Category Archives: Fishing

Colorado’s Top Springtime Fishing Destinations

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Early spring is an ideal time to catch lake trout (Mackinaw). Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.

If you’re a fisherman, there’s no better time to fish Colorado’s lakes and reservoirs than early spring. Not only is it a great time of year to shake off your cabin fever, but many trophy sized rainbow, cutthroat, cutbow and brown trout are caught in those first days and weeks after ice-out. If those weren’t enough reasons to make you want to grab your fishing rod and tackle box, spring is also the best time to catch lake trout (aka Mackinaw) — a species that can reach upwards of 50 pounds in Colorado.

Although many of Colorado’s lakes and reservoirs offer excellent fishing, the following waters provide exceptional fishing opportunities this spring: Read more

Eliminating Angling Stereotypes: Colorado is More Than Just a ‘Trout’ State

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The author displays a Colorado bass.

Stereotype: “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”

Do you think Colorado is stereotyped? I do. Firmly. And as with many stereotypes, the belief is not congruent with the reality. Is it a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not…depends on your position. As a Colorado outdoorsman, I think it’s a shame more of my peers don’t see through it.  What is this oversimplified idea our fine state is tagged with? Trout . . . specifically the idea that trout are all Colorado has to offer anglers. Trust me, the stereotype doesn’t fit.

As a professional fisherman, I travel a lot. Since I angle from a traditional bass boat, I’m often viewed as “bass fisherman” – another stereotype that doesn’t quite fit because I pursue all kinds of fish but just happen to like a bass boat’s fishability on the water. Anyway, when “Joe Angler” see’s my boat at some gas station or even many of the lakes in our region, I very often get comments about our perceived lack of bass fishing. Same thing when the conversation turns to walleye, pike, panfish and a slew of other nationally popular species. Geez, last summer I coached the high school bass fishing national championship consisting of 175 high school teams from around the country competing on a huge lake in Tennessee. The fact that we were from “Colorado of all places” as the emcee put it at one point, was amusing until we won the whole event. In an ensuing interview, I was asked how we won it all given that “all you fish for is trout back home” . . . an incorrect assumption that perfectly makes my point. Read more

Video: 16,000 Trout Stocked Beneath Ice at Eleven Mile Reservoir.

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Snow and ice covers Eleven Mile Reservoir in South Park. Video capture by Jerry Neal/CPW.

On a brisk morning in early February, three hatchery trucks from the Mt. Shavano State Fish Hatchery arrive at Eleven Mile State Park. Snow crunches beneath tires as the rigs creep down the North Shore Boat Ramp and prepare to unload their cargo of 16,000 cutbow trout. After spending nearly 15 months confined to hatchery raceways and traveling more than an hour over snow-packed roads, the cutbows face just one final obstacle before their release into Eleven Mile Reservoir: 12-inches of rock-hard ice.

For most states, frozen lakes and freezing temperatures would put hatchery operations and fish-stocking plans “on ice.” Yet, this unique and ambitious effort is all part of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Winter Fish-Stocking Program. Read more

Taste-tested recipes for your next trout cookout

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Professional chefs work their magic at a recent “trout taste test” in Fort Collins. CPW is experimenting with new hatchery feeds to produce better tasting fish. Photo by Alicia Cohn/CPW.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s hatchery system produces millions of rainbow trout annually. Each spring, the rainbows are stocked into lakes, reservoirs and rivers throughout Colorado to provide exceptional angling opportunities. But did you know that CPW also works hard to improve the taste of the trout you catch in Colorado’s water system?

Two professional chefs recently prepared rainbow trout raised in four different test feed groups for a special “trout taste test” evaluation organized by CPW. The event was part of a year-long research project for which the aquatics team at Bellvue Fish Research Hatchery raised four groups of Hofer rainbow trout from fry to catchable size to determine which feeds produce better quality fish, factoring in health, conformation and taste of the fish, as well as overall feed costs.

“Our trout are a healthy food choice that Coloradans can go out and catch themselves, and this event demonstrated innovative ways to prepare fresh fish caught from Colorado waters,” said George Schisler, aquatic research chief at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “I hope this event helped get people excited about the meals they can make and the effort we put into making sure Colorado fish are the best product they can be for our angling public.” Read more

KOKANEE

Article and Photos by Scott Willoughby

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Spawning kokanee by © Scott Willoughby

In a state that pretty much has it all, the most glaring gap in Colorado’s vast menu of outdoor options becomes obvious at its borders. The ability to walk across state lines almost anywhere without getting your feet wet serves as evidence of a basic reality: We’re landlocked. High and dry.

For a large chunk of the fishing world, that could be considered a problem. There are plenty of fish in the sea, as they say, and the opportunity to chase a wide variety of them is what drives many an angler to wet a line. But in the network of rivers and lakes draining from the mountainous spine of the nation to oceans east and west, well, the species selection falls a bit short by comparison. Sure, we’ve got a respectable assortment of more than 40 types of cold-, cool- and warm-water fish species statewide in Colorado, but it seems like the grass can always get a little greener. Read more

Fishing, Fisher and Fall Colors at Urad Lake

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Urad Lake. Photo by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.

If you are looking to either fish, hike, see the aspens change, wildlife watch or all of the above, you can do far worse than a trip to Urad Lake.

Urad Lake is in the Urad Lake State Wildlife Area, the newest SWA in Colorado. Located off of Jones Pass and Berthoud Pass in Clear Creek County, it is the result of a cooperative effort between the Climax Molybdenum Company (Henderson Mine), the City of Golden and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

The property was historically open to the public for several decades, even though privately owned by the mine.  In 2011, the property closed to the public as Henderson Mine did a massive, multimillion dollar mitigation project in the Woods Creek Valley.

During the closure, the mine, City of Golden (which owns the water and reservoir) and CPW were able to work out a long-term lease to turn over the management of the property to Colorado Parks and Wildlife which reopened the area in 2014. During that time, CPW stocked the lake with 6,000 10- to 12-inch cutbow trout. The lake is full of small brook trout, recently stocked rainbow trout and plenty of the cutbows. Read more

Fish Magic: The wizardry of European nymphing

Article & Photos By Scott Willoughby

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Jason Lieverst. Photo by © Scott Willoughby

Jason Lieverst is performing a magic trick. Or so it would seem. With just a few flicks of his 11-foot wand, the former captain of the British national fly-fishing team plucks trout after trout from a seemingly shallow pool in the Eagle River like some overgrown Harry Potter pulling a litter of rabbits out of a hat.

“What was that, about 14?” Lieverst estimates in a proper English accent as we hike back up the bank toward the truck before the engine had time to completely cool. “Not bad for an hour or so of fishing.”

Unlike most modern magic, Lieverst’s wizardry is no illusion. Rather, it’s a systematic technique originating in Europe and honed over nearly 30 years before making its way to the banks of the Eagle River near Avon, where it’s now being put on display on an increasingly routine basis. Read more

Use This Fly To Catch More Fish Anywhere In Colorado

 

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The author’s hand-tied Gray Ugly flies. Photo by Wayne Lewis/CPW.

In the modern era of overly complex, match-the-hatch fly patterns, adding a few simple, traditional flies to your fly box can be effective weapons in your fly-fishing arsenal.

The Gray Ugly is a vintage fly that surpasses many of its modern-day brethren in its amazing ability to catch trout. An oldie but a goodie, I was first introduced to this pattern in the late 1970s by my grandfather who spent most of his life trout fishing in Colorado and Montana. The Gray Ugly was one of his favorite patterns because of its versatility and effectiveness.  Over the years, I also saw my dad and uncle use this fly with great success, catching everything from small brook trout at Monarch Lake to bruiser brown trout at North Delaney Buttes.

The fly works especially well with a fly-and-bubble rig and a spinning rod, which is how my grandfather, dad and uncle fished this pattern. For fly-fishing purists, the Gray Ugly also performs just fine at the end of a 5-weight fly rod, fished either wet or dry. Read more

Browns Canyon’s Monumental Fishing Opportunity

Article & Photos by Scott Willoughby

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Floating a scenic slice of the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon. Photo by © Scott Willoughby.

When it comes to their favorite places to wet a line, fishermen are pretty tight-lipped by nature. So it comes as no surprise that the one-year anniversary of the designation of Browns Canyon National Monument came and went last February with little fanfare among Colorado’s angling community.

Besides, nothing has really changed along the scenic slice of the Arkansas River that qualifies among the nation’s premier public trout fisheries. And that’s precisely the point.

“I grew up in big, wide-open spaces in Nevada, and there’s been enormous change to the landscapes — transmission lines, oil and gas coming in, major hard-rock mines and other projects,” U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) director Neil Kornze said while rafting through the newly minted monument last July. “So I love it when I see a community come together and say: ‘Let’s not just trust that this will always be the way we love it. Let’s do something about it.’ It’s not necessarily about changing something in a dramatic way. Sometimes it’s about keeping what you’ve got and what you love.” Read more

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