Things can get a bit complicated when it comes to recreational activities in America’s National Parks. Glacier National Park straddles two countries: Canada and America. Albeit, Yellowstone National Park sits amidst three states: Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. So, if you want to go fishing, boating, or both; what license is required to be an angler in Yellowstone? Do you buy a state license for the area it looks like it might be in, such as Montana, if it wasn’t a National Park? The answer is simple: you buy a Yellowstone National Park fishing license.

Yellowstone might look like an untamed wilderness when you first arrive. But anything you might want to do there is quite tightly regimented in terms of regulations, and visitors should that in mind. Yellowstone has its own Justice Court for those who forget or choose not to abide by the rules.

Fishing in Yellowstone

Anyone 16 years of age or older must have a valid Yellowstone National Park fishing permit. Anyone 15 years of age or younger must be accompanied by an adult in possession of a permit. Or must obtain a free permit that is signed by an adult, which will allow them to fish unaccompanied. You may purchase permits for a day, several days, or a full season. The permits are normally valid from Memorial Day weekend until the first Sunday in November. Keep in mind, that this is subject to change.

Fishing may or may not be allowed in certain lakes, rivers, or streams within the park in any given year. Hence, it is important to make yourself aware of the current regulations during your visit. It isn’t advisable to try and find some sort of workaround for these regulations. Yellowstone has plenty of Park Rangers, and they are very stern regarding enforcement.

Fishing Tackle in Yellowstone

a river in Yellowstone

Image Credit: Steppinstars via Pixabay

In addition to obtaining a permit, there is a myriad of other regulations that need to be noted when fishing in Yellowstone. For starters, you probably can’t use most of the tackle currently in your possession. All tackle used in Yellowstone must be lead-free. So, no old lead sinkers or rigs that have lead molded to the hook.

Speaking of hooks, you’ll likely need to purchase some special ones for your visit. Yellowstone only allows barbless hooks. This might seem a bit silly, until you consider that most of Yellowstone’s fish have been caught many, many times, and returned afterward. This National Park wants these fish to be caught many times more, and barbless hooks significantly reduce the wear and tear on the fish from catch and release. Oh, yeah, it is illegal to bring live bait into Yellowstone, so don’t forget to pack the plastic worms.

Fishing Sites in Yellowstone

To ease congestion, it is not permissible to fish from any of the roadways in Yellowstone Park. Nor is it permissible to fish from most boat docks or marinas. Fishing from boat docks in the backcountry of Yellowstone is allowed. When fishing any given lake, river, or stream, you will need to make yourself aware of what species of fish can be kept and which must be released. These regulations vary by the body of water inside the park and can be a little complicated, so tread carefully.

a sunset in Yellowstone

Image Credit: David Mark via Pixabay

Boating in Yellowstone

If you wish to bring a boat or float tube into the environment of Yellowstone, you will have to have them inspected. Furthermore, you will have to purchase a permit to put them in the water. To guard against the spread of aquatic invasive species, several cautionary extras go along with your permit. All gear, including nets and waders, must dry for five days before switching lakes or rivers for your fishing trip. Your boat or float tube must be spotless before placing it in a new body of water. Naturally, it is illegal to move any species of aquatic animal from one body of water in Yellowstone to another. Therefore, boat inspections to make certain these rules are being observed are frequent in Yellowstone.

The Final Word

If you intend to do some fishing during your visit to Yellowstone National Park, you must familiarize yourself with the full 28-30 pages of fishing regulations that are available on the National park’s website. Yes, this is a pain in the neck, but it is necessary if you hope to come and go from the park without being issued a federal ticket. Yellowstone sees millions of visitors every year, so it currently takes about 30 pages of regulations to make sure there will be enough fish left over for next year’s visitors. Do your part, abide by the rules, and enjoy the park.