Trout Fishing in Colorado (CO) – Top Spots with Map

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Ask anyone which western states are the best for trout fishing, and Colorado is sure to be on the list near the top. This state has more rivers, streams, and high country lakes than almost any other, and they are all filled to the brim with trout.

Colorado has some of the best trout fishing locations in the world. The state has tons of perfect mountain streams, lakes and rivers that are a pristine habitat for rainbows, browns and cutthroats. So, when you ask the question, “where’s the best places to fish for trout?” You’re likely to get a wide range of answers. Here are just a few to get you started!

Top Fishing Locations in Colorado (CO)

1. Frying Pan River, Basalt

Found between Aspen and Glenwood Springs, the Basalt area is a big vacation destination with many recreational activities, one of which is world renowned trout fishing. Famous for its catch and release waters, this is the place for big rainbow trout.

Broken into many different sections that specialize in something different, the Gold Medal section consistently produces 10 plus pound rainbows and also hosts giant brown, brook, and cutthroat trout. Anglers travel to this section of the river from all over the world for a chance to fight one of these big fish.

Whether you are looking for whitewater rafting, kayaking, scenic views, or the fishing trip of a lifetime, the Frying Pan River is a great option. Access is year round and this river is perfect for fly fishermen, no matter their skill level.

2. Roaring Fork River, Aspen

The Roaring Fork River begins high above Aspen before making its way down and meeting the Colorado River, and is considered one of the best trout fisheries in the nation. Located in the same general area as the Frying Pan, this area is a trout fisherman’s paradise.

The lower section of the Roaring Fork is a raging river, which means only the strongest trout can survive in its waters. This, in turn, produces some giant trophy fish, while the upper part is a winding mountain stream that is famous for its impressive views.

The Roaring Fork is a famous river and in just one trip here you will see why. While it can be a little difficult to fish in some sections without a boat, this is the number one spot in Colorado for catching that fish of a lifetime!

3. Upper Arkansas River, Leadville

The Upper Arkansas River is located near the small town of Leadville, which is the country’s highest elevation city at over 10,000 feet above sea level. From sub alpine terrain down to boulder filled canyons, this river has some of the best scenery around.

The variety of landscape from high mountain to low desert is great for the fish that live here, and the brown and rainbow trout are very plentiful throughout all stretches of the river. 

This river can be prone to seasonal and weather fluctuations because of its long and varying elevations and terrain, so it is important to make sure where you want to fish is open and accessible. Once you get there though, you will not want to leave because of how many fish you are catching.

4. Animas River, Durango

One of the last free-flowing rivers in the state of Colorado, the Animas River is a unique and rare treasure. With the newest and one of the best Gold Medal Water fly-fishing sections in Colorado, the Animas is a river that should be on your list of places to fish.

The Animas is home to rainbows and browns. They are big trout that are doing well in the river. The long tailwater grows some large fish, and the Animas has a reputation for large trout. Most of the fish in the river are in the 10- to 15-inch range, but the potential for a monster is real. A past state-record brown trout weighing over 20 pounds was pulled from the Animas in the 1950s. 

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.

5. Gunnison River, Gunnison

The Gunnison River is one of my favorite rivers to fish, in part because it is year round fishing and the fish are plentiful. It is home to some large rainbow and brown trout, and next to some of Colorado’s other trout rivers, is one of the best in the country.

The Gunny, as it is known locally, has a reputation among Colorado natives as the scene of some of the best river and lake fishing to be found anywhere and one of the state’s best kept secrets. At almost 80 miles in length, there is plenty of water to fish and places to go to get away from the crowds. 

The Gunnison River offers several public access points for wading, though fishing from drift boats when the waters are high is preferable. The river has many long runs and deep pools, and aquatic insects are to be found just about everywhere. 

When Does Trout Season Start in Colorado

Besides some of the high alpine lakes and rivers that get snowed in, most of Colorado’s trout fisheries stay open year round to fishing. This means no matter what time of year, you have the potential to catch some truly giant trout.

As with many states, there are some special regulations for certain waters, and it is always smart to consult the state’s rules and regulations before fishing anywhere. For more information on Colorado’s trout fisheries, the best resource is Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s website at https://cpw.state.co.us/

How Much Is a Fishing License in Colorado

Colorado is the place to go for big trout, but first, you will need a fishing license. Colorado is a little pricey compared to other states, even for non-residents to the state, but it is well worth it!

  • Annual fishing licenses cost $34.75 for residents and $96.75 for non-residents. 
  • One-day licenses cost $13.75 for residents and $16.75 for non-residents. 
  • Nonresidents can also purchase a -day license for $31.75.

The short term licenses are most often going to be ideal for visitors to the state, but each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. For a more detailed list of all of the fishing licenses available, visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s website at https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/FishingSeasonDatesFees.aspx

Where to Buy a Fishing License in Colorado

There a few different options for buying a fishing license in Colorado.

First, you can purchase one online from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department. This is probably the easiest and most convenient.

Second, you can buy one over the phone from the department as well.

Third, you can purchase one in person at their department offices or at any license vendor across the state.

Search a full list of license agents in Colorado here: https://www.cpwshop.com/issuerlist.page

Final Thoughts

Colorado is home to over 6,000 miles of fishable streams and rivers, as well as over 2,000 lakes and reservoirs. There are so many different ranges of opportunities that it would be impossible to list them all, but there is something for every angler no matter the time of year or preferences. From gorgeous scenic views and bright blue skies, every angler owes it to themselves to come experience Colorado fishing at least once in their lives.

Trout Fishing in the US

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