After two months of closures due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington, many of the state’s coastal waters reopened for fishing on May 26.
Marine areas 1-3, including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, will open for bottomfish, shellfish, mussels, clams, oysters, and other species as described in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. Crabbing on the Columbia River is also set to resume under normal regulations on May 26.
Halibut and razor clam harvest will remain closed in these areas for now due to continued port closures and concerns about the spread of coronavirus in local communities.
Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) also remains closed to all recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting.
Washington Department of Fish And Wildlife continues to communicate with public health experts, port commissioners, and tribal co-managers regarding these opportunities in the future.
“We’ve continually said we will only open fisheries when local communities feel it is safe to do so, and with the full cooperation of public health officials,” said Larry Phillips, director of WDFW’s coastal region. “While not everything is reopening right away, this is a huge step toward returning to typical fishing seasons along the coast. Some of Washington’s best fishing takes place in the ocean, and we’re excited to see people getting back out there, even if the experience is somewhat different.”
The open marine areas include waters off Washington’s Pacific coast from the mouth of the Columbia River on the Washington-Oregon border north to Cape Alava on the Olympic Peninsula, as well as Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor.
Anglers should check ahead of time if their preferred destination or launch is open. Some local marinas or facilities – including tribal lands – remain closed, and anglers should be prepared to change plans if their first choice is closed or too congested.
Notably, the Makah and Quileute reservations, including marinas and all services, remain closed to visitors. Anglers should not attempt to access the ocean from these areas.
Additional fishery closures may be implemented if anglers attempt to launch from closed access sites.
Anglers will also need to follow state guidelines by continuing to recreate in their local communities, traveling only with family or other members of their immediate household, and practicing physical distancing by keeping 6 feet apart.
“We’re reopening in consultation with local public health officials, and consistent with the governor’s phased approach,” Phillips said. “It’s extremely important that we all continue to do our part to keep ourselves and our communities safe and healthy.”
Coastal razor clam digs will remain closed. The governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order prohibits large gatherings through May 31. Razor clam digs can draw thousands to congregate in small coastal communities and on public beaches.
Clam, mussel, and oyster harvest also remains closed on Puget Sound beaches (marine areas 5-13) at this time.
The Governor’s Office authorized guide and charter fishing services to reopen on May 14, though they are subject to a number of new requirements, including a limit on the number of passengers depending on their home county’s phase of reopening. More information about those requirements can be found at http://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/COVID19Phase1and2OutdoorRecreationGuidance.pdf
Anglers interested in booking a trip with a charter or guide should check in with the operator regarding their availability. WDFW and charter/guiding industry representatives continue to work with the Governor’s Office to reopen operations under the phased approach to outdoor recreation. Many of these businesses, which are critical to the economic stability of coastal communities, are currently restricted or not operating at full capacity.
As always, anglers should check the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations and WDFW’s emergency rules page at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ before heading out, and download the Fish Washington mobile app for up-to-date regulations at their destination.