Colorado Fishing Licenses, Laws, and Regulations
Its 8,000 miles of rivers and 2,000 lakes make Colorado a paradise for most anglers. The waters are teeming with 35 species of fish, both warm and cold.
In this section you will find various links on the requirements and steps involved in applying for a fishing license. Also, find out about the various fishing guidelines in the area. Obtaining a license can be easily done through the Colorado Game and Fish Department’s website, or you can choose to purchase a license in person from accredited resellers such as a fishing tackle or local sports store.
Once you have your fishing license, the next step is to familiarize yourself with local Colorado fishing laws. A number of protocols and regulations must be followed to protect the marine life population in the area. Be on the lookout for updates before you start your trip.
Proper fishing etiquette promotes camaraderie between anglers and locals. Equipping yourself with proper fishing methods can also help conserve marine life and their habitats. By working together we can create an environment that benefits us and various wildlife in the area.
The first Colorado fishing regulations you need to know is that all anglers over the age of 16 need a valid license to fish in Colorado. Children 15 and under can fish for free. The state does offer a teen license, but it’s free.
Colorado offers a variety of annual licenses for anglers in different situations:
Combined license. Anglers living in Colorado full-time can obtain an annual resident fishing license or a combined small game and fishing license. Non-residents cannot use combined licenses. Visitors who intend to hunt and fish while visiting the state will need to obtain both licenses separately.
Short-term license. Colorado also offers short-term licenses, ideal for recreational anglers and tourists who only plan to fish for a few days. Residents can purchase a 5-day temporary permit and non-residents can purchase a 1- or 5-day temporary permit.
Advanced License (64+). While many states allow seniors (age 64 or older) to fish without a license, Colorado does not offer such exemptions. That said, resident seniors don’t have to pay much for fishing, as seniors licenses are only $1 (plus any applicable transaction fees). Non-resident seniors must purchase a standard non-resident permit.
In addition to a Colorado fishing license, all anglers ages 18 to 64 must purchase a habitat stamp. The fees generated by Habitat Stamps fund the conservation and management of Colorado’s fisheries and wild spaces. Habitat stamps are worth $10 and you need to purchase one before applying for a fishing license. Anglers purchasing a single-day permit do not need habitat stamps unless you purchase three or more.
Where can you buy permits and habitat stamps?
Colorado makes it easy for anglers to obtain fishing licenses. The easiest way is to visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website. You can complete the application form online and submit payment. You will receive your license in the mail shortly.
Alternatively, you can purchase a permit over the phone, or you can visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Office and get it in person. In addition, hundreds of registered retail stores across the state sell fishing licenses and habitat stamps.
Colorado General Fishing Regulations
In addition to obtaining a fishing license and habitat stamp, you will also need to familiarize yourself with basic Colorado fishing regulations and rules. You can view the full rules and regulations in the current Colorado Fishing Handbook, but we’ll discuss some of the most notable ones below:
A fishing license only authorizes you to use one fishing rod in Colorado. If you want to use multiple poles at the same time, you will need to purchase additional pole stamps. Note that you can carry as many rods as you want, but only one rod can be placed in the water at a time without purchasing additional rod stamps.
License validity period.
Unlike some other states, where fishing licenses are valid for one calendar year, Colorado’s fishing licenses are valid from April 1 to March 31.
Colorado places special emphasis on the local trout fishery. They do this by identifying high-yielding waters with trophy trout as “golden waters.” The state has also implemented the Wild Trout Program, which aims to manage and protect the state’s native wild trout population. Some of these waters are subject to additional rules and regulations that you need to follow carefully.
Colorado takes the threat of non-native aquatic nuisance species very seriously. As a result, the state has several regulations on the use of live bait (especially rusted crayfish) and the use of boats within the state. Be sure to review all relevant guidelines and rules for the area you will be fishing. Do your part to prevent the spread of invasive species.
Many of the state’s rivers and reservoirs are subject to site-specific regulations. Before you start fishing, be sure to review the Colorado Fishing Handbook (starting on page 11) to familiarize yourself with the laws governing each body of water.
Colorado fishing restrictions
Like most other states, Colorado imposes many fishing restrictions on anglers. This specifies the number of fish that can be legally caught and kept. Some of the most significant limitations include:
The daily limit for trout, char, trout, and salmon is four fish, and the total ownership limit is eight. Please note that this includes all trout species found in the state. However, you can keep 10 extra trouts per day, provided they are less than 8 inches in length. In addition, the daily limit of Kokanee salmon is 10 pieces.
It is legal to keep 5 leukoplakia and/or sauger in most rivers and reservoirs, but it is legal to keep up to 10 in some waters.
In most places, you can keep up to 5 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, or spotted bass, but there are no restrictions on smallmouth bass caught in waters west of the Continental Divide. In most waters, the limit for white bass, wiper, and striped bass is 10, but some places allow you to keep twice as many.
Regardless of the species, you can catch and raise up to 10 catfish in total.
Most panfish (including crappie, bluegill, perch, etc.) have a limit of 20, but you can catch and keep any number of yellow perch west of the Continental Divide.
There is no daily limit for anglers to catch pike, whitefish or minotaur.
Likewise, it is important to check the fishing restrictions of the exact waters you are fishing, as there are some exceptions to the above restrictions.
Who needs a Colorado fishing license?
Similar to other states, any angler over the age of 16 must obtain a fishing permit from Colorado before fishing in the public waters of the area. Although both residents and non-residents are eligible to obtain a fishing license, the application is separate and the fees are different. For clarity, Colorado residents refer to people who have lived in CO continuously for more than six months. Anyone wishing to purchase a resident fishing permit in Colorado can request proof of residence, such as a state-issued driver’s license, social security number, or utility or income tax bill. It should also be noted that the CO fishing permit is valid throughout the year from April 1st and will expire on March 31st of each year next year.
Free fishing in Colorado
Colorado is one of the few states that has an open fishing season. This means that for a certain period of time, anyone can fish in public waters across the state without having to obtain a permit. In Colorado, the first full weekend in June is a free weekend, and anyone can fish without a fishing license.
annual fishing licenses to residents and non-residents
As shown in the table above, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission sells annual fishing licenses to residents and non-residents for as little as $34.75 and $96.75, respectively. If you don’t need an annual fishing license, you can also purchase one-day licenses for $13.75 (residents) and $16.75 (non-residents). Non-residents can also purchase a five-day license for just $31.75. You can also purchase an extra day’s license on top of your one- or five-day license, adding an additional day of fishing trips for residents and non-residents for $6.75.
Anglers using two rods while fishing will also need to secure a second rod stamp. The 2nd Rod Stamp is $10.75. All licensed residents, licensed non-residents, and youth under the age of 16, whether licensed or unlicensed, are eligible to purchase the above stamps.
To purchase the appropriate license for you, you must show proof of your identity and, if required, proof of your age. Your social security number may also be required. If you plan to purchase a senior low-income lifetime fishing license, you must bring your most recent tax return or an affidavit explaining your situation to prove your income.
Please note that the above fees also include a $0.35 search and rescue fee and a $1.50 Wildlife Education Fund surcharge. It’s also important to understand that when you purchase your first license of the year, an additional $10.00 will be added to your Habitat Stamp bill. In addition, paying the license fee includes a $0.25 search and rescue fee and a $0.75 Wildlife Commission fee.
Exceptions to Colorado Licensure Requirements
Colorado also recognizes certain circumstances and has established policies that exempt the following residents from required fishing licenses:
Colorado residents with out-of-state active duty in the Armed Forces can fish for free for 30 days while on temporary leave.
Disability permits can be obtained through a special application with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.