Washington National Parks Fishing Regulations

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Washington’s national parks feature some magnificent backdrops for fishing in the country, from the glacier-laden crown of Mount Rainier to the mossy labyrinths of Olympic National Park’s temperate rainforests. In these places, it’s possible to cast for trout or salmon while glimpsing Roosevelt elk cracking through the timber and osprey, eagles and river otters targeting the same finned prizes as you.

Fishers find diverse opportunities in Washington's three national parks.

Fishers find diverse opportunities in Washington’s three national parks.

The Parks

Fishers will find opportunities at all three of Washington’s national parks: Olympic, which protects the high country of the Olympic Mountains as well as lowland temperate rainforest and ocean coast; Mount Rainier, including the eponymous peak–highest in the Cascade Range–and its surroundings; and North Cascades, showcasing some of the roughest, iciest mountains in the lower 48 states. Locations for fishing include high mountain lakes, burly glacial rivers and marine waters in Olympic.

Common Species

Washington State and the federal government regulate the major game species targeted in the national parks. These include the famous salmonid species of the Pacific Northwest, including Chinook, Coho and steelhead, which journey between ocean waters and inland rivers; landlocked kokanee and trout inhabit interior lakes. Surf smelt and shellfish can be harvested from the Pacific waters of Olympic National Park. In many areas, like the lakes of Mount Rainier, gamefish have been introduced.

Basic Regulations

Fishing regulations in the national parks synchronize with those of the State of Washington. For example, fishers in the North Cascades National Park Complex–which includes Ross Lake and Lake Chelan recreation areas as well as the park itself–must abide by all state fishing regulations and possess a current state fishing license. In Olympic National Park, you do not need a Washington State Recreational Fishing License except when shore-fishing along the Pacific; salmon, steelhead and shellfish harvesters need other state licenses. There are many park-specific prohibitions that fishers must commit to. For example, as of 2010, Mount Rainier National Park prohibited the harvest of bull trout, Dolly Varden, Chinook and coastal cutthroat trout. All parks feature some areas entirely closed to fishing.


Those fishing from boat must also comply with the individual park’s watercraft regulations. Mount Rainier forbids all motor boats, with non-motorized crafts allowed on most lakes except for Reflection, Ghost, Tipsoo, Shadow and Frozen lakes (as of 2010). All boaters should be sure their crafts are clean when entering the park and transporting them from place to place; boats dirtied with mud and other debris could spread invasive species like zebra mussels throughout these sensitive ecosystems.

More Information

Always check in with park staff for the most up-to-date regulations. All three parks feature extensive websites with fishing information; the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, for example, includes an online fishing guide. Also read the information provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which sets the standard for fishing within the state.


Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the “Observer,” the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.


  • mt rainier image by Lisa Hendrickson from Fotolia.com

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