6 Reasons Colorado Has the Best Fishing in the Country

Written by Maura Hoff
Updated: October 27, 2023
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Many passionate anglers will admit the Colorado Rocky Mountains have some of the best fishing in the country. With its serene lakes, flowing rivers, and diverse aquatic ecosystems, the Centennial State is a prime destination for those passionate about fishing.

Colorado offers a fishing experience unlike anything else in the United States, whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting. With breathtaking natural beauty and abundant fish species, Colorado has a well-deserved reputation as a fishing haven. From legendary trout streams to pristine lakes, we will cover the six reasons anglers agree Colorado has the best fishing in the country.

#1: Colorado Lakes

Bear Lake - A sunny summer morning view of a rocky section of Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA.

The largest and deepest lake in Colorado is Grand Lake.

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©Sean Xu/Shutterstock.com

To start, Colorado lakes stand out to anglers because of their sheer diversity. With its iconic alpine lakes in the high-altitude mountain landscapes to the numerous reservoirs within scenic valleys, Colorado lakes provide a unique fishing experience for everyone.

There are over 4,000 lakes and reservoirs with a wide array of fish species, including trout, bass, and walleye. The exceptional water quality provides a healthy environment for the fish and helps maintain a high population.

Each Colorado lake has its own fishing benefits, and the best location depends on the angler’s preference. If the goal is to catch large fish, Lake Granby is a great fishing destination. This scenic lake is also a great weekend getaway for anglers because of its activities, such as camping, boating, and hiking. For a fishing destination close to Denver, Chatfield Reservoir is also known as a top fishing lake in Colorado.

#2: Colorado Rivers and Streams

 peaceful scene along foothills of  the south platte river in waterton canyon, littleton,  colorado

Many fish migrate upstream along the South Platte River, earning it the name “Dream Stream.”

©Nina B/Shutterstock.com

Colorado’s rivers and mountain streams offer an unparalleled variety of fishing experiences. From the famous South Platte River (known as the “Dream Stream”) to the alpine streams high in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado has over 90,000 miles of rivers suited for any angler. Fish populations are renowned for being healthy and vibrant because of the water quality in Colorado rivers and streams.

Commonly known as a headwater state, most of the rivers that run through Colorado originate within the Rocky Mountains, including four major rivers: Arkansas, Colorado, Platte, and the Rio Grande. These rivers are especially appealing for fly fishing, and anglers enjoy the opportunity to try out different fishing flies and still make regular catches.

#3: The Colorado Gold Medal Waters

River in the Rocky Mountains

To qualify as Gold Medal waters, a river, lake, or stream must meet a high set of standards.

©nyker/Shutterstock.com

The Colorado Gold Medal waters are a major draw for passionate anglers. Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission designates Gold Medal waters based on the following criteria:

  • Produce a trout standing stock of at least 60 pounds per acre
  • Produce at least 12 trout per acre (minimum 14 inches)
  • Fishable river segments are a minimum of two miles in length
  • Lakes are a minimum of 50 acres

Less than 350 miles of Colorado waters meet the “Gold Medal” standard. Avid anglers seek out these waters because of the pristine quality, high amount of trout, and consistent conservation efforts.

#4: Trout Fishing in Colorado

A Greenback Cutthroat trout in a clear river in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Also the state fish of Colorado.

The greenback cutthroat is the state fish of Colorado.

©Gregory Simpson/Shutterstock.com

What truly sets Colorado apart is its reputation as a trout paradise. Anglers seek out Colorado waters for cutthroat, rainbow, record-breaking brown trout, and many others.

In fact, the official Colorado state fish is the greenback cutthroat. While it is a sought-after catch for many, the species is protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Conservation efforts to revitalize the greenback cutthroat habitats are a major priority within the state. Fishing the native trout is allowed, but make sure to check local regulations first.

#5: Experienced Fishing Guides in Colorado

young woman learning to fly fishing with a guide

A Colorado fishing guide can help with technique, gear, location, and local regulations.

©goodluz/Shutterstock.com

There are numerous experienced fishing guides throughout Colorado due to its popularity as a fishing destination. A fishing guide can be extremely valuable, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area or don’t have a lot of experience fishing in Colorado.

A fishing guide is typically an experienced angler who knows the waters intimately. Besides insights into remote fishing spots, they can also provide the best time to fish and effective techniques for specific species.

Colorado has many miles of public land for fishing, but using a guide can potentially provide access to private waters that are not open to the public. This can offer a unique and less crowded fishing experience, thus increasing your chances of catching a fish!

#6: Scenic Beauty

Boulders surround the calm water of Chipmunk Lake reflecting Ypsilon Mountain and Mount Chiquita lit by morning light in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

President Woodrow Wilson established Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915.

©Colin D. Young/Shutterstock.com

Colorado’s scenic beauty is second to none. The majestic mountains, pristine lakes, and consistently flowing rivers can turn an average fishing experience into an unforgettable memory.

Yes, anglers seek out Colorado rivers, lakes, and streams for the diverse ecosystems, well-stocked fish, and water quality. Still, Colorado anglers can live out their passion while taking in the stunning, dynamic landscapes. There are few places in the country where you can catch an abundance of trout while sharing the stream with elk, moose, mule deer, or bighorn sheep.

Summary of 6 Reasons Colorado Has the Best Fishing in the Country

Reason
#1Colorado lakes stand out to anglers because of their sheer diversity.
#2Colorado’s rivers and mountain streams offer an unparalleled variety of fishing experiences.
#3Avid anglers seek out Gold Medal waters for their pristine quality, high amount of trout, and consistent conservation efforts.
#4 Colorado waters offer cutthroat, rainbow, record-breaking brown trout, and many others.
#5There are numerous experienced fishing guides throughout Colorado due to its popularity as a fishing destination.
#6The scenic beauty allows for creating unforgettable memories.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Maura Hoff is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is dogs, travel, and hiking. She has been writing for over 10 years and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Pennsylvania State University in 2016. When Maura isn't writing, she spends time with her husband and two Golden Retrievers, Basil and Sunny, in the Colorado mountains. Her passions are cooking, reading, music, and quoting her favorite show, The Office.

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