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Many of Washington’s coastal waters to reopen for recreational fishing

An angler dips his net into Blackmans Lake while fishing on the first day of a partial reopening of outdoor recreation activities Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Snohomish, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced many of Washington state’s coastal waters will reopen for fishing on Tuesday, May 26.

Marine areas 1-3, including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, will reopen for bottomfish, shellfish, mussels, clams, oysters, and other species as detailed in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. Columbia River crabbing will also restart under the normal regulations Tuesday.

Halibut and razor clam harvest will remain closed due to continued port closures and concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in the local communities. Neah Bay (marine area 4) also remains closed for recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting.

Fishing was initially banned during the stay-at-home order, but the governor’s office authorized guide and charter fishing services to reopen on May 14, subject to new requirements, including a limit on the number of passengers depending on the individual county’s phase of reopening.

“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.”

WDFW says anglers should double-check that their preferred destination or launch is open as some local marinas and facilities remain closed. Similar to the advice for trails and public lands, if your first choice is crowded, WDFW recommends a change of plans.

If anglers attempt to launch from closed access sites, more closures may occur. Any anglers will also need to be following state guidelines by recreating locally, traveling only with family or household members, and keeping 6 feet of distance from others.

“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.”

What’s allowed as counties reopen under Gov. Inslee’s ‘Safe Start’ phases

Coastal razor clam digs will remain closed, as they can draw large crowds in small communities and on public beaches, and gatherings are still prohibited under Gov. Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. Clam, mussel, and oyster harvest also remains closed on Puget Sound beaches.

Additionally, some areas in Puget Sound will reopen for recreational spot shrimp fishing on May 28, with more openings scheduled for June.

WDFW recommends checking its emergency rules page before heading out, and downloading the Fish Washington mobile app for up-to-date regulations at each destination. Find all COVID-19 news and updates from the WDFW online here.

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