The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CWP) Commission manages all 42 parks in the State of Colorado and more than 300 state wildlife areas. It is also the agency handling all fishing licences and regulations for the state. Its mission is to protect wildlife and improve wildlife habitats in the state. The Commission is the steward of Colorado’s natural resources for future generations. All responsible fly fishermen and women respect and adhere to the requirements and regulations set by CPW.
However, I, and I am sure many other avid angers, find this to be easier said than done. A CPW document states that “Colorado waters are open to taking fish, amphibians and crustaceans day and night, year round, except if otherwise stated in the regulation section of this brochure.” It’s the last part of this sentence that is the puzzler.
Understanding the requirements for obtaining an annual adult or senior resident fishing license is straightforward, although requirements for nonresident annual or five day licences are a bit more complicated. The need for a Habitat Stamp may require a second reading. Youth, veterans, those with mobility issues and low income seniors have special dispensations. Second rod stamps are another complication. Still, a little effort and discussion with a CPW agent can make you legal for fly fishing in Colorado.
But there is more. CPW takes a very proactive approach to enhancing fishery habitats throughout the state. This means regulations and requirements can change year by year, as conditions and the fish population and size changes. For example, in 2015 a bag and possession limit of 20 was implemented on yellow perch at the Rifle Gap Reservoir to protect the species from overfishing. Seasonal restrictions on fishing for lake trout at Grand Lake were removed, and bag and possession limits were removed for smallmouth bass at Ridgeway Reservoir.
In addition to changes, fly fishers also have to be aware of conditions and restrictions that apply to specific waters. Different waters have different bag limits and regulations, and these requirements can change over the length of the water. For example, in the South Platte Park Littleton area, the minimum size for smallmouth and largemouth bass is 15 inches. In the Douglas to Teller areas of the South Platte, only artificial flies and lures can be used, and all trout in the 12 to 20 inch range must be returned to the water immediately.
All these variances in specific rules and regulations ensure that I check in with the experts at Minturn Anglers Denver or Minturn fly shops to find out the details about new waters I plan to fish. I know that I can count on them to give me the up to date information I need for a successful expedition!