National Park Regs

Many areas owned or administered by the U.S. Department of Interior National Park Service, including national parks, national recreation areas, and national rivers, offer public access to outstanding fishing, with special regulations often applied to help preserve resources. Some waters are managed by the National Park Service, with regulations unique to park waters. Others are managed by individual states and regulated accordingly. Some parks require a specific fishing permit, while others wave state fishing license requirements. In other park areas, general statewide license requirements apply. Special regulations for National Park Service areas, as related to baits or hooks, are listed below.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

The Colorado River, below Glen Canyon Dam, supports a fine rainbow trout fishery. Only barbless single-hook artificial lures may be used from the dam to the beginning of the Paria Riffle (Lees Ferry), 15 miles downstream. The rainbow trout limit through this section is six fish, with a 14-inch minimum size. All rainbow trout must either be immediately released or killed and kept as part of the limit.

Lake Powell, which is located in Utah and Arizona, provides excellent fishing within the Glen Canyon National Recreation area, and special tackle restrictions apply only to the trout fishery below the dam.

For details and a complete listing of Arizona fishing regulations, visit azgfd.gov.

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park provides angling access to portions of the Klamath and Smith rivers and Redwood Creek, primarily for salmon and trout. Some of these waters do fall under special regulations, including a requirement to use artificial lures with barbless hooks. Regulations are set by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and vary by river section, season, and year in anadromous waters. Visit the California regulations page for details.

Sequoia/King Canyon national parks

The streams of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, which include the upper watersheds of the Kern and Kings rivers, collectively provide plentiful opportunities for catching trout. California fishing regulations apply on all streams. In addition, in all park waters that are located at less than 9,000 feet and are more than ¼ mile from any developed area, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used, and all rainbow trout, Sacramento sucker, Kern rainbows, sculpins, and roach fish must be released. Park literature warns that cold temperatures, strong currents, and plentiful rapids make park waters hazardous, especially during spring and early summer when snowmelt is a major factor. To learn more about the streams of Sequoia and Kings Canyon, visit nps.gov.

Yosemite National Park

The rivers and lakes of Yosemite National Park provide plentiful and widely varied opportunities to fish for trout. Waters range from the Merced River, which cuts between towering Yosemite Valley landmarks and holds famously fussy trout, to remote high-country lakes and headwater creeks. Stream fishing is open from the last Saturday in April through November 15 (except Frog Creek, which doesn’t open until June 15 to protect spawning rainbow trout). Additional special regulations apply in two areas:

  • In Yosemite Valley and El Portal (Happy Isles to Forest Bridge), special regulations include catch-and-release only for rainbow trout. The brown trout limit is five per day or 10 in possession, and only artificial lures with a barbless hook are permitted. Mirror Lake is considered a stream and falls under stream seasons.
  • For the Tuolumne River, from O’Shaughnessy downstream to the Early Intake Diversion Dam, the trout limit is two per day, with a maximum of 12 inches total length. Only artificial lures with a barbless hook are permitted.

For complete listing of special Yosemite fishing regulations, visit the park’s fishing information page.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The Gunnison River is designated as Blue Ribbon trout waters through the Black Canyon; however, sheer cliffs and powerful rapids prohibit fishing access through most of the canyon. Best river access within the park is at the far upper end via East Portal Road. Only artificial lures are permitted, with catch-and-release only for rainbow trout. Daily limit for brown trout is four fish. For more information about fishing in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, visit nps.gov.

Curecanti National Recreation Area

This recreation area includes mostly impounded stretches of the Gunnison River and offers plentiful fishing opportunities. Special regulations apply at the lower end of the recreation area, where the Gunnison falls under Gold Medal Waters designation. Beginning 200 yards downstream of Crystal Dam, only artificial lures may be used, and all rainbow trout must be released. The daily limit for brown trout is four fish. For more fishing information, visit nps.gov.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Spread across 415 square miles, Rocky Mountain National Park offers extensive opportunities to fish tumbling streams and high-country lakes for four species of trout, including native greenback cutthroat trout. Only artificial lures may be used in open park waters. Lakes and streams known to contain cutthroat trout are open only to catch-and-release fishing with barbless artificial lures. For more information about fishing in park waters, including the delineation of waters known to contain trout, closed waters, and catch-and-release regulations, visit the park’s fishing information page.

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Seventeen separate park units along nearly 50 miles of the Chattahoochee River provide outstanding river access. Because of the cooling influence of Buford Dam, which impounds Lake Sidney Lanier, this stretch of the Chattahoochee supports a trout fishery as it winds through Atlanta’s northern suburbs. Georgia trout regulations apply throughout, and two sections fall under special regulations. From Georgia Highway 20 to the boat ramp at the Medlock Bridge Unit of the Chattahoochee River NRA, only artificial lures are permitted. Also, from Sope Creek to Highway 41, the Chattahoochee River falls under delayed harvest regulations, which means that from November 1 to May 14, only catch-and-release fishing with single-hook artificial lures are permitted. For regulations, details, and more information about trout fishing in Georgia, visit georgiawildlife.com.

Yellowstone National Park

A small portion of the park is in Idaho. See details under Wyoming.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Three ponds on this preserve are open year-round to catch-and-release fishing only, and anglers are limited to the use of artificial lures or worms. Additional regulations are posted on site. To learn more, visit nps.gov.

Isle Royale National Park

A remote island cluster in northwestern Lake Superior, Isle Royale is accessible only by boat or airplane. The park includes the island itself, which is nine miles wide and 45 miles long, more than 400 smaller surrounding islands, and a portion of Lake Superior. Inland waters and the lake itself offer excellent fishing for a variety of species. Only catch-and-release fishing with barbless, single-hook artificial lures is permitted on any of the park’s inland waters, which include ponds and streams of various sizes. Many species are available, but native brook trout are largely considered the main attraction. For more information, visit the park’s fishing information page.

Mississippi National River & Recreation Area

The recreation area links numerous parks and access points along 72 miles of the Mississippi River beginning just north of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. No special tackle restrictions govern these waters. However, only catch-and-release fishing for walleyes, sauger, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass is permitted in Pool 2 of the Mississippi River, which runs through St. Paul and in the lower reaches of the Minnesota River and Minnehaha Creek. Fishing in these waters is exceptional, despite the urban setting. To learn more about fishing in the Mississippi River, visit nps.gov.

Voyageurs National Park

When most fishermen think about Voyageurs National Park, they think first about the storied waters of Rainy Lake and other large bodies of water. That’s understandable. But don’t overlook the park’s inland waters, which may only be fished from the shore or from canoes rented in the park. Only artificial lures may be used to fish the park’s interior waters, and park officials ask that anglers who opt to fish the large waters AND interior waters use separate gear for each to avoid the spread of exotic species, especially spiny water fleas and rusty crayfish. For more information, visit the park’s fishing information page.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

The first National Park Service area designed specifically to protect a river system, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways bounds the Current and Jacks Fork rivers for many miles, providing outstanding public access to beautiful streams and plentiful fish. Fishing is permitted in both rivers, which offer excellent opportunities to target a variety of species, including trout and three major black bass species. Fishing is prohibited in springs and spring runs. Special regulations apply in a trout management area of the Current River from Montauk State Park to Cedargrove Bridge. Only artificial lures may be used, with all soft-plastic baits prohibited. Minimum size is 18 inches. Limit is one trout of any species. For more information about fishing in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, visit nps.gov.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Canyon-bound Bighorn Lake supports a mix of warm- and cool-water species, while the Bighorn River below Afterbay Dam supports one of Montana’s most celebrated trout fisheries, with plentiful large fish and year-round opportunities. Only three public river access points exist, but anglers may wade anywhere in the river as long as they remain below the high-water mark. Only artificial lures are permitted from 600 feet below Afterbay Dam to the Bighorn Fishing Access Site. For more fishing information, visit the park’s fishing information page.

Glacier National Park

Glacier’s fishery includes a host of spectacular high-country lakes and streams of all sizes, with opportunities to fish for various trout and salmon species. Only artificial lures may be used, and the possession of bait, lead weights, or lead jigheads of any kind is prohibited. The general combined limit is five fish, but a few exceptions include seasonal closure of waters, species that must be released, and variances based on waters shared with Canada or with the Blackfeet Nation. Regulations are detailed on the park’s fishing information page.

Yellowstone National Park

A portion of the park is in Montana. See Wyoming listings for Yellowstone fishing details.

Great Basin National Park

Half a dozen tumbling creeks and small lakes that sit higher than the 10,000-foot mark collectively provide opportunities to catch rainbow, brook, brown, and cutthroat trout in Great Basin National Park. Artificial lures and worms (but no other natural bait) are permitted. Barbless hooks and catch-and-release fishing are encouraged, but not required. For complete information, visit the park’s fishing information page.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Roughly 600 miles of large streams provide a trout habitat that offers a wealth of fishing opportunities in the Great Smoky Mountains. Streams range from tiny headwater branches that can only be reached via lengthy hikes to large streams with easy access, which mostly harbor smallmouth and rock bass. Only single-hook artificial lures may be used or possessed throughout the park. The combined limit for brook, brown, and rainbow trout is five fish, with a minimum size of 7 inches. The park, which covers approximately 500,000 acres, is split between Tennessee and North Carolina, and a fishing license for either state covers waters throughout the park. For complete regulations and more information about fishing in the park, visit the park’s fishing information page.

Crater Lake National Park

Limited fishing with artificial lures only is available in Crater Lake and in park streams, with access the primary limitation. Fishing access to the lake, which holds kokanee salmon and rainbow trout, is by the Cleetwood Trail—a steep 700 feet descent that provides access to approximately ¼ mile of shoreline—and from an island that can only be accessed by a park tour boat. Two park streams, Sun Creek and Lost Creek, are closed to all fishing in order to protect native bull trout. Other streams are open, but most cut through deep canyons and are inaccessible or extremely difficult to reach. For details, visit the park’s fishing information page.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky National Park runs through parts of North Carolina and Tennessee. See details under North Carolina.

Shenandoah National Park

More than 70 streams drain the mountains of Shenandoah National Park, collectively creating an outstanding fishery for wild trout. Native brook trout are the main attraction, but some park waters also hold rainbow and/or brown trout. Only single-hook artificial lures may be used anywhere in Shenandoah National Park, and no organic bait may be possessed. A few streams are designated for catch-and-release fishing. Where harvest is permitted, the combined limit is six fish, with a 9-inch minimum size for brook trout. In three streams—Rose River, Hughes River, and Brokenback Run—special regulations prohibit the live release of brown trout, which negatively impact native brook trout populations. For details about brown trout regulations and other park-specific information, visit the park’s fishing page.

Mount Rainer National Park

A short window of open-water fishing exists each summer in the glacier-fed streams and high-country lakes of Mountain Rainer National Park. No fishing license is required within park boundaries. Regulations are in accordance with those set by the state of Washington, except for a few waters that are closed to fishing at various times. Fishing for bull trout or Chinook salmon is prohibited, as is the possession or use of live or dead baitfish, amphibians, non-preserved fish eggs, or roe. See the park’s fishing page for more information.

Olympic National Park

The fisheries of Olympic National Park are almost as vast and complex as the park itself, which spreads across nearly 1 million acres of the Olympic Peninsula and encompasses seven distinct ecosystems. Waters range from coastal lagoons and the Pacific Ocean to remote mountain lakes. Species include anadromous steelhead, cutthroat trout, and Pacific salmon, plus various mountain trout species. No license is required, except when fishing from the beach in the Pacific Ocean. For most fishing, only barbless, single-hook artificial lures are permitted, with several areas designated as catch-and-release only. Regulations, however, vary by location and by species, largely to protect native species. Fishing for bull trout is prohibited at all times, and any bull trout caught must be immediately released. Before fishing, it’s important to study park-wide, location-specific and species-specific regulations. For details, visit the park’s fishing information page.

New River Gorge National River

Two sections of the New River Gorge National River offer outstanding smallmouth fishing and are open only to catch-and-release fishing for black bass. No extra bait or hook restrictions apply anywhere on the main river.

Glade Creek, a New River tributary, is open only to catch-and-release fishing for trout from its mouth three miles upstream to the National Parks Service foot bridge. Only artificial lures may be used, and hooks must be barbless or single-pointed.

To learn more about fishing the New River Gorge National River, visit nps.gov.

Grand Teton National Park

The Snake River, its tributaries, and several lakes of various sizes provide extensive opportunities to fish for trout, including rainbows, browns, and native Snake River cutthroats. Regulations, which are set by the state of Wyoming, vary by stream section and include some special limitations. Only artificial lures may be used in Blacktail Spring Ponds, on the Snake River, from the gauging station 1,000 feet below Jackson Lake Dam to the Highway 22 bridge, and on all streams below Jackson Lake Dam, excluding Buffalo Fork and Gros Ventre rivers. For details on seasons, limits, and seasonal closures of specific fisheries, which vary by stream section, visit the park’s fishing information page.

Yellowstone National Park

Some of the nation’s most celebrated trout streams, including the Yellowstone, Madison, and Gallatin rivers, form within Yellowstone National Park, collectively offering extensive opportunities for anglers. A Yellowstone fishing permit (rather than a state fishing license) is required for fishing in the park. Only barbless single-hook artificial lures may be used in park waters, and lead sinkers or lures containing lead are prohibited. All native fish, which include cutthroat trout, grayling, and whitefish, must be released. Other regulations and seasons vary substantially by lake or stream section. In some areas, non-native fish must be killed. Some areas are open to fly-fishing only. For complete information about Yellowstone fishing regulations, download this pamphlet.