Although Colorado’s big lakes and reservoirs get most of the angling attention and accolades, small suburban lakes and ponds often boast great fishing and provide hours of close-to-home fun.
Conveniently located in neighborhood parks and greenbelts, these easy-to-access waters are great places to unwind after a long day of work or to simply find a little solitude without venturing too far off the beaten path.
They are also the perfect locations to take kids fishing. In fact, some of my earliest (and fondest) memories of fishing with my dad took place at ponds in the Lakewood, Golden and Wheat Ridge areas.
At a particular pond near my dad’s apartment home, I remember catching fish nearly every cast on my little Zebco rod/reel combo. As a 5-year-old boy, there was nothing more thrilling than seeing a bluegill or bass pull my red and white bobber under the surface. I also remember the fun of catching my own grasshoppers and worms to use as bait. In addition to providing an enjoyable father/son activity, it was these early experiences that played an important role in developing my lifelong passion for fishing and the outdoors.
Although I’m in my early 40s now (just a bigger kid really), the thrill of fishing small ponds is the same. I still get excited when a bluegill, bass or a big carp tugs on the end of my line. These days, however, I’ve traded the Zebco, bobber and worms for a fly rod and box of dry flies. Bluegills and bass smack foam hoppers and other high-floating dry flies so violently that fishing for these species, regardless of their size, keeps me casting for hours.
If you don’t know how to fly fish, no worries. A simple, light-weight spinning rod and a few lures is all you need to catch fish in the ‘burbs. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, plastic worms and topwater plugs all work well for bass. A quick visit to your local sporting goods store will get you up and running with all the necessary tackle and lures — just tell the store clerk that you’re looking for an assortment of bass lures for fishing small waters.
For bluegills and sunfish, smaller lures, spinners and jigs work best. Bait fishing with worms, grasshoppers, mealworms and crickets suspended beneath a bobber is also a great option, especially for kids. Beware: Bluegills are infamous bait-thieves. These little guys have a knack of stealing the bait while completely missing the hook. Therefore, it’s important to use a smaller-sized hook, otherwise you’ll spend all your time feeding the fish instead of catching them. A size #10 baitholder hook is recommended for bluegills. See this Colorado Outdoors “Quick Tip” video for bait fishing techniques.
Best of all, there are literally hundreds of small ponds, gravel pits and golf-course lakes throughout Colorado’s Front Range that hold fish. Despite their abundance, however, it’s important to do some scouting to determine which waters offer both public access and good fishing. To improve your chances of success, Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocks many of these neighborhood waters with a variety of warm-water fish. CPW also stocks some locations with catchable-size rainbow trout when water temperatures are cooler in early spring and late fall.
The Colorado Fishing Atlas and CPW’s stocking reports are great resources to help you plan your suburban fishing trip. Google Maps/Earth is also an excellent resource that provides aerial views to help you locate waters in your area. In addition to using these online tools to find your own favorite fishing hole, here are a few locations to get you started this summer:
1) Cottonwood Park Lake
2) Johnson Reservoir
3) Lowell Ponds in Lowell State Wildlife Area (the easternmost pond and the westernmost pond)
4) Grandview Ponds
5) Bear Creek Ponds
6) Blue Heron Lake
7) Cherry Knolls Pond
8) Kettering Lake
9) Thornton Recreation Center Lake
10) Spratt-Platte Reservoir
For a complete guide to fishing lakes and ponds in the Denver metro area, see “Denver Metro Fishing” in the 2017 Colorado Outdoors Fishing Guide. Individual copies of the magazine or annual subscriptions are available HERE.
Blog post by Jerry Neal. Neal is an information/marketing specialist and videographer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He is also the editor of Colorado Outdoors Online.