Fishing is more than just a leisurely activity in Colorado – it’s a cherished tradition that connects people with the state’s breathtaking natural landscapes and diverse aquatic ecosystems. Whether you’re a lifelong angler or a newcomer to the sport, understanding the age requirements for fishing licenses is crucial to ensure a legal and responsible fishing experience.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the age-related regulations surrounding fishing licenses in Colorado. From youth exemptions to senior discounts, we’ll cover everything you need to know to embark on your next fishing adventure while contributing to the state’s conservation efforts.

The Essentials: Who Needs a Fishing License in Colorado?

In Colorado, anyone aged 16 or older is required to possess a valid fishing license to legally fish or take fish, amphibians, and crustaceans. This regulation applies to both residents and non-residents of the state, ensuring that everyone participates in preserving Colorado’s aquatic resources.

Failure to comply with licensing requirements can result in fines or legal consequences, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the rules before casting your line.

Encouraging the Next Generation of Anglers

Colorado recognizes the importance of fostering a love for fishing among its youth. To that end, the state has implemented several measures to make the sport more accessible and affordable for young anglers.

Youth Fishing Licenses

Resident youth aged 16 and 17 can purchase an annual fishing license for a discounted fee of $10.95. This affordable option allows teenagers to explore the joys of fishing while adhering to state regulations.

Under 16 Exemption

Even better, children under the age of 16 are exempt from the fishing license requirement. They can take a full bag and possession limit without a license, making it easier for families to introduce their kids to the sport.

However, if a child under 16 wishes to fish with a second line, they must obtain and carry a second-rod stamp. This stamp does not entitle the child to an additional bag limit, but it does allow them to use an extra rod or line while fishing.

Catering to Senior Anglers

Colorado understands the importance of providing accessible fishing opportunities for its senior residents. To that end, the state offers several options to make fishing more affordable and enjoyable for those aged 65 and older.

Senior Fishing Licenses

Residents aged 65 and older can obtain an annual senior fishing license for the discounted fee of $10.95. This license allows them to fish legally throughout the state while taking advantage of the senior discount.

Additionally, seniors have the option to purchase an annual senior combo small game/fishing license for $33.54. This combo license includes the required fees for search-and-rescue and wildlife education, making it a convenient and cost-effective choice for those who enjoy both fishing and hunting.

Senior residents must carry their fishing license while fishing, and if they wish to use a second line, they must also obtain a second-rod stamp.

Lifetime Low-Income Fishing Licenses

For low-income seniors aged 64 or older, Colorado offers lifetime low-income fishing licenses. To qualify, residents must meet specific eligibility requirements, which can be obtained by contacting any Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) location.

This option ensures that financial constraints do not prevent seniors from enjoying the therapeutic and recreational benefits of fishing.

Accommodating Anglers with Disabilities and Military Personnel

Colorado recognizes the importance of providing accessible fishing opportunities for individuals with disabilities and military personnel. To that end, the state has implemented several exemptions and accommodations.

Disabled Anglers

Residents with disabilities can apply for a lifetime free fishing license through CPW. To qualify, they must provide documentation such as disability benefit records, a physician’s letter, or a similar document from the Department of Workers’ Compensation.

This exemption ensures that individuals with disabilities can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of fishing without financial barriers.

Military Exemptions

Colorado also extends its gratitude to military personnel through various exemptions and discounts.

  • Active Duty Military: Colorado residents on active duty with the U.S. armed forces stationed out of state can fish for free without a license while on temporary leave in Colorado, for a maximum of 30 days per year. They must carry official leave papers while fishing.
  • Disabled Veterans: Military veterans who are Colorado residents and have a disability rating of 60% or higher from active duty, including recipients of the Purple Heart, can apply for a free fishing and hunting combo license.

These exemptions not only honor the service of military personnel but also provide them with opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors and the therapeutic benefits of fishing.

Obtaining Your Colorado Fishing License

Acquiring a Colorado fishing license is a straightforward process, with multiple options available to cater to different preferences.

Online Purchases

Anglers can conveniently purchase their fishing licenses online through the CPW website. This option allows individuals to obtain their licenses from the comfort of their homes without the need for in-person interactions.

When ordering a short-term fishing license online, anglers will receive a temporary authorization number (TAM) that serves as their license until the physical copy arrives in the mail. For annual licenses purchased online or by phone, the physical license should arrive within 14 days.

In-Person Purchases

For those who prefer a more traditional approach, fishing licenses can be purchased in person from authorized retailers or CPW locations. These retailers include tackle shops, hardware stores, and even big-box retailers like Walmart, providing convenient access to licenses across the state.

Authorized fly fishing shops, such as Cutthroat Anglers, offer the added convenience of issuing fishing licenses on-site to customers, trip-goers, or walk-ins at no additional cost beyond the state-issued fees.

Phone Purchases

Anglers can also purchase their fishing licenses by phone by calling the dedicated CPW hotline at 1-800-244-5613. Trained sales representatives will guide callers through the application process step-by-step, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free experience.

License Fees and Types

The fees for Colorado fishing licenses vary based on factors such as age, residency status, and the duration of the license. Residents typically enjoy lower fees compared to non-residents, while seniors and youth benefit from discounted rates.

In addition to the standard fishing licenses, Colorado offers several specialized permit types:

  • Second-Rod Stamp: Anglers who wish to use a second rod, hand line, or tip-up must purchase a second-rod stamp. This stamp does not entitle the angler to an additional bag limit, nor can it be used for another person to fish.
  • Commercial License: An annual commercial license is required for individuals who wish to take or possess bait fish, amphibians, or crustaceans for commercial purposes. Licensees must provide live-fish buyers with a receipt stating the seller’s name, date of sale, species, and number sold.
  • Special Permits: Certain rivers and lakes in Colorado may require additional special permits or stamps beyond the regular fishing license. It is essential to check with local authorities or land management agencies before fishing in these areas.

Staying Legal and Responsible: The Importance of Fishing Licenses

Obtaining a Colorado fishing license is not just a legal requirement; it also contributes to the state’s conservation efforts and ensures the sustainability of its diverse aquatic ecosystems. The fees collected from fishing licenses fund projects that protect wildlife, maintain hatcheries, study conservation best practices, and encourage participation in the sport.

By adhering to Colorado’s fishing regulations, anglers play a crucial role in preserving the state’s natural resources for future generations. It is essential to familiarize oneself with the latest rules and regulations, which are updated annually by CPW.

Additionally, responsible fishing practices, such as adhering to catch limits, using authorized equipment and bait, and practicing catch-and-release techniques, help maintain a healthy fish population and minimize environmental impact.

Can I fish in Colorado without a license if I’m just visiting?

No, all individuals aged 16 and older, regardless of residency status, are required to have a valid fishing license to fish in Colorado. Non-residents can purchase short-term or annual licenses through the same channels as residents.

Do I need a separate license for each body of water I fish in?

No, a Colorado fishing license allows you to fish in any public waters within the state, with the exception of certain areas that may require additional permits or stamps.

Can I use my fishing license from another state in Colorado?

No, fishing licenses from other states are not valid in Colorado. You must obtain a Colorado-specific fishing license to legally fish in the state.

How long is a Colorado fishing license valid for?

Colorado offers both annual and short-term fishing licenses. Annual licenses are valid for one year from the date of purchase, while short-term licenses are available for periods ranging from 1 day to 1 year.

Where can I find more information about Colorado’s fishing regulations?

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) website ( is an excellent resource for up-to-date information on fishing regulations, license requirements, and conservation efforts in the state.


Fishing in Colorado is a privilege that comes with the responsibility of respecting and protecting the state’s natural resources. By understanding and complying with the age requirements for fishing licenses, anglers can enjoy their favorite pastime while contributing to the conservation efforts that ensure its longevity.

Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, a seasoned angler or a newcomer to the sport, obtaining the appropriate fishing license is a crucial step in your Colorado fishing adventure. With the various options available for purchasing licenses and the accommodations made for different age groups and circumstances, Colorado makes it easy for everyone to participate in this beloved outdoor activity legally and responsibly.

So, grab your rod, secure your fishing license, and embark on an unforgettable angling experience in the breathtaking landscapes of Colorado. Remember, by following the regulations, you’re not only ensuring your own enjoyment but also preserving the state’s natural treasures for generations to come.

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