One of Colorado’s favorite winter past time outdoors activities is ice fishing. This kind of wintry adventure is the perfect way to shake off cabin fever and get outdoors. The best part is, some of the best ice fishing in Colorado can be found near Denver. Trout, salmon, pike, lake trout and crappie can all be found under the hard ice of the surrounding reservoirs and lakes!
We’ve put together our Colorado ice fishing guide so get ready, grab your gear and some warm clothes, and go let’s go ice fishing.
What is Ice Fishing?
Ice fishing is just what it sounds like- fishing in a lake or reservoir. The only difference is the ice on the lake surface! The season for ice fishing in Colorado is from December to late February. This is when the ice is most solid. It’s important to note that fishers must be extra careful on lakes under 8,000 feet in elevation. You don’t want to be skating on thin ice in the middle of your trip!
Because trout are plentiful in the Colorado waters, you’ll want to select the right bait. Trout (and perch) will eat most types of worms. This includes:
- Wax Worms
- Commercial bait
If you’re after the Kokanee Salmon plentiful in most lakes, pack fresh shrimp in your bait box. For fishermen visiting from out of state, it’s important to note that live bait is prohibited.
The Best Ice Fishing Locations in Colorado
Chatfield Reservoir is 45 minutes south of Denver and is a great location to catch rainbow trout, yellow perch, walleye, crappie, and bluegill. Be prepared to have plenty of company when fishing Chatfield Reservoir, as it’s one of the most popular fishing spots in the state. This includes summer and winter! However, the reservoir is big enough to accommodate everyone.
The reservoir is continuously replenished by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, so the stock never runs low. In the winter, two-foot walleye and trout between 1-2 feet lurk just below the surface.
Lake Granby is one of our favorites of this Colorado ice fishing guide and offers plenty of room to settle in and fish to your heart’s content. The huge lake is 7,250 acres and is a key spot to fish for several species of trout and the kokanee salmon. Lake Granby hosts a Three Lakes Ice-Fishing Contest that draws over a thousand fishers each January. The two other lakes are Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake. You’ll find this ice fishing mecca 2 hours and 3 minutes northwest of Denver.
Twin Lakes Reservoirs
The Twin Lakes Reservoirs are a famous destination for Colorado ice fishing. In fact, in February, the lakes host an Ice Fishing Derby. This location hosts a sizeable 2,700 acres of water. They contain rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, longnose sucker, snakeriver cutthroat, and white sucker. Twin Lakes Reservoirs are right near the town of the same name and near the base of Mt. Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado. You’ll find the reservoir 2 hours and 15 minutes southwest of Denver.
Eleven Mile Reservoir
Eleven Mile Reservoir is 2 hours and 30 minutes southwest of Denver near Hartsel. Eleven Mile Reservoir is popular specifically for its large rainbow trout. Fishermen have reported trout between 14-20 inches in length. However, these aren’t the only types of fish available- Eleven Mile also has the popular kokanee salmon as well as cutthroat trout. The reason for the large fish in this reservoir is the many weed beds that host freshwater shrimp. This ready snack for the trout means they get huge!
Chambers Lake is smaller than many other bodies of water on this list at only approximately 250 acres. However, the deep waters of this lake hide enormous lake trout, many clearing 16-18 inches. Other common Colorado trout can be found in the lake as well. Chambers Lake often stays frozen until at least March, meaning you’ll have a long season to get your fishing in. Chambers is 2 hours and 45 minutes northwest of Denver.
For the brave and adventurous, many of these locations have camping grounds, cabins, and nearby rentals available. This enables you to have a multi-day ice fishing trip! Before heading out to try your luck on an ice fishing trip at any location in Colorado, make sure to check the conditions online. If it’s your first-time ice fishing, make sure to brush up on ice fishing safety tips to avoid an unfortunate accident! The Colorado Department of Parks & Wildlife has assembled several safety tips and guidelines that can be found here.