Fresh fish for breakfast!

 

Colorado is full of great fishing waters; you just have to make sure you’re prepared before you drop your line

There are plenty of excellent fishing spots throughout Colorado. Lakes, reservoirs, and rivers are all fair game. However, before you set out, you’ll need to have a few things in order. Grab a Colorado fishing license, which become available each year on April 1st, and are valid until March 31st of the following year. You can also get one and five-day passes. Next, check conditions in various regions before leaving home. If you want to take your boat out on the water be sure to check out this list of boatable waters in Colorado. You’ll be able to see which bodies of water have amenities like boat ramps, restrooms, and the types of fish that are stocked.

Types of fish found in Colorado’s waters

There are plenty of fish species throughout Colorado, but some are more common than others. The Cutthroat Trout is the official state fish of Colorado, and rightfully so – it’s the state’s only indigenous variety of trout. Colorado’s reservoirs are most commonly stocked with Rainbow Trout, and other varieties of trout are abundant (namely Brown, Brook, and Lake Trout.) The most common types of fish will vary based on the region. For example, the Front Range tends to have excellent trout fishing. Reservoirs in the plains are renowned for walleye. Northwest Colorado also has fantastic trout fishing. Each part of the state has its fair share of waters that are wonderful for anglers. Pagosa Springs boasts that it has some of the best fishing in the entire state.

When should I fish in Colorado?

Fishing in Colorado is a year round activity. Each season has its perks and downsides, though. Summer tends to be extremely busy out on the water, but the crowds have usually thinned by fall. Fall is also a particularly great time for fly fishing, when snow melt is lowest and thus when the waters are at their lowest. During the winter months, ice fishing is popular in Colorado. Just check out this list of some of the best lakes for ice fishing in Colorado.

What will I need for a fishing trip?

It’s amazing how much gear exists for fishing. Thankfully, you don’t need to go too crazy with equipment (unless you want to!) To start, get yourself a basic rod and reel. Choose an all-purpose setup that works for different types of fish to have the most versatility. Next, create a basic tackle box. Purchase a bait kit that includes different types of lures and artificial bait. From there, select some live bait hooks, a roll of fishing line, and perhaps some Powerbait if you’re aiming to catch trout and bass. Throw in a pocketknife and you’ll be all set. As far as clothing goes, waders are good to have for fishing in Colorado rivers or in places where shore access is hard to find. You can even purchase a padded seat cushionto make sitting for long periods of time a lot more comfortable.

Fly-fishing gear

If you’ve never gone fly-fishing before, but have been aching to give it a try, the best rule is to keep it simple. All you truly need is a rod, reel, line, and leader. Next, you’ll want a pair of snips to cut your line, a basic box of flies, and a few spools of different tippet material. Everything else is secondary. If you’re just starting out, check out these fantastic videos about beginning fly-fishing from Orvis. If you want to give fly-fishing a go, check out this list of 10 spots throughout Western Colorado.

Ice fishing gear

Fishing in Colorado is truly a year round activity, and that includes ice fishing. You’ll obviously need more gear, like an ice auger or a drill to get through the ice. You can even use a hand drill in the beginning. Don’t forget a bucket or something to sit on, too!

Where are the best fishing spots in Colorado?

The “best” fishing spots will largely depend on what you’re looking for. Proximity to home, ease of access, types of fish, and more will all influence opinion, and one person’s favorite will be another’s nightmare. The Colorado Fishing Network is an excellent resource to begin searching for that perfect spot. For example, if you’re making a trip to Summit County, Gore Creek is a recommended spot (and it’s easy to reach, right off of I-70 in Vail.) In the Gunnison region, Blue Mesa Reservoir boasts the biggest Kokanee Salmon fishery in the country. However, you’ll need fly-fishing equipment. Also note that all Rainbow Trout are catch and release, and there are restrictions on where you can fish and how many you can bag per day.

Where are the worst spots to fish in Colorado?

There are a decent number of lakes, streams, and reservoirs that have been over-fished throughout the years. That’s why it’s always prudent to check conditions before traveling in search of the perfect Colorado fishing spot. A reservoir could be barren one day and teeming with fish the next.   If escaping crowds is an important requirement, you may want to stay away from popular places like Denver’s Cherry Creek Reservoir, Chatfield State Park in Littleton or Boulder’s Reservoir. Front Range locations are notoriously crowded, and trash can become an issue. Every spot tends to have its good days and bad days, so it depends on what you’re looking for from a day out on the water.  

Remote fishing spots populate many remote valleys.

Motor or Pedal power, the roads are limitless in this state!

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Family time

Load up your tackle box and picnic basket to create lasting family memories on a Colorado fishing adventure.

You'll find easily accessible ponds, lakes and streams that make the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon catching the state's famous rainbow trout.

 


 

 

Family fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO

Sure, the fishing is unbeatable at these 10 spots, but they made the list because they offer so much more: hiking, museums, playgrounds and pools — the kids will be begging to come back.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife provides a wealth of information about fishing with your little ones.

Take a look at their suggestions for making the most of the family fishing experience, and their interactive map of the top 101 places to take a kid fishing. (Note: Unless otherwise noted, anyone over 16 will need a license at the locations below.)

1. MT. EVANS TROUT FISHING, IDAHO SPRINGS

For inspiration, check out our video of fly-fishers on the Roaring Fork River near Basalt. - 

Just 45 minutes west of Denver, you'll find the charming Grandma & Grandpa's Fishing Pond. The generously stocked pond teams with rainbow trout ready to bite. Children of all ages will also get a kick out of the resident reindeer, gentle creatures that are always happy to see visitors. Extend your trip in one of the overnight cabins and make the short drive to the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. (Since it's privately owned, there's no license needed to fish here.)

2. SCHRYVER PARK KIDS POND, MANITOU SPRINGS

One of Manitou Springs' claims to fame is the mineral spring water that the town was built around, and this small pond is the perfect place for the whole family to sink a line into those famous waters. On the east side of town, the pond is fed by Fountain Creek and shaded by giant cottonwood trees. Each spring, the Colorado Division of Wildlife stocks it with catchable trout. Other activities include a community swimming pool and playground.

3. FORT COLLINS CITY PARK LAKE, FORT COLLINS

Also known as Sheldon Lake, this pond is a lively urban fishing hole chock-full of rainbow trout, bluegill and crappies. Perch on the large wooden deck near plenty of picnic tables and drop your line in over the railing – it won't be long before you feel a tug on your pole. The evening is a popular time for family fishing, when a friendly spirit fills the park. Stick around for more activities, like City Park Pool, paddle boats, a miniature train, a huge playground, basketball courts and a pottery studio.

4. CORN LAKE, GRAND JUNCTION

One of the most fabulous destinations for reeling in the day's catch is just outside of town at Corn Lake. With both warm- and cold-water fishing, the lake is stocked with catchable-size rainbow trout and has self-sustaining populations of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and channel catfish. The site is ADA accessible and offers public restrooms and picnic tables, too. One mile to the west is the Colorado River Wildlife Area, which features hiking, wildlife observation and environmental education activities.

5. ST. VRAIN STATE PARK, LONGMONT

Only a short jaunt from either Denver or Fort Collins, St. Vrain State Park offers more fishing ponds than anyone could visit in one trip. Sandpiper and Mallard ponds win best spots for families because of their accessibility from the parking lot, proximity to restrooms and heavy-handed stocking of rainbow trout, channel catfish, bass, perch, bluegill and saugeye. Keep your eyes peeled for other wildlife, like eagles and blue herons. While you're there, also check out easy hiking trials and new camping sites.

6. ANTICLINE FISHING POND, PUEBLO

In southern Colorado, Lake Pueblo State Park is a mecca for boating, but if you're there with the kids, the smaller Anticline Fishing Pond is not to be missed. The pier makes the ideal place to perch for an afternoon of hooking walleye, wiper and bass, as well as stocked trout. Only steps away are the swimming beach, playground, zoo, public restrooms and picnic tables. Of course, the kiddos will love fishing off a boat, too; rentals are available at either of the two marinas.

7. TROUT HAVEN RANCH & FISHING POND, ESTES PARK

Although we wouldn't compare it to shooting fish in a barrel, at Trout Haven Ranch everyone is guaranteed to catch something. Plus, you can have a the fun of fishing in the Rockies, without fussing over the details of purchasing a license, buying or renting equipment, or cleaning and freezing the fish once you've caught them – all that's taken care of. Book a night at the on-site cabins or lodge so you can take advantage of other Estes Park activities, like biking, hiking, rafting, horseback riding and more.

8. BEAR CREEK LAKE PARK, LAKEWOOD

Where the urban landscape of Denver gives way to the scenic foothills, this easy-to-find fishing hole awaits. The whole family will love hanging out on the piers to pull in trout, bass, bluegill and perch from the big, scenic lake. For more ideas on exploring Bear Creek Lake Park, head to the visitors center, where you can see wildlife exhibits, talk to park rangers and plan your trip.

9. CHIPETA LAKE STATE WILDLIFE AREA, MONTROSE

In the shadow of the majestic San Juan Mountains rests this humble little lake, which is perfect for kids because you can drive right up to it, there's ample casting room and the banks aren't steep. Plus, everyone will catch something because stocked trout, sunfish, bass and catfish thrive in its waters. Sneak a little education into your fishing trip by learning about Chief Ouray, his wife Chipeta and more American Indian history at the Ute  Indian Museum that is located within the Chipeta Lake State Wildlife Area.

10. ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, ESTES PARK

One of the best things about fishing this alpine paradise is the unlimited variety. On the west side of the park, Lake Granby, Grand Lake and Shadow Lake provide commercial marinas and boating around some of the largest bodies of water in Colorado. On the east side, Lake Estes and Lake Marys are smaller and offer a more rustic and private outing. You can also add another level of adventure by scheduling a horseback ride that takes you to and from some more exotic fishing spots, or camp in the park and hit a bunch of different ones.

WANT MORE?

Find great spots for Colorado fishing and fly-fishing, and learn more about Colorado lakes.

For more fishing inspiration, check out our video of fly-fishers on the Roaring Fork River near Basalt.