As the summer fishing season gets underway, we thought we would answer some commonly asked questions about licenses and permits so kayak fishermen can get the paperwork they need before they start fishing. There is a lot of incorrect information floating around Northwest kayak fishing forums, so we advise you check out the information here and then double check on the Washington and Oregon fishing regulations if you want to be 100% sure. Here is the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. You can buy licenses online and both states have downloadable copies of fishing regulations.
For Washington and Oregon, you will need a fishing license if you are over 16 years old. If you fish on the Columbia River, either license will do, no matter which state you launch from. If you paddle up an out of state tributary of the Columbia, you will need a non-resident license. You will need to have a PFD(Personal Flotation Device, commonly known as a life jacket), a signalling device(we use whistles) and if you launch from Oregon, an Oregon Invasive Species Permit. Most of the enforcement of these regulations is done by local and state law enforcement officers. They already have their hands full and some of the regulations have “gray areas” so show some respect if you get checked out. One of those “gray areas” I have experienced first hand deals with the Oregon Invasive Species permit. I’ve been told by WDFW that the Invasive Species permit is not required if you are a Washington resident, even if you launch from Oregon. The Oregon law enforcement personnel I have encountered along the Columbia River have told me it is required. For $5, just buy the permit and avoid the issue. If you make an honest mistake or oversight, odds are they will let you slide, but they will take your drivers license info and if they catch you again, you’ll be fined. All the officers we have encountered, mostly along the Columbia River, have been understanding and totally cool.
There are a couple more permits you might consider before you head out fishing on the Columbia River. They are parking permits. Oregon has the Oregon State Parks Parking Permit. It’s $30 for an annual permit or $5 a day. You have to get the annual permit at a State Park office or online. They do check for permits so it’s a good idea to buy one. Washington has the Discover Pass, same deal as the Oregon parking permit. Some of the parks have no onsite office, so you have to pay the daily rate if you don’t already have the annual pass. The annual Discovery Pass is $35 or $10 a day. There are other places, like those managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, where these passes don’t work and you have to pay the daily parking or camping fee.
That should take care of all the legal stuff, next, we’ll be gearing up to get the smallmouth bass fishing season started.