Fishing in rivers and streams can present more challenges than lake fishing, but also, perhaps, more rewards. Unlike lakes, very few rivers and streams are stocked with hatchery trout, so the chance of catching your daily limit is generally lower. On the other hand, many of these waters offer anglers a chance catch larger fish such as salmon, steelhead or even a sturgeon.
There are more than 4,000 rivers and streams in Washington state. Each provides a different fishing experience. Large rivers such as the Columbia can often be fished from either a boat or the shore, much like a lake.
Fast-moving mountain streams, on the other hand, are usually fished from the bank, requiring some proficiency in casting and other skills. Anglers fishing fast-moving streams tend to move from one fishing hole to the next, making multiple casts until they hook a fish.
As with lake fishing, bank access can be limited on some rivers and streams. In Washington, property rights can extend to the streambed, so anglers should be careful not to trespass on private lands. WDFW and other agencies maintain public fishing areas to provide recreational access to hundreds of rivers and lakes around the state.
Anglers should also be aware that fishing regulations on some rivers and streams can be complex, to protect certain runs of wild salmon, steelhead and bull trout. Statewide fishing regulations described in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet, and fishing rule changes are posted on the department’s website.