Fishing

Fishing at Mills Lake
Fishing on the shore of Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

NPS

One of the most popular activities in Rocky Mountain National Park, sport fishing is permitted in balance with efforts to restore and perpetuate natural aquatic conditions. Since the 1970s, the park has worked to restore native cutthroat trout populations.

Today, the park has populations of brown, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat (Colorado River and Yellowstone) trout, as well as suckers and sculpin. Most of Rocky's high altitude lakes lack reproducing fish populations due to cold water and lack of spawning habitat.

Protect Fish and Their Habitats

Park fish are vulnerable to several invasive organisms that can be carried on waders and other gear. Please read and follow Rocky Mountain National Park's Disinfection Guidelines, list at the bottom of this page, to protect fish and their waters.

Licenses and Fees

A valid Colorado fishing license is required for all persons 16 years of age or older to fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. No other permit is necessary; however, special regulations exist. It is your responsibility to know and obey them.

Licenses and Habitat Stamps may be purchased from license agents at shops throughout the State of Colorado, online, or by phone at 800-244-5613.

License (Year is April 1 - March 31) Resident Non-Resident

Annual (18-64 years old) $36.08* $100.57*
Small Game & Fishing Combination $51.68* N/A
Senior (65 year and older) Annual $10.07 N/A
Youth (16-17 Years Old) Annual $10.07 N/A
Five-day N/A $32.95*
One-day $14.23 $17.35

*Individuals over 18 and under 65 are required to purchase a $10 Habitat Stamp with their first license purchase for the year.

A "Second Rod Stamp" is not honored in park waters.

Purchasers of a one-day or additional-day license are exempt from a Habitat Stamp fee with the first two of these licenses. A habitat fee is assessed when a third license of this type is purchased.

Method of Capture

  • Each person shall use only one hand-held rod or line. A 'second rod stamp' is not honored in the park.
  • In waters designated as catch-and-release, barbless hooks must be used. This helps protect and maintain fish populations.
  • The use of lead sinkers or other lead fishing materials is strongly discouraged.
  • Children 12 years and younger may use worms or preserved fish eggs in all park waters open to fishing and not designated as catch-and-release.
  • No bait or worms are allowed in catch-and-release waters.
  • Only artificial flies or lures with one hook (single, double, or treble) with a common shank may be used in park waters. Fly fishers may use a two-hook system with one hook as an attractant. "Artificial flies or lures" means devices designed to attract fish and made entirely of, or a combination of, materials like wood, plastic, glass, hair, metal, feathers, or fiber.

This does not include:

(a) Any hand-moldable material designed to attract fish by the scent or smell.
(b) Devices less than one and one-half inches in length to which scents or small attractants have been externally applied.
(c) Molded plastic devices less than one and one-half inches in length
(d) Foods
(e) Traditional organic baits like worms, grubs, crickets, leeches, minnows, and fish eggs, or
(f) Manufactured baits like imitation fish eggs, dough baits, or stink baits.

Possession Limit

Measure fish from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail.

No person may have in their possession more than 18 trout, the combination of which must consist of either:

  • 18 brook trout (8 can be any size, but the remaining 10 must be 8 inches or less).
  • 16 brook trout (6 can be any size, but the remaining 10 must be 8 inches or less), plus 2 additional trout species 10 inches or more, which may include rainbow, brown, or cutthroat.

Closed Waters - No Fishing Allowed

Bear Lake, including the inlet and outlet streams (extending 200 yards upstream and downstream from Bear Lake) Hunters Creek above Wild Basin Ranger Station as posted
Kettle Tarn Lake Nanita Outlet, downstream 100 yards
Shadow Mountain Reservoir below the spillway and to the southern park boundary, including Columbine Bay, is closed from October 1 through December 31. South Fork of the Cache la Poudre River above Pingree Park
Upper Columbine Creek above 9,000 feet, indicated by barrier structure on the creek.

Catch-and-Keep Waters

All creeks/rivers not listed as Catch-and-Release or Closed are catch-and-keep waters.

Black Lake Box Lake Fourth lake Glass Lake Haynach Lake
Jewel Lake Lake Haiyaha Lake Nanita (outlet closed) Lake Solitude Lake Verna
Loch Vale Lone Pine Lake Mills Lake Mirror Lake Peacock Pool
Pettingell Lake Poudre Lake Sky Pond Spirit Lake Sprague Lake
Ten Lake Park Lakes Thunder Lake

Catch-and-Release Waters

These waters support populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout and are open to catch-and-release fishing only. Barbless hooks must be used to protect and maintain the fish populations found in waters designated as catch-and-release.

Adams Lake Hidden Valley Creek and Beaver Ponds Ouzel Lake
Arrowhead Lake Hunters Creek Paradise Creek Drainage
Bench Lake and Ptarmigan Creek above War Dance Falls Hutcheson Lakes Pear Lake and Creek
Big Crystal Lake Lake Husted Roaring River
Boundary Lake Lake Louise Sandbeach Lake and Creek
Caddis Lake Lawn Lake Spruce Lake (the east and southeast portions of the lake and adjacent wetlands are closed year-round as a Boreal Toad protection area)
Cony Creek above Calypso Cascades Loomis Lake Timber Lake and Creek
Dream Lake Lost Lake Upper Hague Creek
Fern Lake and Creek North Fork of the Big Thompson River above Lost Falls Upper Onahu Creek
Fifth Lake Odessa Lake West Creek
Forest Canyon above The Pool, Gorge Lakes (Rock Lake and Little Rock Lake) and Gorge Stream (from Arrowhead Lake to the confluence with the Big Thompson River) Ouzel Creek above Ouzel Falls Ypsilon Creek

Ypsilon Lake
 

Safely Releasing Your Catch

Ensure the fish doesn't suffer injury by quickly and carefully removing the hook and returning the fish to the water. Using wet hands, or while the fish is in the water, use forceps or needle-nosed pliers to back the hook out the way it went in.

Do not wiggle the hook; if the hook is too deep, cut it off as close as possible and let is dissolve inside the fish's body.

Gently return a trout to the water head-first, supporting its belly and pointing upstream. Hang onto it until it starts to revive.

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Aquatic Disinfection Guidelines

Is this your first time fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park?
Is this first time back after using your gear outside of the park?
Are you moving within a drainage to sites that are more than 2.5 miles apart?
Are you visiting a new drainage?

If you answered YES to any of the questions listed above, then you must disinfect any gear that has had contact with water and/or soil. This helps control the spread of aquatic threats.

Since aquatic threats are usually found in lower elevation areas, start at the top of a drainage and work your way downstream.

  • Don't transfer fish between waters - this can spread these threats.
  • Don't dispose of fish entrails into any waters.
  • Don't use felt wading soles on your boots.

To Disinfect Gear:

  1. Remove all mud, snails, algae, and any other debris from nets, boots, waders, and other equipment.
  2. Soak and stir all gear and tools used to clean equipment with a 10% household bleach solution or a solution of 6 oz Sparquat per gallon of water. Soak gear and tools in the solution for at least 10 minutes.
  3. If a household bleach solution was used, freeze gear overnight, or soak and stir equipment for more than 10 minutes in a 1:1 solution of Formula 409 antibacterial household cleaner, or soak equipment for more than one minute in water that is 120 degrees F or warmer (a dishwasher is warm enough). If Sparquat was used, skip this step.
  4. Dry gear in direct sunlight (at least 84 degrees F) for four hours.

If you do nothing else, clean off your gear and equipment, rinse in tap water, and follow step 4.

 

Other Information and Regulations

Watercraft:

Float tubes and other non-motorized watercraft are allowed on all lakes except Bear Lake. The operation of motorized watercraft is prohibited on all part waters.

Ice Fishing:

Ice fishing is allowed in the park except in designated Closed Waters. All fishing regulations apply. No mechanical equipment is allowed in designated wilderness, so only hand augers are permitted.

Volunteer Angler Report Cards:

The park encourages the return of Volunteer Angler Report Cards. These cards help biologists monitor the health of fish populations in the park.

To get a card, stop at any park visitor center, entrance station, campground ranger station, or the Wilderness Office. Cards can be returned at the same locations or returned to Rocky Mountain National Park by mail.

Last updated: May 27, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park , CO 80517

Phone:

970 586-1206
The Information Office is open year-round: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily in summer; 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Mondays - Fridays and 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Saturdays - Sundays in winter. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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