With a valid fishing license, anglers can cast a line nearly anywhere in Colorado. With thousands of lakes, creeks, and rivers to choose from great fishing is never far away. Regulations vary between fly-fishing only, fly and artificial lures, to live bait.
Fishing & Fly-Fishing Rivers and Lakes in Colorado
Some city, county, and state parks have access to a lake or river for fishing. Often rivers and lakes are located on federally owned public land, which you can access year-round, conditions permitting. Many towns show local fishing, at both lakes and rivers.
Fishing in Colorado City Parks
Most city and county parks provide a beautiful slice of nature, close to home and free to use. Some have lakes, ponds, and rivers prime for fishing. Reference local rules and regulations to see what kind of fishing is allowed.
Fishing in Colorado National Forests
Eleven national forests cover millions of acres throughout the Rocky Mountains. They are spread across the state, west of the plains. Year-round outdoor recreation can be found in these free, federal lands, from fishing and camping to snowmobiling and Nordic skiing.
Fishing in Colorado National Monuments
These eight monuments preserve natural and man-made landmarks. Generally, national monuments have fewer restrictions than national parks, they are therefore much more pet friendly. Most offer camping opportunities and various other chances for outdoor recreation.
Fishing in Colorado National Parks
Four of Colorado’s biggest gems are preserved in national parks. These signature sites have to be on your local bucket list, as they all offer something unique, from high alpine tundra and steep canyons to cliff dwellings and sand dunes.
Fishing in Colorado National Recreation Areas
The two national recreation areas are home to the largest bodies of water in the state, Blue Mesa Reservoir and Lake Granby. Both are a haven for water sports, permitting all types of boating and fishing. Each park has more than one marina for boat rentals.
Fishing in Colorado National Wildlife Refuges
Fishing in Colorado State Parks
Thirty-seven of the state parks provide a chance for fishing. Bring your valid Colorado fishing license with you and catch that trophy trout. You can cast a line year-round at many the parks, sometimes into a frozen lake if that’s your thing.
Guided Fishing and Fly-Fishing Trips in Colorado
Head out fishing with the pros on a guided trip. Both fly and traditional fishing trips are offered, as well as ice fishing. Several dude ranches offer organized fishing trips as well.
- Address: 60880 County Road 129 Clark (near Steamboat Springs)
- About: Four-hour and eight-hour ice fishing trips. License, equipment, lunch provided. Courtesy shuttle from Steamboat Springs available.
- Address: 39020 Country Rd 8, Meeker
- About: Day and overnight fishing trips, hunts, log cabin rentals, horseback riding. The lodge is located about in the middle of the Flat Tops Scenic Byway.
- Address: Antero Reservoir, Blue Mesa Reservoir, 11 Mile Reservoir
- About: Ice fishing guides take care of everything you need for a fun and comfortable day on the ice. They provide all the equipment necessary: augers, fish finders, heaters, rods & reels, tack & bait, top-of-the-line ice huts, and even knee pads. Full day lasts 6 hours.
- Address: 7700 Trappers Lake Rd, Meeker
- About: Lodge is situated on the Flat Tops Scenic Byway, open late May through October. They offer day and overnight fishing and hunting trips, as well a horse and cabin rentals. There is also a restaurant with a bar.
Guide to Fishing and Fly-fishing in Colorado
Everyone knows Colorado is a sportsman paradise, home to world-class fishing all year round. It doesn’t matter what region you happen to find yourself in, there’s always a river or reservoir open to fishing nearby.
Since Colorado’s a hotbed for fishing, it’s an activity that’s easy to get into. With some fairly basic equipment, you can try your luck at public bodies of water around the state.
Generally, unless the body of water lies on private land or is otherwise noted, fishing is usually fair game. If you’re boating on a river that crosses through private property, you can still fish on the private property as long as you stay on your boat, and do not anchor, wade, or touch land in any way, even the ground beneath the river.
The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope -John Buchan
All you need to get started fishing is a working rod, some bait, and a valid fishing license. In Colorado, everyone over the age of fifteen needs one. The new season requiring a new license begins in April each year.
Bait can come in the form of live worms and crickets, or random editable food, such as hot dogs and candy. Lures are artificial bait designed to entice the fish to bite. You should always carry a few in case the area you are fishing in does not allow live bait, and only artificial lures or flies. Fly fishing uses artificial flies to stimulate the behavior of flies hitting the water.
Using fishing and fly-fishing guides
Using an experienced guide for your next fishing trip is sure to leave you with lasting memories. Fish with the locals who know the ins and outs of each nearby river and lake. You can find chartered trips year-round, though it’s most popular from May through September.
There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot – Steven Wright
What’s the difference between spin fishing vs fly fishing?
There are two main types of fishing: using a spin reel and fly-fishing. You can also fish with just a line and hook, and even go archer or spearfishing.
Spin Reel – A basic spin rod set is the easiest to get started with. Many come pre-lined, otherwise, you just purchase line (generally the thinner the better, so fish have trouble seeing it), and have it professionally lined for you at the store. You combine your spin reel with a hook and bait or artificial lure, a sinker for casting weight, and possibly a bobber.
Fly Fishing – A bit more intricate of art is fly fishing. It uses a special type of fly rod, a long, thick colorful line ideal for whipping against the water, and a fly. There are a variety of flies to choose from, each suited for certain environments. The goal is to pick the one the fish are biting on there.
Tips for fishing with bait, lure, and flies
Depending on the location, there are certain rules to follow for fishing. Some lakes allow bait, while others are fly fishing only or a combination of fly fishing and artificial lures only. Fish can generally be kept unless otherwise noted. If traditional fishing, it’s always wise to bring along a few artificial lures.
The best times for fishing are morning and evening when fish naturally feed. The best places to fish include overhangs and deeper areas. Fish are not evenly spread out across a river or lake, there are always places where the fish like to hide. Find them! If it’s not biting in one area, try another.
Some anglers use fish finders to locate fish. These are often used by boaters, trying to best cover an entire lake. Because sometimes the fish just don’t seem to be there.
Required gear for fishing and fly-fishing
You only need a few basic things to successfully fish. Just a string, hook, and a worm is really all you need to catch a fish, of course, you also need a valid fishing license to do it legally in Colorado.
Here are is most common fishing gear: (affiliate links)
- Fishing rod – spin or fly-fishing
- Bait, lures, flies – both live and artificial
- Waders – knee-high, thigh-high, or chest high waterproof shoes for entering the water
- Net – help catch the fish when bringing him
- Sun hat – protect from sun
- Polarized sunglasses – allow you to see under the water better
- Fishing license – valid for one year from April through March
Adults 18+ needs a Colorado fishing license
The fishing season runs from April 1 to March 31 annually. Everyone over the age of fifteen needs to have a Colorado fishing license. You can buy them for a year or a day at most sporting goods stores and marinas, or some general stores. Walmart sells a lot of them.
- A fishing license costs $26 for an adult CO resident (16+) and $56 for a non-resident. You can also get a combo small game hunting and fishing license for $41 for residents.
- A 2nd-rod stamp is available for $5 for residents and non-residents.
- Seniors (64+) are $1 for a year for residents only.
- Anyone over 18 and under 65, is required to get a $10 Habitat Stamp.
- 1-day passes are $9 for residents and non-residents.
- 5-day passes are $21 for non-residents.
- On the first full weekend of June, each year, you can fish without a fishing license.
Learn more about local fishing at Colorado Parks & Wildlife. They share the latest updates and rules for fishing in Colorado. Best of luck catching that trophy trout!
Latest in Fishing
Fortunately, most great fishing areas have campsites nearby. Sometimes you need more than a hike to and from the lake.