Although it’s not as famous for freshwater fishing as Michigan and Minnesota, Colorado still has over 2000 lakes and more than 12,000 miles of streams. The Centennial State is among the best flyfishing destinations for anglers targeting trout or salmon.
The top fishing spots in Colorado are often far away from large cities, so a bit of planning can go a long way, but as a bonus, you’ll enjoy some truly breathtaking views.
Top Fishing Spots in Colorado at a Glance
Let’s glance at some of the must-see fishing destinations in Colorado.
- Best for lake fishing: Rocky Mountain National Park
- Best for fly fishing: Gore Creek
- Best for ice fishing: –Georgetown Lake
- Best for muskie fishing: –Manitou Lake
The 10 Best Fishing Spots in Colorado
Now that you know some of the top fishing destinations in Colorado, let’s dive in deeper and see what they have to offer.
Quail Lake Park
Don’t miss out on Quail Lake Park if you’re planning a visit to Colorado Springs. The park is located in the city’s south-west area, a short distance from downtown.
The 22-acre artificial lake is ideal for shore fishing, but you can also rent a kayak and try your luck at kayak fishing.
The park is open from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m., so you don’t have to rush to get there first thing in the morning, as you’ll have the entire day to enjoy angling at this beautiful lake.
Type of fishing: Kayak fishing, pier fishing
Expect to find: Rainbow trout, catfish, carp, striped bass
Rules and safety guidelines: Wade-fishing is prohibited
Rocky Mountain National Park
There’s no shortage of stunning fishing spots in Rocky Mountain National Park. The park stretches 415 square miles, encompassing 156 lakes and 450 miles of streams, including the Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest natural lake.
Emerald Lake and Lake Haiyaha are also popular fishing destinations in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and they’re connected by trails, which means you can hike from one fishing spot to another in under an hour.
Type of fishing: Flyfishing, sport fishing
Expect to find: Brook, cutthroat, and rainbow trout
Rules and safety guidelines: Some fishing areas of the park are catch-and-release only. Anglers cannot use worms and baits in catch-and-release waters.
Rio Grande River
The 175-mile-long section of Rio Grande that flows through Colorado offers numerous scenic fishing spots. South Fork is the most popular area for anglers who like float fishing, wading, flyfishing, or casting their lines from the bank.
Most spots are easily reachable from the road, but you must get out of South Fork town to enjoy angling at the region’s best locations.
Moreover, if you’re visiting the Upper Rio Grande in the winter, you can explore some of the region’s lakes or ponds and try your luck at ice fishing.
Type of fishing: Flyfishing, float fishing, wade fishing
Expect to find: Kokanee salmon, brown trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout
Rules and safety guidelines: Ask for permission before entering private property, strict catch-and-release rules for rainbow trout.
This popular fishing spot is just over forty miles west of Denver in Clear Creek County. Georgetown Lake is open to the public throughout the year and can be an excellent destination for recreational anglers or ice fishing enthusiasts.
The lake has a large walleye population, and it attracts anglers who like trolling, but you’ll also find bass, trout, and salmon at this gorgeous fishing location.
Still, you’ll need a fishing license to cast a line at Georgetown Lake, and you can only keep four fish you catch in a day.
Types of fishing: Ice fishing, trolling, boat fishing, shore fishing
Expect to find: Northern pike, yellow perch, largemouth bass, brown trout
Rules and safety guidelines: Only fishing from non-motorized boats is allowed
The Colorado River’s tributary attracts fly fishers from the entire country. The 32-mile-long river is located in the North-Central region of Colorado, and the easiest way to reach it is from Granby in Grand County.
Fraser River is shallow and narrow, so you can fish from the bank or step into the stream while fly fishing. The river’s canyon offers many beautiful fishing spots, but they’re often located on private property, which makes them difficult to reach.
Hence, you’ll likely have more luck finding a good fishing spot in sections of the Fraser River near the Berthoud Pass.
Type of fishing: Flyfishing, sport fishing
Expect to find: Trout, salmon
Rules and safety guidelines: Catch-and-release rules apply for some fish species; You must use artificial flies or lures.
Besides exciting angling spots, fishing at the Gore Creek comes with some stunning vistas. You won’t have to go far to reach this Gold Medal fishery or Gore Valley if you’re visiting the nearby Vail Ski Resort.
You’ll find some of the best fishing spots along the creek section stretching from the golf course in east Vail to the confluence with the Eagle River.
The river can be fished through the year, but make sure to bring all the necessary gear if you’re planning to angle at freezing temperatures. Nymphing delivers the best results during the winter, while dry fly fishing is popular in summer.
Type of fishing: Flyfishing, nymphing
Expect to find: Trout
Rules and safety guidelines: You cannot keep a fish if it isn’t at least 16 inches long
North Gate Canyon
The North Gate Canyon is an ideal destination for anglers looking for a once-in-the-lifetime outdoor adventure. The canyon is located at the Colorado/Wyoming border and is only reachable by kayak or raft.
Hence, the best time to visit is from May through July. Don’t forget to check the current weather conditions and contact the Brush Creek or Hayden Ranger district office before heading to the Colorado section of the North Platte River and the North Gate Canyon.
It’s also worth adding that the North Gate Canyon is one of the most dangerous places to fish in Colorado.
Type of fishing: Kayak fishing, flyfishing
Expect to find: Different species of trout
Rules and safety guidelines: Two-fish possession limit for all trout species
Thousands of anglers, hikers, birdwatchers, and campers visit Manitou Lake every year. This five-acre reservoir is less than ten miles from Woodland Park and only two hours away from Denver.
You must pay a $10 fee per vehicle to spend a day at Manitou Lake, and even though it’s open to visitors throughout the year, the best time to visit is from May until October.
The Division of Wildlife stocks the lake with trout, so you won’t have trouble reeling in a fish, but the daily bag limit for all trout species is four.
Type of fishing: Freshwater fishing, shore fishing
Expect to find: Different trout species, white sucker
Rules and safety guidelines: Using boats and kayaks on the lake is prohibited.
Fryingpan River is a must-visit destination for anglers targeting brown trout. It’s a gold medal trout fishery, so catching a trophy fish shouldn’t be too hard.
Public access points are spread along the river, but some sections of the Fryingpan flow through private property. That’s why you must check if the spot you chose is available to the public before casting a line.
It’s also important to remember that some sections of the river are catch-and-release only, and size limitations apply to several trout species.
Type of fishing: Flyfishing, river fishing
Expect to find: Brown trout, cutthroat trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout
Rules and safety guidelines: Two-fish bag limit; All brown trout over 14 inches must be released.
Spinney Mountain State Park
The reservoir inside the Spinney Mountain State Park is one of the most popular fishing spots in Colorado. The park is closed during winter, and the best time to visit is between May and September. Besides trout, the reservoir is abundant with northern pike and yellow perch.
The entrance fee to the park is $9, and it includes a parking spot. Chartering a boat at the 11-mile marina is an option if you want to explore different fishing locations across the 2500-acre reservoir.
Angling from a boat is permitted from half an hour before sunrise until half an hour after sunset.
Type of fishing: Flyfishing, shore fishing, belly boating
Expect to find: Northern pike, brown trout, rainbow trout, yellow perch
Rules and safety guidelines: One trout longer than 20 inches per day; Lures and flies only.
Key Things to Consider When Choosing Where to Fish in Colorado
Colorado is home to some of the most popular fisheries in the United States.
However, some of the best fishing spots in the state are overfished, and they’re under the protection of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Service in an attempt to restore fish populations.
Let’s go through the things you should consider when planning a fishing trip to Colorado:
- Check a fishing location’s daily bag limit: Colorado has statewide bag limits for most fish species. For instance, you cannot keep more than ten kokanee salmon or five walleye.
- Some fishing spots are catch-and-release only: It’s paramount to find out if a fishing location you chose has a catch-and-release only policy before you cast a line.
- Pick your lures carefully: Learn more about the lures you can use at a specific fishing spot in Colorado.
- Some of the best fishing spots in Colorado are hard to reach: Plan your trip ahead and look for camping sites near the location where you’re planning to fish.
Rules for Fishing in Colorado
Colorado Parks and Wildlife issues annual brochures that contain the latest rules for fishing in Colorado.
These booklets are the best source of information about fishing in this state as they contain information regarding the gear you can use, restrictions for specific fishing locations, and everything else you should know about angling in Colorado.
Most importantly, these seasonal fishing guides contain overviews of Colorado’s fishing laws and special regulations for different fishing waters.
Prohibited fishing methods in Colorado are:
- Any fishing method involving the use of poisons or toxicants.
- Fishing methods involving the use of stupefying substances.
- Fishing with explosives
Moreover, snagging is only allowed when fishing for kokanee salmon, while trotlines and jugs can be used at specific reservoirs such as Adobe Creek or Nee So Pah. The use of live bait is prohibited at all locations west of the Continental Divide above 7,000 feet elevation.
Fishing Licenses in Colorado
Residents and non-residents cannot fish without a license in Colorado, but before obtaining a fishing permit, non-residents and residents aged 18 to 64 must purchase the Habitat Stamp.
- The annual Habitat Stamp costs $11.50 and can be purchased online or at Colorado Parks & Wildlife offices.
You don’t have to purchase the Habitat Stamp the first two times you buy a one-day or additional-day license.
Colorado Fishing Licenses for Residents
- One-day – $15.55
- Second–rod stamp – $12.10
- Additional day – $7.50
- Annual license (18-65) – $39.71
- Senior annual license (65+) – $10.95
- Youth (16-17) – $10.95
Colorado Fishing Licenses for Non-Residents
- One-day – $19.01
- Additional day – $7.50
- Five-day – $36.26
- Second-rod stamp – $12.10
- Annual – $111.03
How Salted Angler Chose the Best Fishing Spots in Colorado
A few members of our team are passionate fly fishers, so we relied on their expertise while selecting the best fishing spots in Colorado.
We also considered the spot’s accessibility during the selection process so that you can choose a location just a few miles away from a city or go on an exciting camping trip with your friends.
Colorado Wildlife Commission assigns gold medals to fishing waters that produce at least 60lbs of trout per acre. We utilized this factor to pinpoint some of the best fishing spots in the state.
Please go through our editorial policy for additional information about our mission.
Which Fish Species Are Protected in Colorado?
Razorback Sucker, Colorado Pikeminnow, Greenback Cutthroat Trout, Arkansas Darter, Bonytail Chub, and Humpback Chub are protected fish species in Colorado. You must return these fish species to the water if you accidentally catch them.
Is Ice Fishing in Colorado Safe?
Ice fishing is popular in Colorado during winter, but you must have the right equipment and follow safety guidelines to avoid a potential accident.
Are the Best Fishing Spots in Colorado Busy During Summer?
Some fishing spots can be crowded during summer, and you must go further away from the cities to avoid crowds.