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Free fishing days offered as Washington license sales blocked

A family focuses on catching fish in Williams Lake from the dock at Bunker's Resort. They were fishing on April 28, 2013, the opening day of Washington's lowland trout fishing season.  (Rich Landers)
A family focuses on catching fish in Williams Lake from the dock at Bunker's Resort. They were fishing on April 28, 2013, the opening day of Washington's lowland trout fishing season. (Rich Landers)

Updated 12:10 p.m. with clarification about need for catch cards.

Updated 12:50 p.m. with info about Oregon licensing.

FISHING -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is allowing anglers to fish without a license through Tuesday while the agency’s fishing and hunting license sales system is down.

On Wednesday, several states including Washington and Idaho suspended the sale of fishing and hunting licenses after an outside vendor’s license sales system was hacked. Apparently security systems were breached and personal information of license holders may have been accessed. State officials are investigating the situation.

Meantime, anglers will not be required to have licenses or complete a catch record card for any salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or crab they catch from today through Aug. 30 in any waters open to fishing for those species in Washington state, said Jim Unsworth, agency director.

Licenses are normally required in Washington for all anglers age 15 and older. Tourists booking with lower Columbia River salmon fishing guides can enjoy their trips this weekend without worrying about license requirements, said Bruce Botka, WDFW spokesman.

The department also will not require anglers to have a vehicle access pass to park at WDFW water access sites.

Other rules, such as seasons, size limits, bag limits, and closures, will remain in effect.

"We are as frustrated as our customers over the licensing system being shut down, but we want to make sure anglers can still hit the waters over the next several days," Unsworth said in a media release.

Hunters will have to wait to buy licenses until the sales system can be restored, Unsworth noted. The agency anticipates having a sales channel available before major hunting seasons – such as archery deer, elk and cougar – begin in September, he said.

WDFW will provide updates about license sales on its webpage.

Department officials said a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement will not be needed to fish for salmon and steelhead in open areas of the Columbia River during the "free days" period. Anglers will not need a two-pole endorsement to fish with two-poles in select waters where two pole fishing is permitted. Crabbers also will not need a Puget Sound crab endorsement through Aug. 30.

Through Aug. 30, anglers will not need a Discover Pass to park at any of the nearly 700 water-access sites maintained by WDFW. The Discover Pass will still be required to access lands managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources and Washington State Parks. The parks department had previously announced that it is not requiring a Discover Pass on Aug. 25 to celebrate the National Park Service's 100th anniversary.

Discover Pass sales will continue at local dealerships and at state parks.

Idaho has suspended online sales, but fishing and hunting licenses can still be purchased at department regional offices and at some businesses that weren't affected by the cyber security breach.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said today they're confident their online licensing system hasn't been compromised.

"The system, shut down temporarily Tuesday after an unidentified (by the department) user reported the ability to get more information from the system than should be allowed, was back online for Oregon users that evening following an intense investigation by state Internet monitors," reports Bill Monroe of OreognLive.

Richard Hargrave, Oregon department spokesman, said the state's Internet provider, Active Outdoors, cooperated fully with state investigators, who also are looking into a potential breach earlier this year of the Oregon Employment Department's system.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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