Fish & Feathers
Washington 2017-18 hunting and fishing licenses available — but read this article first

As the Legislature considers a plan to hike some game and fish license fees and lower others, for now sportsmen can purchase licenses at the existing rates.

As with a lot of rules and regulations from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, this season’s license fees are mired in complexity.

Several weeks ago, WDFW announced it is proposing increases in many 2017-18 hunting and fishing fees and decreases in others. WDFW said its proposal will reduce barriers to participation by youth and senior anglers; improve species management and data collection; and more closely align fees with other states.

The proposals are expected to be voted on during this session of the Legislature in Olympia, but haven’t been so far.

However, on Jan. 24 the Licensing Division announced recreational fishing and hunting licenses for the 2017-18 season, which starts April 1, are already available.

Confused yet? Well, I was also, so I called WDFW and after a short delay they called me and said, “We understand your confusion and this is what is going to happen — any new license fee adjustments will not go into effect until July 1, 2017.”

The proposals would alter the current fishing license structure as follows:

• Some recreational fisheries, such as salmon and steelhead, are more expensive to manage than others, such as inland lake trout and warm-water species. The new fee structure aims to reflect those differences by setting higher rates for fisheries that cost more to manage.

• Senior citizens would qualify for discounted rates at 65 instead of the current 70 years old.

• Anglers would need to purchase catch record cards ($10 each, $5 for seniors) to track catch specific species (they are currently free) with the purchase of a fishing license after July 1.

• Non-resident combo fishing licenses will go from $124.65 to $143.90.

My personal advice is to look at which licenses are going up in cost and purchase them before July 1. After that date, it’s still anybody’s guess what the fees will be.

We will publish final license fees when they become available. I will be happy to answer any questions at 360-665-3573.

Additional dates to note:

• Special hunt applications for most big game species will be available after the Fish and Wildlife Commission approves the 2017-18 hunting season framework at its April meeting in Spokane.

• Spring bear hunters hoping to draw a permit for 2017 can purchase their application now, and will be able to submit their preferred hunt choice online from Feb. 15 through midnight Feb. 28. The spring bear drawing will occur in early March.

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