Rocky Mountain National Park is the spot to do some fishing if you ever find yourself in the great state of Colorado. The park features multiple species of fish, from brown trout to sculpin, and a vast array of lakes and rivers to choose from. The scenery is spectacular, and the mountains are stunning. Here’s a quick rundown on everything you might need to know to drop a line in the waters of Colorado’s best-kept secret. Enjoy the park; just try to leave a few fish for the next guy, okay?


ranger checking fishing license

Image credit: David Herraez Calzada via Canva

If you’re over the age of 16, you’ll need a valid Colorado State fishing license to fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. Alas, depending on how long you intend to visit, there are some licenses that you could purchase.

Single-day fishing licenses run about $15 and are exempt from the Habitat Stamp. On the other hand, five-day licenses cost about $33, annual licenses cost $36, and purchasing the Habitat Stamp is mandatory.

Yet, it should be noted that a second-rod stamp is not permitted at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Special Regulations

Moreover, just about every park has a few cautions and addendums that go with allowing fishing. Rocky Mountain National Park is no exception.

First, you’ll need some barbless hooks if you want to hit any of the areas designated as catch and release inside the park. Second, don’t bring any lead sinkers into the park. Lead is frowned upon in most national parks. Third, you can only use one handheld rod per person in Rocky Mountain National Park.

So, plan accordingly with your gear. Last, if you’re under the age of 12, you can use worms as bait, but only in non-catch-and-release areas. Yeah, it’s weird, but it’s a rule.

Invasive Species Regulations

As you might imagine, the Park Service doesn’t want any new aquatic critters being transported into the park. Before bringing them into the park ecosystem, you’ll want to thoroughly dry and clean all your gear, like boats or waders.

It can’t hurt to remove most of the crude from baits and nets. The Park Service generally insists on an inspection for watercraft of any sort, so be ready to have your float tube or canoe looked over.

Obviously, transferring fish or other aquatic species from one body of water in the park to another is illegal. Oh, and no bucket biology in Rocky Mountain National Park, either.

Ice Fishing

You can go ice fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park. But, you’ll need one of the fishing licenses mentioned and have to observe all other regulations.

The only oddity is that you are not allowed to use motorized equipment, so only hand-operated augers are allowed. Hey, it’s good to get some exercise now and then; enjoy it.

What You Can Catch

Trout are the main draw in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Park Service has done an excellent job restoring the native cutthroat trout population, and you can pull these rare fish from the rivers and lakes at several parks.

Naturally, there are plenty of other trout species within the park boundaries. Brown trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout all abound.

Nevertheless, if you’re in the mood, suckers, and sculpins can be had to boot.

Staying Current

Westslope Cutthroat trout with tail in the air as it's being released back in the water during a day fly fishing in Alberta

Image credit: Jennifer de Graaf via Shutterstock

Like most national parks, the fishing regulations regarding which areas can be fished and which areas are catch-and-release change frequently and on a season-by-season basis. Things could be different this fall if you were in Rocky Mountain National Park in the spring.

Before getting your line wet, it is absolutely necessary to bring yourself up to date on the changes that have occurred and learn what is legal in which part of the park. The park’s website is updated frequently, and printed copies of the regulations are usually available from park staff upon request. It’s always better to stay abreast of the regulations instead of begging for forgiveness after you get caught. It shouldn’t go without saying, it’s a lot cheaper, too. Federal game violation tickets are nothing to cheer about.

A Few Final Thoughts

Rocky Mountain National Park is the jewel in the crown of Colorado, and every angler should check the place out at least once.

While you’re there, be bear-aware. This means approaching lakes, ponds, and rivers with caution and carrying bear spray at all times. It also can’t hurt to sneak in a little practice with some inert bear spray beforehand. Stuff like bear spray only works if you know how to use it and use it well. You can technically carry firearms in the park now, but the bear spray is preferable for anyone apart from thoroughly experienced shooters.

Have you been to Rocky Mountain National Park? Let us know in the comments.