Spring has melted the ice off most the lakes in Colorado and the fishing season is about to reach full throttle. Colorado boasts over 18,000 miles of rivers and streams as well as approximately 275,000 surface acres of lakes. These waters range from cold water mountain lakes and raging rivers to warm water reservoirs and almost unnoticeable creeks.
In the midst of this variety of opportunity, Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas offer a wide range of fishing spots that are geared to get youngsters hooked on the sport and give the most experienced fly fisherman a run for their money. So, let’s figure out where a full spectrum of sport fishers can scratch their spring itch for everything from Kokanee salmon to crappie.
In the immediate area of the Springs, a number of spots can offer fishing as the main attraction for a family day at the lake.
Prospect Lake starts our tour as one of the best put-n-take lakes in the Springs. A put-n-take lake is a classification given by the Colorado Department of Wildlife (DOW). What it basically means is that the same number of trout the DOW stock in the lake are harvested the same year by anglers. This makes Prospect one of the best lakes to visit for a picnic and an afternoon of catching fish.
Quail Lake on the southwest side of town, off of Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard, offers fishing conditions very similar to Prospect with the exception of some good sized northern pike. Other species that populate this lake include a number of cold water trout including rainbow and cutthroat as well as warm water fish ranging from crappie and pike to catfish and wipers.
The fishing near Colorado Springs can get a little more interesting. The Pikes Peak North Slope reservoirs, which include North and South Catamount Lake and Crystal Lake, are located just outside of town. These lakes, open May through October, are stocked each year with catchable trout (12 inches or larger), but the lakes themselves are not of the put-n-take variety. North Catamount Lake is restricted to artificial flies and lures, which translates into your more serious fisherman. A large number of other activities, such as hiking and mountain biking are available, but don’t let that dissuade you. This area has been designed to accommodate all recreationists, so an increase in traffic shouldn’t interrupt an afternoon of fishing.
Elevenmile Reservoir starts to bring up the heavy biters in the Springs fishing scene. Elevenmile, just outside of Lake George, Colorado, is one of the better overall fishing reservoirs in Colorado. Larger than average rainbows, cutthroats and browns can be landed right off the shore and some of the largest Kokanee salmon in the state are caught by trolling this mountain lake. Elevenmile just recently opened to boats, as the ice has all but melted away.
Scouting report: The south shore is providing the best bet for trout, with either Power Bait or nightcrawlers on your hook. For lure fishers, some action on Mepps and Kastmasters is being reported. Kokanee salmon and northern pike fishing has been slow over the majority of the lake.
Last, but certainly not least for Springs area fishing are the gold medal waters of Spinney Mountain Reservoir and the South Platte River between Spinney and Elevenmile. According to Michael Seraphin, the public information officer for the Colorado Department of Wildlife, these waters gain their classification because of an increased possibility of landing large or trophy trout. “For a lake or river to be deemed gold medal waters, it must sustain a population of 12 trout, 14 inches or larger, per acre of surface water,” Seraphin added. Artificial flies and lures are the anglers’ only choice in these waters and bag and possession limits become restricted.
Spinney Mountain Lake, located 55 miles outside the Springs on Highway 24, may have the states most abundant concentration of large cutthroat trout. The bag and possession limits are restricted to one trout 20 inches or longer.
Scouting report: Fishing has been excellent with a full day of catch and release fishing yielding a large number of trout between 14-18 inches long. Black Woolly Buggers, egg patterns and small midge patterns seem to be the popular favorite for fly fishers and float tubers. Trollers raised an interest on various Tasmanians and Rapalas. Pike action remains slow, but doesn¹t generally pick up until June.
The South Platte River is once again one of the best places in Colorado for trout, and its waters are respectfully preserved by the catch and release regulation. Fly fisherman dominate the area, but if you don’t mind the stares, conventional rods may also be used. These waters hold the longest stretch of gold medal trout waters in the state and are for serious anglers.
Scouting report: The best flies for this part of the South Platte are size 20 and 22 midges, like Pheasant Tails, UFO’s and Candy Canes. When trailed behind an egg pattern, San Juan worm or Oliver Woolly Bugger, these wet flies have produced excellent fish. The Caddis fly will also begin to see major action during the hatch.
Each year, the more than 680,000 licensed Colorado fishers spend over $700 million dollars on sport fishing. Federal taxes on the purchase of fishing equipment, boats, motors and fuels fund statewide Fishing Is Fun projects, which have increased the fishing capacity in Colorado by more than one million anglers per day. Currently, projects totaling $17 million have been approved to receive grants for improved fishing access and availability. So far, 54 of Colorado’s 63 counties have participated in these projects.
As Colorado fishing continues to improve, anglers of all ages are sure to find the spot that suits their needs and talents. Meanwhile, Springs area anglers can continue to explore the vast fishing opportunities that exist within a days drive.