving fish species, boat ramps, conservation, and biology studies.

By being responsible anglers, we’re ensuring that future generations of anglers will be able to enjoy fishing in Washington just like we have.

By utilizing the advanced technology in the Fishbox App, you’ll be able to track weather conditions accurately and predict the best times to hit the water when planning your fishing excursions in Washington. It combines predictive fish behavior with weather, lunar, and tidal conditions to deliver optimal fishing opportunities in Washington, regardless of whether you’re going fresh or saltwater fishing.

Get your personalized fishing map

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The Fishbox App was developed in collaboration with accurate weather data and expert fish behavioral analysis. These advanced forecasts will significantly increase your catch rate while reducing your time on the water. Take your fishing to the next level thanks to the expert advice from the Fishbox App team.

If you’ve fished in Washington or planned a Washington fishing trip and would like to share your knowledge, tips, and advice with other anglers planning their destination fishing trips, then drop a comment below. We’d love to hear from you, and we’re sure other anglers would appreciate it too!

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