Home Fishing Tips & Advice How to Get a Fishing License in Colorado

How to Get a Fishing License in Colorado

With over 35 species of fish inhabiting its waters, Colorado boasts a fishing scene you do not want to miss. To take advantage of all Colorado has to offer, though, you must possess a Colorado fishing license. In Colorado, you can obtain a fishing license through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission. Conveniently, the CPW offers several ways to do this. This article will provide all the information you need before setting off on your fishing adventure.

Why Purchase a Colorado Fishing License?

Nestled in the heart of America, Colorado is an ideal destination for those who want to experience nature at its fullest. For the fishing enthusiast, it offers 6,000 miles of spectacular rivers and streams, more than 2,000 reservoirs and lakes, more than 35 species of fish, and trophy-size rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, yellow perch, and walleye pike.

Among other notable features, Colorado is home to numerous Gold Medal Waters, which are defined by the CPW as the highest quality cold-water habitats, capable of producing many quality-sized trout.

To maintain high-producing and beautiful areas such as the Gold Medal Waters, the CPW relies on funds generated by park passes, hunting licenses, and of course, fishing licenses. Other than being able to experience Colorado’s extraordinary natural beauty, the purchase of a fishing license helps ensure the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission’s goal: to preserve and protect the state’s wildlife. 

Obtaining Your Fishing License

Now that you have decided to make your purchase, here is some key information regarding the license and how to obtain it. The license will last you one full year, from April 1 to March 31 of the next year. Colorado also offers short-term fishing licenses, including 1-day, 5-day, and additional-day licenses, which expire at midnight on the last day. 

Who Needs a Fishing License?

In Colorado, anyone over 16 years of age needs a fishing license. A sport fishing license is required for any person 18 years of age and older. Both residents and non-residents of Colorado are able to get a license, but this involves separate applications. The options available to you will depend on whether or not you’re a state resident.

The only time that anyone can fish without a license is the first full weekend of June every year, though all other rules and regulations still apply during this time.

Where Can I Get a Fishing License? 

The CPW offers several ways to purchase your fishing license:

  • You can call their toll-free number (1-800-244-5613)
  • You can visit their website at https://cpw.state.co.us/buyapply/Pages/Fishing.aspx
  • You can contact a License Agent
  • You can buy one in person from an authorized fishing license retailer, such as an outdoor sporting goods store or tackle shop

According to the CPW website, customers may use Visa, MasterCard or Discover credit cards. These cards will work as long as you do not need a PIN to use them. Once you purchase your license, it will be mailed the business day after the purchase. If you purchase your license over the phone or through the website, you should receive it within 10 days. You may also choose to pick up your license at a license agent location or Colorado Parks and Wildlife park or office.

Don’t worry that you have to wait 10 days to go fishing, though; a temporary authorization number (TAN) can be used until your license arrives. You can use the TAN in place of the license for the first 14 days after your purchase.

How Much Does a Fishing License Cost?

Prices vary based on age and whether or not you are a resident of the state. Senior citizens and youths are granted reduced fees. Residency can be proved in the form of a state-issued driver’s license, a social security number, or a utility bill, or an income tax bill. All prices include a $1.75 charge that covers an educational fee and a search-and-rescue charge.

Fishing Licenses for the Disabled

Colorado residents who are totally and permanently disabled can apply for a free lifetime fishing license. Disabled residents may also be exempt from the requirement to purchase the Habitat Stamp. The Disabled Resident Lifetime Fishing License is

valid so long as the applicant maintains their Colorado residency; this license does not expire. Disabled status can be proved through 7 years of disability benefit, a letter from a physician stating that you are “totally” and “permanently” disabled, or a similar document from the Department of Workers’ Compensation. Applications for this license can be accessed at the CPW website.

Fishing Licenses for Disabled First Responders

Colorado residents who are disabled first responders can obtain a Lifetime Fishing License. To be eligible, the first responder must have proof of a permanent occupational disability. Applications for this license can be accessed at the CPW website.

Fishing Licenses for Active Military and Veterans

The CPW offers several benefits to those who are actively serving and have served in the military. These include:

  • A military member and Colorado resident who is on active duty and stationed permanently outside of Colorado is permitted to fish without a license in the state while on temporary leave. The military member must carry a copy of their leave papers with them while fishing and cannot use this exemption for more than 30 days per year.
  • Active duty military members and their family who are stationed in Colorado may qualify to purchase fishing licenses at the rate reserved for Colorado residents. To fit the requirements for residency, military members must be on active duty in the state under permanent orders. To obtain the license discount, they must show active duty military order when purchasing the license. Please note that this discount will not apply to reserve status or National Guard.
  • Military veterans who are residents of Colorado and whose active duty resulted in more than 60% disability can apply for a free fishing and hunting combo license. This includes recipients of the Purple Heart.

Habitat Stamp and Conservation Efforts

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 64 must also purchase a $10 Habitat Stamp along with the fishing license. This fee will automatically be included in the price of the first fishing license for the year. Of note, you will not need to purchase the Stamp if you are buying a one-day or additional-day license for fishing, though you may be subject to the fee if you buy a third one-day or additional-day license. 

As mentioned above, disabled residents and military veterans may be exempt from this fee.

The funds from the Habitat Stamp are used to operate the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Protection Program. This program joins the Colorado Parks and Wildlife with private landowners, local governments, and conservation organizations to protect important fish and wildlife habitat and provide places for people to enjoy Colorado’s nature. The funds generated from the Stamp help protect fish and wildlife habitat and are also used to preserve fishing areas.

Rules and Regulations

Once you have your license, you should take some time to get familiar with Colorado’s rules and regulations before you head off into the wild. Like all states, Colorado has its own set of fishing laws and regulations that need to be followed in order to protect its fish populations. Even if you are familiar with the state’s general rules, you should be sure to check the fishing laws and regulations that apply in the area you plan to fish in, as there are varying policies for the lakes and reservoirs across the state. Fishermen are required to follow both statewide and waterway specific rules so that fish populations are protected now and into the future. And always be sure to check for any updates to the rules prior to each fishing trip.

Ethical Angling

In addition to its official rules, the CPW provides a code of ethics for anglers to adhere to while experience Colorado’s nature. These include:

  • Being aware of and respecting the rights of others
  • Packing out what you pack in
  • Never taking or killing fish except by angling
  • Not taking more than the daily limit, under-sized fish, or unwanted fish
  • Not altering the habitat
  • Not moving fish between waters or introducing fish to new waters
  • Carefully washing and disinfecting shoes that have come into contact with fishing water and lake or stream mud

Following ethical angling practices helps not only with conservation efforts, but helps to builds a positive angling community. Please do your part by taking time to research the plants and animals that live where you are fishing to be sure that you are making as little impact on their world as possible. You can also do your part by passing this information along to new anglers so they can continue to tradition of ethical angling.

The Last Word

Please remember that the ultimate goal of the CPW is to protect and sustain Colorado’s wildlife. The rules are not designed to put on a damper on your trip, but to ensure that future generations will have access to the same beauty and quality that you do now.