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Fishing in Yellowstone National Park is a major reason many visitors come to the park each year and since it was created in 1872, the park has drawn anglers from around the world to fish its waters. In 2006, over 50,000 park fishing permits were issued to visitors. Anglers visiting the park to fish will find cutthroat, rainbow, brown, brook and lake trout, mountain whitefish and arctic grayling.
Although artificial lures are allowed in some waters, most anglers, especially in the rivers and streams are fly fisherman. The accessible, insect rich rivers and streams provide reliable hatches and allow both novice and accomplished anglers alike a wide variety of opportunities for both technical and easy dry fly, wet fly, nymph or streamer fly fishing.
Yellowstone Fabled Waters
People from all over the world come to fishing the fabled trout waters of Yellowstone National Park including the Firehole River, Gallatin River, Gardner River, Gibbon River, Lamar River, Lewis River, Madison River, Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek, and of course the Yellowstone River.
If you would like to get away from the crowds there are over 200 lesser-known creeks, streams and rivers with hundreds of miles of accessible, high-quality trout water containing wild trout populations. There are also 45 small to mid-size lakes and several large lakes that are easily accessible. Additionally, the park's remote sections provide anglers ample opportunity to visit rivers, streams, creeks and lakes that receive little angling pressure.
Yellowstone National Park Fishing Regulations
With the exception of one specially designated drainage, all the park's waters are restricted to artificial lures and fly fishing. The Madison River, Firehole River and a section of the Gibbon River are restricted to fly fishing only.
The park's fishing season runs from the Saturday in May associated with Memorial Day to the first Sunday in November each year. The National Park Service regulates angling in the park and classifies different fish available to the angler as either Native or Non-Native species.
Any native species-cutthroat trout, grayling and whitefish—caught must be immediately released unharmed. Non-natives—rainbow, brown, brook and lake trout have different bag limits depending on the waters fished. Some non-natives are also subject to catch and release regulations and all lake trout caught in Yellowstone Lake or river must be killed.
All hooks used in the park must be barbless or have their barbs pinched down. Many specific waters or sections of waters are closed either permanently for either safety reasons, wildlife management or to protect thermal features. The National Park Service may also enact emergency closures and restrictions because of low water, high temperatures or fires.
Anglers should always be familiar with the most current regulations, restrictions and closures. A Yellowstone National Park fishing permit is required to fish in the park. State licenses are not required.
Fishing supplies are available in the park's concession stores and in the towns associated with major entrances to the park—West Yellowstone, Montana; Gardiner, Montana; Jackson, Wyoming; Cody, Wyoming and Cooke City, Montana. There are also nearly 50 outfitters in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho licensed to provide guided fly fishing outings in the park and operate fly shops outside the park.