Southern Ute Indian Tribe

Stream Fishing Regulations

Southern Ute Indian Tribe Division of Wildlife Logo

Wildlife Division Head

Aran Johnson

Southern Ute Wildlife Questions


All regulations in this section, unless otherwise specified, apply to all fishermen on the Southern Ute Reservation. These regulations are strictly enforced and violators will be fully prosecuted under Southern Ute Tribal law. Individuals witnessing a violation are strongly encouraged to report the violation to the Southern Ute Division of Wildlife at (970) 563-0130 or Southern Ute Police Department at (970) 563-4401.

Season Dates

Southern Ute Tribal waters are open to fishing year-round. Season fishing permits are valid from January 1st through December 31st each year.

Designated Tribal Waters

The following streams are designated as open to non-tribal member fishing: the Tribal portions of the Animas, Los Piños, Piedra, and San Juan Rivers. All other streams, including the La Plata, Navajo, and Florida Rivers, all creeks, and all irrigation canals, are closed to non-tribal member fishing.

Stream Access

For purposes of stream access for fishing, lands within the Southern Ute Indian Reservation are divided into two categories: (1) Tribal trust lands, and (2) allotted and private lands. The Tribe has adopted a policy that allows for open fishing access on Tribal trust lands. Provisions for fishing on these lands are similar for Southern Ute Tribal members and permitted non-members, but not identical. These provisions are further explained below.

Animas River
Animas River

Allotted and private lands are private property and permission to fish at these locations must always be obtained from the landowner. It is the fisherman’s responsibility to know where allotted and private lands occur.

Access For Permitted Non-Tribal Members

Fishing by permitted non-Tribal members is allowed on the Animas, Los Piños, Piedra, and San Juan Rivers through designated access points. Fishermen must use the access points identified on the maps to enter and exit stream corridors, which are located only on Tribal trust lands. Fishermen may move up or down the stream corridors without securing additional permission but may not continue on to allotted or private lands unless authorized by the landowner. The stream corridor is bound by a 5-foot distance from the edge of the water on both sides of the stream; fishermen may depart from this corridor only to the extent necessary to avoid a barrier located within the corridor. Use of designated access points and stream corridors is allowed for fishing only.

Access For Southern Ute Tribal Members

Fishing by Southern Ute Tribal members is allowed along all waters on all Tribal trust lands on the Reservation. For fishing on unassigned tribal lands, Tribal member fishermen are not restricted to access points and stream corridors. However, to fish on assigned tribal lands, tribal members must use the designated access points and stream corridors as described above for non-Tribal members. Tribal member fishermen are responsible for knowing where Tribal land assignments occur, and fishing is the only activity allowed while accessing Tribal land assignments.

All fishermen are asked to respect Tribal land! Do not litter, cut fences, leave gates open, drive or park in inappropriate areas, or engage in any non-fishing activities. Always remain within the specified corridor unless there is an emergency, never trespass on private property, and contact the appropriate authorities if you see violations being committed. Activities by non-Tribal members other than fishing are strictly prohibited and violators will be prosecuted.

Fishing on Tribal land is a special privilege granted by the Tribe. Following the rules and showing respect for the land will ensure that this privilege continues.

Bag and Possession Limits

The daily bag limit is the maximum number of game fish you can take in one day. The possession limit is the maximum number of game fish you can have in possession at any one time, including in your creel, ice chest, vehicle, or home. Game fish caught and not immediately returned to the water are counted in the daily bag and possession limit.

The following chart specifies daily bag and possession limits for game fish found on the Southern Ute Reservation. See the Animas River Special Waters section for special bag and possession limits on a portion of the Animas River.

Game FishDaily Bag and Possession Limits (under 13)Daily Bag and Possession Limits (age 13 and older)
Trout1 (rainbow, brown, cutthroat)2Tribal Member - 4
Non-Members - 2
Kokanee salmon2510
Channel catfish2510
White crappie2510
Northern pike2510
Smallmouth bass2510

1 Limits on trout may consist of one species or a mix of more than one species.
2 These species are primarily found in the lower reaches of tributaries to Navajo Reservoir.

No-Limit Fish Species

The following non-native fish species are also found on the Southern Ute Reservation and are unlimited for bag and possession: black bullhead, common carp, green sunfish, and white sucker.

Protected Fish Species

Roundtail Chub (Gila robusta), a rare native fish found on the Southern Ute Reservation, is a protected species and must be immediately returned to the water if caught. It is unlawful to have this species in your possession.

Protected Species – Roundtail Chub
Protected Species – Roundtail Chub

General Restrictions

Permitted Angling Methods

Game fish may be taken by hook and line only. For bait fishing, one line may be used with up to two single baited hooks attached. For lure fishing, one line may be used with one artificial lure attached. Artificial lures may have up to two hooks (single, double, or treble) attached. For flyfishing, one line may be used with up to two flies attached.

Legal Hours of Take

With the exception of Lake Capote, fishing may occur 24 hours a day. Fishing hours for Lake Capote will be posted on site.

Salmon Snagging

Snagging, or using hooked devices to snag fish in parts of their bodies other than the mouth, is only allowed for kokanee salmon on the Los Piños, Piedra, and San Juan Rivers during the months of October, November, and December. Standard salmon bag limits and gear restrictions for lure fishing apply to snagging.

Fishing Duration

All fishermen must discontinue fishing when the legal bag or possession limit is met.

Fishing Pole Attendance

Fishermen must attend their fishing pole (be within 50 feet) at all times.


Use of any live, dead, or parts of fish or amphibians as bait is prohibited in all Reservation waters. Non-fish and amphibian baits such as worms, insects, crayfish, vegetable matter, artificial salmon eggs, and Power Bait are permitted except where special regulations are in place.


Unless authorized by the Southern Ute Division of Wildlife, it is unlawful to take, possess, transport, or sell minnows on the Southern Ute Reservation.


Chumming, or placing in the water any type of fish attractant for the purpose of catching fish, is prohibited in all tribal waters. Chumming does not include the use of bait, lures, and flies as specified in the Permitted Angling Methods section.

Planting Fish

Unless authorized by the Southern Ute Division of Wildlife, it is unlawful to release or move into Tribal waters any fish from aquariums, fish ponds, bait buckets, or any other external fish source.

Illegal Fishing Gear / Methods

Use of the following gear or methods to catch fish is prohibited on all Tribal waters: all net types (excluding hand-held nets for landing hooked fish), trotlines, traps, explosives, poisons, guns, or any other gear or method not specified in the Permitted Angling Methods section.

Private Property

It is unlawful to fish on private property without first obtaining permission from the property owner. Private property includes Tribal allotments, but not Tribal land assignments. Not all private property is posted, and it is the fisherman’s responsibility to know when and where access permission is needed.


Boating is allowed on designated Tribal waters only. Fishermen who have a valid Tribal fishing permit and who are engaged in fishing may put in or take out small, portable craft on Tribal lands. Portable craft are those that can be carried by hand to and from the river but do not include boats that must be trailered into or out of the river.

Guiding and Outfitting

Guides and outfitters operating on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation must be permitted by the Division of Wildlife Resource Management. For more information on guiding and outfitting, see the Guiding and Outfitting section on this website, or contact the Division of Wildlife Resource Management.

Restrictions While on Tribal Lands

  • No removing or disturbing artifacts
  • No alcohol or illegal drug use
  • No off-road vehicle use
  • No firearms
  • No littering

Animas River Special Waters

The Animas River between the northern Reservation boundary and Weasleskin Bridge is managed for trophy trout fishing. This stretch of water has special regulations as follows:

  • Artificial flies and lures only with barbless hooks. Absolutely no bait fishing is allowed in this section.
  • Two (2) trout bag and possession limit, with each fish measuring 16″ or greater in total length. All trout under 16″ must be immediately returned to the water.

Catch and Release

Catch and release is an important approach to fishing that many anglers voluntarily practice. Not all fish that you catch need to be kept. In fact, the more fish put back in the river, the more fishing time you’ll have and the more fish will be available for others to enjoy. Most of the time, if a fish is caught, handled properly, and then released, it will survive to be caught another day.

Here are some important things to remember when practicing catch and release:

  • Do not play any hooked fish to total exhaustion.
  • Keep the fish in the water as much as possible while handling it.
  • Gently remove the hook without squeezing the fish or touching its gills. (Barbless hooks make hook removal much easier.)
  • If the hook is deeply swallowed, do not pull it out. Instead, cut the line as short as possible so the hook may dissolve inside the fish.
  • Allow an exhausted fish to recover before releasing it. Gently hold the fish in moving water, facing it upstream until it swims away.

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