Colorado is a true angler’s paradise, boasting a diverse array of pristine lakes, rivers, and streams teeming with a variety of fish species. From the majestic Rocky Mountains to the rolling plains, this state offers countless opportunities for anglers of all skill levels to indulge in their passion. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the best fishing spots in Colorado, highlighting the unique features, fish species, and experiences each location has to offer. Whether you’re a seasoned fly-fishing enthusiast or a beginner seeking a serene escape, Colorado’s waters promise an unforgettable adventure.

1. Rio Grande River

The Rio Grande River, winding its way through the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado, is a true gem for fly fishing enthusiasts. This picturesque river is renowned for its abundance of trout, including brown, rainbow, and cutthroat varieties. The best section for fishing stretches between the towns of Del Norte and South Fork, where anglers can expect to encounter some of the most productive hatches from June to July.

Rio Grande River
Rio Grande River

Anglers flock to the Rio Grande River for its crystal-clear waters, breathtaking scenery, and the thrill of casting their lines in pursuit of trophy-sized trout. The river’s diverse habitats, ranging from deep pools to riffles and runs, provide ample opportunities for both dry fly and nymph fishing techniques. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice angler, the Rio Grande River offers a challenging yet rewarding fishing experience.

Specific Location and Address

  • Rio Grande River – Marshall Park to Del Norte
  • Address: Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado

Fish Species Available

Brown TroutMost common, around 90-99% of fishery
Rainbow TroutSmall percentage, around 1-10%

Fishing License and Fees

License TypeResident FeeNon-Resident Fee
1 Day$14.46$17.64
Additional Day$7.05$11.28
Free Fishing Days: First full weekend of June

Fishing Facilities and Amenities

  • 11 public boat ramps
  • Seasonal restrooms at Creede SWA and Coller SWA
  • Guided float fishing tours available

Best Fishing Times and Seasons

  • June to October when water is warmest
  • Bank fishing improves by July after peak runoff
  • Good salmon fly hatch in late June
  • Mayfly and caddisfly hatches from May to September

Colorado Parks & Wildlife

2. Gore Creek

Despite its relatively small size, Gore Creek in Summit County is a highly sought-after fishing destination. This creek is teeming with a diverse population of trout species, including cutthroats, brooks, browns, and rainbows. Anglers can explore the Upper Gore Creek or the Lower Gore Creek, both offering excellent opportunities to land trophy-sized trout in a breathtaking mountain setting.

Gore Creek
Gore Creek

Gore Creek’s clear, cold waters and abundant insect hatches make it a prime location for fly fishing enthusiasts. The creek’s narrow channels and overhanging vegetation provide ample cover for the fish, adding an extra layer of challenge for anglers. Whether you prefer to wade or fish from the banks, Gore Creek offers a serene and picturesque setting for a memorable fishing experience.

Specific Location and Address

  • Gore Creek
  • Vail, Colorado 81657

Fish Species Available

  • Brown Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brook Trout

Fishing Facilities and Amenities

  • Public access points in Vail
  • Fly shops and guide services available in Vail

Best Fishing Times and Seasons

  • Late spring through fall
  • Avoid peak runoff in June
  • Dry fly fishing picks up in late summer

Minturn Anglers

3. Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Nestled in the heart of South Park, Spinney Mountain Reservoir is a true oasis for anglers seeking a serene and picturesque fishing experience. This reservoir consistently yields trophy-sized trout, walleye, and salmon, making it a popular destination for fly fishing, belly boating, and trolling. While fishing is excellent year-round, the peak season is during the summer months, particularly in June.

Spinney Mountain Reservoir
Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Spinney Mountain Reservoir’s calm waters and stunning mountain backdrop create a tranquil atmosphere for anglers to enjoy their pursuit. The reservoir’s diverse fish population offers opportunities for both novice and experienced anglers to test their skills. Whether you prefer to cast from the shoreline or venture out on a boat, Spinney Mountain Reservoir promises a memorable fishing adventure.

Specific Location and Address

  • Spinney Mountain Reservoir
  • 11 Mile Canyon Road, Lake George, CO 80827

Fish Species Available

Rainbow TroutTrophy sized
Cutthroat TroutTrophy sized
Brown TroutTrophy sized
Cuttbow Trout
Yellow Perch
Northern PikeNo size/bag limit

Fishing Facilities and Amenities

  • 2 boat ramps
  • 11 Mile Marina (rentals, supplies)
  • Aquatic nuisance species inspection required

Best Fishing Times and Seasons

  • All summer long
  • Fly fishing allowed only
  • One trout over 20″ can be harvested

Colorado Parks & Wildlife

4. North Platte River

Considered a legendary fishing destination, the North Platte River in northern Colorado is a must-visit for any serious angler. This river originates in the grassy meadowlands of North Park and flows into Wyoming, offering anglers the opportunity to target some of the West’s most prized trout. While some sections are only accessible by raft or kayak, adding to the adventure, the Colorado portion of the river is particularly renowned for its exceptional fishing opportunities.

North Platte River
North Platte River

The North Platte River is a true test of an angler’s skills, with its diverse water conditions and challenging currents. From technical dry fly fishing to nymphing and streamer fishing, this river offers a wide range of techniques to explore. Anglers can expect to encounter a variety of trout species, including browns, rainbows, and the elusive cutthroat trout, making every cast an exciting prospect.

Specific Location and Address

  • North Platte River
  • Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, Colorado/Wyoming border

Fish Species Available

Brown TroutAround 4000 fish per mile
Rainbow TroutAround 4000 fish per mile
Snake River CutthroatSmall numbers

Fishing Facilities and Amenities

  • Public access points in national forests
  • Boat ramps at Routt and Six Mile Gap

Best Fishing Times and Seasons

  • Summer through fall
  • Flows 1000-3000 cfs ideal for floating
  • Wade fishing great at Routt access

Four Seasons Anglers

5. Upper Arkansas River

The Upper Arkansas River, located just 102 miles from Denver, is a true gem for anglers seeking a convenient yet rewarding fishing experience. This stretch of the river is known for its abundance of brown and rainbow trout, as well as its stunning scenery. Anglers can enjoy easy access to the river and a variety of fishing techniques, from fly fishing to bait casting.

Upper Arkansas River
Upper Arkansas River

The Upper Arkansas River offers a diverse range of fishing opportunities, catering to anglers of all skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned fly fisherman seeking to test your skills on the river’s challenging currents or a beginner looking to learn the art of bait casting, this location provides the perfect setting. With its proximity to Denver, the Upper Arkansas River is an ideal destination for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

Specific Location and Address

  • Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
  • Leadville to Canon City, Colorado

Fish Species Available

  • 90% Brown Trout
  • 10% Colorado River Rainbow Trout

Fishing Facilities and Amenities

  • Public river access points
  • Boating/rafting outfitters

Best Fishing Times and Seasons

  • September to April: 250-450 cfs flows
  • Peak runoff mid-May to July: Flows around 3000 cfs
  • Fish early morning/late evening during rafting season

Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Colorado Fishing Tips

Worst Fishing Locations in Colorado

While Colorado boasts numerous exceptional fishing spots, some locations have been overfished throughout the years. It’s essential to check the conditions of various fishing locations before planning a trip. Popular destinations like Chatfield State ParkCherry Creek Reservoir, and Boulder Reservoir can become crowded and may experience issues with trash and overcrowding, potentially impacting the fishing experience.

Types of Fish Found in Colorado

Colorado is home to a diverse array of fish species, with trout being one of the most prevalent. The state’s official fish is the cutthroat trout, an indigenous variety found in many rivers and lakes. Other popular species include brown troutbrook trout, and lake trout, as well as walleye, which are commonly found in reservoirs located on the plains.

Anglers can expect to encounter a wide range of fish species in Colorado’s waters, each offering its own unique challenges and rewards. From the elusive cutthroat trout to the hard-fighting walleye, Colorado’s diverse fish population ensures an exciting and varied fishing experience for anglers of all interests and skill levels.

When to Fish in Colorado

Fishing in Colorado is a year-round activity, with each season offering unique advantages and challenges. Summer is typically the busiest season, with anglers flocking to popular fishing spots. Fall is an excellent time for fly fishing, as waters are at their lowest levels. Winter offers the opportunity for ice fishing at high elevations.

Regardless of the season, Colorado’s diverse landscapes and climates provide ample opportunities for anglers to enjoy their passion. From the bustling summer months to the serene winter landscapes, each season offers its own unique charm and fishing experiences, ensuring that there is always an ideal time to cast a line in Colorado’s waters.

Conservation Efforts and Fishing License Requirements

It’s important to note that a valid Colorado fishing license is required for all anglers, with the exception of those under 16 years of age. Fishing license fees contribute to conservation efforts, habitat restoration, and the maintenance of public access to fishing opportunities throughout the state.

By obtaining a fishing license and adhering to regulations, anglers play a crucial role in preserving Colorado’s rich fishing heritage for future generations. These efforts not only ensure the sustainability of the state’s fish populations but also contribute to the protection of the pristine natural environments that make Colorado a true angler’s paradise.


Colorado’s diverse landscapes and abundant waterways offer a wealth of opportunities for anglers of all skill levels and preferences. From the legendary trout streams of the Rocky Mountains to the bountiful reservoirs on the plains, this state is a true angler’s paradise. By exploring the best fishing spots highlighted in this article and practicing responsible angling, you can experience the thrill of landing that prized catch while immersing yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty of Colorado.

Remember to obtain the necessary fishing licenses, adhere to regulations, and respect the environment, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the rich fishing heritage of this remarkable state. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice angler, Colorado’s waters promise an unforgettable adventure filled with excitement, serenity, and the pursuit of that elusive trophy catch.

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