Rocky Mountain National Park

Big Thompson River, Rocky Mountain National Park
Big Thompson River, Rocky Mountain National Park (Willard Clay/Photographer's Choice/Getty)

Fishing was popular with early settlers in the Rocky Mountains. In an attempt to improve the sport, they stocked many streams with non-native species of trout and moved trout to lakes and streams that lacked them. The only trout native to the park were the greenback cutthroat and the Colorado River cutthroat.

The National Park Service stocked non-native Yellowstone cutthroat trout as late as 1968. These trends to "popularize" National Park areas have been reconsidered. Removing exotic or non-native fish and restocking with native greenback cutthroat and Colorado River cutthroat trout are returning park waters to their original condition.

Populations of at least four species of trout exist in the park—brown brook, rainbow, and cutthroat. Some suckers also inhabit the streams and lakes. Only 42 of the 156 lakes in the park have reproducing populations of fish. Cold water temperatures and lack of spawning habitat prevent reproduction in other high altitude lakes. Supplemental stocking is done only to restore native species to altered waters. Successful fishing at high altitudes is spotty, even from waters known to contain fish. The possession limit has been held to a minimum, resulting in an increasing population of cutthroat, brown, and rainbow trout. These fish are maturing and spawning successfully.

The Cache la Poudre River originates in the park, and while it's not fishable within park boundaries, it's definitely a worthy destination if you're in the area.

Fly fisherman may want to check out the Big Thompson River, The Fall River, and the Roaring River in the northeast corner of the park.

Today, fishing activities are balanced with efforts to restore and perpetuate natural aquatic environments and life. Here are some lakes and creeks open to fishing, including some with special catch-and-release regulations. There are also some closed waters you need to steer clear of. Before you wade in, check with the Park Service for license requirements, size and possession limits, and other regulations.

Open Lakes

The following lakes are open and contain fish:

Arrowhead Lake
Black Lake
Box Lake
Caddis Lake
Dream Lake
Fifth Lake
Fourth Lake
Jewel Lake
Lake Haiyaha
Lake Nanita (outlet closed)
Lake of Glass
Lake VernaLittle Rock Lake
Loch Vale
Lone Pine
Lake Mills
Lake Mirror
Lake Peacock Pool
Poudre Lake
Rock Lake
Sky Pond
Solitude Lake
Spirit Lake
Sprague Lake
Thunder Lake
Ypsilon Lake

Catch-and-Release Areas

Certain waters in the park with restored native fish populations are open year-round during daylight hours, except where indicated. Use barbless hooks only. Any and all fish species taken must be immediately returned to the water unharmed. The only exception is in the Hidden Valley Beaver Ponds, where the regular limit of brook trout may be kept.

No bait is permitted by any age angler in catch-and-release areas.

The following waters are open for catch-and-release fishing:

Adams Lake
Big Crystal Lake
Columbine Creek
Cony Creek
Fern Lake and Creek
Hidden Valley Beaver Ponds
(open 8/1-12/31 only)
Husted Lake
Lake Louise
Lawn Lake
Lily Lake
Loomis Lake
Lost Lake
Lower Hutcheson Lake
Mid-Hutcheson Lake
North Fork of the Big Thompson
(above Lost Falls)
Odessa Lake
Ouzel Lake and Creek
Paradise Creek drainage
Pear Lake and Creek
Roaring River
Sandbeach Lake and Creek
Spruce Lake
Timber Lake and Creek
Upper Hutcheson Lake

Closed Areas

The following waters are closed to fishing:

Bear Lake, inlet and outlet streams, as posted
Bench Lake and Ptarmigan Creek above War Dance Falls
Hidden Valley Beaver Ponds (closed January 1-July 31)
Hidden Valley Creek east of the Beaver Ponds
Hunters Creek above Wild Basin Ranger Station, as Lake Nanita outlet downstream 100 yards
West Creek above West Creek Falls

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »