What? Colorado actually offers another superb winter sport besides skiing? Bountiful ice fishing, with some of the Lower 48’s longest seasons, only makes sense in the Mile High state. High plateaus and countless peaks serve up ice-covered waters in heaping portions.
Whether on the high mesas or amidst the snowy crags, this state offers some of the most spectacular winter scenery in the West. The Mile High state’s altitudes bring on ice in heaping portions, which also brings on hordes of faithful ice anglers who can count on somewhere to punch an ice hole each and every winter.
Because of its western geography, Colorado might just rank as the state with the greatest variety of fish to catch from the ice. Rainbow trout, kokanee (landlocked salmon), northern pike, mackinaw or lake trout, yellow perch and a host of other panfish lurk below the ice, depending on the Colorado terrain you choose to fish.
| Also read: How to Ice Fish: A Beginners Guide
Colorado anglers usually don’t have to wait as long to drop a line through the ice as some other western states. Safe ice levels greet the angler as early as the first week of December in some cases.
Larger reservoirs and lakes might be safely accessible as early as mid-December. Whatever winter month you might tuck yourself between this state’s many snow-covered peaks, the following lakes and reservoirs provide the best bet for catching fish on the ice.
The Top 6 Ice Fishing Lakes in Colorado
Lake trout and a surface area that won’t wear you out while scouting for fish make Chambers a favorite haunt for ice anglers. Due to its size of 250 acres, it stays frozen into spring on many occasions. Aside from mackinaw, anglers enjoy taking cutthroats, rainbows and kokanee from this Larimer County gem that is about a two-hour drive from Fort Collins.
Located just northeast of Chambers and yet smaller than its neighbor, Lost Lake is well stocked with trout and receives a lot of attention from winter anglers. You can also find the occasional mackinaw when fishing deep enough.
On the opposite side of the coin, Granby will deplete every ounce of your energy if you don’t bring some kind of hauling device for your gear. Once on its 7,250 acres of ice, however, you can enjoy hoisting either rainbows, kokanee or lake trout through your ice hole.
The latter reach nearly a yard long in some cases. If you like prizes and a lot of ice-fishing soulmates, visit Granby or its neighbors, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake, for the annual tri-lake ice fishing contest in late January.
Serving a testament to Colorado’s variety of fish under the ice, Crawford provides an ideal ice-fishing outing for the entire family. Located amidst the amenities of Crawford State Park, this 390-acre lake lies less than a two-hour drive from Grand Junction.
Yellow perch offer plenty of fun for all ages of anglers while crappies and pike pick up the rest of the action. You might even entice one of Crawford’s catfish from time to time through the ice.
Located in Trinidad Lake State Park, this southern Colorado lake also offers a potpourri of species: rainbows, brown trout, two types of bass, walleyes, crappies and bluegills.
Heavy stocking of rainbows each year helps make Trinidad an ice fisher’s haven. A vista of surrounding mountains prove awe-inspiring among anglers and their families if the bite goes silent.
Eleven Mile Reservoir
Despite its large expanse (more than 3,000 acres), this reservoir an hour west of Colorado Springs hosts perhaps the longest season of ice fishing in the state.
Chunky rainbow trout complement catches of cutts, browns and kokanees. If you like camping in winter, bring your tent or camper and overnight gear along.
The beauty of winter recreation in Colorado centers on variety. You can squeeze ice fishing between a ski vacation or vice versa. Meanwhile, winter camping among some of the most prolific scenery to be found—the Rockies—helps to make any ice-fishing excursion memorable. To learn more about winter fishing regulations, permits and access, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website. Sport anglers even maintain a fishing report website to help you choose your winter lake of choice.