What is it about the “Centennial State” that makes freshwater anglers want to come back here year after year? Maybe it’s the 2,500 lakes and over 12,000 miles of streams? Or perhaps it’s the scenic high-mountain waters and absolutely breathtaking views? Whatever it is, fishing in Colorado is nothing short of incredible.
The Rocky Mountain State is home to several Gold Medal fisheries, with 322 miles full of Trout. Yes, it seems like there’s a Trout for every angler who decides to treat themselves to a fishing trip here. The only question is, when to go and where to start.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the what, who, when, and how when it comes to fishing in Colorado. Let’s begin the adventure by looking at the most interesting fish species.
What can I target in Colorado?
So, what can an angler expect to find on the Colorado fishing menu? The state is home to over a hundred different species, big and small. In this section, we’ll cover the most popular catches that the state offers, starting with a local superstar.
It’s hard to name a more iconic Colorado fish than Trout. In fact, there are several different types of Trout available in the state. A large number of Brook, Rainbow, and Brown Trout call Colorado home. Plus, there’s Greenback Cutthroat Trout – the official state fish of Colorado.
Fly fishing for Trout is one of the most loved sports in the state. There are a myriad of promising spots, including 37 parks, productive Trout fishing rivers, Trout-filled lakes, and plenty of streams. Every angler will get the chance to reel in a trophy all across the state. In addition to that, some of the waters have been designated as “Gold Medal” by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.
While Walleye aren’t the official state fish, they are among the top catches in Colorado. These tasty creatures can be found throughout the state in lakes and reservoirs from Denver and Boulder to Pueblo, Pikes Peak, and Colorado Springs from mid-April and all the way through fall.
You can also add Sauger and Saugeye to the mix. Saugers are smaller than Walleye, reaching 4-5 pounds on average, while Sagueyes are similar to Walleye in size and are actually hybrids, coming from Saugers mating with Walleye.
Despite their small size, Perch are among the most popular fish species in Colorado. Why? Well, they’re the top species for ice fishing enthusiasts. Come winter, and anglers rush to their favorite ice fishing spots to fill their buckets with Perch.
You can also look for “jumbo Perch” year-round. It’s possible to find a 10′ fish in some lakes. Some of the most successful spots in Colorado are the reservoirs west of the Continental Divide, although you can try to fill your bucket in other places, too.
Whether you book a trip with a professional guide or decide to explore Colorado fisheries by yourself, you shouldn’t limit yourself to Trout, Walleye, and Perch. Fishing in Colorado is good all year round. You can practice your angling skills and target Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Carp, Catfish, Crappie, Pike, and even the occasional Salmon whenever you want.
How can I fish in Colorado?
Now that you know what to target when you go fishing in Colorado, it’s time to talk about the how part. What are the most popular techniques to land a potential trophy? How do locals fish for Trout? Let’s find out.
Fly fishing in Colorado is almost a cult, especially when Trout are involved. Any passionate fly fisherman should have Colorado on their bucket list, and one season may not be enough for you to explore all the state’s Gold Medal Trout fisheries. In fact, you can enjoy fly fishing in Colorado even in winter!
Fly fishing can be done by wading or from a boat, depending on your preference and where you’ll be fishing. You’ll use a lightweight lure that looks like an insect — a “fly” — along with a special rod and reel. If you’re a novice, casting a fly is something you might want to practice in advance or book a trip with a local guide who can show you how to do fly fishing properly.
As we’ve mentioned above, the fly fishing fun doesn’t stop even with cold weather. The winter season is actually one of the best times of year to go fishing in Colorado. You have multiple rivers, lakes, and streams, where you can cast your bait right from a shoreline, boat, or pier.
As you pass any frozen lake, you might notice some ice shanties, huts, and chairs right on the ice. Some anglers prefer to simply drill a hole, drop their line, and wait for something to take the bait. Others take their huts or even portable sheds — ice shanties — with them when they go ice fishing, along with chairs to sit on, as they look to make a real day of it.
Ice fishing can be pretty dangerous, especially if you’re completely new to it. Make sure you check the weather and fishing conditions in advance. It’s always a good idea to not fish alone and go with a knowledgeable, trusted guide. Plus, they usually provide all the gear!
Colorado’s crystal-clear Gold Medal waters are perfect for tenkara, an ancient Japanese method of fly fishing. It includes using a lightweight bamboo rod, line, and fly. It’s similar to regular fly fishing, but you won’t be using any reels.
Tenkara fishing in Colorado is a unique experience, especially when you’re surrounded by scenic, high-mountain streams. This fly fishing style is actually beginner-friendly and even kids can practice it to learn the basics of the technique. And, of course, it’s one of the best ways to catch Trout!
Where can I go fishing in Colorado?
It’s much easier to say where you can’t fish in Colorado! It’s hard to come up with a single list of the best fishing spots in Colorado. However, most fishing happens in the center and west of the state, from the Rio Grande National Forest and beyond.
In this section, we’ll talk about a few of the most popular places to cast a line in Colorado. If you’re looking for even more inspiration, take a look at our pick of the 8 Best Fishing Towns in Colorado.
As the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, the north of Colorado is home to beautiful forests, winding rivers, scenic canyons, and large mountains. There are national forests, some of the most popular fly fishing spots in the region, and even the only nationally-designated “Wild And Scenic” river in the state.
From the beautiful Boyd Lake and Poudre River to the riches of the North Platte further west, there’s something for every type of freshwater angler. Plus, Northern Colorado offers good ice fishing during the winter.
Located right in the heart of the state, Colorado Springs is the perfect place for a summer fishing trip. In fact, some locals even call Colorado Springs the “fishing capital” of the state.
Here, you can max out on Trout in Manitou Lake or explore the Pikes Peak region. You’ll have beautiful mountains, open reservoirs, rivers, and creeks all at your mercy. Pair that with all manners of fish, from Trout and Saugeye to Bass and Catfish, and you’re onto a winner!
While Southwestern Colorado may seem like a quiet place, the fishing here is pretty spectacular. It’s ideal for those who want to spend some time in solitude, explore the outdoors, and find a couple of Colorado’s hidden gems.
There’s the Rio Grande and San Juan National Forests, Vallecito Lake with its Walleye, large Pike, and Bass. Then, there are the 126 miles of the Animas River with its “Gold Medal” Trout fishing. If you’re after Rainbows and Brows, Southwestern Colorado shouldn’t be overlooked!
There are multiple reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and creeks in this metropolis. It’s truly amazing how you can do both in Colorado – explore the beautiful mountains and national parks before then moving onto Colorado’s economic center.
In Aurora, you can enjoy fishing for Walleye, Catfish, Trout, Bass, and many other species in one of its numerous reservoirs. Although it’s considered to have some of the best waters around, Lakewood’s reservoirs, lakes, and ponds, along with Denver‘s creeks and parks offer some great fishing, too.
The Rocky Mountains
It’s not that easy to do justice to the Rocky Mountains, especially when we’re talking about their amazing fishing opportunities. First of all, there are at least four species of Trout here – Brown, Rainbow, Cutthroat, and Brook. Secondly, you may even encounter Kokanee Salmon here. Who wouldn’t want to fish for Trout and Salmon on the same day?
There are multiple towns perfect for exploring a river or a lake, as you try your hand at some amazing fishing. You can check out Gunnison in the south, Aspen and Glenwood Springs in the northwest, or any place in between. You may need a local guide to show you the best spots, though, as some places aren’t the easiest to navigate.
When to Go Fishing in Colorado
The short answer to that question is, anytime you want. Fishing in Colorado is indeed a year-round activity. The only thing you need to do is choose is what type of fishing you’d like to do and what species you’re after.
The period between May and September is considered peak season wherever you go, be it a local river or a larger lake. Winter fishing is also pretty popular in the state, as you might’ve already guessed. Many anglers actually never put away their rods. During the winter season, you can treat yourself to a full ice fishing extravaganza on one of the state’s reservoirs. And, of course, come back home with something delicious for dinner.
Anything else I need to know?
Any angler over the age of 16 needs to get a valid Colorado fishing license wherever they go fishing. You can get it online, in person at a registered seller, or by phone. We have a full article dedicated to Colorado fishing licenses, so check it out here.
There are various restrictions for certain fish species, along with catch limits that you need to know before you head out. It’s always a good idea to book a trip with an experienced guide who’ll know all the local rules and regulations.
Fishing in Colorado – A Gold Medal Experience
The mighty Rockies, national forests, beautiful mountain streams, lavish rivers, and endless streams full of Trout — this is something worth seeing at least once in your life. Fishing in Colorado is diverse. You can fish right in the city or head to a remote river. You can enjoy a full day of fly fishing for Trout on a summer day, and then come back for more fly fishing during the winter months! All that’s left to do is come and see it for yourself!
Have you ever been fishing in Colorado? What is your favorite spot? Do you have any fish stories to share? Let us know in the comments below!