Colorado’s Gold Medal Fishing Waters
By Erin Sendor
From pristine mountain streams and rivers to breathtaking lakes, Colorado offers some of the best trout fishing in the world. Home to 322 miles of “Gold Medal” waters, these designated fishing areas offer top locations for large trout fishing. Throughout the state, these picturesque fishing areas teem with Rainbow, Brown, Cutthroat, and Brook trout.
Designated by the Colorado Wildlife Commission, fishing destinations of the highest quality are awarded the “Gold Medal” distinction when the waters are able to produce at least 60 pounds of trout per acre, as well as a minimum of 14” or larger trout per acre. Before planning your Colorado fishing trip, be sure to check for local regulations and private lands.
Beginners and expert anglers alike will enjoy a serene day surrounded by Colorado’s scenic beauty. Here are some of the top Gold Medal waters in Colorado.
With over 102 miles of gold medal fishing along the upper Arkansas River in Colorado, you can be sure to find a peaceful spot along this stretch! As the longest stretch of Gold Medal river, anglers can expect outstanding trophy trout anywhere along this renowned fishing location.
North Platte River
Accessed only by raft or kayak, this legendary river offers some of the best trout fishing in the West. The Colorado section starts in the grassy meadowlands of North Park and flows northwest to the Wyoming border. Slow, meandering streams flowing across the valley floor offer some of northern Colorado's best fly fishing for brown, brook, and rainbow trout.
South Platte River
With a section of this river known as the "Dream Stream," the South Platte River is one of the most popular fly fishing and trout fishing destinations. Beginning in South Park and flowing into downtown Denver, this fantastic river offers an abundance of trophy spawners.
Frying Pan River
Renowned for fly fishing and lure trout fishing, this carefully-managed river flows with a wealth of large trout. The Gold Medal waters of the Frying Pan run between Ruedi Reservoir and the confluence of the Roaring Fork. Crystal clear waters, gigantic trout and incredible mountain vistas have made this one of the most favored fishing locations in the world.
From Hoosier Pass and flowing North through Breckenridge to the Colorado River, the beautiful Blue River boasts excellent trout fishing spots. Located below Lake Dillon, this magnificent 34-mile Gold Medal Water section of the river is called the Tail Water. It can be fly fished from Dillon downstream to the Colorado River, though the section between Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoirs.
Roaring Fork River
Nearby to the Frying Pan River, the Roaring Fork offers a lesser known yet exceptional option for catching trophy trout. In-the-know anglers enjoy monster-sized trout from the winding high meadow stream of the upper section and robust currents of the lower section.
North Delaney Lake
One of three high mountain lakes in the Delaney Buttes near Walden is the Gold Medal designated North Delaney Lake. Well-known as a healthy brown trout population, the state Division of Wildlife even collects their eggs here to boost the state's trout stocks.
Surrounded by stunning mountain views, the Animas River near Durango offers an idyllic setting for fishing. The Gold Medal stretch is located between Lightner Creek to Rivera Crossing Bridge, with many opportunities for catching sought-after trophy trout. From this location you may even catch sight of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which runs through the scenic canyons and along the upper river.
Beginning high in the mountains at Gore Lake and flowing down to the confluence with the Eagle River near Vail, this smaller, soothing alpine stream offers a great option for year-round trout fishing. Anglers here can complete the trout angler's Grand Slam: brook, cutthroat, rainbow and browns. The main fishing areas of Gore Creek include the Upper Gore Creek, running north of Vail, and the Lower Gore Creek, running just south of Vail.
Spinney Mountain Reservoir
This popular reservoir outside of Colorado Springs offers striking views, as well as bountiful fly fishing, belly boating and trolling opportunities. Packed with trophy rainbows, cutthroat and browns, this Gold Medal reservoir is a terrific summertime fishing location.
The mighty Rio Grande flows south from the dramatic San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. The Gold Medal Water section of this well-known river lies in the San Juans between the towns of South Fork and Del Norte, with plenty of opportunities to catch trophy browns and rainbows.
Running through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the Gunnison River offers some of the best brown and rainbow trout fishing opportunities in Colorado. Access the river via steep and winding roads, or backcountry hiking for those in peak physical condition. Anglers will be able to take in some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock and craggiest spires in all of North America.
Located near Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Lake is still one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets. With ample, secluded fishing spots and premier trout fishing, as well as winter bounty for ice fishers, anglers are sure to have an excellent catch from these Gold Medal waters.
For a true Western-type fly fishing experience, the Colorado River offers outstanding opportunities for large trout. The 20-mile Gold Medal Water section flows from the Fraser River downstream to the confluence with Troublesome Creek.
Still looking for more fishing spots or looking to completely escape the crowds? Colorado has 6,000 miles of streams and more than 1,300 lakes and reservoirs to choose from, for truly endless fishing opportunities. Check with a local outfitter or guide to maximize your fishing trip, and don't forget your fishing license!