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9 Best Places for Fishing in Colorado

The Rocky Mountain State is home to 6,000 miles of fishable streams and rivers as well as some 2,000 reservoirs and lakes. You’ll find a diverse range of fishing opportunities, with something for every angler no matter what the season. There are lots of Gold Medal waters for catching trophy-sized fish, along with jaw-dropping views of craggy mountain peaks under almost always bright blue skies. For the best of the best, head to one of these top places for fishing in Colorado.

The Frying Pan River, Basalt rainbow trout Frying Pan River
Credit: rainbow trout Frying Pan River by bigstock.com

The Frying Pan River, Basalt

The area around Basalt is considered a vacation mecca, located between Aspen and Glenwood Springs, with a wealth of recreational opportunities that include world-class fishing on the Frying Pan River. World-famous for its catch-and-release trout fishing, in some sections, 10-pound-plus rainbows are frequently caught. The Gold Medal section can be found between its confluence with the Roaring Fork and Ruedi Reservoir, with crystal-clear water, breathtaking mountain views and monster-size trout making it one of the best in the state. If you’re looking for other activities, big whitewater rafting and kayaking thrills can be had in the stretch west of Aspen to Basalt, and throughout the surrounding mountains, miles and miles of hiking trails.

North Platte River, Walden North Platte River above Northgate Canyon, North Park, Colorado
Credit: North Platte River above Northgate Canyon, North Park, Colorado by bigstock.com

North Platte River, Walden

Another one of the state’s most famous fishing destinations, the North Platte River begins in the grassy meadows of North Park near Walden, meandering through the valley, flowing north to Wyoming. On the north side of the park, this is where it carved the Northgate Canyon, with its 4.5-mile journey from the Routt National Forest boundary to the Wyoming border, considered a Gold Medal, wild trout river, with some of the best trout in the West. While you’re fishing, check out the interesting rock formations that stand out among the brush, including pegmatites of quartz, and watch for wildlife, including moose.

Roaring Fork River, Aspen Roaring Fork River near Carbondale, Colorado in the fall
Credit: Roaring Fork River near Carbondale, Colorado in the fall by bigstock.com

Roaring Fork River, Aspen

The Roaring Fork River which begins high above Aspen before making its way through Basalt to Glenwood Springs, meeting up with the Colorado River, is considered one of the best trout fisheries in the nation. The lower section is a raging river where only the strongest trout can survive, producing some massive trophy-size fish, while the upper part is a high, winding mountain stream. While you’re here, you can soak up the legendary views, and take advantage of Aspen’s impressive shopping and dining scene.

Upper Arkansas River, Leadville Upper Arkansas River near Leadville, Colorado
Credit: Upper Arkansas River near Leadville, Colorado by Larry Lamsa via Flickr

Upper Arkansas River, Leadville

Located near Leadville, the country’s highest elevation city at over 10,000 feet above sea level, the Upper Arkansas River flows through boulder-filled canyons, sub-alpine meadows, fields of hay and desert. It’s the desert environment that serves as one of the most popular fishing destinations for brown and rainbow trout thanks to the boulders, bends and deep seams that make for outstanding habitat. The city of Leadville offers plenty of other attractions too, including 70 square blocks that are designated as a National Historic Landmark of Victorian architecture.

Gunnison River, Gunnison Rewarding views at the bottom of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Credit: Rewarding views at the bottom of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park by Alyssa L. Ochs

Gunnison River, Gunnison

One of the most magnificent areas when it comes to the scenery in Colorado, the Gunnison River also boasts some of the state’s top rainbow and brown trout fishing opportunities. The Gold Medal Trout Water section traverses through the Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park. Other activities here include kayaking, rafting and canoeing, as well as hiking the miles and miles of scenic trails during the warmer months of the year. The largest reservoir in Colorado, Blue Mesa, is close by offering more opportunities and holds the record for the largest lake trout, rainbow trout and brown trout.

Cherry Creek Reservoir, Aurora Cherry Creek State Park
Credit: Cherry Creek State Park by michaelwm25 via Flickr

Cherry Creek Reservoir, Aurora

If you’re looking for a convenient spot that’s close to downtown Denver attractions, 4,000-acre Cherry Creek State Park is home to Cherry Creek Reservoir and provides the opportunity to fish from the shore or boat for rainbow trout and especially good-size walleye. The park also hosts a sandy beach for soaking up the frequent sunshine and enjoying a refreshing dip in the water as well. When it gets too hot, there are plenty of trees for shade, and you’ll find grills to BBQ on to feed your appetite too. The park also hosts a campground and a wide range of other recreational pursuits like biking, horseback riding and wildlife watching.

Grand Lake Grand Lake, Colorado
Credit: Grand Lake, Colorado by Michael Schober/shutterstock.com

Grand Lake

The largest natural lake in the state, Grand Lake is a fishing enthusiasts’ dream, tucked in the heart of the Rockies near the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Rent a cabin and enjoy fishing for brook, rainbow and brown trout as well as mackinaw and kokanee. You’ll also find beaches along the shore for relaxing or swimming in the cool waters of the high alpine lake. Just minutes away, there are endless miles of trails in the park, and in the village of Grand Lake, its historic boardwalk is lined with more than 60 shops, eateries, bars and art galleries.

Animas River, Durango Animas River
Credit: Animas River by Joel Sowers via Flickr

Animas River, Durango

The Animas River is located in the southwestern part of the state, flowing through the town of Durango. It stretches for 126 miles and was also named a Colorado Gold Metal Water fishing destination. Surrounded by some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in Colorado, this river that is over 100 feet wide in some places allows the trout to grow to impressive sizes. Record trout have been caught here, including a brown that weighed in at more than 20 pounds. While the browns are somewhat tricky to catch, you’ll find lots of rainbows that are frequently biting, along with cutthroat and brook trout. Other activities in the area include hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting and top attractions in Durango, including riding the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Gore Creek, Vail Gore Creek in Vail, Colorado
Credit: Gore Creek in Vail, Colorado by bigstock.com

Gore Creek, Vail

This tranquil mountain stream may be small, but it offers outstanding trout fishing all year long. Gore Creek is inhabited by large rainbow, brook, brown and cutthroat trout, starting from Gore Lake in the Rockies and flowing down to its confluence with Eagle River near the town of Vail. The two most popular spots can be found just south of town on Lower Gore Creek, and just north of town on Upper Gore Creek. Nearby Vail Ski Resort offers a variety of other summertime activities too, like zip lines, tubing, rope adventure courses, an alpine coaster and a bungee trampoline.

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