This summer has been a warm one in western Washington. As you are getting
out and enjoying some record temperatures, you need to be aware of recent
updates to the fishing laws and emergency changes to the Sportfishing
Pamphlet as a result of drought conditions and other factors in the area.
There have been some emergency rule changes affecting shellfish, saltwater
fishing, and freshwater fishing. You can find the changes on the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website. It is important to be fully aware of all of the fishing rules and regulations
before going out on any fishing trip because if you fail to follow the
rules you could end up facing criminal charges for rule violations.
If you take or possess two times or more than the fish or shellfish allowed
by any rule you could be charged with the gross misdemeanor offense of
unlawful recreational fishing in the first degree under RCW 77.15.370.
This is one of the most common ways that a person is charged with unlawful
recreational fishing 1st degree, but, you can also be charged if you are accused of some more specific
activities including snagging, fishing in a fishway, or possessing wild
salmon or steelhead during a closed season. In addition to potential jail
time and court costs, there is also a per fish wildlife penalty assessment
for certain types of fish.
There is also a lesser simple misdemeanor criminal offense of unlawful
recreational fishing in the second degree under RCW 77.15.380. You could
be charged with this if you fish without purchasing the appropriate license
and catch record card, even if you did not actually catch any fish or
shellfish. You can also be charged with unlawful recreational fishing 2nd degree if you take or possess fish or shellfish and you do not have your
license or catch record card in your possession or you are in violation
of a department rule addressing the manner or method of fishing.
Another common criminal fishing (and hunting) charge involves wildlife
checks. Under RCW 77.15.470, you can be charged with the gross misdemeanor
crime of avoiding a wildlife check station or field inspection if you
fail to obey check station rules or if you fail to produce any hunting
or fishing equipment, seaweed, fish, shellfish, wildlife, or licenses,
permits, tags, stamps, or catch record cards after being requested to
do so by a fish and wildlife officer. This offense is a common add-on
charge that we see in many cases.
Finally, the recreational guiding rules were changed by the Legislature
effective July 24, 2015. These changes affect sections of RCW 77.15 and
RCW 77.65. As part of these changes, the Legislature has authorized denial
of or suspension of game fish guide, food fish guide, or charter boat
licenses if convicted of certain offenses (RCW 77.15.510). The Legislature
also created a new gross misdemeanor offense under RCW 77.15 of unlawfully
engaging in fishing guide activity if a person holds a game fish guide
license, a food fish guide license, or a charter boat license and fails
to perform any required duty under 77.32.430 or violates any rule regarding
the sale, possession, issuance, or reporting of temporary fishing licenses,
temporary short-term charter stamps, or catch record cards.
As you can see, there have been a lot of recent changes to fish and wildlife
rules. If you believe you might be charged with violating any fish or
wildlife rule it is important to contact an experienced
Washington State Fish and Wildlife Defense Attorney for a free case evaluation right away. Contact our office today for your