Colorado’s Fishing Gems: Discover the Best Lakes to Fish

Lake Granby

Colorado, with its stunning landscapes and rich natural resources, is a paradise for anglers. The state’s lakes, brimming with a variety of fish, draw enthusiasts from across the globe. This guide will provide a comprehensive look at the most rewarding fishing spots, highlighting the unique features and species each lake offers. Emphasizing the diversity of fishing experiences available, from serene, remote waters to vibrant, fish-rich ecosystems, each spot in Colorado offers something special. Whether seeking a peaceful retreat or an exciting challenge, anglers will find a wealth of opportunities in these waters. With tips on techniques, best seasons for different species, and conservation practices, this guide aims to enhance every angler’s journey in Colorado’s extraordinary natural aquatic settings.

Now, let’s delve into the top places for fishing and explore why these are the best lakes to fish in Colorado.

Lake Granby

Lake Granby is a prominent fishing destination located in Grand County, Colorado. It is the second largest lake in the state, making it a popular choice for anglers seeking a variety of fish species, with a particular focus on Trout and Kokanee Salmon. The location of Lake Granby offers a stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, making it a picturesque spot for fishing enthusiasts.

Here’s a table summarizing the key details:

LocationGrand County, Colorado
Fish SpeciesTrout, Kokanee Salmon
HighlightsSecond largest lake in Colorado; offers ice fishing in winter

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir, situated in Gunnison County, is the largest reservoir in Colorado. This expansive body of water offers a unique fishing experience. Anglers here primarily target Kokanee Salmon and Lake Trout. What sets Blue Mesa Reservoir apart is the availability of guided fishing tours, which can be a great option for both beginners and experienced anglers looking to explore the vast waters.

Here’s a summary table for Blue Mesa Reservoir:

LocationGunnison County, Colorado
Fish SpeciesKokanee Salmon, Lake Trout
HighlightsColorado’s largest reservoir; popular for guided fishing tours

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Spinney Mountain Reservoir, located in Park County, Colorado, is a favorite among fly fishing enthusiasts. This reservoir is renowned for its Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout populations, making it a must-visit destination for those looking for a challenge in catching large and elusive trout. The clear waters and serene surroundings make it a fly fishing paradise.

Here’s a summary table for Spinney Mountain Reservoir:

LocationPark County, Colorado
Fish SpeciesRainbow Trout, Brown Trout
HighlightsFly fishing paradise; known for its large trout

Grand Lake

Grand Lake

Grand Lake, situated in Grand County, is known for its deep blue waters and is often referred to as Colorado’s deepest natural lake. The lake is home to various trout species, including Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Brook Trout. Anglers visiting Grand Lake can enjoy the serene and picturesque surroundings while fishing in the clear mountain waters.

Here’s a summary table for Grand Lake:

LocationGrand County, Colorado
Fish SpeciesRainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Brook Trout
HighlightsColorado’s deepest natural lake; picturesque scenery

Chatfield Reservoir

Chatfield Reservoir

Chatfield Reservoir, conveniently located near Littleton, Colorado, is an excellent choice for family fishing trips. The reservoir boasts a diverse range of fish species, including Walleye, Bass, and Trout, making it suitable for anglers of all skill levels. Its proximity to Denver makes it a convenient option for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

Here’s a summary table for Chatfield Reservoir:

LocationLittleton, Colorado
Fish SpeciesWalleye, Bass, Trout
HighlightsClose to Denver; well-suited for family fishing trips

Fishing Essentials: What You Need to Know

Man with fishing rod pointing sideways

When planning a fishing trip to the best lakes to fish in Colorado, it’s important to be prepared. Here’s a quick checklist:

Fishing License

One of the first things to consider when planning your fishing trip is obtaining a fishing license. In Colorado, a fishing license is essential for anyone aged 16 or older. Licenses can be purchased online, at local retailers, or through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) website. The revenue generated from fishing licenses contributes to the conservation of aquatic habitats and the management of fish populations.

Before purchasing a fishing license, it’s important to know which type suits your needs. Colorado offers several types of licenses, including:

License TypeDescription
Resident AnnualValid for 365 days for Colorado residents.
Non-Resident AnnualValid for 365 days for non-residents.
Short-TermIdeal for visitors, available for 1, 5, or 10 days.
Youth (Ages 16-17)Discounted annual license for youth residents.
Senior (Ages 65-74)Reduced-price annual license for seniors.
Senior (Ages 75+)Free annual license for senior residents.
Disabled ResidentReduced-price annual license for disabled residents.

Ensure you choose the appropriate license type based on your residency status, age, and the duration of your fishing trip.

Where to Obtain a Fishing License:

  • Online: Visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website to purchase your fishing license conveniently from the comfort of your home. The online process is user-friendly and allows you to print your license immediately;
  • Local Retailers: Many sporting goods stores, bait shops, and even some convenience stores in Colorado sell fishing licenses. Check the CPW’s official website for a list of authorized license vendors near you;
  • CPW Offices: If you prefer a face-to-face interaction, you can obtain your fishing license in person at a Colorado Parks and Wildlife office. This option is especially helpful if you have questions or need assistance with license selection;
  • Phone: You can also purchase a fishing license over the phone by calling the Colorado Parks and Wildlife reservation center. This option is convenient if you don’t have internet access.


Selecting the right fishing gear is crucial for a successful fishing trip. The choice of gear depends on the specific lake you plan to visit and the type of fish you intend to catch. Here’s a breakdown of essential fishing gear components:

  • Fishing Rod and Reel: The foundation of your fishing gear setup is the fishing rod and reel. Consider the following factors when choosing them:
Rod LengthLonger rods provide greater casting distance, while shorter rods offer more control in tight spaces.
Reel TypeSpinning reels are versatile and easy to use, making them a good choice for beginners. Baitcasting reels offer more precision and control for experienced anglers.
Line StrengthSelect an appropriate fishing line strength based on the target fish species. Lighter lines for smaller fish, heavier lines for larger ones.
  • Bait and Tackle: The choice of bait and tackle depends on the fish species you’re targeting. Common bait options include worms, artificial lures, and baitfish. Tackle consists of hooks, sinkers, swivels, and other accessories needed to set up your fishing rig. Be sure to research the preferences of the fish in the lake you plan to fish in to select the right bait and tackle.

Local Regulations

Understanding and adhering to local fishing regulations is essential to preserve fish populations and maintain the integrity of the aquatic environment. Each lake in Colorado has its own set of rules, which may include:

  • Catch Limits: Regulations specify the number and size of fish you can keep. Catch-and-release practices are encouraged for certain species;
  • Boat Usage: Rules governing the use of boats, kayaks, or other watercraft on the lake;
  • Fishing Seasons: Some lakes have specific fishing seasons, so check the dates when fishing is allowed;
  • Special Regulations: Certain lakes may have unique regulations, such as bait restrictions or specific gear requirements.

It’s crucial to research and familiarize yourself with the regulations specific to the lake you plan to visit. Ignorance of these regulations can result in fines or penalties.

Planning Your Fishing Trip

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of the fishing essentials, it’s time to plan your fishing trip to the best lakes in Colorado. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

  • Choose Your Destination: Research the best fishing lakes in Colorado based on the type of fish you want to catch and the experience you seek. Popular fishing destinations in Colorado include:
Fishing DestinationNotable Features
Lake DillonKnown for trout and salmon fishing.
Pueblo ReservoirHome to various warm-water fish species.
Spinney Mountain ReservoirFamous for trophy trout.
Chatfield ReservoirOffers a variety of fish species and water-based activities.
  • Check Fishing Reports: Before your trip, check fishing reports and local forums to get up-to-date information on fish activity, bait preferences, and the best fishing spots at your chosen lake;
  • Pack Essentials: Gather all your fishing gear, including rods, reels, bait, tackle, and any additional items you may need. Don’t forget your fishing license, which is essential for legal fishing;
  • Follow Safety Precautions: Prioritize safety during your fishing trip. Always wear a life jacket if you’ll be on a boat, and be aware of weather conditions. Let someone know your fishing plans and expected return time;
  • Respect the Environment: Practice responsible fishing by adhering to catch limits, releasing undersized fish, and disposing of trash properly. Leave the environment as beautiful as you found it for future generations of anglers;
  • Enjoy Your Fishing Adventure: Finally, savor the tranquility of the Colorado outdoors and the excitement of reeling in your catch. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced angler, Colorado’s picturesque lakes offer a wide range of fishing experiences.

Seasonal Splendor: When to Fish in Colorado’s Lakes

When it comes to fishing in Colorado, timing is crucial for a successful angling experience. The state offers a diverse range of fishing opportunities throughout the year, depending on the type of fish you’re targeting. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the best seasons for fishing in Colorado’s lakes:

SeasonTargeted SpeciesRecommended LakesTechniques
Spring to Early SummerTrout enthusiasts rejoice during this season. Colorado’s pristine rivers and lakes come alive with trout activity, including rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout.Head to famous trout fishing destinations like the Arkansas River, Gunnison River, and Spinney Mountain Reservoir.Fly fishing, bait fishing, and lures are all effective methods for catching trout during this time.
Summer (June to August)Summer is the season for warm-water species like Bass, Bluegill, and Crappie. These fish are active and readily bite during the warmer months.Cherry Creek Reservoir, Chatfield Reservoir, and Pueblo Reservoir are top choices for Bass fishing.Casting with various artificial baits, such as crankbaits, plastic worms, or topwater lures, can yield excellent results.
Fall (September to November)Fall is when big game fish like Northern Pike and Walleye become more active as they prepare for winter. These predatory fish offer thrilling action.Cherry Creek Reservoir and Boyd Lake State Park are popular for Walleye, while Pueblo Reservoir is known for Northern Pike.Casting large swimbaits or trolling with deep-diving lures are effective strategies for fall fishing.
Winter (December to February)Winter transforms Colorado’s lakes into ice fishing paradises, with opportunities to catch Trout, Kokanee Salmon, and Lake Trout beneath the frozen surface.Lake Granby, Blue Mesa Reservoir, and Eleven Mile Reservoir are top choices for ice fishing.Drill holes in the ice and use ice fishing gear like jigs, tip-ups, and live bait to entice fish in the cold depths.


Colorado’s assortment of fishing destinations, such as Lake Granby, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Spinney Mountain Reservoir, Grand Lake, and Chatfield Reservoir, offers a rich tapestry of angling experiences. Each lake, with its unique characteristics and abundant fish populations, caters to both the avid angler seeking a challenging catch and the family looking for a peaceful weekend getaway. These lakes, set against the backdrop of Colorado’s stunning landscapes, are not just fishing spots but gateways to experiencing the natural beauty and outdoor spirit of the state.

The essence of fishing in Colorado transcends the mere act of catching fish; it’s about embracing the serene environment, understanding the delicate ecosystem, and respecting the balance of nature. Whether you’re exploring the deep waters of Colorado’s largest lakes or enjoying the tranquility of fly fishing in its clear streams, remember that the experience is enriched by preparation, knowledge of local regulations, and a commitment to conservation. As you cast your line in the waters of Colorado, you’re not just fishing – you’re becoming a part of a timeless tradition that celebrates nature, patience, and the joy of the catch.


Q: Do I need a special permit for fishing in Colorado’s lakes?

A: Apart from the state fishing license, some areas may require additional permits. Always check local regulations before your trip.

Q: Can I rent fishing gear at these lakes?

A: Yes, many of the best lakes to fish in Colorado have nearby facilities offering gear rental.

Q: Are there guided fishing tours available?

A: Absolutely, guided tours are available, especially in popular spots like Blue Mesa Reservoir.

Q: What is the catch limit in Colorado’s lakes?

A: Catch limits vary by lake and species. Consult the Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations for specifics.

Q: Are these lakes accessible throughout the year?

A: Most lakes are accessible year-round, but some may have seasonal restrictions, especially for boating.

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