Great reservoir fishing abounds in southwest Colorado
DURANGO, Colo. – Durango resident Samantha Brow is an avid high-country creek angler, but she tried her skills at Groundhog Reservoir in western Colorado on July 1 and was happy that she did.
“We paddled onto the lake and got into some really big fish, it was a blast,” Brow said.
But you don’t need a boat to fish any of the dozens of reservoirs in southwest Colorado which are stocked throughout the summer. Most reservoirs receive a good supply of rainbow trout and several lakes also offer a menu of warm-water fish.
“We have a big variety of fishing opportunities in this area of Colorado that anglers should check out,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for CPW’s Southwest Region.
CPW wildlife managers are encouraging more anglers to try their luck at reservoirs this year because many of Southwest Colorado’s rivers are flowing low and water temperatures are much higher than normal. Those conditions can be stressful for wild trout. When the water in rivers and streams nudges up above 70 degrees, anglers are asked to stop fishing for the day.
But in reservoirs there is little concern about water temperature, Alves explained. If the water is too warm for fish, they can just go deeper. Also, anglers who catch fish in reservoirs can keep them and enjoy them in a good meal, Alves said.
“A lot of stream anglers practice catch-and-release, but that’s not necessary in many of Colorado’s reservoirs. Often, trout stocked in reservoirs are raised in a hatchery to a ‘catchable’ size. We want people to catch them and eat them.”
While rainbow trout are stocked in most reservoirs in Southwest Colorado there are also unique fishing opportunities. At Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison anglers can pursue kokanee salmon and lake trout. At Crawford State Park you’ll find trout, largemouth bass, perch and the occasional northern pike.
At Nighthorse Reservoir near Durango anglers are making nice catches of brown trout, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. Vallecito Reservoir is a great place to escape the heat and provides anglers a smorgasbord of choices. Fish species include: smallmouth bass, walleye, Northern pike, kokanee, brook, brown and rainbow trout.
On the west side of the San Luis Valley, Beaver Creek Reservoir was recently expanded and provides lots of elbow room for anglers. Big Meadows Reservoir is scenic, stocked with rainbow trout and has naturally reproducing brook trout.
West of Montrose, Miramonte Reservoir offers 400-acres of great trout fishing in a beautiful setting below the peaks of the San Juan Mountains. Southeast of Montrose an easy half-mile hike into Clear Lake provides opportunities for brook, cutthroat and tiger trout. Tiger trout are a brook-brown trout cross and these fish have beautiful vermiculated bodies. Also north of Montrose, the Grand Mesa is the place to go for a variety of fishing opportunities. For example, Island Lake is a great place for families while the Granby Reservoirs ‒ popular for off-road adventurers ‒ are teeming with brook, cutthroat, brown and tiger trout.
Anglers who still crave river fishing should plan to fish early in the day when water is cool. Anglers can also hike to streams in the high country where water temperature probably won’t be an issue.
And for those who need a bit more incentive to go fishing, the 4th Annual Ridgway Smallmouth Bass Tournament runs from July 7-28 at Ridgway State Park. A total of $5,000 in prizes is being offered and every participant who turns in smallmouth bass has a chance to win $1,500. Another $1,500 prize will go to the angler who catches the most smallmouth bass. There is no entry fee to enter the tournament all you need is a Colorado fishing license. Park entry fee is $7 per day.
Anglers wanting to explore what Southwest Colorado offers can find more information using CPW’s fishing atlas. Anglers can find the atlas and much more online at CPW’s fishing page. http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/Pages/Fishing.aspx
“This will be a good year for anglers to try some new waters throughout the state,” Alves said.
And what did Samantha Brow use to catch 14-inch rainbows at Groundhog Reservoir? Following some good advice from some local Durango fly shops, she used a midge and sinking line.
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.